Here are the bits from Whitaker’s article that I thought were worth commenting on:
‘On one side of the chemical weapons debate is Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist, who suggested in an article for the London Review of Books that rebel fighters, rather than the Syrian regime, were to blame for the Damascus attacks’.
That isn’t really the point Hersh was making though, is it? The jist of the story was that the case against the Assad regime wasn’t as strong as the Obama regime made out, and that the Obama regime knew this.
As Hersh told Democracy Now – ‘I certainly don’t know who did what, but there’s no question my government does not’, and that Obama ‘was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case‘.
Hersh and his sources saw that as a major scandal: a President deciding to start a war, with all that entails, based on a case that was less than watertight.
They also refused to even entertain the possibility, at least in public, that a rebel faction may have been responsible, despite knowing that at least one rebel faction had ‘mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity’.
‘Given that Hersh has spent decades working for mainstream media, that Media Lens disapproves of anonymous sources’.
An apparent ‘Gotcha!’ moment, no? But maybe there’s a difference between people leaking and briefing anonymously to promote Establishment narratives and aims, and people leaking and briefing anonymously to challenge them. Hersh has, throughout his career, promoted the latter with a very good hit rate. Simply put, anonymous leaks designed to whistleblow are not the same as anonymous leaks designed to mislead and confuse.
‘Some of his other exposes have misfired, though’
Some examples might be nice.
‘he has often been criticised for his use of shadowy sources. In the words of one Pentagon spokesman, he has “a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources”‘.
Hersh has spent decades shining lights into places ‘Pentagon spokesmen’ types don’t want him to look. So it’s not surprising that they’d try and discredit his work. Would Whitaker, for example, quote an Iranian military spokesman to try and rubbish the work of an Iranian dissident journalist? I doubt it. And the fact he does it here perhaps says much about his unexamined assumptions and biases.
‘Higgins, meanwhile, is the antithesis of a “corporate” journalist’.
At this point in his career, it’s not like Higgins is some obscure, insurgent outsider. He has had his work published in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, has had a lengthy profile written about him in The New Yorker, has worked with Human Rights Watch, and has been interviewed more than once on T.V. News. Does this make him wrong? Of course not. But the line between him and ‘old media’ isn’t quite as defined as Whitaker would like to make out.
It is perhaps instructive that in this case, Hersh struggled to get anyone to publish his chemical weapons piece, while Higgins had no problem in getting Foreign Policy, an Establishment journal if ever there was one, to publish his rebuttal pretty much straight away.
‘Hersh’s source on the supposed sarin-manufacturing capabilities is an unnamed “senior intelligence consultant”:
‘Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin’
. . . Interestingly, though, EAWorldView has an idea who this consultant might be. It notes that Michael Maloof, who formerly worked in the US Defense Department, has made very similar claims in an article for the right-wing World Net Daily, and also on the Russian propaganda channel, RT’.
Pure speculation, of course. Even if the source is Maloof, it doesn’t automatically follow that Maloof is wrong.
Nor is Maloof, or any other source Hersh might have, the only person to have suggested a rebel faction may have access to chemical weapons.
In May 2013 for example, Carla Del Ponte, one of the overseers of the UN commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss T.V. that ‘there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas’ by rebel factions, and that she was ‘a little bit stupefied by the first indications we got . . . they were about the use of nerve gas by the opposition’.
Predictably, her comments quickly disappeared down the Memory Hole, even though she is a very credible and well respected source, and likely wasn’t just making it all up.
She was, incidentally, also smeared and/or discredited by those who simply don’t want to see any kind of challenge to the Establishment narrative on Syria, much like is happening to Hersh now.