Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seymour Hersh and anti-Americanism on the left

Hersh's conspirators

I've written before about the part of the country's liberal/progressive left wing that essentially thinks the United States is the Bad Guy in both national and international affairs. These folks pounced gleefully on Seymour Hersh's phony, poorly-sourced story in the London Review of Books about The killing of Osama bin Laden.

Not surprising that Code Pink, recently in Iran with the 9/11 truthers, approved, as did the liberal Daily Kos.

Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll (below in italics), with some weasly reservations, also buys Hersh's story:

The people who get excited about things are currently excited about Seymour Hersh’s revelations (or allegations---the choice is yours) that many lies were told about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Carroll clearly makes "the choice" that President Obama and the US government are lying about how bin Laden was killed.

Hersh, based on numerous interviews (including some that are hardly sourced at all), contends that the Obama administration fashioned a narrative that valorized American intelligence services and made bin Laden’s death a moment of sweet, uncomplicated revenge. With, don’t forget, a traditional Muslim burial at sea. Because we care.

"Hardly sourced"? Actually, Hersh relies on anonymous sources and others with little credibility. Bin Laden was buried at sea for obvious reasons, since burying him anywhere on land would have created a permanent place of pilgrimage for the Islamic fanatics.

Media thinkers were thinking that Hersh was an unreliable crank, a “conspiracy theory” nut who just likes to, you know, make things up. This is the man who broke My Lai and probed Abu Ghraib, a titan in the land of the teeny. He’s not always been right, but his willingness to go find the deepest, darkest American secrets is a beacon to the rest of us.

Since My Lai it seems like Hersh has been wrong more often than not over the years, with an anti-American, anti-Israel bias in his pseudo-scoops.

And, really, is there any doubt that Obama (and his military handlers) were fabricating stuff out of gossamer and elf dreams? I mean, did you even buy it at the time? Did it not occur to you that “Zero Dark Thirty” was fiction? There was even an uplifting woman’s angle! Oscar-ready!

Zero Dark Thirty never pretended to be anything but fiction. In many ways it was an annoying movie, like the apparent assumption that realism requires everyone saying "fuck" a lot. The movie's account of killing of bin Laden, however, seems to be more or less how it happened.

Personally, I don’t care who killed Osama bin Laden. He’d be dead by now if he weren’t already dead. Bin Laden’s death did not destroy al Qaeda. It did not slow the growth of the idea that jihad against the United States and its allies is a real good idea. Mostly, it made us look like bullies. Again.

No one claimed that killing bin Laden would destroy al Qaeda, and the war against the suicidal, homicidal Islamic fanatics, as Christopher Hitchens warned years ago, will go on for the rest of our lives. And we're "bullies" because we killed the guy who organized the 9/11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 Americans?

I always thought Obama’s bragging about killing bin Laden was embarrassing. So we got one guy. Are you noticing that we’re actually still losing the war even though we’re technically not fighting it anymore? Has anything changed? I’m glad that Seymour Hersh is still writing. But if the headline is, “Even governments with advanced views of social justice lie,” then I’m going to spend some more time on the “Mad Men” discussion boards.

Yes, Carroll would surely be more credible writing about Mad Men or his cats than inflicting this foolishness on his readers. But his is a common assumption on the left---that the whole war on terror thing is just another phony war cooked up by our wicked government, that if we would just leave the Islamic fanatics alone---and let them destroy Israel---they would stop trying  to kill Americans.

In an interview Hersh did two years ago:

Hersh returns to US president Barack Obama. He has said before that the confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11, but he is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush"Do you think Obama's been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What's going on [with journalists]?" he asks (emphasis added).

President Obama wanted to close Guantanamo as soon as he took office, but Congress wouldn't let him, passing a law to prohibit transferring the prisoners to a prison in the US. Obama is ending our involvement in Afghanistan, ended our military involvement in Iraq, and is only reluctantly being dragged back into it because of ISIS. He of course vetoed the idea of "going into Syria."

Max Fisher on Hersh's bin Laden story.

Hersh comes unglued in a Slate interview.

An account of Hersh's ugly, book-length hit on President Kennedy.

Hersh doesn't think Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It's all, you understand, about "Jewish money."

The people who get excited about things are currently excited about Seymour Hersh’s revelations (or allegations — the choice is yours) that many lies were told about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

Hersh, based on numerous interviews (including some that are hardly sourced at all), contends that the Obama administration fashioned a narrative that valorized American intelligence services and made bin Laden’s death a moment of sweet, uncomplicated revenge.

With, don’t forget, a traditional Muslim burial at sea. Because we care.

Such a digital storm brewed up. Media thinkers were thinking that Hersh was an unreliable crank, a “conspiracy theory” nut who just likes to, you know, make things up. This is the man who broke My Lai and probed Abu Ghraib, a titan in the land of the teeny. He’s not always been right, but his willingness to go find the deepest, darkest American secrets is a beacon to the rest of us.

And, really, is there any doubt that Obama (and his military handlers) were fabricating stuff out of gossamer and elf dreams? I mean, did you even buy it at the time? Did it not occur to you that “Zero Dark Thirty” was fiction? There was even an uplifting woman’s angle! Oscar-ready!

