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Seymour Hersh at Trinity College in Dublin.
- Seymour Hersh at Trinity College in Dublin.
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To a maximum capacity audience, tonight Seymour Hersh will present the 2007 Amnesty International Lecture at Trinity College in Dublin.
Seymour Myron Hersh [born April 8, 1937 Chicago] is an American Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, DC. The controversial journalist is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters and has written extensively on US involvement with Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Israel, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union.
His work first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison gained much attention.
Hersh received the 2004 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting given annually by Long Island University to honor contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. This was his fifth George Polk Award, the first one being a Special Award given to him in 1969.
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Wikipedia on Seymour Hersh
Hersh was born in Chicago to Yiddish-speaking Jewish parents who emigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania and Poland and ran a dry-cleaning shop in a tough section of Chicago's South Side. After graduating from the University of Chicago, Hersh began his career in journalism as a police reporter for the City News Bureau in 1959. He later became a correspondent for United Press International in South Dakota. In 1963 he went on to become a Chicago and Washington correspondent for the Associated Press. During the 1968 presidential election, he served as press secretary for the campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy. Later that year, Hersh was hired as a reporter for the Washington Bureau of The New York Times, where he served from 1972 to 1975 and again in 1979. Hersh was also active in investigating the CIA's Project Jennifer.
His 1983 book The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House won him the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times book prize in biography. In 1985, Hersh contributed to the PBS television documentary Buying the Bomb.
The My Lai Massacre
On November 12, 1969, Hersh broke the story of the My Lai Massacre, in which hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians were killed by U.S. soldiers in March 1968. The report prompted widespread condemnation around the world and reduced public support for the Vietnam War in the United States. The explosive news of the massacre fueled the outrage of the American peace movement, which demanded the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. It also led more potential draftees to file for conscientious objector status. Hersh wrote about the massacre and its cover-up in My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath and Cover-up: The Army's Secret Investigation of the Massacre at My Lai 4.
In early 1974 Hersh had planned to publish a story on Project Jennifer. Bill Kovach, the New York Times Washington bureau chief at the time, said in 2005 that the government offered a convincing argument to delay publication in early 1974�exposure at that time, while the project was ongoing, "would have caused an international incident." The Times eventually published its account in 1975, after a story appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and included a five-paragraph explanation of the many twists and turns in the path to publication. It is unclear what, if any, action was taken by the Soviet Union after learning of the story.
In his 1986 book The Target is Destroyed (Random House), Hersh alleged that the Soviet attack on Korean Air Flight 007 was due to a combination of Soviet incompetence and United State intelligence operations intended to confuse Soviet responses and to test the penetration of Soviet sea and air space. This stood in stark contrast to US President Ronald Reagan's statement that the Soviet attack was a purposeful attack on a civilian craft and "an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations."
Later releases of government information confirmed that there was a PSYOPS campaign against the Soviet Union that had been in place from the first few months of the Reagan administration. This campaign included not only the largest US Pacific Fleet exercise ever held in April to May 1983, which sailed the fleet in close (450 mile) proximity to a critical Soviet naval base, but also the renewed use of "ferret missions", a practice halted in 1970 where US planes would purposefully invade Soviet airspace to "ferret out" vulnerabilities and test response times. A CIA history of this period not only confirmed many of Hersh's allegations but also cited his book as historical reference.
Mordechai Vanunu and Robert Maxwell
In his 1991 book The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, Hersh wrote that Nicholas Davies, the foreign editor of the Daily Mirror, had tipped off the Israeli embassy in London about whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu. Vanunu had given information about Israel's nuclear weapons program first to the Sunday Times and later to the Sunday Mirror. At the time, the Sunday Mirror and its sibling newspaper, the Daily Mirror were owned by media magnate Robert Maxwell who was alleged to have had contacts with Israel's intelligence services. According to Hersh, Davies had also worked for the Mossad. Vanunu was later lured by Mossad from London to Rome, kidnapped, returned to Israel, and sentenced to 18 years in jail. Davies and Maxwell published an anti-Vanunu story that was claimed to be part of a disinformation campaign on behalf of the Israeli government.
Hersh repeated the allegations during a press conference held in London to publicize his book. No British newspaper would publish the allegations because of Maxwell's famed litigiousness. However, two British MPs raised the matter in the House of Commons, which meant that British newspapers were able to report what had been said without fear of being sued for libel. Maxwell called the claims "ludicrous, a total invention," although perhaps coincidentally, he sacked Nick Davies shortly thereafter.
Attack on pharmaceutical factory in Sudan
On August 20, 1998, Hersh strongly criticized the aerial destruction of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, the largest pharmaceutical factory in Sudan�providing about half the medicines produced in Sudan�by United States aircraft during Bill Clinton's presidency.
