A new report by the Pulitzer-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh says the Joint Chiefs of Staff has indirectly supported Bashar al-Assad in an effort to help him defeat jihadist groups. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. Hersh also claims the military even undermined a U.S. effort to arm Syrian rebels in a bid to prove it was serious about helping Assad fight their common enemies. Hersh says the Joint Chiefs’ maneuvering was rooted in several concerns, including the U.S. arming of unvetted Syrian rebels with jihadist ties, a belief the administration was overly focused on confronting Assad’s ally in Moscow, and anger the White House was unwilling to challenge Turkey and Saudi Arabia over their support of extremist groups in Syria. Hersh joins us to detail his claims and respond to his critics.
Hersh also talked presidential politics and foreign policy. At Saturday’s Democratic presidential debate, front-runner Hillary Clinton rejected what she called a "false choice" between defeating the Islamic State and overthrowing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. "We will not get the support on the ground in Syria to dislodge ISIS if the fighters there who are not associated with ISIS, but whose principal goal is getting rid of Assad, don’t believe there is a political, diplomatic channel that is ongoing," Clinton said. Rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley disagreed, saying it is not for the U.S. to decide Assad’s fate. "I think there should be learning curves for people with that kind of power," Hersh says of Clinton. "I think what happened in Libya should have instructed anybody in the government, including the president, that when you depose a dictator, you have to be aware of what’s going to come next, and you have to think long and hard about what you’re doing. I think, by any standard, getting rid of Gaddafi has proven to be a horrible event. It was a terrible decision, and we seem not to have learned enough from it."