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imperialism & war | media criticism

Kerry and the War Issue: Seymour Hirsch

"The rapid ascent of the neoconservatives surprises him.. They didn't march into the Iraq war for Israel or oil but out of idealist utopian motives.. They thought the march to Baghdad was essential for the war against terror and that democracy would flow like water from a fountain!"

George W. Bush's first term in office was accompanied by revelations and scandals. Nevertheless the president leads in the polls. Everything depends on whether John Kerry makes the war into the central theme.

By Henning Hoff

[This article originally published in: DIE ZEIT 40/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://zeus.zeit.de/text/2004/40/hersh.]

War times are fast-moving times. Scandals, half-truths and inconsistencies are so overwhelming in the first term in office of George W. Bush that they can hardly be summarized. For example, there was the claim based on gross falsifications that Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger. The Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon gathered raw secret service data on Iraq, al-Qaida and weapons of mass destruction and forwarded it on to the White House as irrefutable knowledge. Then there are the breakdowns and failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, the lack of a post-war plan and the torture scandals of Abu Ghraib.

The veteran reporter Seymour Hirsch brought this (and much more) to the light of the general public. Whoever wanted to know what really happened in the "war against terror" since the attacks of September 11, 2004 read Hirsch's detailed articles in the New Yorker magazine. Now these articles are in a book "Chain of Command. The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib". Interwoven and enriched with new material, they offer a unique "counter-history" of the American crusade in the name of combating terror. But what has been the effect of his work? Despite the many revelations, Bush has a lead in polls over his democratic challenger John Kerry.

"It is up to Kerry", Hirsch says. "He has never really taken on oppositional stance on the war. Now he is moving in a doctrinaire, vague and confused way. Last week Kerry began to attack Bush on account of the Iraq war. "The next days are crucial. If the polls show he is gaining support, he will continue in this assault. If Kerry can say: If you want this war, vote for Bush! If you want a change in the war or its end, vote for me, then Kerry has a chance."

The hopeless situation in Iraq is becoming increasingly obvious. "This war is unpopular, particularly with the military. True conservative republicans regard the war as dreadful. There is no exit strategy. These kidnappings and decapitations are only symptoms demonstrating the madness of the whole policy." In the last weeks of the election campaign, "the war will be the center of attention", Hirsch insists.

War has been the heart of Hirsch's work. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and what followe4d represented something like a second spring for him. Hirsch is one of the few who still really pursue investigative journalism instead of selling tips and indiscretions. In 1969 he caused a sensation when he uncovered the massacre of civilians in My Lai committed by American soldiers in the Vietnam War and the subsequent cover-up attempts. The story brought him the Pulitzer Prize. His contacts within the government machine, in the military and the secret services in the US and half of the world are legendary.

When he telephoned the editor-in-chief of the New Yorker, David Remnick, on the day of the attacks and asked how this "great story" should be presented. The 67-year old did not know what was in store. Hirsch had written 26 great stories in the last three years for the magazine, sometimes once a week. Hirsch's achievement can be best understood in the light of the magazine's editorial process. The New Yorker is famous for its "fact checkers".

The rapid ascent of the neo-conservatives surprises him. "How could they take over the government so easily? That is still the great question today." They "did not march into the Iraq war for Israel or oil" but "out of idealist utopian motives". This makes them so dangerous because their views are "terribly wrong and misguided". "They thought the march to Baghdad was essential for the `war against terror' and that afterwards democracy would flow like water from a fountain!"

Responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners, Hirsch is convinced, extends to the top eschelons in the American government. How could the US fall so deeply? "September 11 frightened all of us", Hirsch says. A mentality of vengeance and striking back has led to making everyone - whether guilty or not - into an enemy so "every soldier could do whatever he wanted with his prisoner. That is what happened. It was atrocious, un-American and foolish since we hardly gained any knowledge from the interrogations."

The whole history shows the simplicity of the American president and his advisors. "They believe violence works." The "special access program", the undercover unit at the highest secret service level that kidnaps people around the world who in the opinion of American authorities are key figures in terrorism, was authorized by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. "According to Rumsfeld's conviction, the legal way was too slow", Hirsch says. "We prefer to snatch anyone, drag him from bed, fly him in unmarked aircraft for interrogations in Egypt, Singapore or Thailand. Since December 2001, we have made people disappear." The Pentagon denies the existence of this program.

