Hersh’s story is much more plausible than the Ukrainians-did-it story: US author
Published: Mar 10, 2023 12:24 AM
Illustraion: Liu Rui/GT

Illustraion: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note: 

After US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that the US is the mastermind behind the Nord Stream pipelines explosion, the New York Times published an article that pushing a different narrative, which claimed that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack. Who is the culprit for the Nord Stream pipelines? "I believe that Hersh's story is much more plausible - that US military assets carried out the operation," said Aaron Good (Good), a US historian and political scientist who runs the "American Exception" podcast. He told the Global Times (GT) that Hersh's story of the US attacking the Russian-German Nord Stream pipelines threatened to destroy the US-German alliance, a major pillar of US hegemony since the end of World War II.

GT: Your book American Exception: Empire and the Deep State focuses on political practices that are typically suppressed in mainstream discourse. How do you view Hersh's report? Why are the mainstream media in the US largely silent on it? Is this a form of "repression?"

By using the term "exceptionism," I am describing how the US government allows itself to violate laws at its whim. The Nord Stream bombing is an example of this. The US has signed and ratified the UN Charter, a treaty that outlaws aggression or even the threat of aggression against other nation-states. The supremacy clause of the US Constitution asserts that ratified treaties are "the highest law in the land." Therefore, when the US bombs, invades, or overthrows a country without UN Security Council's approval - or when the US assassinates another country's leaders - US officials are not merely violating international law but also the US Constitution.

Given the questions of "means, motive, and opportunity," as well as US officials' blunt threats about the pipelines before the bombing, the US was already the top suspect in the bombing. Hersh has a long history of cultivating high-level government sources who leak information to him in order to avoid being fired or imprisoned under the extremely repressive and unconstitutional Espionage Act. The media's silence on this issue points to a repressive and totalizing system of top-down social and political dominance. Media censorship is an important part of this system of top-down governance.

GT: What do you think about the credibility of Hersh's report in light of the US' simple denial and the unusual reaction of relevant European nations? 

It is very unlikely that Hersh fabricated the story. He would have had to fabricate anonymous sources to contrive a whole narrative about the bombing, and I just don't think that is likely.  

As for the bombing itself, I find it deplorable. I believe the US should adhere to international law, but that is impossible if the US is first and foremost dedicated to pursuing global dominance. In my book, I lay out how, since the end of World War II, and especially with the establishment of NATO, the US has really been "the sovereign" in Europe. Besides the economic dominance, there is also a history of clandestine violence, most infamously with the NATO or CIA Operation Gladio. So in short, we can say that after World War II, the US became the CEO of global capitalism. Since then, Europe and the East Asian "tigers" have not been sovereign in any meaningful sense. This Nord Stream business is only the most humiliating episode in its history. Notice how, with Olaf Scholz's recent visit to the US, the White House refused to allow any questions from reporters. I have to believe that this is so they can avoid answering any embarrassing questions about the Nord Stream bombing.

GT: What do you think of the New York Times report?

I do not personally believe it's likely that a group of Ukrainian freelancers bombed the Nord Stream, since it seems (A) too convenient and (B) hard to imagine that they would have the technical capabilities to independently organize such a difficult operation. I say "difficult" because the Nord Stream pipelines are very sturdy and under the sea. Also recall that Joe Biden said, "If Russia invades [Ukraine] there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it...I promise you, we will be able to do it." 

While I don't find this new story persuasive, it could be a useful lie to help prevent this conflict from spiraling into a nuclear war. Ridiculous as the Ukrainians-did-it story is, maybe it can be part of the way that the US disengages from Ukraine. 

I believe that Hersh's story is much more plausible that US military assets carried out the operation. But, there are other things to keep in mind. Ukrainian citizens' involvement does not preclude Ukrainian state backing, or even the backing of other states like the UK or the US behind them. I have a hard time believing that high-level US officials would fabricate such a story and leak it to the one reporter with the profile to publish it in a way that couldn't be ignored. If anyone doubts that Hersh was the best person to leak the story to, consider the way the establishment press in the US ignored Hersh's story for as long as it could.

We have to consider why anyone would leak this story to Hersh. The obvious motive of the leakers would seem to be a desire to change the narrative of the war as Ukrainian losses create pressure for the US to intervene more directly. Further US involvement would be full of catastrophic potential - up to and including the nuclear destruction of human civilization. Hersh's story of the US attacking the Russian-German Nord Stream pipeline threatened to destroy the US-German alliance, a major pillar of US hegemony since the end of World War II. 

