Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Seymour Hersh: "Are you kidding?"

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Seymour Hersh: Bush Authorized Covert Plan to Manipulate Iraqi Elections

Listen to Segment || Download Show mp3
Watch 128k stream Watch 256k stream Read Transcript
Help Printer-friendly version Email to a friend Purchase Video/CD

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports in this week's issue of The New Yorker that President Bush authorized covert plans last year to support the election campaigns of Iraqi candidates and political parties with close ties to the White House.


SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I don't know how it happened. What I know is that after they tried to convince the various election groups, the NGOs, the American NGOs, sort of like the N.D.I., National Democratic Institute and others that were training poll watchers and others all throughout 2004, last year, before the election, there was an effort made to get those groups to funnel $40 million or $50 million into Allawi, and they refused.

The President eventually put out a finding, a highly classified finding -- covert finding that under the law, since the 1970s, any time the C.I.A. is authorized to do covert action, clandestine action, the Congress has to be notified, and that finding, by the way, is very broad. It not only referred to Iraq, it referred to sponsoring democracy anywhere in the -- you know, anywhere -- anywhere we thought it was important to do so.

And some people in Congress, particularly I write about Nancy Pelosi from California, the House Democratic leader, she grew up in Baltimore, it turns out. Her father was a -- for 12 years, he was mayor of Baltimore, D’Alexandro. Her brother was mayor later. She grew up in a very, very political family. And she just balked. She said, ‘I'm not going to go along with a presidential finding that authorizes covert action to tilt the election. We -- you know, we didn't have all of these boys die so we can fix an election.’ And Bush backed off at that point, rescinded -- so the White House says -- they rescinded that finding.

What I write is, ‘Are you kidding?’ What I write is that they simply went off the record, off the books on it. In other words, rather than deal with the C.I.A. and money that was appropriated by Congress, they took money -- I can’t -- I don't know from where, one guess would be Iraqi oil money, which we had control of. They took money that had not been appropriated by Congress and put it to work using retired intelligence people and other probably retired military people and others to help generate votes for Allawi. Allawi was running at, oh, 3% or even lower in other polls. 3% during the year. And he improved at the end, because, among other things, the Saudis and the Brits were doing an awful lot right before the election to support him, but nonetheless, in the election, he got 14% or 15%, which was much more than anybody expected.


SEYMOUR HERSH: The way we saw it, the United States saw it, is Allawi would never get enough votes to win, but you have a large Kurdish vote, a very much larger Shia vote, and if Allawi could get enough votes, he could be the middle man, he could play the power broker, and the United States could keep him in as prime minister. And if you remember, the election results were delayed, and we had Rumsfeld coming into Iraq twice and Condoleezza once, all arguing for a man that represented Allawi, as Allawi did, the worst elements of Saddam, Saddam-lite: brutality, murder. Close -- he was one of the closest advisers of Saddam throughout Saddam's rise in the Ba'ath Party, his murderous rise.

He also has his own -- what we have done is from the very beginning, when we -- the war went in March or April when we seemingly won the war early on in 2003, we were capturing former Makhabarat, members of Saddam's military security units, and retraining them into a secret force that Allawi controlled. So we were basically -- in their visits, Rumsfeld and Rice were, with the most ironies of ironies, were advocating for the continued power and political position of a man who represented the worst of Saddam and also had his own sort of military militia like everybody else did that was composed of Saddam's worst. I mean, talk about hysteria.


SEYMOUR HERSH: But look, this is a government that, as I have written about before, has gone off the books. It's gone off the books in the global war on terrorism. By that I mean, we're using -- we're outsourcing operations. The President has decided that he doesn't have to go to Congress for certain kind of operations against would-be terrorists, the renditions and other stuff. We're a operating right now in Africa and East Asia with military units that are doing the work that normally would be done -- snatching people, etc. -- by the C.I.A. under a finding. So, already they have made significant changes in how they operate.

This President has decided that any action that is involved with the war does not have to go to Congress because he is Commander in Chief. This is a legal determination they have made, has the right as Commander in Chief, as I said, to authorize anything in -- any operation that supports the war. They call it actually a -- preparations of the battlefield.