Now he offers his book. But Hirsch would not be Hirsch if he did not include a brief stay in London in his work. "I had breakfast this morning with someone, not a journalist", he says. He proudly points to a stack of copies, "the Telegraph papers". Five days before the British Daily Telegraph quoted Prime Minister Tony Blair's secret memorandum and revealed that foreign minister Jack Straw and his ministry warned at the beginning of 2002 that Iraq would sink into chaos after Saddam Hussein's military overthrow.

"The Telegraph missed the burning story", Hirsch says. He reads from the papers. "At the beginning of 2002, everyone spoke of war against Iraq. The real story is that Bush and Blair lied to the public and the UN for a year about their true intentions." One passage fills him with pride. Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador in Washington at that time, is quoted in a document saying that Hirsch's April 2002 article about America's war plans was "a fairly accurate picture".

Governments around the world usually deny this. "Hirsch is a liar", Bush told the Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf. Pentagon spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita decried Hirsch's stories about the Abu Ghraib revelations. After Hirsch showed the connection of political and business interests, the neo-conservative advisor Richard Perle before live television cameras called him "the greatest approximation to a terrorist in American journalism".

Given the fact that western hostages in Iraq are often dressed in orange-colored overalls as "revenge for Guantanamo", Hirsch is criticized for undermining his own nation with his revelations. Quite the contrary, Hirsch replies, "What I do is good for America!" The torture stories would be published anyway. If they had first appeared in the Arab media, the catastrophe for the US would have been even greater. "People in the Arab world who think somewhat rationally see that the American public finds the incidents atrocious and that there are people in the US who believe in decency and integrity."

The situation in Iraq today is completely hopeless and inextricable. People know hardly anything about the insurgent movement. The Jordanian terrorist Abu Massab al-Sarkawi was blamed though his actual role was very unclear. "No one in the secret services and the US military that I know believes this about Sarkawi. Immobilizing the people is the only purpose. The worst thing is that the president believes this. This one evil type is said to weld the nation together."

Then there is the strategic situation in the region. Two states want the US in Iraq, Israel and Iran. "Israel doesn't want any mad Shiite and tribal elder in power. A greater danger for the country than under Saddam would arise in a Balkanized Iraq." The great winner is Iran that the US also wants to bind in Iraq. From their view, the United States resembles more and more the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Iran helped entice the US into Iraq and could watch quietly how the US was broken. This is "an incredible mess" for Bush or for Kerry, Hirsch says.

If Bush is re-selected, he will have no other possibility in Hirsch's opinion than escalating the war, "more violence, more bombs and an incredible number of casualties". This will reveal the true situation of the American armed forces. "The special forces are completely exhausted. Among the commando-forces of the Marines, the SEALs, 300 more soldiers are quitting than are newly enlisting. There are hardly any reservists left." At the end, the army could consist of only seniors waiting for their due pensions after 20 years of service and young recruits without any premonitions.

Then the US will have only a "shake-and-bake army", an instant troop. All competent people will have alighted as after Vietnam. The next step would be the re-introduction of universal conscription. Then the American people at last will "see through" Bush. "Perhaps we need this `awakening experience', Hirsch says, "to finally understand the madness of the whole policy."

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com
address: address: http://www.commondreams.org

Kerry will miraculously morph into Mahatma Gandhi--NOT! 29.Sep.2004 13:06


September 28, 2004
C'est La Vie, the Ethics for a New Century
Kerry's Moral Compass


Kerry's nattering on the campaign trail is getting increasingly incoherent. Just this week the Massachusetts senator was expounding "victory in Iraq" in his most pompous baritone.

There's no question about who he's courting in these speeches. Only the elusive "undecided voter" is showered with such lavish attention at this late date. On the other hand, Kerry's "hard core" anti war constituents get the back of his hand at every turn in the road.

Kerry is promising that he can entice reluctant allies to the rubble-strewn streets of Baghdad with nothing more than his patrician charm. This creates a dilemma for his anti war supporters. These are the die-hard leftists who believe that Kerry will miraculously morph into Mahatma Gandhi once he gets the leather seat in the Oval Office.

It won't happen, and there's a real danger in that theory, too.

There's a chance that Kerry could be right about his ability to cajole more allies into the fray.

Is that a good thing?

Are we looking for a more skillful diplomat to prolong the killing, to subjugate the Iraqi people and to enshrine "unprovoked aggression" as the cornerstone of American foreign policy? Are we willing to trade a bungler and a braggart for a stentorian, flannel-mouth who can disguise criminality as "humanitarian intervention"?

