US government knows there are no weapons in Iran – journalist
America's eye on Iran has a worrying echo of what happened over Iraq, in the view of Hersh.
He accuses the Obama administration of letting fear not facts dictate a potentially disastrous policy direction on Iran.
RT:Based on your investigation, is the United States wrong to fear the worst when it comes to Iran?
Seymour Hersh: If the fear is based on the notion that somehow Iran has the bomb or is going to get a bomb soon, that is ridiculous because every bit of evidence they have from their own intelligence community – the people at the top of the American government – know there are no weapons there. We have known that for years. We have been looking for years after years after years. We support a sanctions program that is designed to stop the punishment it has aimed at stopping the Iranians from doing something we know they are not doing. For me, as I wrote in the article [in the New Yorker] the analogy between what Obama is doing in Iran is very close to what Bush and Dick Cheney, vice president, did to Iraq. They wanted to punish, they wanted to make a case against Iraq, and they did not like the politics, so we made a case against nuclear weapons. If you remember they were talking about mushroom clouds – they made a case to go to war. I am not suggesting they want to go to war, there are elements in America and certainly elements in Israel that would love to see us attack Iran, but that would be suicidal.
RT: If there is no evidence of the Iranians actually developing nuclear weapons then why the rhetoric? Why the fear mongering on Iran whether it is coming from the White House or the mainstream media?
SH: There is no evidence at all of weaponization. There was no evidence anywhere I went. You go to London, you go to the French, you go to the Germans, and they all say the same thing. We thought, we still think they might want to go but we do not have anything. It should be open and shut. We should move on, but we are not. Instead they are just attacking me, what I wrote. They are ignoring it up to a point. But the mainstream press they have their narrative and they do not want to change their narrative. I have been writing about the secret operations we have had inside Iran in the New Yorker for about five years because they started in 2004 -2005. Vice President Cheney was convinced there was a secret facility somewhere underground in Iran, and so our special forces units were going in, we went in through Afghanistan, we went through Baluchistan in Pakistan, we have been going in to Iran covertly with money and chemicals and by chemicals I mean plastique bombing, explosive material. We have been dealing with the Jundullah, we have been dealing with the Iranian Kurds, dissident groups inside Iran, with the goal of trying to find, neutralizing their weapons program, finding their secret program. We have found none. Nada. Nothing. And now there have been two internal, what I wrote about in the magazine, there have been two major internal studies known as national intelligence estimates, they are the most sacrosanct documents we have inside our government in terms of their assessments , and they both said nothing there.
RT: But the Obama administration disagrees with your assessment
SH: Oh yeah. I mean big deal. I am doing my job when the White House is mad at me. And by the way these guys, from my point of view, they are no straighter with us than the Bush White House was. That is a shocking thing to say but they are pretty much the same.
RT: Why is the mainstream media reporting on this?
SH: I get a lot of stuff from colleagues around the world who are more open than the American press is to the criticism of America. But I just talked to a Boston Globe guy who said something nice and I asked him: “Well, why don’t you write about it? You do not have to write my story but pick up on it.” He said: “Well we are not going to give 2,000 words to the New Yorker. So there is now a sense with the internet and everyone competing for fewer and fewer dollars that are out there, there is a sense of economic competitiveness too. But that is only part of it. The real issue is, the underlying theme of it, is that the White House controls things in a way that they always do. And this White House is just as interested in controlling things. And it is easy to do because everyone is very eager. Now, you get perfectly professional stories representing the view of the administration but they are not getting anybody on the inside who is telling them a different story. So we are stuck. We are stuck with the major newspapers reporting pretty much what the administration wants and when somebody like me goes up against them with the same story, what happens? Every story I have done since 9/11, every good one, what?
RT:Why is it that you come out with a piece saying that Iran is not the threat it’s made out to be and you are considered a heretic?
SH: It is not about me, it is almost institutional. They have a narrative. And the narrative is Iran is bad. They are making bombs. Even if we can’t find them they must be there. They are evil people.
RT: And what is the consequence for the American public?
SH: Most of the American public is right there with 24 hour cable. More interested in what happened on the latest stupid thing some congressman did on the internet which is chronic and goes on all the time.
RT:Has the US taken the right course in responding to the so-called Arab spring?
SH: We view everything through an American prism… believe the sun revolves around us. Look, if you are an Iranian and you are in the Middle East and you know what’s going on in Bahrain, and you see the White House criticizes Iran and at the same time everyone in Iran and everyone in the Middle East is watching what is going on in Bahrain and we say nothing, what do you think that impact is going to be, hypocrisy? There is no love for us, certainly, not in the Gulf anymore, because we betrayed the trust. And in the streets of Egypt when Obama finally came and supported him there was hooting. They were done with us. They wanted his support earlier. We have missed the boat on that. Those movements were probably the best tools we have had. Certainly, better than the use of force that we have had, the night raids, the renditions, and yet we have mucked that up. So it is a true mess. This administration is focused on Iran as the source of all evil and Iran is helping the Syrians do what it does in Syria as if they need help getting tough.
RT:But president Obama was elected because he was supposed to represent change. He was supposed to chart this country down a different course than the Bush administration.
SH: Oh come on. Come on. This is an election year, he wants to be re-elected. The only hope a lot of us have is that in the second term here is such a brave guy, in his second term he maybe will become the Lincoln we thought he might be. But he has got a reelection. You can argue that he knows that getting Osama is great but he will be reelected on the price of oil and jobs. And when the oil is this high the economy is tanking. The economy is tanking because we are paying $4 per a gallon. So he has got to convince the Saudis; he has got to make nice and look the other way as they mutilate people in the Middle East and spend their money because he wants to get $2 million more barrels per day of oil. He wants to get the gas price down and the economy rolling a little bit.
RT: Is oil more important than democracy for president Obama?
SH: Well, duh. What do you think?
RT: What is your assessment of the way the Obama administration has handled the Afghan war?
SH: I mean ghastly, ghastly, D double minus. Everybody, even the most committed hawk with the exception of Petraeus and others have to say what they have to say. I know no one who thinks we have any future in Afghanistan. The faster we get out of there… we see in terms of the Americans not the Afghans and it drives me crazy. What is going on there is ghastly, just ghastly. It is out of control. The leadership is falling.
RT:Although Iraq is still of course unraveling?
SH: As we talk. Day by day Iraq is probably going to be Obama’s biggest problem next year. It is going to be a very tough call if he stays or goes, with the troops. If he keeps troops there it is going to be bad.
RT:You have reported on the Vietnam War, you have reported conflicts throughout the year, throughout the decades. Why have we not learned from the past? What happened to the learning curve?
SH: Oh come on. A learning curve in America? What? There is no learning curve – we do not learn from past mistakes, we have not.
RT:You spent your life exposing this?
SH: Yeah, but I am also a realist. The fact that we could go into another country about which we knew very little and think we could change a society, we think we could do that? What did we learn? What did we learn from Vietnam? We went into Grenada. We could not even win that one very well. That was sort of silly. There was an improvement in the press when Reagan went to Nicaragua there was more criticism. So I thought he had learned from Vietnam, but the last ten years showed me… 9/11 was part of it, America wanted payback, we were scared, I would argue the American press totally failed after 9/11. We became Bush’s cheerleader, his partner, instead of looking critically at things. And that is happening now to a degree.