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Jul 14, 2018

Seymour Hersh vs.0ur 0fficial "Truths"

tags: Seymour Hersh;My Lai; Jimmy Wechsler;Vladimir Putin

Seymour Hersh versus 0ur 0fficial "Truths"

 By Murray Polner


The more I read about Hillary Clinton's disappointment and her loyalists' accusations leveled against Russia's "meddling" in the 2016 election that supposedly cost her presidency, the more I think of an editor I knew slightly and a journalist.

The first is Jimmy Wechsler, the late editor of the once-liberal NY Post who, while harassed and pursued by Hoover's FBI and McCarthy and assorted Torquemadas, helped smooth the way for many modern investigative reporters, His paper once broke a story about a secret hoard of money received by then Vice-President Nixon from secret donors.

Toward the end of his life Wechsler reminded his contemporaries in the mass media -- I would especially add today's surviving dailies and their threatened staffs-- that their task is now more than ever  "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."


My second choice is Seymour Hersh and his fellow investigative reporters. Like Gary Webb, the San Jose Mercury News reporter who tried to crack what he believed to be was a CIA-Contra drug connection before dying of a still-mysterious suicide. Think too of Barbara Ehrenreich, who dug down deeply to explore and expose the lives of cleaning women who do our dirty work, Naomi Klein and her critical work about neoliberalism and worldwide global corporate domination, Jane Mayer's disturbing unraveling of  some billionaires and  the use they made of their fortunes, my late friend Robert Friedman, who probed Israel's ultra-sensitive subjects like its West Bank conquests and also the Russian Mafiya in the U.S., Newsday's Bill Dedman, who earned a Pulitzer for tracking down mortgage lenders whose loans strengthened housing segregation, Woodward and Bernstein, of course, and the estimable Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept and its stable of astute investigative writers such as James Risen and Jeremy Scahill.



Hersh, whose compelling memoir "Reporter" has recently been published, has done just that for decades, repeatedly challenging the official lies and obfuscations of governments and lobbyists and their apparatchiks and apologists. We would all benefit if Hersh, now 81, would take on the "Russia-did-it" frenzy plus some of the Trump-related scandals that come and go swiftly without context or depth. Writing and working for the UPI, AP, NY Times, New Yorker and London Review of Books, he has broken story after story: The My Lai, killings, torture in Abu Ghraib prison, Kissinger's career  ("the man lied the way most people breathed" Hersh wrote) Israel's nukes and more.

 Americans collectively seem to understand little of the past and our many wars. Flag-waving and emotion replaces facts. The current condemnation of Russian "meddling" in the 2016 election overlooks that the U.S.,  like Russia,  has a long history of invading countries and toppling elected governments. Dissenters like Hersh  are rarely given time on our major home screens where most Americans get their news--with the result  that many Americans and Asians have died needlessly while civilian Americans don't care much about holding the guilty  parties accountable, leaving our hawks, conservative and liberal, free to plan more wars.


Hersh has made mistakes such as blaming the U.S. Ambassador to Chile Edward Korry for being involved in the ousting of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president killed by Chilean neo-fascists, when Korry had actually been frozen out by Washington's hawks, He also mistakenly claimed in his bio of JFK that Kennedy had a pre-Jackie wife from whom he never legally divorced.  

Even so, it's his instinctive skepticism born of questioning authority and cultivating sources deep in the heart of the beast that has allowed him to find and document so much hidden stuff. That's what makes his approach so special; informing readers that one of his early editors advised him to approach reporting with the idea, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

When Hersh broke the My Lai story, for which he received a Pulitzer, he found Lt. William Calley by wandering around a huge army base where he'd been hidden. Robert Miraldi, in his fine biography of Hersh, ("Seymour Hersh: Scoop Artist") noted that many Americans blamed Hersh, since they could not bring themselves to accept that American soldiers were capable of committing such monstrous deeds and then, rationalized that, after all, "war was war."


