Friday, April 29, 2016

Seymour Hersh On Killing Bin Laden, Syria, Saudis and Sarin

We've posted a couple pieces on/by Hersh, links below.
From AlterNet:

Exclusive Interview: Seymour Hersh Dishes on Saudi Oil Money Bribes and the Killing of Osama Bin Laden
A wide-ranging interview tied to his new book, "The Killing of Osama Bin Laden."
Seymour Hersh is an American investigative journalist who is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for his article exposing the My Lai massacre by the U.S. military in Vietnam. More recently, he exposed the U.S. government’s abuse of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison facility.

Hersh's new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, is a corrective to the official account of the war on terror. Drawing from accounts of a number of high-level military officials, Hersh challenges a number of commonly accepted narratives: that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the Sarin gas attack in Ghouta; that the Pakistani government didn’t know Bin Laden was in the country; that the late ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in a solely diplomatic capacity; and that Assad did not want to give up his chemical weapons until the U.S. called on him to do so.

Ken Klippenstein: In the book you describe Saudi financial support for the compound in which Osama Bin Laden was being kept in Pakistan. Was that Saudi government officials, private individuals or both?
Seymour Hersh: The Saudis bribed the Pakistanis not to tell us [that the Pakistani government had Bin Laden] because they didn’t want us interrogating Bin Laden (that’s my best guess), because he would’ve talked to us, probably. My guess is, we don’t know anything really about 9/11. We just don’t know. We don’t know what role was played by whom.

KK: So you don’t know if the hush money was from the Saudi government or private individuals?
SH: The money was from the government … what the Saudis were doing, so I’ve been told, by reasonable people (I haven’t written this) is that they were also passing along tankers of oil for the Pakistanis to resell. That’s really a lot of money.

KK: For the Bin Laden compound?
SH: Yeah, in exchange for being quiet. The Paks traditionally have done security for both Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

KK: Do you have any idea how much Saudi Arabia gave Pakistan in hush money?
SH: I have been given numbers, but I haven’t done the work on it so I’m just relaying. I know it was certainly many—you know, we’re talking about four or five years—hundreds of millions [of dollars]. But I don’t have enough to tell you.

KK: You quote a retired U.S. official as saying the Bin Laden killing was “clearly and absolutely a premeditated murder” and a former SEAL commander as saying “by law we know what we’re doing inside Pakistan is homicide.”
Do you think Bin Laden was deprived of due process?
SH: [Laughs] He was a prisoner of war! The SEALs weren’t proud of that mission; they were so mad it was outed…I know a lot about what they think and what they thought and what they were debriefed, I will tell you that. They were very unhappy about the attention paid to that because they went in and it was just a hit.

Look, they’ve done it before. We do targeted assassinations. That’s what we do. They understood—the SEALs—that if they were captured by the Pakistani police authorities, they could be tried for murder. They understood that. 

KK: Why didn’t they apprehend Bin Laden? Can you imagine the intelligence we could have gotten from him?
SH: The Pakistani high command said go kill him, but for chrissake don’t leave a body, don’t arrest him, just tell them a week later that you killed him in Hindu Kush. That was the plan. 
Many sections, particularly in the Urdu-speaking sections, were really very positive about Bin Laden. Significant percentages in some areas supported Bin Laden. They [the Pakistani government] would’ve been under great duress if the average person knew that they’d helped us kill him. 

KK: How did it hurt U.S./Pakistan relations when, as you point out in your book, Obama violated his promise not to mention Pakistan’s cooperation with the assassination?
SH: We spend a lot of time with [Pakistani] generals Pasha and Kayani, the head of the army and ISI, the intelligence service. Why? Why are we so worried about Pakistan? Because they have [nuclear] bombs. ... at least 100, probably more. And we want to think that they’re going to share what they know with us and they’re not hiding it.

We don’t really know everything we think we know and they don’t tell us everything… so when he [Obama] is doing that, he’s really messing around with the devil in a sense. 
.... He [Bin Laden] had wives and children there. Did we ever get to them? No. We never got to them. Just think about all the things we didn’t do. We didn’t get to any of the wives, we didn’t do much interrogation, we let it go. 

There are people that know much more about this and I wish they would talk, but they don’t.

KK: You write that Obama authorized a ratline wherein CIA funneled arms from Libya into Syria and they ended up in jihadi hands. [According to Hersh, this operation was coordinated via the Benghazi consulate where U.S. ambassador Stevens was killed.] What was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in this given her significant role in Libya?
SH: The only thing we know is that she was very close to Petraeus who was the CIA director at the time ... she’s not out of the loop, she knows when there’s covert ops. ... That ambassador who was killed, he was known as a guy, from what I understand, as somebody who would not get in the way of the CIA. As I wrote, on the day of the mission he was meeting with the CIA base chief and the shipping company. He was certainly involved, aware and witting of everything that was going on. And there’s no way somebody in that sensitive of a position is not talking to the boss, by some channel.

KK: In the book you quote a former intelligence official as saying that the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the Joint Chiefs as being insufficiently painful to the Assad regime. (You note that the original targets included military sites only—nothing by way of civilian infrastructure.) Later the White House proposed a target list that included civilian infrastructure.
What would the toll to civilians have been if the White House’s proposed strike had been carried out?
SH: Do you really think that at any time this is discussed? You know who’s sanest on this: Dan Ellsberg. When I first met Dan, it was way early—in ’70, ’71, during the Vietnam War. I think I met him before the Pentagon Papers were around. I remember him telling me that he asked that question at a meeting while planning the war [regarding B-52 targets] and nobody had even looked at it. 
You really don’t get a very good hard, objective look. You can see a movie in which they seem to do it, but that’s not really so. 

I don’t know if [regarding Syria] they looked at collateral damage and noncombatants, but I do know that in wars in the past, that’s never been a big issue. ... you’re talking about the country that dropped the second bomb on Nagasaki.

KK: In a recent interview with the Atlantic, Obama characterized his foreign policy as “Don’t do stupid shit.” 
SH: I read the Jeff Goldberg piece…and it of course drove me nuts, but that’s something else....

December 2013
What on earth does the West think it is doing in Syria?
Seymour Hersh writing at the London Review of Books:... 

December 2015 
 This is just a nasty, dirty story....