Friday, December 13, 2013

Sy Hersh's hidden blockbuster?

Earlier this week, Marie-Louise Olson and David McCormack (Daily Mail) reported:

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has accused President Obama of lying to the American people earlier this year when he blamed President Bashar al-Assad for a sarin-gas attack that killed hundreds of Syrian civilians in August.
Seymour Hersh, 76, who had previously described the official account of the 2011 raid which killed Osama Bin Laden as ‘one big lie,’ claims the current administration ‘cherry-picked intelligence’ on Syria.
Hersh first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

Those are some major claims.  Hersh backs them in his investigative report "Whose Sarin?" which ran in The London Review of Books.  Here's a paragraph from the report:

On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. It was, however, more specific than Obama would be later, in his speech on 10 September: American intelligence, it stated, knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. In an aggressive speech later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. It is this version of events, untrue but unchallenged, that was widely reported at the time.

Hersh's report will come as a vindication for those who opposed a war on Syria and leave others less than pleased.

For example, Mia Farrow trashed  her good name on the basis of the White House's (false) claims. She was far from the only one.  It'll be interesting which of them -- if any -- offer apologies or even just "woops!"

Barry Grey (WSWS) examines Hersh's report:

Hersh’s article provides a devastating exposure of the American media, which jumped at the chance once again to pump out government war propaganda. Within hours of last August’s sarin attack, both the Washington Post and the New York Times were publishing editorials proclaiming as fact the Syrian government’s guilt and demanding a military response. Well-bribed television “journalists” were promoting the government line and seeking to shift public opinion behind a new war.
Hersh notes that nine days after the sarin attack, the White House invited a select group of Washington reporters and handed them a “government assessment” that he describes as a “political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government.” Excluded was “at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.”
Particularly criminal was the role of the New York Times. The “newspaper of record” reprised its efforts to promote and legitimize government lies in the run-up to the Iraq War, once again reporting as fact, without any independent investigation, all of the administration’s claims.
Hersh cites a Times article that purported to prove, based on an analysis of the flight path of two spent rockets believed to have carried sarin, that the shells had to have been fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometers from the target. He quotes Theodore Postol, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of technology and national security who has advised the US naval chief of operations, calling the Times piece “totally nuts” because the range of the rockets was unlikely to have been more than two kilometers.
Giving expression to the deeply undemocratic character of the whole operation, the Times ’ Roger Cohen wrote in a column the day of the White House meeting with the press: “War fatigue in the United States and Britain is not an excuse for the surrender of a commodity of enduring strategic importance—national credibility—to an ephemeral one—public opinion.”

The New York Times always pimps war and some stupid idiots -- especially a number of actresses who are eager to be seen as dim-witted -- can't take their mouths off the tiny cock of Nicky Kristof.

It was a lie.  The whole attempt to start a war on Syria was a lie.

But no apologies from the media.  In fact, Barry Grey argues there is a media blackout taking place in the US:

The response of the American media to Hersh’s authoritative exposure of US government criminality has been to bury it. In Britain, only two major newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, have thus far reported on it. In the US, there has been a total blackout by major newspapers and broadcast and cable news networks.
This is a highly conscious operation. Hersh is an internationally known and respected journalist. He gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and its cover-up, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.

Just how conscious the major media outlets are in deciding to black out Hersh’s article is underscored by an article published Monday on the Huffington Post web site. The article reports, based on an email exchange with Hersh, that both the New Yorker magazine, where he is a staff writer, and the Washington Post rejected his article when he submitted it to them for publication.

Huffington Post's Michael Calderone explained:

In an email, Hersh wrote that “there was little interest” for the story at The New Yorker.
A New Yorker spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hersh then took the story to The Washington Post. The Post intended to publish it, as BuzzFeed first reported.
Hersh told HuffPost that he went to the Post because of the paper’s reporting on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In the Syria article, Hersh mentioned the Post's Aug. 29 report on the U.S. government's secret "black budget" for intelligence programs. He wrote that the leaked document revealed that "the NSA no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack."
Hersh also cited the Post’s reporting on a “secret sensor system” that he wrote would have been expected to detect Assad's regime preparing for a chemical attack in the days leading up to it.
It's unclear exactly why the Post decided not to publish the story. Hersh wrote that he was told by email that Executive Editor Marty Baron decided “that the sourcing in the article did not meet the Post's standards.” 

That The New Yorker refused to run the piece and that the Washington Post turned it down does not speak highly for either.  With the magazine, David Remick can't stop holding hands with Barack so he's never going to tell the truth and The New Yorker has become a hideous magazine since the start of 2008.  The Washington Post?

I'm a little more forgiving there.  If you tell unpleasant truths about Barack, you get attacked.  I don't think hurt feelings would upset the paper, I do think a prolonged series of attacks when circulation is already poor could scare them off.  Possibly it did.

If so, turn and look at the real culprits, outlets like Media Matters.

It's not surprising that an outlet formed by David Brock would be a smear campaign factory.  David will never, ever atone for what he did to Anita Hill and to this country.  Clarence Thomas is unfit for the Court, he always was.  If Brock hadn't smeared Anita Hill, lied about her, other women would have been heard from.

What Brock did and does is to scare people into silence.

Media Matters is a little thug agency. And if a sex scandal doesn't kill it, most likely a drug scandal will.  There's good reasons why even Media Matters past friends are now loathe to be connected to it.

I don't watch Rachel Maddow but I do remember her Air America days and her praise of Sy Hersh.  It'd be interesting to know whether MSNBC's talk shows have covered Hersh's report or if they're being silent as well.

The Washington Post, a daily newspaper, can always fall back on the excuse that they were covering this week's news.  MSNBC talk shows aren't news.  The hosts don't report.  They just talk about other people's reporting.  Which means, with all those hours of chatter they have to fill, they really don't have an excuse for avoiding the topic.

And before anyone wonders/e-mails, I haven't noted Hersh's report until today.  Haven't had time to.  Didn't get to read it until Wednesday, unable to make time until now.  Been busy attending Congressional hearings (two of which I've reported on here) and speaking.

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