In an interview with Spiegel Online, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was asked how much the U.S. actually knows, with any reasonable degree of specificity, about Iran's nuclear program. He began his answer in a curious, perhaps even misspoken, way, and in the passive voice:
A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what [the agency] and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.
Given a do-over, I'm confident the incisive Mr. Hersh would set aside his reference to a disembodied "underestimation," and say flatly that the Bush administration has variously manipulated, distorted and ignored "how much the IAEA knows."
As for there not being "enough evidence to justify a bombing raid," that depends on what kind and what level of evidence one is searching for. If the thesis drives the research, rather than the research driving the thesis, than little to no evidence is needed. Throw into the mix a bit of manipulation, distortion and willful ignorance, and the evidence required for an effective propaganda campaign becomes blurred beyond any distinction from the evidence required for military intervention.
But we already know that, of course, because we just lived through a propaganda-cum-intervention campaign, merely one more piled upon interventionist concoctions from the Mexican War to Vietnam.
Regarding the latter, Mr. Hersh was also asked if the Iraq debacle, to put it charitably, will "leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did."
Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we'll rationalize it away. Don't worry about that.... There's no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We'll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades.
No learning curve? Again, that depends on how one wishes to define things. If, by learning, Mr. Hersh means the American public's historical tendency to forget hard lessons taught in the wasted human and fiscal resources of "stupid wars," then he's exactly right. If, on the other hand, he's referring to the boys at the top -- the decision makers -- then I'd have to say they rank somewhere on the learning curve's genius level.
It took us nearly 30 years to justify another stupid war after Vietnam. Now the boys in charge are accomplishing a justification redux not 30 years after Iraq or 20, not 10 years or five, but simultaneously.
And they're doing it chiefly through well-placed, money-loaded surrogates, just as they accomplished their domestic political victories since 2000.
The latest is Freedom's Watch, which is looking to raise $200 million in propaganda booty by November, which "will be easy," said one founder. It "denie[s]," however, "the accusation that [it's] a White House front group." Its president, a former deputy assistant to POTUS, has been quite clear about this, saying, yes, "he speaks with [the White House], but ... they are careful not to discuss the activities of Freedom’s Watch."
The organization has already executed a Blitzkrieg television campaign, with "several of the group’s spots suggest[ing] that Iraq, rather than Al Qaeda, was behind the Sept. 11 attacks." It also successfully countered MoveOn.org''s "Betray Us" print ad as "an unexpected gift," literally and figuratively.
Now, Freedom's Watch has moved on itself -- to phase two -- buying space to label Iran's president "a terrorist." And it's busier still. "Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States."
Boo, boo ... and boo!
No learning curve? Pshaw.