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Seymour Hersh and Assad’s Nun Spin a Story

1:01 PM, Dec 11, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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And indeed, just two months after publication of Hersh’s article, Fatah al-Islam was in open rebellion against the Beirut government. The Lebanese Armed Forces were dispatched to a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Nahr al-Bared, to put down Fatah al-Islam in a conflict that lasted nearly four months and cost the lives of 168 Lebanese soldiers.

Hersh’s article, as Tony Badran wrote at the time, was part of the Syrian regime’s disinformation campaign. Hersh’s piece, explained Badran, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “foreshadowed Syria's plan to destabilize Lebanon through Fateh al-Islam months before the fighting broke out.”

Moreover, Badran wrote in another post, Syria's and Hezbollah's propaganda not only fed Hersh the fake story obscuring their role and blaming Fatah al-Islam on their opponents, but also recycled it in their own media during the course of the fighting at Nahr al-Bared. That is, the Assad regime and its allies used Hersh to launder their own propaganda.

Hersh, Badran wrote me in an email, “has a history of winding up in the middle of Assad regime information operations. These campaigns have various functions. For instance, they can set up regime-supported kinetic operations, as was the case with the Nahr al-Bared conflict. Alternately,” says Badran, “these campaigns may serve to support regime public relations efforts. Thus, they often coincide with Assad's attempts to open channels with Washington, positioning himself as an indispensable partner against Sunni Islamism, which he stresses is America's 'true' enemy."

And it’s in this context that Hersh’s most recent article should be read.

As BuzzFeed reports, a Catholic nun allied with the Assad regime is in Washington. Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix, a 61-year-old Lebanese-born nun, is here to visit with Republican lawmakers, like Louis Gohmert and Frank Wolf (Ted Cruz canceled on account of Nelson Mandela’s funeral), to convince them that the real problem is not the Assad regime, but Sunni jihadists, who threaten Syria’s Christian community. Michael Weiss at NOW Lebanon has done an excellent job documenting the evil that Assad’s nun has done in Syria, from her involvement in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier to her role in the arrests of opposition members she was ostensibly helping to evacuate from regime-besieged areas.

Not surprisingly, Mother Agnes is among those skeptical it was Assad forces that used chemical weapons against its own citizens. In September she told the New York Times that, “she refused to say who she thought had made the videos she called fakes, or who she thought had carried out the attacks.” But she’s glad Seymour Hersh is naming names.

“I praise, I thank Mr. Hersh to be courageous,” Mother Agnes told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray, “to be audacious, to be full of honesty, to be able because he is free and he is powerful, he is a reference so he can speak without fear what maybe others cannot. He confirms our doubts,” she continued. “He does not answer all our doubts but he lifts the omerta that was imposed by all the mainstream media that since the beginning of the conflict are always aligned with the politically correct, and not really making a breakthrough to inform the people and at least stay neutral and stay really like the echo of the reality and not the echo of what the politicians want to impose.”

It’s unclear whether Hersh understands the part his most recent article is playing in the Assad regime’s propaganda campaign and Mother Agnes’s six-week speaking tour. Nor is it clear he has ever known that Assad and his allies have used him to advance their story-line. The fact that Hersh believed a story about an Obama gung-ho to bomb Assad would appear credible to anyone who does not sport a tin-foil hat suggests that the political instincts of this investigative reporter are limited. Still, regardless of whether or not he is aware of the dangerous and vicious role he’s played, a decade’s worth of reporting from the Levant is evidence that Hersh is more than simply a dupe for terrorists and their allies—he’s a willing participant in their narrative.

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