Hersh has written a series of articles for The New Yorker magazine detailing military and security matters surrounding the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. In a 2004 article, he alleged that Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld circumvented the normal intelligence analysis function of the CIA in their quest to make the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Another article, Lunch with the Chairman, led Richard Perle, a subject of the article, to call Hersh the "closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."
A recent article, "The Redirection" (March 7, 2007), describes the recent shift in the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, the goal of which is to "contain" Iran. Hersh points out that, "a by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda."
In May 2004, Hersh published a series of articles which described the treatment of detainees by US military police at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, Iraq. The articles included allegations that private contractors contributed to prisoner mistreatment and that intelligence agencies such as the CIA ordered torture in order to break prisoners for interrogations. They also alleged that torture is a usual practice in other U.S. prisons as well, e.g. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. In subsequent articles, Hersh claimed that the abuses were part of a secret interrogation program, known as "Copper Green". According to Hersh's sources, the program was expanded to Iraq with the direct approval of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, both in an attempt to deal with the growing insurgency there and as part of "Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A." Much of his material for these articles was based on the Army's own internal investigations.
Scott Ritter points out in his October 19th, 2005 interview with Seymour Hersh that the US policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power started with President George H. W. Bush in August 1990. Ritter concludes from public remarks by President George H. W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker that the economic sanctions would only be lifted when Saddam Hussein was removed from power. The justification for sanctions was disarmament. The CIA offered the opinion that containing Saddam Hussein for six months would result in the collapse of his regime. This policy resulted in the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq.
MR. HERSH: One of the things about your book that's amazing is that it's not only about the Bush Administration, and if there are any villains in this book, they include Sandy Berger, who was Clinton's national security advisor, and Madeleine Albright.
Another thing that's breathtaking about this book is the amount of new stories and new information. Scott describes in detail and with named sources, basically, a two or three-year run of the American government undercutting the inspection process. In your view, during those years, '91 to'98, particularly the last three years, was the United States interested in disarming Iraq?
MR. RITTER: Well, the fact of the matter is the United States was never interested in disarming Iraq. The whole Security Council resolution that created the UN weapons inspections and called upon Iraq to disarm was focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is a vehicle for the maintenance of economic sanctions that were imposed in August 1990 linked to the liberation of Kuwait. We liberated Kuwait, I participated in that conflict. And one would think, therefore, the sanctions should be lifted.
The United States needed to find a vehicle to continue to contain Saddam because the CIA said all we have to do is wait six months and Saddam is going to collapse on his own volition. That vehicle is sanctions. They needed a justification; the justification was disarmament. They drafted a Chapter 7 resolution of the United Nations Security Council calling for the disarmament of Iraq and saying in Paragraph 14 that if Iraq complies, sanctions will be lifted. Within months of this resolution being passed--and the United States drafted and voted in favor of this resolution--within months, the President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and his Secretary of State, James Baker, are saying publicly, not privately, publicly that even if Iraq complies with its obligation to disarm, economic sanctions will be maintained until which time Saddam Hussein is removed from power.
That is proof positive that disarmament was only useful insofar as it contained through the maintenance of sanctions and facilitated regime change. It was never about disarmament, it was never about getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. It started with George Herbert Walker Bush, and it was a policy continued through eight years of the Clinton presidency, and then brought us to this current disastrous course of action under the current Bush Administration.
In January 2005, Hersh alleged that the U.S. was conducting covert operations in Iran to identify targets for possible strikes. This was dismissed by both the US government and the Government of Iran. However, US government has not categorically denied that US troops have been on the ground in Iran. Hersh also claimed that Pakistan and USA have struck a "Khan-for-Iran" deal in which Washington will look the other way at Pakistan's nuclear transgressions and not demand handing over of its nuclear proliferator A Q Khan, in return for Islamabad's cooperation in neutralising Iran's nuclear plans. This was also denied by officials of the governments of the US and Pakistan.
In the April 17, 2006 issue of The New Yorker, Hersh reported on the Bush Administration's purported plans for an air strike within Iran. Of particular note in his article is that an American nuclear first strike (possibly using the B61-11 bunker-buster nuclear weapon) is under consideration to eliminate underground Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. In response, President Bush cited Hersh's reportage as "wild speculation."
