Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sy Hersh: Things do not look good for the home team

“I don’t think Bush gives a wit about ’06,” Hersh said. “He does care about ‘08. So whatever business he’s going to do — whether he wants to go into Iran; he wants to go into Syria; he wants to take care of Lebanon or Hezbollah — whatever he’s going to do, he will do by the end of ’07. That’s because I do think he’d like to see somebody who’ll carry on his policy elected in ‘08. But in ’06? I don’t think he cares at all.”

What? Bush doesn’t care about electing a Republican Congress this year?

“I think he sees his mission as a much higher plain than day-to-day politics,” Hersh continued, “because he’s certainly left the Republican Party in a real shambles for this fall.”

The blowback from Enron, Plamegate, Katrina, the Medicare fiasco, Abu Ghraib, illegal surveillance and the “long war” against terrorism has discombobulated the GOP. Even in Orange County, California — the pro-Bush bastion where Hersh is lecturing Friday and Saturday, February 10 and 11 at the upscale Newport Beach Public Library — conservatives are getting restless. That may be why Hersh’s dates at the library have been sold out for weeks. Is the OC beginning to question itself? Is the conservative majority there losing faith in the Dub? Hersh's remarks about the absurdity of this Republican presidency will certainly sting pro-Bush ears.

"We have this amazing position,” said Hersh about Bush’s Middle East policy. “We’re hostile to Iran and yet the people we support in Iraq — the people who’ve been elected; the people we’ve been working with all along — are the Shi'a and the Shi'a in Iraq are pro-Iran. So the logic of it is confounding. You hear recently about our government trying to talk to the Sunnis. We could end up negotiating with the Sunnis and end up being their allies — the same Sunnis that are involved desperately with the insurgency.”

Bush’s foreign policy grows curiouser and curiouser. While the situation in Iraq was presenting fundamentalists with affirmation of their belief in Armageddon, our fundamentalist president was using his State of the Union address to boast about bringing democracy to the Middle East. Which is it? End times or good times?

“It’s hallucinatory, of course,” said Hersh. “That speech was a little scary because, among other things, besides glossing over the mess in Iraq that’s pretty much intractable at this point, Bush also talks about regime change in Iran as opposed to simply slowing down the nuke process there — the nuclear weapons system that they seem to be building.”

Is there a logic to these regime change threats? Is National Intelligence Director John Negroponte really truly cross-his-heart concerned about Iran’s nuclear program or is he part of another mega-hoax? Are we about to be distracted by Weapons of Mass Destruction yet again?

“I’m doing reporting on it,” said Hersh. “If you want to get worried, that’s a very good reason to get worried. The future isn’t bright. It’s just not. We do have a president who thinks he has a mission. And it’s not clear how intelligence or other issues are going to matter.”

Iran is three times the size as Iraq. It has three times the population. Its military, unlike Iraq’s, wasn’t destroyed in a war and then saddled with a decade of economic sanctions. Iran is a functioning oil-based economy with serious ties to the global economy. Simply put, Iran is not Iraq. And yet, Hersh seems to be speculating that the Bush administration might be crazy enough to attack Iran.

We asked Hersh to speculate some more. He laughed.

“I guess what I would say to you is that if any of you have another passport, keep it alive,” he said.


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