There aren’t a whole lot of facts in Seymour Hersh’s interview with Spiegel online, but it becomes clear that, while he fears President Bush for being on a mission for God (Seymour’s opinion), Ahmadinejad’s pronouncements that he’s going to destroy Israel and have the bomb soon are totally copacetic. I’ve included some examples of his answers below, but you’d do well to read the whole thing for yourself, assuming you have the stomach for a fact-free, recycling of 1960s tropes (Communists? What Communists?).
As you read the interview, keep an eye on the fact that, in response to direct questions, Hersh is often what we lawyers call “non-responsive.” That is, he’s answering, but he’s not answering the question. Instead, he’s reading off of an endless loop in his own head:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: [Regarding the possibility of a nuclear Iran] Is this just another case of exaggerating the danger in preparation for an invasion like we saw in 2002 and 2003 prior to the Iraq War?
Hersh: We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we’ve had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he’s not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where does this feeling of urgency that the US has with Iran come from?
Hersh: Pressure from the White House. That’s just their game.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What interest does the White House have in moving us to the brink with Tehran?
Hersh: You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You’d think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can’t possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even after Iraq? Aren’t there strategic reasons for getting so deeply involved in the Middle East?
Hersh: Oh no. We’re going to build democracy. The real thing in the mind of this president is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can’t have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I’d actually be relieved because I’d know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he’s doing God’s work.
Would it surprise you to learn that, seeing things as he does, Hersh is a cut and run kind of guy? He also accuses Bush of “ethnic cleansing.”
Now “ethnic cleansing” is a loaded term and one that Spiegel highlights at the top of the article to catch the reader’s interests. As I understand it, ethnic cleansing means deliberately targeting an ethnic (or religious) group by (a) slaughtering it or (b) forcibly removing it from it’s lands. Hersh has a much looser application. According to him, the sole result of the Surge — and the reason fatalities are dropping — is that people are hunkering done in ethnic enclaves (that would be the Kurds who were doing that all along, especially when Saddam tried to murder them all) or hunkering down in religious enclaves (that would be the Sunnis and Shias, who are moving away from each other, not because American soldiers are killing them, but because they’re killing each other). How does he know this? Simple: “I think that’s a much better reason than the fact that there are a couple more soldiers on the ground.” With rock solid research like that, you’ve just got to trust the guy’s conclusions, right?
Incidentally, Hersh is not satisfied with the Leftist rubric that Iraq is Vietnam all over again. That’s too ordinary. He goes further:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the Iraq war does end up as a defeat for the US, will it leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did?
Hersh: Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we’ll rationalize it away. Don’t worry about that. Again, there’s no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We’ll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades.
It’s possible that Hersh’s conclusions are correct (although I’m inclined to doubt them). But if you were someone actually neutral on the issue, seeking information, would you take seriously a man who has no facts that he can assert, but simply engages in mindless name calling, supported by casual conclusions based on his gut instinct. This is not an investigative reporter. This is a lazy guy who is living in the past and can only recycle tired old ideas without any awareness that he’s not reporting on the same old situation.
UPDATE: I did a rather facile analysis about Hersh’s tone. Laer took the time to expose the gross factual errors underlying Hersh’s statements. If you want to know more about how dreadful Hersh is, you need to read Laer’s post.