Despite our many failed wars since 1945, and their unforeseen disasters of "deaths and destruction," as Trump mentioned to the NATO last July, the policy of repeating failures after failures continue, supported by our Military industrial Complex and their pliant politicians and ideologies.


Reviewing Steve Coll's "Directorate S: the CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan: in the London Review of Books, Thomas Powers wrote that, "Forty-plus years after our final failure in Vietnam, the United States is again fighting an endless war against a culture and a people we don't understand for political reasons that make sense in Washington but nowhere else.... we don't know how to win or how to stop... " especially because only those who benefit from war support its continuance.

And now there's our latest "enemy," Vladimir Putin.

 0fficial America has always needed an "enemy"). In the conservative Claremont Review of Books, the former NY Times' Russia correspondent's Steven Lee Myers's 20016 book, "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin" offers a somewhat different take. Caldwell doesn't seem to view Putin as a second coming of Stalin but rather as an heir of pre, anti-Communist religious Russian philosophers Vladimir Soloviev and Nikolai Berdyaev. I would add too, Konstantin Podonostsev, the arch-reactionary Procurator of the Holy Synod, who excommunicated the great Tolstoy from the 0rthodox Church and denounced democracy. But Putin also sounds much like the religious nationalist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose book "Gulag Archipelago," by the way, is compulsory reading in Russian secondary schools. He was imprisoned from 1945-1953 and his book "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich: was the first published book condemning Stalinist gulags to appear in the USSR.


The armed overthrow of the elected Ukrainian government with American diplomatic and military support has Caldwell believing that Myer's version of the "Ukrainian conflict is one of the more balanced to have appeared from a mainstream Western reporter." For example, the widely excoriated annexation of Crimea, has yet another plausible rationale. The Peninsula is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Anti-Russian Ukraine heavily dependent on the U.S. would have gladly let the U.S. "borrow" it if Moscow hadn't acted as it did. Can you imagine Russia "borrowing" Baja California from Mexico and the U.S.'s reaction? 0r have we already forgotten the Cuban missile crisis?

In the end, Caldwell concludes that Putin, as every other leader, is "defending the interests of his people, the first of which is independence."Since the Ukrainian revolution, this success has come at a considerable price, in both diplomatic isolation and lost trade. We will understand nothing about Putin until we realize that, in the eyes of most of his countrymen, he has been right to pay it."


Still, while Putin is hardly a beacon of liberty and truth neither were and are many of our leaders who have been lying since the Spanish American War, the brutal invasion of the Philippines, recurring occupations of Caribbean mini-states, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean war, Reagan's proxy wars in Central America, and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.


Who's next? Iran? Syria? China? Russia? Venezuela?  During 0bama's presidency U.S. forces and   NATO have moved up to the Russian borders, patrolled neighboring Black and Baltic seas and skies and are allegedly  prepared, because of Article 5 of the NATO pact, to intervene if a member is attacked.

It was Hermann Goering, one of the great monsters of the 20th Century, who said that people always tend to follow their leaders as war approaches. All you have to do is tell them again and again that they're endangered. "It works the same in any country," he said. But it wasn't Goering's credo alone and it's continually used by others. The Korean and Vietnam wars were fought to "save" us-- and presumably Asians-- from communism. Iraq was invaded because Saddam was supposedly tied to 9/11 and had all  70% of Americans, including the NY Times and the New Yorker, supported Bush's invasion of Iraq. And remember, Afghanistan was a "necessary war," or so said 0bama.

Meanwhile, the real danger we all face is the revival of a new Cold War between nuclear U.S. and nuclear Russia. Jack Matlock Jr., our Ambassador to Russia from 1987 to 1991, has argued that we have to "desist from our current Russophobia insanity and work to restore cooperation in nuclear safety, nonproliferation, control of nuclear materials and nuclear arms reduction. This," he concluded, "is in the vital interest in both the U.S. and Russia. That is the central issue on which all sane governments and sane publics should focus their attention-- a sensible solution echoed recently  on the PBS NewsHour by John Kasich, 0hio's Republican governor."

Bravo to both men.

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