Personally, I don’t care who killed Osama bin Laden. He’d be dead by now if he weren’t already dead. Bin Laden’s death did not destroy al Qaeda. It did not slow the growth of the idea that jihad against the United States and its allies is a real good idea. Mostly, it made us look like bullies. Again.

I always thought Obama’s bragging about killing bin Laden was embarrassing. So we got one guy. Are you noticing that we’re actually still losing the war even though we’re technically not fighting it anymore? Has anything changed?

I’m glad that Seymour Hersh is still writing. But if the headline is, “Even governments with advanced views of social justice lie,” then I’m going to spend some more time on the “Mad Men” discussion boards.

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4 Comments:

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Mr. Anderson,

I found your blog post on Seymour Hersh to be an emotional and mostly fact-free rant. Perhaps that was your intention, but if so, it certainly diminished in my view the value of your blog, which as a fellow District 5 resident I used to consider a solid alternative to bureaucratic cant.

Here's what Trevor Timm at the Columbia Journalism Review wrote about the reaction to Hersh's reportage on the bin Laden operation.

Yes, it is mostly supportive of Hersh. But it also puts Hersh's detractors in a light that also illuminates---unfavorably---your own accusations of "anti-Americanism on the Left." Re: investigative journalism on American foreign policy, I'll take Hersh and the CJR, thank you very much.

If you haven't yet read the CJR piece, I urge you to do so.

Sincerely,
Kent Miller

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Kent:

Timm's piece is unconvincing and has its own hyperbole, including the claim that the administration "repeatedly misinformed and misled" the public on killing bin Laden. He provides a link to a story about a White House press conference retracting some relatively minor factual issues, that bin Laden was armed and that he used women as shields. These falsehoods were corrected within days of the event and don't go to the heart of the story.

The left's anti-Americanism is real, and I quickly picked Code Pink and Daily Kos---which is good on domestic issues, bad on foreign policy---as good examples, as is Noam Chomsky, who I heard speak at USF shortly after 9/11 to a packed auditorium. He told the mostly student audience essentially that the US had brought the attack on itself with its wicked foreign policy.

The notion that Saudi Arabia---which tried to get the Taliban to turn over bin Laden to them long before 9/11 and even hired an assassin to kill him in Afghanistan---would pay to shelter him in Pakistan is implausible in the extreme. (See "The Looming Tower," by Lawrence Wright).

The pattern displayed by Hersh's "scoops" shows that he essentially agrees with Chomsky about the US and Israel. He even challenged the idea that Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons!

Of course working journalists will follow up on Hersh's version of events, which should tell us more about it---and his sources. But his version requires that all the people pictured on my post in the White House following the Seals teams in real time would have had to be in on the conspiracy of lies, as would all the two dozen Seals themselves. Even Hillary Clinton was there. The notion that she would be part of this scheme is unlikely, since if it came out it could torpedo her future campaign for president.

And I just don't believe that President Obama is the kind of man who would allow this kind of deliberate deception. Maybe Hersh's critics and I are all wrong about this. Time will tell!

Regards,
Rob Anderson

 
At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Thanks for your response, Mr. Anderson.

I'll check out The Looming Tower; I know that it is highly regarded by many.

I also take your point about the White House situation room photo taken on the night of the raid. I'm not entirely reassured by it, however; we now know that Bush 43 had his sights set on Iraq from the beginning of his presidency, had the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz cabal on the case early on, and even had Gen. Tommy Franks prepare invasion plans well before the pseudo-pretext of 9/1l. "Somehow"---a docile press more concerned with "access" than their historic responsibility to be the "fourth estate"? Inside-the-Beltway imperiousness? It wasn't until years later that it became clear the fix had been in all along. Many Americans still don't know it (or believe it).

In other words, it wouldn't be the first time that a "conspiracy of lies" went unexposed. As you say, time will tell. Or at least one can hope so.

Anyway, it is not my intention to troll you, and I am grateful that you seem not to have taken my original note to you in that way.

Please do keep up the invaluable good work on the execrable Bicycle Coalition and its City Hall claque.

Very truly yours,
Kent

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Along with Osama bin Laden’s early life in Saudi Arabia, The Looming Tower has an account of how he came to be in Afghanistan and his relationship with the Taliban. He was kicked out of Saudi Arabia, where he was born and raised, because of his radical activities, which is why it seems implausible that the Saudis would have any interest in playing an important part in Hersh's elaborate scenario of deception.

Yes, I agree about the invasion of Iraq. The other day I posted the James Fallows account of the early stages of that fiasco. I read his “Blind Into Baghdad” article---that became the book of the same name---in the Atlantic Monthly when it was published in early 2004. I not so sure that the “press” was negligent in the run-up to the invasion, since I remember a lot of criticism of the claims about WMD, the alleged Iraqi link to 9/11, etc., at the time, though I probably read more than the average American. My impression is that it just didn’t make any difference. This is another historical sequence that needs a closer look. The US invasion of Afghanistan, on the other hand, was easier to justify, since bin Laden was based there, and the 9/11 hijackers were trained there.

 

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