Monday, August 14, 2006

US involved in planning Israel's operations in Lebanon?

It seems to me that baseless conspiracy theories are no longer contained to mental hospitals and underground sci-fi newsletters, but that they are increasingly being accepted by mainstream media. Below is a case in point.

According to a the paranoid conspiracy theorist in a recent AP article (see excerpt below), the U.S. and Israeli jointly planned the strike on Lebanon even before the July 12 kidnappings of 2 Israeli soldiers.

NEW YORK (AFP) - The US government was closely involved in planning Israel's military operations against Lebanon's Hezbollah militia even before the July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, a US magazine reported.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh writes in The New Yorker magazine that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were convinced that a successful Israeli bombing campaign against Hezbollah could ease Israel's security concerns and also serve as a prototype for a potential US preemptive attack to destroy Iran's nuclear installations.

Citing an unnamed Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of the Israeli and US governments, Hersh said Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush administration officials -- well before the July 12 kidnappings.

WHERE DO I START WITH THIS ONE!?!

For a moment, let's ignore the one-sidedness of this article.

We have only to read two paragraphs in to find a logical fallacy.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh writes in The New Yorker magazine...

If you're unfamiliar with the term, take a look at the fallacy known as "Appeal to Authority.

I have met several nutcases in my life, therefore I suppose I am an expert on nutcases. Does that mean my opinion that Hersh is a nutcase must be correct?

The mere fact that Hersh has won a Pulitzer Prize does not make this story any more credible. Nor does it make him an expert on the subject.


The article then reiterates its fallacy

US government officials have denied the charges, but Hersh defended his piece Sunday saying he had strong sources for the article which was thoroughly vetted by New Yorker editors.

Ok. I have strong sources that say Hersh is a paranoid schizophrenic and this blog is thoroughly vetted by my readers. Does that mean my statement trumps Hersh's, because that's the implication being made about Hersh's defense to the government's statement?

The same article also uses testimony by "unnamed sources" to back its claims on several occasions

Citing an unnamed Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of the Israeli and US governments, Hersh said Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush administration officials -- well before the July 12 kidnappings.

...

In the magazine Hersh writes that a former senior intelligence official said some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a council of the president's top military advisors -- remain concerned that the administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should.

Of course they did. I've never been a fan of "unnamed sources", but I can believe this because a source very close to Hersh tells me that he, "Sees Hersh regularly wearing tinfoil hats to communicate with aliens that he believes are sending him message."

Hersh's version concludes

"There is no way that (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this," Hersh quotes the former official as saying.

"When the smoke clears, they'll say it was a success, and they'll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran."

This is a DOUBLE fallacy. Hersh is poisoning the well by begging the question.

See, that's funny, because my unnamed source says that Hersh or anyone who believes Hersh's story will disagree with my post, and inevitably, they'll draw reinforcement for their desire to accept Hersh's opinion.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Mikkel said...

OK there are several things that I'm confused about in this post. First of all, you don't talk about the substance at all, you spend the whole time talking in generalities about logical fallacies. Now I agree that those are important to point out, but only when they are used as suppossed proof against your evidence, not in spite of it.

Also, according to the wikipedia article, Hersh has:
broken the My Lai story

Alleged that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the normal intelligence analysis function of the CIA in their quest to make the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq

published a series of articles describing the treatment of detainees by US military police at Abu Ghraib prison

and written things about Iran that have yet to be proven true or false because they are mainly about contingency plans regarding an attack.

The first three things at least started out as "wild conspiracy theories" but ended up being spot on. It also sounds like his wheels are perhaps a little loose in public, but if its not affecting article quality then it just tells us to take his articles with skepticsm, not write them off completely.

Finally, I don't see the AP (I have yet to read the original Hersh column) story as damning at all. Israel knew that Hezbollah had been building up missles. We suspect Iran is building nuclear weapons and targeted strikes might be in order...and that Iran would retaliate mostly through proxy forces. And it is very clear that these were contingent on that they expected Hezbollah would attack at some date and what to do about it. It isn't saying we provoked them to do it, or that Israel wanted to occupy Lebanon or anything crazy like that. I'd say it would be irresponsible for us to not coordinate responses to possible attacks.

Also, in hindsight, the Israel response looked so much like the "shock and awe" Rumsfeld method with small group support, that it has to make you wonder. I personally find their initial weeks of response puzzling and the Israeli military is hopping mad about it.

August 17, 2006 12:03 AM  
Blogger Sarum said...

Hersh has been right more times then wrong! Does this mean this story is true? More true than false history tells us.

August 17, 2006 3:20 AM  
Anonymous scott_api said...

Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush administration officials -- well before the July 12 kidnappings.

Isn't it a wise move by ANY military to develop contigency plans and have them vetted by a close ally?

I'm not confirming or denying Hershs story, just offering up a plausible reason for one of his main points.

August 17, 2006 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Kevin H said...

I agree with scott_api

I would hope that the US military has plans to bomb just about any country should the need arise.

Its a little disturbing that my fellow liberals lambast the Administration for NOT having enough of a plan in Iraq and then turn around and criticize it for TOO MUCH planning.

August 17, 2006 11:35 AM  

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