In August of 2006, in an article in The New Yorker, Hersh claimed that the White House gave the green light for Israel to plan and execute an attack on the mounting threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Supposedly, communication between the Israeli government and the US administration about this came as early as two months in advance of the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of eight others by Hezbollah prior to the Israel/Lebanon conflict in July of 2006. The US administration has denied these claims. These claims were later proven, in part, true when Israeli PM Ehud Olmert admitted to the Winograd Commission that a military action was planned months prior if Hezbollah kidnapped any Israeli soldiers. On November 20th it is reported that Hersh purported in the New Yorker that a CIA analysis based on technical intelligence found no conclusive evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Hersh's 1997 book about John F. Kennedy, The Dark Side of Camelot, made a number of controversial assertions about the former president, including that he had had a "first marriage" to a woman named Durie Malcolm that was never terminated, and that he had a close working relationship with mob boss Sam Giancana. In a Los Angeles Times review, Edward Jay Epstein cast doubt on these and other assertions, writing, "this book turns out to be, alas, more about the deficiencies of investigative journalism than about the deficiencies of John F. Kennedy." Responding to the book, historian and former Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called Hersh "the most gullible investigative reporter I've ever encountered."
Use of anonymous sources
Hersh makes frequent reference to anonymous sources in his reporting; some have criticized this usage, implying that some of these sources are unreliable or even made up. In a review of Hersh's book, Chain of Command, commentator Amir Taheri wrote, "As soon as he has made an assertion he cites a "source" to back it. In every case this is either an un-named former official or an unidentified secret document passed to Hersh in unknown circumstances... By my count Hersh has anonymous 'sources' inside 30 foreign governments and virtually every department of the US government."
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, maintains that he is aware of the identity of all of Hersh's unnamed sources, telling the Columbia Journalism Review that "I know every single source that is in his pieces.... Every 'retired intelligence officer,' every general with reason to know, and all those phrases that one has to use, alas, by necessity, I say, 'Who is it? What's his interest?' We talk it through."
In a response to an article in the New Yorker in which Hersh alleged that the U.S. government was planning a strike on Iran, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Brian Whitman said, "This reporter has a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources."
Those who criticize Hersh's credibility especially point to allegations Hersh has made in public speeches and interviews, rather than in print. In an interview with New York Magazine, Hersh made a distinction between the standards of strict factual accuracy for his print reporting and the leeway he allows himself in speeches, in which he may talk informally about stories still being worked on or blur information to protect his sources. "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."
Some of Hersh's speeches concerning the Iraq War have described violent incidents involving U.S. troops in Iraq. In July 2004, during the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal, he alleged that American troops sexually assaulted 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 regretted that "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."  In his book, Chain of Command, he wrote that one of the witness statements he had read described the rape of a boy by a foreign contract interpreter at Abu Ghraib, during which a woman took pictures.
At a Columbia University speech given by Hersh in June 2004, author Rick Perlstein reported:
� [Hersh] said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children and women prisoners, as the cameras run."�
In an interview with KQED host Michael Krasny on October 8, 2004, Hersh reported speaking with a first lieutenant in charge of a unit stationed halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border:
� His group was bivouacking outside of town in an agricultural area, and had hired 30 or so Iraqis to guard a local granary. A few weeks passed. They got to know the men they hired, and to like them. Then orders came down from Baghdad that the village would be "cleared." Another platoon from the soldier's company came and executed the Iraqi granary guards. All of them.
He said they just shot them one by one. And his people, and he, and the villagers of course, went nuts," Hersh said quietly. "He was hysterical, totally hysterical. He went to the company captain, who said, 'No, you don't understand, that's a kill. We got 36 insurgents. Don't you read those stories when the Americans say we had a combat maneuver and 15 insurgents were killed?'
In a speech at McGill University in October 2006, after describing a video he had seen in which U.S. troops, following an attack on their convoy, had fired upon and killed a group of nearby soccer players, Hersh offered the assessment that "there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.� However, in the same speech Hersh later said that there were other armies that had been worse than the Americans and that he did not believe in moral equivocation, when comparing the atrocities of one army to another.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (foreword) (2005) in Scott Ritter: Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein (Hardcover), Nation Books, ISBN 1-56025-852-7
* Hersh, Seymour M. (2004). Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-019591-6.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1998). Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-42748-3.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1997). The Dark Side of Camelot. Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-36067-8.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1991). The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. Random House. ISBN 0-394-57006-5.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1986). The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It. Random House. ISBN 0-394-54261-4.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1983). The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-44760-2. Excerpts from The Price of Power hosted by Third World Traveler
* "Huge CIA Operation Reported in US against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents During Nixon Years" by Seymour Hersh, New York Times, December 22 1974 � Hersh's article detailing CIA covert operations which eventually led to the formation of the Church Committee.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1972). Cover-up: the Army's secret investigation of the massacre at My Lai 4. Random House. ISBN 0-394-47460-0.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1970). Chemical And Biological Warfare. Panther Books. ISBN 0-586-03295-9.
* Hersh, Seymour M. (1970). My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath. Random House. ISBN 0-394-43737-3.
Most of Mr Hersh's writings have been veiled in controversy and with almost four decades of reporting in Washington D.C. sources are often reluctant to talk to him.
But the 70-year-old is still filing stories and writing books.
Seymour Hersh Books
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