That's been expanded right now, as I understand it, from inside. They determined that any even informational preparation of the battlefield, whatever loose term that is, is something that the President can authorize without going to Congress. So, if they make a determination that there's a national security reason for something to take place, and this is a determination they make by themselves in the White House and in the Pentagon, they don't have to go to Congress for justification or anything. This is going on now. And it's been once I wrote that story, I think January, February in The New Yorker; other newspapers subsequently wrote that indeed it is going on.

What's happened here is that because of heat from Congress, surprising heat, because as you know, most of the time, you know, my big issue with the Congress is I can't decide in any given day whether they are prone or supine. But in this case, Congress stood up and they said, no, we will not let you intervene in the democratic -- that we have gone to war and we're killing American boys and, God knows, killing how many Iraqis for democracy. We are not going to tilt the playing field. Instead of taking that answer, they went off the books. This is what I'm writing about. This is the core.

And, of course, I can’t name the sources. And, of course, the White House is going to say they did not. That doesn't mean I'm right because they denied it. I wouldn't say that. I would just say, let's just wait and see, because as with other stuff I have written, sometimes it takes weeks and months, but in this case, the important distinction right now, the question that should be asked right now, is was that finding limited to Iraq? And the answer is no. Then if you really want to get into the next level, you say, well, what does this mean about what we're doing elsewhere? What else are we doing around the country? Around the world, rather, in terms of supporting democracy? And then you begin to get a lot of very uncomfortable questions, I think, for this White House, for which there won't be immediate answers. I don't mean to alarm everybody. But, you know, we're on a slippery slope here.


SEYMOUR HERSH: I just don't know that but, you know, when you talk about cash in Iraq, you don't just talk about cash. You talk about pallet loads of cash. There's an awful lot of money. If anybody wanted -- the London Review of Books recently did an amazing -- they took the six last State Department and U.N. reports on the missing cash in Iraq. Twenty billion dollars, much of it Iraqi oil money, has just disappeared, and there's no accounting for it. I shouldn't say all of it has disappeared, but the accounting is very lax.

The corruption of Iraq and the corruption of our military by the dollars around, the invidious and systematic corruption of our military is just beyond belief. And we will pay a price for that in the end, too. You just cannot have that much money around. There were all kinds of colonels -- look, and it just doesn't matter. I'm getting ahead of myself, because I -- I don't want too talk about things I can’t prove, but I can tell you in the London Review of Books in the last issue, the most recent issue, was a very, very serious essay about the extent of financial corruption and how much money simply disappeared from view, and we're not talking about hundreds of millions, we're talking about billions.


AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Westmoreland, one of the main U.S. military leaders during the Vietnam War, retired General William Westmoreland has died at the age of 91. You won your Pulitzer Prize covering Vietnam, exposing a massacre, the My Lai massacre. Your response?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, Peter Davis, the filmmaker, did a marvelous documentary called Hearts and Minds, in which Westmoreland is filmed saying, ‘Well, the Vietnamese’ he said, ‘are not like Americans and us in the West. They don't feel losses. They don't feel. They don’t have the same kind of family feelings we do. Death to them is not like death to us.’ And that's what he said on camera. I'm paraphrasing because it's a 30-year-old memory.

The movie, the documentary, was done in the 1970s, but his suggestion was somehow they're less human than we are. And that kind of institutional racism, which may have something to do with our, you know, the casualness with which we look at the daily atrocities in Iraq. You know, this is a stigma for all of us. And unfortunately, those who say that this is not like Iraq, should just start listening to the way the military in the last six months have begun talking about insurgents killed, 100 insurgents killed here, 80 insurgents killed there. It's all that talk and the same language we had and the body counts back in Vietnam. You know, they are less than real.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. And thank your family for giving us this time on your vacation.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Amy, for you, anything. Bye.

AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, thanks very much.

SOURCE - http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/07/19/1353243


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog, interesting information... Keep it UP » » »

5:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home