"I've been doing an alternate history of the war, from inside, because people, right after 9/11, because people inside — and there are a lot of good people inside — are scared, as scared as anybody watching this tonight I think should be, because [Bush], if he's re-elected, has only one thing to do, he's going to bomb the hell out of that place. He's been bombing the hell of that place — and here's what really irritates me again, about the press — since he set up this Potemkin Village government with Allawi on June 28 — the bombing, the daily bombing rates inside Iraq, have gone up exponentially. There's no public accounting of how many missions are flown, how much ordinance is dropped, we have no accounting and no demand to know. The only sense you get is we're basically in a full-scale air war against invisible people that we can't find, that we have no intelligence about, so we bomb what we can see. "
- Seymour Hersh – Berkeley Oct. 8th 2004
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh spills the secrets of the Iraq quagmire and the war on terror
By Bonnie Azab Powell, NewsCenter | 11 October 2004
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BERKELEY – The Iraq war is not winnable, a secret U.S. military unit has been "disappearing" people since December 2001, and America has no idea how irreparably its torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison has damaged its image in the Middle East. These were just a few of the grim pronouncements made by Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Seymour "Sy" Hersh to KQED host Michael Krasny before a Berkeley audience on Friday night (Oct. 8).
The past two years will "go down as one of the classic sort of failures" in history, said the man who has been called the "greatest muckraker of all time" and (paradoxically) the "enfant terrible of journalism for more than 30 years." While Hersh blamed the White House and the Pentagon for the Iraq quagmire and America's besmirched world image, he was stymied by how it all happened. "How could eight or nine neoconservatives come and take charge of this government?" he asked. "They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military! So you say to yourself, How fragile is this democracy?"
From My Lai to Abu Ghraib
That fragility clearly unnerves him. Hersh summarizes his mission as "to hold the people in public office to the highest possible standard of decency and of honesty…to tolerate anything less, even in the name of national security, is wrong." He tries his best. More than any other U.S. journalist alive today, he embodies the statement that "a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government," a belief defined by the conservationist Edward Abbey.
His country has not always thanked him for it — neocon Pentagon adviser Richard Perle has called Hersh "the closest thing we have to a terrorist," while his 1998 book on John F. Kennedy's administration, "The Dark Side of Camelot," cost him many friends on the left. But Hersh's reputation remains more bulletproof than most. The author of eight books, he first received worldwide recognition (and the Pulitzer) in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War. 1982's "The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House," painted Henry Kissinger as a war criminal and won Hersh the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times book prize in biography.
Most recently, as a staff writer for the New Yorker, Hersh has relentlessly ferreted out the behind-the-scenes deals, trickery, and blunders associated with the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Back in May 2003, he was the first American reporter to state unequivocally that we would not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. (A mea culpa from a Slate journalist who doubted Hersh on WMDs also inadvertently confirms his prescient track record.) And in April of this year, he broke the story of how U.S. soldiers had digitally documented their torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqis at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The several articles he wrote for the New Yorker about Abu Ghraib have been updated and edited into his latest book, "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib."