TRIGGER HAPPY….This is weird. I missed this nugget buried deep in Seymour Hersh’s July piece in the New Yorker when I first read it, but it turns out that our little run-in with those Iranian boats earlier this year sparked some conversation in the White House:
[A] lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. [A former senior intelligence] official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.
The story contains no further details, but apparently that’s not because Hersh doesn’t know them. ThinkProgress asked Hersh about the Cheney meeting at a recent conference, and he said this:
There was a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build — we in our shipyard — build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.
And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation. But that was rejected.
Fascinating. So why wasn’t that in his story? According to Hersh, it’s because his editors didn’t think he should write about options that were discussed but subsequently rejected.
You gotta be kidding. The fact that they’re even talking about stuff like this is news. If Hersh’s editors thought his sourcing was no good, then his piece shouldn’t have mentioned the meeting at all. But if the sourcing was good enough to report the meeting in the first place, it was good enough to report what they talked about. What were the New Yorker’s editors thinking?
POSTSCRIPT: If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In one of David Manning’s famous memos describing a prewar meeting between George Bush and Tony Blair, he says that Bush admitted that WMD was unlikely to be found in Iraq and then mused on some possible options for justifying a war anyway:
“The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours,” the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. “If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”
In the end, of course, we didn’t do this. We just didn’t bother with any pretext at all.