Tells like it is.
Beating About The Bush? Not With Hersh
By Robert Fisk
05/03/06 "The Independent" -- - LONDON: Sy Hersh is an ornery, cussed sort of guy, not one to suffer fools gladly. As the man who broke the My Lai
story and the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, I reckon he has a right to be ornery from time to time – and cussed.
He’s dealing with powerful folk in Washington, including one – George W Bush – who would like to cut him down. And when Hersh wrote – as he
did in The New Yorker this month – that “current and former American military and intelligence officials” have said Bush has a target list to
prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and that Bush’s “ultimate goal” in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change – again! –
you can see why Bush was worried. “Wild,” he called the Hersh story. Which must mean it has some claim to veracity.
So when I cornered Hersh at Columbia University in New York and dropped him a note during a Charles Glass presentation asking for an interview, I
expected a stiff reply. “Anything you ask,” he scribbled obligingly on a piece of paper.
His own lecture was frightening. Bush has a messianic vision – and intends to go down in history (probably he has chosen the right direction) as the
man who will have “saved” Iran. “So we’re in a real American crisis ... we’ve had a collapse of congress ... we have had a collapse of the
military ... the good news is that when we wake up tomorrow morning, there will be one less day (of Bush). But that is the only good news.”
Hersh might have said that we’d also had a “collapse” of the media in the United States, a total disintegration of the Ed Murrow/Howard K Smith/
Daniel Elsworth/Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward school of journalism. The greying, bespectacled, obscenity-swearing Hersh is about all we have left to
frighten the most powerful man in the world (save for the jibes of Maureen Dowd in The New York Times).
So it’s good to know he’s still doing some fighting, including other journalists on his target list. “I know some serious generals,” he says.
“I can’t urge them to go public. They’d be attacked by Fox (TV), and the (New York) Times and The Washington Post would wring their hands.
It’s a mechanism. You don’t get rewarded in the newsroom for being a malcontent.” Journalists on the mainstream papers are largely middle-class
college graduates – not reporters who came up the hard way like Hersh’s street reporting in Chicago in his early days. They have largely no
connection to the immigrants’ society. “They don’t know what it’s like to be on social welfare. Their families weren’t in Vietnam and their
families are not in Iraq.” The BBC, too, has “fallen off the way”.
So what is the Hersh school of journalism? “In my business, I get information I check it out and I find it’s not true – that’s what my
business is. Now there is (also) stuff in the military from people I don’t know – I don’t touch it ... I was seeing (President) Bashar (Assad of
Syria) at the time of the assassination of (former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq) Hariri. There was obviously bad blood between Bashar and Hariri.
Bashar was saying that Hariri wanted to take over the cell-phone business in Damascus. To this day I don’t know what happened. I saw Bashar from
11am until 1pm (on February 14, 2005). He talked about what a thief Hariri was. I didn’t write it.”
And there goes a scoop about bad blood, I said to myself. But on Iran, it was something different for Hersh. He was talking to a contact. “I brought
up Iran. ‘It’s really bad,’ he said. ‘You ought to get into it. You can go to Vienna and find out how far away (from nuclear weapons
production) they are.’ Then he told me they were having trouble walking back the nuclear option with Bush. People don’t want to speak out – they
want the # on my head.”
As Hersh said in his New Yorker report, nuclear planners routinely go through options – “we’re talking