Silent Witness: America Ignores a New Bush Crime in the Making

Tom Engelhardt writes of the strange and disturbing non-reaction to Seymour Hersh's recent story about the Bush Regime's "Redirection" campaign – which involves funneling money to Sunni jihadist groups allied with al Qaeda, running covert ops inside Iran (including terrorist strikes), and shifting "black pools of money" from various dubious sources (most likely including some of the missing billions looted from Iraqi "reconstruction"), and laying the groundwork for a massive act of aggression against Iran – with Congress (and most of the federal government) kept out of the loop, in a deliberate re-creation of the "Iran-Contra" scam system, many of whose perpetrators (some of them with criminal convictions) now hold high positions in the Bush government.

That's a pretty fair amount of monkey business going on, reported by a highly credible journalist who has hit several muckraking home runs during his 40-year career. As Englehardt notes, at the very least, you would think there would be some follow-up by other news organizations to ascertain the veracity of Hersh's alarming charges. At the very least, you'd think there would be a few tough questions about the article tossed at Bush officials. At the very least, you'd think that a credible report alleging a U.S. government alliance with al Qaeda groups in a highly illegal covert operation designed to embroil the nation in a new war might occasion some small measure of controversy and comment.

But you would, of course, be wrong. Englehardt documents the vast, sepulchural silence that has greeted Hersh's revelations in the American media and political establishments. One clear reason for this is that the movers and shakers in these establishments share the aggressive imperial assumptions underlying Bush's policies – which, after all, are merely the apotheosis of more than half a century of the corrupt and brutal predations of the "National Security State" instituted by über-Democrat Harry Truman. They too believe that America has the right to overthrow nations at will, support terrorist attacks in foreign countries, fund and arm criminal extremists, and spread murder, corruption, terror and chaos around the globe in order to make the rich and powerful elite – i.e., themselves – richer and more powerful. They too share the Bush Regime's visceral disdain for "recalcitrant tribes" and the lower orders of humanity: the dark, the different, the poor, the "losers."

This has of course always been a prevalent, even dominant, strain in American history. But there have also been strong countercurrents to this predatory elitism, often within the institutions of American society and indeed within the Establishment itself. But these currents seem to have been completely dammed up at last in our day – or perhaps they have simply dried up, never to return.

Englehardt's excellent and meticulous work should be read in full, but below are some choice excerpts.

The Seymour Hersh Mystery: A Journalist Writes Bloody Murder…But No One Notices (TomDispatch, via

Let me see if I've got this straight. Perhaps two years ago, an "informal" meeting of "veterans" of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal – holding positions in the Bush administration – was convened by Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams. Discussed were the "lessons learned" from that labyrinthine, secret, and illegal arms-for-money-for-arms deal involving the Israelis, the Iranians, the Saudis, and the Contras of Nicaragua, among others – and meant to evade the Boland Amendment, a congressionally passed attempt to outlaw Reagan administration assistance to the anti-communist Contras. In terms of getting around Congress, the Iran-Contra vets concluded, the complex operation had been a success – and would have worked far better if the CIA and the military had been kept out of the loop and the whole thing had been run out of the vice president's office.

Subsequently, some of those conspirators, once again with the financial support and help of the Saudis (and probably the Israelis and the Brits), began running a similar operation, aimed at avoiding congressional scrutiny or public accountability of any sort, out of Vice President Cheney's office. They dipped into "black pools of money," possibly stolen from the billions of Iraqi oil dollars that have never been accounted for since the American occupation began. Some of these funds, as well as Saudi ones, were evidently funneled through the embattled, Sunni-dominated Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to the sort of Sunni jihadi groups ("some sympathetic to al-Qaeda") whose members might normally fear ending up in Guantanamo and to a group, or groups, associated with the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

(More excerpts after the jump.)

All of this was being done as part of a "sea change" in the Bush administration's Middle Eastern policies aimed at rallying friendly Sunni regimes against Shi'ite Iran, as well as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Syrian government – and launching secret operations to undermine, roll back, or destroy all of the above. Despite the fact that the Bush administration is officially at war with Sunni extremism in Iraq (and in the more general Global War on Terror), despite its support for the largely Shi'ite government, allied to Iran, that it has brought to power in Iraq, and despite its dislike for the Sunni-Shi'ite civil war in that country, some of its top officials may be covertly encouraging a far greater Sunni-Shi'ite rift in the region.

Imagine. All this and much more (including news of U.S. military border-crossings into Iran, new preparations that would allow George W. Bush to order a massive air attack on that land with only 24-hours notice, and a brief window this spring when the staggering power of four U.S. aircraft-carrier battle groups might be available to the president in the Persian Gulf) was revealed, often in remarkable detail, just over a week ago in "The Redirection," a Seymour Hersh piece in the New Yorker. Hersh, the man who first broke the My Lai story in the Vietnam era, has never been off his game since. In recent years, from the Abu Ghraib scandal on, he has consistently released explosive news about the plans and acts of the Bush administration.

Imagine, in addition, that Hersh went on Democracy Now!, Fresh Air, Hardball with Chris Matthews, and CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer and actually elaborated on these claims and revelations, some of which, on the face of it, seem like potentially illegal and impeachable offenses, if they do indeed reach up to the vice president or president.

Now imagine the response: Front-page headlines; editorials nationwide calling for answers, congressional hearings, or even the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into some of the claims; a raft of op-ed page pieces by the nation's leading columnists asking questions, demanding answers, reminding us of the history of Iran-Contra; bold reporters from a recently freed media standing up in White House and Defense Department press briefings to demand more information on Hersh's various charges; calls in Congress for hearings and investigations into why the people's representatives were left so totally out of this loop.


All I can say is: If any of this happened, I haven't been able to discover it. As far as I can tell, no one in the mainstream even blinked on the Iran-Contra angle or the possibility that a vast, secret Middle Eastern operation is being run, possibly illegally and based on stolen funds and Saudi money, out of the vice president's office. You can certainly find a few pieces on, or reports about, "The Redirection" – all focused only on the possible buildup to a war with Iran – and the odd wire-service mention of it; but nothing major, nothing Earth-shaking or eye-popping; not, in fact, a single obvious editorial or op-ed piece in the mainstream; no journalistic questions publicly asked of the administration; no congressional cries of horror; no calls anywhere for investigations or hearings on any of Hersh's revelations, not even an expression of fear somewhere that we might be seeing Iran-Contra, the sequel, in our own moment.