Think Progress | July 2, 2008

Earlier this week, in an article called “Preparing the Battlefield,” the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh reported that late last year, “Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran.” On MSNBC today, Andrea Mitchell asked Hersh if the U.S. was “planning military action” against Iran or “planning to support Israeli military action?”

“Oh, you know, how the hell do I know,” replied Hersh. “What I can tell you is we’re loaded for bear. And we’ve been looking at it for three years.” He then said that Vice President Dick Cheney “privately” is against an Israeli attack because the U.S. will “be blamed anyway”:

HERSH: If Israel goes — I’ll tell you what Cheney’s says privately, and whether or not you, how I know this is, — what he says privately is, “we can’t let Israel go because, first of all, they don’t have the firepower, we do. We have much more firepower. And secondly, if they go, we’ll be blamed anyway.”

Asked by Mitchell if that meant Cheney wanted the U.S. involved, Hersh replied, “there you go.” Watch it:

Though Hersh says Cheney only conveys this view “privately,” he has made a similar argument at least once before in public. On Jan. 20, 2005, Cheney went on the “Imus in the Morning” show and discussed another Hersh article about U.S. war posture towards Iran.

“Why don’t we make Israel do it?” asked Imus. “We don’t want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it,” replied Cheney. But, he said, “Israel might do it without being asked,” leaving the world to clean up “the diplomatic mess afterwards”:

IMUS: Why don’t we make Israel do it?

CHENEY: Well, one of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked, that if, in fact, the Israelis became convinced the Iranians had significant nuclear capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards.

Asked by Mitchell if it was “possible this would happen before the election,” Hersh said he didn’t think so, but that what he thinks “means nothing” because “this could happen tomorrow, the president could have a bad hair day and say, ‘to hell with it, let’s go.’”

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