Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Back in March, Seymour Hersh made some waves with an article in the New Yorker titled "The Redirection", which described an American/Saudi effort to arm radical Sunni militant groups throughout the Middle East in order to contain the growing regional influence of Iran and its proxies. Among the groups Hersh mentioned was Fatah al-Islam, a Palestinian splinter group that was supposedly receiving arms and funding from representatives of the Lebanese government who hoped to turn it against Hezbollah.
Hersh's piece targeted all the usual suspects -- Dick Cheney, Prince Bandar, covert policy cabals of dubious judgment -- to guarantee a good reception among jittery liberals concerned about the administrations rumored plans for attacking Iran. (Here's my contribution, which on re-reading seems respectably restrained.) The question is, was it accurate?
At the time the article appeared, Michael Young poked some holes in it with a piece in Reason Magazine titled "A Muckraker On The Wane?":
The Fatah al-Islam story is instructive, because it shows a recurring flaw in Hersh's reporting, namely his investigative paralysis when it comes to Syria... Most Lebanese analysts believe that Fatah al-Islam, far from being aided by the Lebanese government, is in fact a Syrian plant, deployed to Lebanon to be used by the Assad regime to destabilize the country...
This week's events in northern Lebanon, where the Lebanese Army has been engaged in fierce battles with Fatah al-Islam at a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli, would seem to bear out Young's criticism. Especially since Hezbollah has expressed support for the Army, despite it's fierce opposition to the Lebanese government of Fuad Siniora.
Hersh, for his part, stands by his story, maintaining that it's just another example of an American policy that "...bit us in the rear."