11/18/2004

Seymour Hersh at Hampshire College, blasts Bush

Daily Kos :: Seymour Hersh at Hampshire College, blasts Bush: "As Hersh sees it, Bush really believes in the war. It means a great deal to him personally, and he will never back down, no matter how destructive or deadly it becomes.

Here are some highlights from the talk.

About Falluja:

* Hersh put the battle for Falluja in a broader historical context, noting that Falluja is the Iraqi center of the Wahhabi sect (the predominant sect in Saudi Arabia) and it was the center of armed resistance to the British in the 1920s.
* He refused to scapegoat the Marine in Falluja who shot a prisoner. The soldiers at My Lai were as much victims as the Vietnamese who were killed, he argued, and the same is true for the Marines in Falluja. The blame rests higher up.

About the war in Iraq:

* It is not an 'insurgency.' Although he used the term for convenience's sake, he made it clear that it implied that we had won the war, and that resistance had developed afterward. That is not the case. We did not win the war, and are now fighting it on different terms than Pentagon planners imagined would happen.
* We're occupiers, and occupiers don't win wars.
* He dismisses Ayad Alawi as a U.S. puppet who has no support in Iraq.
* The war is escalating. Since Alawi was named Prime Minister bombing in Iraq has increased dramatically. We have little information about the escalation because the military is not providing it.

About the Bush administration:

* Hersh spoke several times about the theme of high ranking military personnel not being able to tell the truth about Iraq to Bush. In one case Hersh stated that our military is full of people who respect the constitution, but they are afraid to come forward to tell Bush (and the public) what is really happening in Iraq. In another case he said that no one can tell Bush that the war cannot be won. He is a true believer in the war.
* He described Condoleeza Rice as a 'dimwit' and a perfect reflection of Bush. She was an ineffective and incompetent National Security Advisor.
* Bush is an idealist, a utopian and, in a line that drew a good laugh from the audience, a 'Trotskyite' in the sense that he believes in continuing revolution.
* The current dismantling of the CIA is about eliminating dissent, not about improving intelligence.

About the decision to go to war in Iraq:

* Hersh is not sure how Bush got pulled into the neo-con dream of getting Saddam Hussein. But by early 2002 he was pulling troops (especially those trained in Arabic) away from the more important fight against terrorism in order to prepare for war against Iraq.
* There was a serious fight in the government in 2002 over how to conduct the war. Some (e.g. Wolfowitz) thought that the war could be won with as few as 15,000 troops. A small force could initiate a 'Milosevic revolution' in Iraq that would spread democracy throughout the Middle East.
* Bush believes he is going to make democracy happen in Iraq. He is, according to Hersh, 'completely bonkers and doesn't know it.' What's worse, nobody can tell him that he's nuts.
* The Bush administration had an easy time shaping the intelligence it received because it was so clear to people in government that if you bought into the neo-con fantasy your fortunes would rise. If you told them, in Hersh's words, that 'this is total whackdom' your fortunes would fall. Journalists missed what was happening at the time, so there was little awareness of how policy was being shaped.
* In reading Bob Woodward's Bush at War Hersh noticed something was missing in the administration's planning for war. There was no discussion of who Muslims were, or of the Koran or Islam. Bush assumes that Iraqis want to be like us.

Prospects for the future:

Hersh was particularly bleak when outlining his thoughts about the future. His most important point is that Bush is incapable of changing course, and at this point we will simply have to wait for events to transpire.

* Europe has turned against the U.S. and will begin to act soon (after the upcoming election in Germany) to restrain the 'craziness' of the Bush administration. He expects they will move to settle the war in Iraq.
* The economic consequences of the turn against the U.S. will be severe. Europeans will start to avoid buying U.S. made goods. Soon the Chinese and French will begin to buy oil in euros rather than dollars, and there will be a big move away from the dollar as an international currency.
* Europe (led by Germany and France) will take over brokering a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
* The neo-cons still hope to invade Syria and Iran. They think it will be easy to knock off Syria. There is nothing to stop their trying (reality certainly won't stop them).

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