American Samizdat

What happens when America’s top investigative journalist reports what its media-owners don’t want the public to know?

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at

This isn’t only about U.S. President Barack Obama’s secret policy on Syria; it’s also about his successor President, Donald Trump’s, adopting that secret policy, and about the U.S. press keeping this policy secret from the U.S. public — effectively blinding America’s voters so they can’t see, much less understand, the U.S. government’s ongoing international looting-operation, nor even the key parts of it:

Seymour Hersh used to have his important news-reports published in the New Yorker. Then in 2007, he reported there something that disturbed America’s aristocracy for it to be made public — “The Redirection”, about the U.S. government’s plan to bring “the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims” — which raised a red flag on Hersh. More followed when he challenged the official story on “The Killing of Osame bin Laden”, which crossed the line so much that the New Yorker rejected it but he found a willing London Review of Books to pay his fee to publish it on 21 May 2015. Afterwards, yet again, the LRB published on 19 December 2013 his “Whose Sarin?” which raised serious questions as to whether U.S. President Barack Obama had lied to say that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad was behind the 21 August 2013 East Ghouta sarin gas attack that crossed Obama’s famous “red line” and warranted the U.S. (as policeman, judge, jury and executioner, the international government, for the whole world) to bomb Syrian government forces as punishment. Next, on 17 April 2014 — also in LRB — came “The Red Line and the Rat Line”, reporting, about that sarin-attack, the study by:

Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

This was way too much. But Hersh went further: on 6 January 2016, also in LRB, he bannered “Military to Military” about:

overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

Hersh reported there that, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya.” “The CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria.” “The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad.” “The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists.” What resulted was almost a mutiny by the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”

Hersh went still further:

General Dempsey and his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff kept their dissent out of bureaucratic channels, and survived in office. General Michael Flynn did not. ‘Flynn incurred the wrath of the White House by insisting on telling the truth about Syria,’ said Patrick Lang, a retired army colonel who served for nearly a decade as the chief Middle East civilian intelligence officer for the DIA. ‘He thought truth was the best thing and they shoved him out. He wouldn’t shut up.’ Flynn told me his problems went beyond Syria. ‘I was shaking things up at the DIA – and not just moving deckchairs on the Titanic. It was radical reform. I felt that the civilian leadership did not want to hear the truth. I suffered for it, but I’m OK with that.’ In a recent interview in Der Spiegel, Flynn was blunt about Russia’s entry into the Syrian war: ‘We have to work constructively with Russia. Whether we like it or not, Russia made a decision to be there and to act militarily. They are there, and this has dramatically changed the dynamic. So you can’t say Russia is bad; they have to go home. It’s not going to happen. Get real.’

Few in the US Congress share this view. One exception is Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and member of the House Armed Services Committee who, as a major in the Army National Guard, served two tours in the Middle East. In an interview on CNN in October she said: ‘The US and the CIA should stop this illegal and counterproductive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad and should stay focused on fighting against … the Islamic extremist groups.’ …

The military’s indirect pathway to Assad disappeared with Dempsey’s retirement in September. His replacement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Dunford, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, two months before assuming office. ‘If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia,’ Dunford said. ‘If you look at their behaviour, it’s nothing short of alarming.’ In October, as chairman, Dunford dismissed the Russian bombing efforts in Syria, telling the same committee that Russia ‘is not fighting’ IS. He added that America must ‘work with Turkish partners to secure the northern border of Syria’ and ‘do all we can to enable vetted Syrian opposition forces’ – i.e. the ‘moderates’ – to fight the extremists.

Dunford was retained as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by President Trump. Flynn was brought in as the National Security Advisor but was forced out by the neocons — especially the press-owners and their hirees who built a drumbeat to make Flynn seem like having been a traitor for having tried to build a relationship between Trump and Putin in the event that Trump might win. Dunford now works with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, a neocon.

And then, on 25 June 2017, Germany’s Die Welt published Hersh’s next blockbuster, suppressed by the U.S. press: “Trump’s Red Line”. It’s even more scalding. To read a summary of it, which relates it to — and links to — all the key sources, see at washingtonsblog (from the owner of the blog, whom I consider the best and clearest and most consistently accurate summarizer of important, really historically important, current events), his “U.S. Military Officials: There Was NO Chemical Weapons Attack In Syria … Trump Bombed Syria DESPITE Advice From Military and Intelligence Chiefs” — and not just “advice” but they told him that, in fact, as Hersh’s news-report put it, “the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.” Also, Die Welt, at the same time as it published this Hersh report, published a historical account of Hersh’s career, including his losing one publisher after another — including, for example, this passage in that account of his career:

As has always been his practice, Hersh has told Welt am Sonntag the identities of all the sources he quotes anonymously in his story about Trump’s retaliatory strike against Syria. The paper was thus able to speak independently to the central source in the U.S.

Hersh had also offered the article to the London Review of Books. The editors accepted it, paid for it, and prepared a fact checked article for publication, but decided against doing so, as they told Hersh, because of concerns that the magazine would [be] vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russian governments when it came to the April 4th [alleged Syrian government sarin] bombing in Khan Sheikhoun [the alleged event for which Trump immediately bombed a Syrian military airbase as punishment, allegedly for this event which Trump already knew not to have happened as he and the press were describing it].

In other words, the rationalization for declining to publish Hersh’s new article, even after fact-checking and verifying everything in it (and even paying the author’s fee to publish it), was that it contradicted the propaganda from the U.S. government. Apparently, LRB was no longer willing to undergo the penalties for doing that, which perhaps they had previously experienced from having published his blockbusters. Anyway: enough was enough, for them. Why, then had they gone to the additional trouble and expense of fact-checking, and of paying for the new article? Perhaps they were simply struggling with themeselves, and with their consciences, about what to do. However, the answer to such questions is virtually never publicly revealed. Who would talk? — it would only make things worse for themselves (and, in any case, most of the public would side with ‘authority’).

Obama was lying through his teeth, but Trump continues that bloody charade even while he condemns his predecessor’s policy, which he himself has been continuing.

But now that Russia has finally announced that unless the Obama-Trump policy has stopped and simply terminates right after Russia delivered its warning about it on June 19th, there will be war between the U.S. and Russia, the initial signs are that finally Trump has abandoned the Obama policy. But, yet again, his Administration is also threatening to increase its invasion of Syria; and, so, no matter what will happen, they are now continuing to lie through their teeth. (See here for the latest report, as of June 27th, regarding the evident agreement between Trump and French President Macron to assist the jihadists in Syria to set up yet another sarin gas attack to be blamed on Assad, as ‘justification’ for the U.S. and France to go more overtly to war against the Syrian government — but this time after Russia’s warning, not before it.)

How can the public vote intelligently, when the reality about what the government is actually doing is being hidden from the voters? Can there actually be a democracy in the dark? Or, might nuclear war result from the public’s being blinded, and powerless?


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.