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By John Helmer, Moscow

Seymour Hersh’s (lead image) report on President Joseph Biden’s decision to destroy the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed on September 26, 2022, and the involvement of the US Navy in preparing the explosives, has been based on a single anonymous US source with what Hersh calls “direct knowledge of the process”.

From the full text of the Hersh report,   it appears that neither the source nor Hersh has “direct knowledge” of the history of US-led operations to sabotage and destroy the pipelines which became public more than a year before;  they directly involved the Polish government and the Danish government. In fact, by error of omission Hersh and his man are ignorant of those operations and of that history.

Also, the two of them are ignorant of the British government’s role in this history, and in the final destruction, which was revealed publicly by then-Prime Minister Elizabeth Truss to Secretary of State Antony Blinken sixty seconds after the detonation;  and by the Russian government when it announced its knowledge of the British involvement.

The source and the reporter appear to be equally oblivious of the role German government officials played in the operation, and of the history of German warfighting operations against Russia stretching back to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s engagement in the NATO plan for military intervention in eastern Ukraine,  following the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.  That attack was costlier in lives and in the US warfighting strategy against Russia than the Nord Stream operation.

In terms of cost, the US attack seizing more than $300 billion in Russian Central Bank reserves, announced on February 28, 2022,  was much greater. Hersh implies, without identifying his source at all, that there were “US promises to minimize direct conflict with Russia”; that because the Nord Stream attack plan violated those “promises”, they were in the source’s opinion either illegal in US law, or violations of US intelligence and military operation standards, or breaches of international undertakings the US has given its NATO allies or its Russian targets. Without explanation, Hersh omitted to ask Russian officials or others with “direct knowledge of the process” to confirm these claims or deny them.

Hersh and his man dismiss the Germans with the same disdain. They report that “after some wobbling [Chancellor Olaf Scholtz] was now firmly on the American team” in January 2022, when the Nord Stream attack plan had already been under way, Hersh reports,  for at least a month.  Hersh omitted to ask any German source — active official, army general, navy admiral or retiree –  to confirm or clarify.

Hersh’s text implies that he himself, like his source, think it’s good and lawful US policy to fight Russia’s “threat to western dominance [in Europe]”; to strike against Gazprom because it “is dominated by oligarchs known to be in the thrall of [President Vladimir] Putin”; because Nord Stream was “a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions”; and because “American’s political fears [of Putin’s ambitions] were real: Putin would now have an additional and much-needed major source of income, and Germany and the rest of Western Europe would become addicted to low-cost natural gas supplied by Russia – while diminishing European reliance on America.”

If this is what Hersh and his man believe to be the truth, then what follows in their report is that one of them must be lying, one of them dissimulating.

Hersh and his source imply that what they claim to have been a US Navy covert operation was wrong, not because the US warfighting objectives against Russia were (are) mistaken, but because the scheme of planning the attack intentionally evaded the US law “requiring that Congress be informed”. This was the illegal scheme,  Hersh reports his source as saying; it was illegal because it intended to broadcast Biden’s and State Department official warnings against Nord Streamfor the purpose of fabricating lawful compliance for those involved, and legality for the operation itself. The fabrication aimed at converting a “highly classified intelligence operation with US military support [which] under the law, the source explained, ‘there was no longer a legal requirement to report the operation to Congress”.

To make his case that the little secret was illegal, and justify the big and open secret,  Hersh and his source have been obliged to ignore the history,  the NATO allies, and of course,  the record which the Russians have made. This is either cynically calculated dishonesty, or else it is the fantasy of an American journalist pretending to investigate, even castigate one government operation;  and at the same time loyally serve the purpose, ideology and propaganda of the war at large.

Hersh is quixotic – except that this time the old Don’s lance is broken, his tilt is in the wrong direction, and the windmill is a fabrication of US exceptionalism, not only of the warfighters in Washington and Langley, but of the journalists who profess to be reporting on them.

The official Russian reaction to Hersh’s report has not been to confirm its accuracy.

Instead, the Russians point out that if Hersh is telling the truth, the mainstream American and European media are ignoring him. “When analyzing any statements coming from the US and Washington,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told the state newsagency Tass.  “It is so crucial for the media, not just for Russian [media], but for the foreign [press] as well, to pay attention to this very serious, and probably controversial, publication by Mr. Hersh on the alleged involvement and direct guilt of the White House for organizing the act of sabotage and terrorist act on critical energy infrastructure in the Baltic Sea, namely the Nord Stream pipelines… this article has not circulated widely in the Western media, and this undoubtedly surprises us.”

Peskov was speaking ironically about all “and any statements coming from the US and Washington”. The irony was pointed at Hersh’s source. As for Hersh, Peskov a dded: “some points could be challenged and some points need proof.” The proof should be investigated by an “international investigation”, he said. “However, we see the opposite.”

Peskov repeated that Moscow had information “on the involvement of the Anglo-Saxons in the organization of this act of sabotage.”  This isn’t news.

On September 30, four days after the Nord Stream attack, Putin was explicit at the Kremlin signing of the accession treaties which incorporated Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye as new territories of the Russian federation. “The Anglo-Saxons,” Putin said, “believe sanctions are no longer enough and now they have turned to subversion. It seems incredible but it is a fact – by causing explosions on Nord Stream’s international gas pipelines passing along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, they have actually embarked on the destruction of Europe’s entire energy infrastructure. It is clear to everyone who stands to gain. Those who benefit are responsible, of course.”

“Such self-confidence is a direct product not only of the notorious concept of exceptionalism – although it never ceases to amaze – but also of the real ‘information hunger’ in the West. The truth has been drowned in an ocean of myths, illusions and fakes, using extremely aggressive propaganda, lying like Goebbels. The more unbelievable the lie, the quicker people will believe it – that is how they operate, according to this principle.”

From left to right: Head of the Kherson Region Vladimir Saldo, Head of the Zaporozhye Region Yevgeny Balitsky, President  Putin, Head of the Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin, Head of the Lugansk People's Republic Leonid Pasechnik. Source: http://en.kremlin.ru/

The Russian Foreign Ministry followed, making the charge against the Anglo-Saxons on November 1  and delivering protest démarches to the British Foreign Office.

Hersh, his man, and their sources have not suspected that the attack of September 26 was connected to the referendum of the four territories and the decision-making of the Russian General Staff, the Stavka, and Putin which led to the accession announcement on September 29.

In his accession speech Putin added: “Listen, this is just a lot of nonsense, utter deceit, double standards, or even triple standards! They must think we’re stupid.” Hersh and his source haven’t been listening. Neither have their detractors or their supporters in the US media.

Following Hersh’s career as a reporter for Associated Press and the New York Times, he went to work for the New Yorker. The magazine’s archive counts 59 articles by Hersh from 1972.   Not once did Hersh report a story on Russia since 1990, when his focus has been on US operations in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Pakistan, as well as on CIA spying on domestic US targets. Apart from his book on the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 in September 1983, he has reported nothing on or from Moscow – except this one remark to The Independent: ““The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.’ The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions – though this files in the face of the UK government’s position.”  Hersh added the disclaimer, “these are just his opinions.”