This would have meant more than just an end to the NATO coalition behind Ukraine. Apparently, this prospect led to the new story of Ukrainian authorship of the bombing. Understanding the stakes here, it seems pretty clear to me that something dramatic needed to happen to defuse this problem for the US. This new story can potentially preserve the US-German relationship and perhaps allow the US a pretext to disengage. Even if this supremely convenient story of a Ukrainian attack on the Nord Stream is a crass contrivance, we should take any available off-ramp to avoid escalating to a hot US-Russian war.

GT: You have repeatedly talked about US propaganda on Twitter. The US is providing weapons to Ukraine while accusing Russia of pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war. How do you see that?

The root cause of this war is the aggressive US expansion of NATO, in defiance of agreements made during the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Anyone can read WikiLeaks or The Grand Chessboard to see how US policymakers knew that a NATO-aligned Ukraine would be perceived by Russians as posing an existential threat to Russia. It is why the US ultimately opted to overthrow the Ukrainian government in an illegal coup rather than allow its elected president to pursue a neutral path between Russia and the US-dominated "West."

The nuclear angle to all this is pure madness. Russia would likely only use nuclear weapons in the face of an existential threat. Their official policy is actually less open-ended than the US policy. The US dropped nuclear bombs on two defenseless cities full of people who posed no threat whatsoever to US territory in August 1945. A year later, the US threatened to drop the bomb on its wartime Soviet ally. At numerous times, the US has used nuclear threats in the same way that a robber uses a gun. Daniel Ellsberg documents this history in his memoir, The Doomsday Machine. 

As for Ukraine, Barack Obama at least understood that Ukraine was more important to the Russians than to the US. Thus, he reasoned, the US should not arm them so heavily as to provoke a war in Ukraine where Russia would have escalatory advantage. An honest look at the nuclear angle should have dissuaded the US from pursuing the weaponization of Ukraine as a means to weaken Russia. Unfortunately, something has gone very wrong at the pinnacle of power in the US.

GT: Is war the core means for the US to maintain its hegemonic status? 

War is what the US resorts to if the other methods fail - political manipulation, economic domination, or covert operations. The danger lies in that Russia could use nuclear weapons to protect the existence of the Russian nation-state. The US could use them to protect the existence of the US global empire.

I have a hard time understanding exactly what US leaders thought would transpire in Ukraine. Giventhe way the US rebuffed the Russian peace feelers in late 2021, I think one possible interpretation is that the US wanted the war to happen. Perhaps they planned to use the war as a pretext for massive sanctions that would damage Russia while at the same time fueling a Ukrainian insurgency that could give Russia its own Vietnam or Afghanistan. However, Russia has weathered the sanctions. Additionally, I don't think Russia wants any part of those landlocked regions of Ukraine. I surmise that Russia just seeks to neutralize the threat represented by an anti-Russian US bastion in Ukraine. US imperialism has been a disaster for the US and the world.

GT: In recent years, the US has been constantly testing China's red lines on the Taiwan question. As a political analyst who lived in Taiwan before, how do you see the fact that the US has been using Taiwan to further its own interests?

The US is today using Taiwan very much as it is using Ukraine - as a sensitive point from which the US can provoke an adversary while depicting China or Russia as the aggressor. A major problem is that it is official policy to recognize Taiwan as part of China. It speaks to the desperation of the US imperial hive mind that they are ginning up conflict over Taiwan. I enjoyed my time in Taiwan and would hate to see the island get turned into Ukraine or worse. Let's hope that the current escalation of tensions can be relaxed so that Beijing and Taipei can figure out how to peacefully reunify on a timeframe not dictated by outside forces.

The main issue is that the US in 2023 represents a unique threat to human existence. There have been many expansionist empires that eventually had to fall, but none of them had the option of incinerating their adversaries with nuclear weapons. This capability is very dangerous in the hands of an imperial war machine desperate to hold on to power. The US empire exists to empower an oligarchy of corporate wealth. In terms relevant to Chinese historical experience, US hegemony is like a dynasty at the end of its life cycle. Rent seeking and corruption are endemic, too widespread to stop. Increasingly desperate gambits to hold on to power seem logical to the people in charge because they cannot admit the insanity of their overriding imperative - the establishment of US dominance over the globe in perpetuity. All of us in favor of humanity's continued existence should oppose the US empire.

I would hope that the people in Taiwan take note of the fate of Ukraine. Perhaps they can recall the words of Henry Kissinger: "America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests."