Daily Kos: Hersh: "We've got serious problems folks"

Hersh: "We've got serious problems folks"
by missreporter
Thu Oct 27, 2005 at 10:20:35 AM CDT

...Going into the lecture hall, I was optimistic, expecting indictments today and feeling better than I have in a long time. Leaving, I was horrified and saddened. Hersh did more to bring Iraq to me than any report I've read. He talked about the overwhelming generosity of Arab people, talked about how if you visit the Middle East, you will never pay for a meal because the people are that gracious. I nearly was brought to tears during the lecture as he related accounts from his sources describing in detail the horrors that the United States has brought to the Middle East and the Arab world.

U.S. Us. I left the lecture feeling responsible for what is happening. Yes, I have been a Bush hater for years, I've marched and protested, volunteered for Democratic campaigns, donated more money than I can afford to individuals and groups, dressed my car in bumper stickers, devoured hundreds of thousands of words from media around the world - still, those are MY tax dollars going to repress the Iraqi people. The money I earn and work hard for every day is being used for the slaughter of people who have done nothing to me. My Fitzmas joy was immediately erased, rightfully so, and I now feel utter guilt, sorrow, remorse and extreme anger at not only Bush, but every single Senator and Congress member, every single member of the administration, every single talking head and pundit, liberal and conservative, every single person who has voted for this war and who still supports it in ignorance. How could we have allowed this to happen?

I have written an account of Hersh's talk. It wasn't my intention going into the lecture but writing this helped me empty out some of those extreme feelings. I also wanted to share this experience with the Daily Kos community, which I have come to rely on for so many things. There is not a whole lot of new information here, butfor me there was some, and more important, I wanted to share Hersh's gloomy tone, his sense of urgency, and his prediction that things will only get worse. Seymour Hersh gives lectures pretty frequently and I would suggest you try to catch one. There has been controversy over some of the assertions he's made in lectures past. From Wikipedia:

Many of his most shocking "scoops" in recent years have come at public speaking events, rather than in print, though Hersh caused a small scandal regarding his credibility when he admitted in an interview with a New York Magazine writer Chris Suellentrop, "Sometimes I change events, dates, and places in a certain way to protect people . . . I can't fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say."

Specifically, one of Hersh's dramatic allegations made during a speaking engagment [sic] in July 2004, during the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, was later amended by Hersh. He alleged that American troops sexually assulted [sic] young boys: "basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has. They're in total terror it's going to come out." In a subsequent interview with New York Magazine, Hersh admitted, "I actually didn't quite say what I wanted to say correctly . . . it wasn't that inaccurate, but it was misstated. The next thing I know, it was all over the blogs. And I just realized then, the power of--and so you have to try and be more careful."

So that's my disclaimer. Anything I've written here comes from the notes I took, not from recollections. That is why there are so many partial quotes - I just can't write that fast and I don't know shorthand, but should probably learn.

But I would keep this minor transgression in perspective. Richard Perle threatened to sue Hersh for libel in Great Britain. Donald Rumsfeld once floated the idea of having the FBI search his house. This article gives some of those details and is a good profile of Hersh. For each instance Hersh gets something wrong or misspeaks, he gets it right 1,001 other times. He is a courageous journalist not only for what he writes but also for what he says. He isn't objective, but he does report both sides of the story. The difference between Hersh and your run-of-the-mill hack journalist is that he knows which side is right and which is wrong and he is not afraid to say it. His only bias is to truth and decency. This is why he is so invaluable to our democracy.


At a lecture Oct. 26 in New Jersey, Seymour Hersh spared no criticism of George W. Bush and his neocon cabal.

"How do eight or nine cultists manage to take over the government . . . and take us away from a legitimate war?" the veteran investigative reporter asked the audience at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. "How did [Dick] Cheney, who was never a neocon, get bought off?"

Hersh has been uncovering stories of wrongdoing for more than 30 years, from the cover up of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War to the systemic torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

He began his talk, "From Abu Ghraib to 9/11," by telling the packed house that he had good news - there were only 1,181 more days left to the Bush administration.

Then the bad news about Iraq: "Our best day was yesterday . . . it's only going to get worse."

Worse than what we do know, Hersh said, is what we do not know. "We don't know how much bombing they're [U.S. forces] doing, how many sorties they're doing," he said. In northern Iraq, military operations go on day in and day out, bombing towns and villages filled with mostly Turkic peoples. When the Turkish Red Crescent moves in to provide relief, they are turned back, Hersh said. Hundreds of thousands of people have been put in camps. Hersh called it "near genocide."

The bombings will only intensify next year following a pullout of some 60,000 American troops. "We are going to replace American troops with American bombs," Hersh said.

We also do not know for certain the extent of American casualties, including the number wounded. "There are casualties in the elite forces we don't know about," Hersh said, mentioning Delta Forces, Navy SEALS and Special Forces.

Although Hersh had much criticism for the American news media, he explained that it is nearly impossible to get good reporting done in Iraq these days. "Any guy that tries to get out of the Green Zone gets whacked," he said. Still, the U.S. news media could pick up dispatches from the European and Arab press that show the horrors wrought upon civilians every day, but they don't. Hersh said he doesn't know why.

Killing is not limited to bombings and firefights, Hersh said. Soldiers leading supply convoys fearful of explosive devices and ambushes plow down dark highways in Iraq at 90 and 100 miles per hour, not stopping to check for pedestrians. The audience gasped at the description.

