Seymour Hersh and Our Journalism
June 24, 2012
I have been a fan of Seymour Hersh for some time now. He was the journalist or one of them who helped to tell the truth about what was or was not happening in Vietnam, a project that has won him the undying disapproval of many in the United States. I am now reading his book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.
It is a good book and it has helped me understand Hersh’s shortcomings, which are not, of course, unique to him. His most important shortcoming is that he focuses on technical or administrative matters. That is, when you read Hersh, you come away with the impression: “Oh, if only the FBI had ‘talked’ to the CIA or vice versa, 9/11 would not have happened.” Or: “If only we had a Director of National Intelligence, 9/11 would not have happened.” Or: “If only we had more Arabic speakers in the CIA, 9/11 would not have happened.”
OK, fine. And maybe even some of these adjustments would have mattered. But what is interesting to me is how apolitical all of this is, how merely “technical” or “organizational” it all is, as if there is some organizational solution or mecca which, once discovered and implemented, would allow us to “successful” in whatever project or projects we are undertaking. And this mindset is nothing new as one can see it in operation in 1787-88 when it was thought by many that a new constitution, that is, a new arrangement of offices, would solve our problems.
But it is a mindset that is apolitical, that is, that does not confront the questions raised, the political questions raised by our projects or policies. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Tom Robbins, labeled a “counter culture novelist” by many.
“In my last novel, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, a character comments that ‘terrorism is the only logical response to America’s foreign policy.’ So, the death planes didn’t surprise me. I happen to have been in the air on the morning of September 11, flying out of New Orleans. When the pilot announced that we couldn’t be assigned a gate in Atlanta due to ‘an aircraft accident in New York,’ I instantly turned to my paramour and said, ‘Terrorists!’ Just blurted it out. Our foreign policy made such an attack inevitable, and that may have been its most tragic aspect: it was entirely preventable – not by better intelligence gathering but by a more honorable, less arrogant American role in foreign affairs.” [pp. 124-25, Conversations with Tom Robbins]
See, this is what I call a political analysis, not an apolitical analysis. And if you noticed, the 9/11 Commission focused entirely on the apolitical, not the political. So, don’t be surprised if there is a repeat engagement…..which of course is already taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan.