The investigative journalist says Pentagon leaders conducted a secret alliance with Assad and Putin to undermine Obama.
Seymour Hersh speaking in 2005. Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty
Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist famous for uncovering the 1968 My Lai massacre and the mid-2000s Abu Ghraib scandal, says there’s another scandal afoot, and it’s bigger than anything he’s previously reported. Perhaps even bigger than his story from this May alleging that the US staged its mission to kill Osama bin Laden.
In a lengthy London Review of Books piece, Hersh says that the top leaders of the Pentagon deliberately subverted American policy toward Syria, sabotaging US efforts to aid Syrian rebels and even sending US intelligence to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. From fall 2013 to September 2015, he says, US military leaders effectively conducted a secret alliance with Assad and with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they saw as their best allies in fighting ISIS.
It is a fantastic and stunning claim. And Hersh, rather than condemning this all as what would appear to be the highest act of treason in modern American history, rather seems to portray it as necessary and appropriate. But, much as with Hersh’s now-notorious bin Laden story, it is backed up with no evidence beyond the word of one anonymous “former senior adviser” to the Joint Chiefs.
What follows is a simple guide to Hersh’s theory: what he says happened, what the article states, and how it squares with what we know.
I will be transparent with you: As with Hersh’s other recent stories, I came away deeply skeptical about his claims, particularly given what appears to be a fatal flaw in the story’s central theory. I have explained my skepticism below, but I would urge you to judge for yourself.
What happened, according to Hersh:
- The Joint Chiefs of Staff, America’s senior-most military leaders, in summer 2013 discovered that Turkey had “co-opted” the CIA’s rebel-arming program, redirecting the US aid to extremists including Jabhat al-Nusra (an al-Qaeda branch) and ISIS.
- The Joint Chiefs also discovered that viable moderate Syrian rebels did not exist and that the opposition consisted nearly uniformly of extremists.
- The Joint Chiefs decided in the fall of 2013 to begin secretly “providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army.” They sent US intelligence to Germany, Russia, and Israel, which sent it to Assad.
- The goal of their secret alliance with Assad was to subvert Obama’s Syria efforts, prop up Assad, and aid him in destroying ISIS and other extremists.
- In return, the Joint Chiefs asked that Assad 1) “restrain” Hezbollah from attacking Israel; 2) renew negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights, a territory that Israel had seized from Syria decades earlier; 3) agree to accept any Russian assistance; and 4) hold elections after the war ended.
- In summer 2013 the Joint Chiefs tricked the CIA into shipping obsolete weapons to Syrian rebels. Hersh says this was intended as a show of good faith to Assad, to convince him to accept their offer.
- The secret Joint Chiefs alliance with Putin and Assad, we are told, ended this September when its chief architect, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, retired.