In fact, the problem is that Kerry MIGHT succeed. And, while it is impossible to imagine a more inept cheerleader than our bilious man from Crawford; a Kerry success would be SO MUCH WORSE for the people of Iraq and the planet at large.

There are no "victories" to be won in Iraq. The only worthy goal is withdrawal and justice for the perpetrators.

The very thought of "victory" should send shivers down the spines of Kerry supporters. It only proves that Kerry still doesn't understand the tacit immorality of the war. Like most of his pedigree, Kerry's moral compass has gone through the spin cycle one too many times.

Have we heard him condemn the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo or any of the other (25) concentration camps in the Rummy solar system?

Of course, not. Kerry would rather just buff up his application and put them under new management. Apparently, Warden Kerry recognizes the regrettable exigencies of global rule and is willing to live with its "unfortunate" victims.

"C'est la vie": the ethics for the new century, compliments of John Kerry.

A man shouldn't have to be a pillar of rectitude to run for President, (especially now that the job has become little more than a "figurehead" for America's "extractive" industries) but he should know the difference between justifiable self defense and cold blooded murder. (i.e., Shock and Awe) Voters should be able to expect that a candidate for the highest office in the land will at least speak out forcefully against the heinous crime of torture. It doesn't get more basic than that. If Kerry cannot meet this lenient benchmark, he doesn't disserve your vote.

Kerry's sense of morality has been asphyxiated by an all-consuming ambition to be President. It's blinded him to his responsibilities as a candidate and his obligations as a human being. The country doesn't need another mad-hatter to pilot the Lusitania (even if he does have better diplomatic skills) We're looking for a man who'll get us out of Iraq and who knows why we shouldn't have gone in the first place.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:  fergiewhitney@msn.com

Ghandi? Youve gotta be smarter than all that BS 29.Sep.2004 19:55


the issue in this election is which candidate will respond to the demands of the organized people which elected them in. Do we choose the fascist or the really crappy democrat? i dont say fascist as rhetoric or to make an emotional argument, the bush adminstration advocates, pursues and carries out fascist policies. i highly doubt there will be any chance of convincing these delusional individuals of their responsibility to the sentiment of the people. No doubt, the iraq situation needs to be resolved in the next 6 months, by stopping our offensives, and inviting everyone to a tabe to discuss getting American troops out, including every iraqi side, the us, the un, and other world countries. And we need to not retaliate by carrying out offensives after ongoing terrorist attacks in iraq, defend places, but stop bombing cities! does anyone really think Kerry is super great on any topic? I sure dont, but i do think organizing to push and guide him to have good policies will be allowed under a Kerry administration, and given even the current legislation in Congress ("Patriot 3") any sort of reasonableness will be termed "terrorism" and treated just as Rumsfeld treats foriegn "terrorists." Scary shit im not ready to test.

No one thinks Kerry's gonna do anything without being pushed, a lot. The issue is that Bush cant be pushed. Furthermore, since when does democracy mean not participating? Participating isnt just voting, which you better do if your gonna complain at all, but motivating and organizing the other 4 years minus 15 minutes to move government policies how you think they ought to be. Dont let aristocrats continue to colonize your mind and convince you that democracy is choosing someone else to make your decisions for you. lets at least give ourselves the chance to live free, even if the first step to freedom isnt the last.

Duhhhh, Seymour ! 30.Sep.2004 05:38

alsis38 alsis35@yahoo.com

"The rapid ascent of the neo-conservatives surprises him. 'How could they take over the government so easily?'..."

Golly, Seymour. Y'got me. Could it be because their SO-CALLED OPPOSITION CONSPIRED WITH THEM and let them do it ?!

<snort> The boundless optimism, or is it desperation, of Democrats never ceases to astound me. They can't get Kerry to bluntly state that the war was a mistake, to denounce war crimes, profiteering, and prisoner abuse in Iraq. They can't get Kerry to do it now, when such a strategy might very well propell him past Bush and into office. Yet they think that somehow, were he in office, and suddenly didn't have to appeal for votes for another three years, he'd suddenly decide, "Oh, I guess now I should be nice to those doves and stop the war for them now."

The logic of this completely eludes me. A lack of any courage on the campaign trail and an obvious disdain for the anti-war base is not going to change for Kerry in any way once he's in office. He won't give the anti-war contingent one speck of credit for getting him in, because his attitude is that of a man who thinks that power falls in his lap through divine right. Not so different from Bush, really.