Hersh said that most soldiers, frustrated with a faceless enemy, take out their anger on innocent civilians. But he doesn't blame the troops. "The officers are in loco parentis," Hersh said, and too often they are not doing their jobs.

The Iraq war has been characterized by a gross lack of planning and a dearth of good leadership, Hersh said. He called General Tommy Franks, who retired soon after the invasion rather than move up in the ranks, "one of the worst leaders we've had."

Likewise, General Ricardo Sanchez, who was once commander of ground forces in Iraq, is an "overrated" general, who has conducted the war with a general lack of sensitivity to Muslims, Hersh said, drawing parallels to the treatment of Vietnamese in the My Lai massacre and throughout the Asian conflict.

At the top of the heap is George W. Bush himself. "What did President Bush do after he was told about Abu Ghraib? Nada. Nothing," Hersh said. "This was his own system telling him this is a serious problem."

The military first learned of the actions at Abu Ghraib months before Hersh published his story in the New Yorker magazine and CBS broadcast photos in April of 2004. The actions at Abu Ghraib, Hersh said, were designed - from the top - to shame Muslim men into providing intelligence to the U.S. military, which was battling an "insurgency" of Baathists who had retreated upon the initial invasion. The naked piling of men, sexual harassment of Iraqi women, and vicious dog bites, Hersh said, was visited upon a prison population that military officials themselves estimated was about 70 percent innocent - civilians corralled in street sweeps. Not only have the published photos from Abu Ghraib created new insurgents; so have the phone calls from Iraqi women asking their brothers and fathers and husbands to kill them because they have been shamed.

"If you think someone from West Virginia thought this up, fine, you can have that thought," Hersh said, referring to Private Lynndie England, the torture poster girl scapegoated in the scandal.

Hersh provided valuable insight into tensions between ethnic groups in Iraq. By writing the Sunnis out of the recently approved constitution - in a vote Hersh called "meaningless" like the January elections and the upcoming elections on Dec. 15 - the insurgency has nothing to gain and no reason to negotiate.

Not that that would happen anyway. Bush doesn't talk to the insurgency, to Iran, to Syria, "because he doesn't like them." Bush, Hersh said, is a man with "no ability to perceive how wrong he is . . . there is nothing more dangerous."

The best thing that could have happened in the constitutional vote, Hersh said, would have been a defeat followed by a redrafting giving the Sunnis more participation. The constitution as it stands "emasculates the Sunnis," Hersh said.

Sunnis indigenous to Iraq make up a majority of the insurgency, Hersh guessed. He uses the term "insurgency" for lack of a better description. "Most of the world thinks the insurgents are us," he said.

Corporations throughout the Arab world are fueling sectarian violence . "In the Sunni world, there is not a major construction company not funneling money to the insurgency," Hersh said. To those companies, it is an honor to support the insurgency. On the other side, the Shia in southern Iraq are dominated by Iran. Political groups Dawa and SCIRI who are putting up candidates in elections fought on the side of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. "Iran right now is the winner . . . the Sunnis are up in arms over the spread of the Shia." Turkey's commitment to the Turkic population and their refusal to accept Kurdistan threatens to turn the Iraq war into a much larger regional conflagration.

Baghdad, considered the "jewel of the Arab world" with the best wine and the cleanest streets, has become a city carved into turfs ruled by gun-toting gangs and militias in back alleys. "There is a whole world out there we don't see. It's a turf operation," Hersh said.

Democracy in America is unrecognizable, Hersh said. The administration is rogue and the news media are lapdogs. Private companies are hired to kidnap people and render them to countries where they are tortured and murdered. Retired lawmen are paid thousands of dollars a week to be hired guns in Iraq. Unlike trained elite forces, "they're not doing for the constitution," Hersh said.

With Congress, "the big issue for me on any given day is whether they are supine or prone," Hersh said. "Where are we with our democracy? What does it mean?" The only recent hope has been the investigation headed by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. "Fitzgerald may come and save the republic . . . he might just shake up the doldrums," Hersh said.

Hersh is the son of European Jews who immigrated to Chicago in the 1920s. "My parents came here from the old country many years ago to get away from what this guy [Bush] is doing," Hersh said. "He is deconstructing the constitution, he's deconstructing our rights."

Update [2005-10-27 13:2:46 by missreporter]: Sy Hersh sound bites: On Bush:

Somebody said he's a rebel with a bedtime.

On Clinton:

You have to give him his due, Bill Clinton was the first president since World War II to bomb white people... [But] Where is he now, where is his leadership?

On Kirkuk:

Paraphrase: In the Constitution, Kirkuk is up for grabs...whichever group has the plurality gets Kirkuk oil [hence the ethnic cleansing].

On "cannon fodder":

Paraphrase: Whereas during the Vietnam War, African-Americans were overrepresented in the infantry, in this war it is Hispanics as well as Samoans and other Americans from the territories.

On Iraqi Jews:

Paraphrase: About 400,000 Iraqi Jews left and went to Israel..."Israel is obviously a big player in Iraq, they can put people in and out" [in terms of intelligence].

On the New York Times:

It's much too important to be suffering the way it's suffering ... It's a big corporation ... why not just spin off the paper to somebody who knows how to run one?

On the ignored post 9/11 scandal:

There were 2,000 indictments on Muslims - not one conviction [for terrorism].

On revenge:

Paraphrase: In Pashtun society, revenge can come two, three, four decades later.

Daily Kos: [UPDATED] Hersh: "We've got serious problems folks"


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