Johnathan Cook is a hard guy to keep up with. He has written not one, not two, but three defenses of Seymour Hersh’s ridiculous and thoroughly disputed account of the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun in the last week or so, all the while claiming he is not a partisan of Assad and not really a partisan of Hersh, who he thinks has just gotten an unfair shake from the MSM.
He poses, as if it were profound, the question of how such an investigative shark could be denied by the very organs who gobbled up his prose in the past? Hersh’s Welt am Sonntag article was submitted to and paid for by the London Review of Books, which then declined to print it. I wouldn’t know, but Cook says it was widely rejected by English-audience publications. Darkly, Cook writes: “Maybe they had evidence that his inside intelligence was wrong.” But then, why didn’t they print that evidence, he asks? For one, editors don’t even have to tell you, let alone the whole world, why they won’t print your piece. Bu if you’re hankering for more, Clay Clairborne over at Linux Beach has posed some pretty good reasons based entirely on Hersh’s text. First, lets clear away a few vocabulary issues. Hersh himself claims no more than to have “interviewed” a mucky-muck former CIA/general spy guy. This has morphed, in Cook’s recounting, into an “investigation.” The entire story, by Hersh’s own words, rests on the opinions of one unnamed source. While Hersh mentions a single source, Cook uses the plural “sources” 8 times in one article and 17 times in another. Relying on a single source alone would be enough to doom a story, but there’s much more. Clairborne details all the places the CIA guy would have had to be in order to witness what he passed on to Hersh. It’s a bunch! Usually one person corroborates this fact which s/he observed, and another observer does the same for a different fact in the chain of the argument, and thus the story emerges by pulling threads together from a bunch of individual’s narratives. Sy Hersh, however, has lighted upon the Ur-Source, the guy who was everywhere at the right time. Plus the Ur-Source provides many quotes — not summaries, but quotes — of many different discussions. Did he take stenographic notes? Did he record?
Cook coyly does not consider the numerous reasons this article might have been justly trashed. He argues instead that the publication of Hersh’s article, in German, in Germany, created a crisis in the US ruling class that caused two separate spoiler events, designed to draw attention away from the otherwise riveting Hersh account, to be foregrounded.
First spoiler was Trump’s surprise announcement that Syria was about to do it again and they’d better not! You just have to say “Wow!” The US threatened to respond to further sarin attacks to divert attention from Hersh’s incendiary journalism. Talk about the power of the pen!
Second spoiler: “Two unnamed diplomats “confirmed” that a report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had found that some of the victims from Khan Sheikhoun showed signs of poisoning by sarin or sarin-like substances.” This is a spoiler, Cook says, because everybody already knew what was gonna be in the report so it wasn’t real news when it was published. But, actually, it is. The report confirmed that sarin was found at Khan Sheikhoun. For months people like Cook have been jabbering that sarin had not been confirmed to be present at Khan Sheikhoun. But now it has been confirmed, and that constitutes news. It is not a spoiler to write about it. It is not a diversion that allows the weak-minded to avoid the truths offered by Hersh, but an important statement of fact that annihilates Hersh’s entire argument.
Let’s go back. What is Hersh’s main claim? It is that there was no sarin attack. Almost unimaginably, Cook elides — as if it were not there — the refutation of Hersh’s claims of no sarin and allows himself to pen the ultra-weaselly statement: “[…] the DOCW has not concluded that the Assad regime was responsible for the traces of sarin.” That is true, but that’s not what Hersh argues. Hersh argues that no sarin attack occurred and claims that that knowledge is spread far and wide in the US government. NOT NOT NOT that Assad didn’t order an attack, but that no sarin attack happened at all. So maybe the OPCW conclusion was olds news to everyone else, but it was a bombshell to Sy Hersh.