SEYMOUR HERSH - TFM GETS PISSED
Should I review his appearance at Campbell Hall a mere hour after it occurred? I'm mighty pissed-off right now, so this could get ugly. Let me compose myself. (short pause) There, that's better.
Fuck Bush. Fuck the war in Iraq. Fuck the mess he and his cronies have made of America's credibility, respect, and moral authority around the world.
You want more? Okay.
Listening to Hersh brought me back to Al Gore's post-Abu Ghraib speech in New York, you know, the one the de facto Abu Ghraib apologists on the right used to question Gore's mental stability. Today I heard the same anger about what these guys have done to our country as Gore expressed, only delivered by a journalist with a prolific knowledge base on the subject. It had been months since I read his three big New Yorker
pieces, but upon returning to my computer I was compelled to Lexis-Nexis them and dive into them once more, and I came up from the experience all the more angry.
The fact that the White House knew about what happened four months
before the Taguba report went public but kept it silent, hopeing for some sort of good news to overshadow it. The fact that the systematic torture and abuses as Abu Ghraib were the natural extension of clearly and publicly-expressed sentiments from the administration about this being "a different kind of war", one in which the old rules don't necessarily apply, including the Geneva Fucking Conventions (when Switzerland ended its neutrality, they put "Fucking" in there). The fact that Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon had a secret program, going through various codenames, that brought such hideous brutality back to Abu Ghraib only months after kicking Saddam out of Baghdad.
(veins... bulging...) Okay, with that I'll turn it over to Al Gore:
"How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace! How DARE they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison!"
Other tidbits from Hersh's appearance:
--He believes the war in Iraq is "unwinnable". If winning means "anything even remotely similar to a stable democracy any time in the coming few years", then yes, I agree. If you think I'm setting the goalposts too close together ("Democracies take years! Remember all the naysaying about postwar Germany!"), I would be happy to remind you of all the wonderful, flowery things that members of the administration said in the run-up to the war. Or you can join me and Richard Perle in Baghdad next weekend for the dedication of the shiny new George W. Bush Square! Think of it as a roundabout with no exit lanes.
He pointed out that the insurgency is growing stronger, and not weaker. Attacks are being carried out by larger groups rather than smaller ones. We have been wholly unable to infiltrate them, even with our employment of Abu Ghraib-like tactics. (by the way, that removes the ends-means moral question of the abuses) There are those in the military who believe the insurgency posesses short-range missiles but are waiting to use them until whatever time they have determined is the right one to escalate. No matter who wins next month's election, it's bound to get worse.
--He subscribes to something similar to a Zarqawi-as-Emmanuel-Goldstein theory. That is, that the insurgency has duped the United States military, government and media into identifying Zarqawi as some sort of mastermind, or leader, of the insurgency. And it makes sense. Zarqawi is useful to the administration because they used him as the lynchpin of their case that Saddam and Al Qaeda were connected (an assertion notably distant from the facts), and because identifying the leader of the insurgency makes the guerrilla effort seem more compact and manageable than if there was no clearly-defined leader. Zarqawi is useful to the insurgency because it makes, in international eyes (ours included), the bad parts of the insurgency more about him than about the insurgents in general.
Furthermore, it makes sense because Rummy, Cheney and Feith's Office of Special Plans were more than happy to swallow every bit of tripe from Ahmed Chalabi (as was Judith Miller, whom Hersh partially defended today for some reason on the source disclosure thing), and Chalabi was either working for, or being used by the Iranian government who had an interest in seeing Iraq turn into a chaotic, failed state. They bought it hook, line and sinker, and they haven't changed, so there's no reason they wouldn't be duped again, this time by the insurgency regarding Zarqawi.
--He doesn't think much of Kerry's chances for success in Iraq either, nor does he think that Kerry's first term, should he be elected, will be a very successful one for him, given the likelihood of Republican majorities in Congress and a hostile media.
I am sure that should he be elected, Kerry will try with all his ability to find a path towards some form of success in Iraq. He certainly has the right to take America's newfound credibility (with a new leader) for a spin, and see what kind of cooperation he can get from our allies in Europe and elsewhere. However, should these efforts not bear fruit in terms of the Perle-Cheney-PNAC goals in Iraq, I'm convinced that the true test of President John Kerry would then not be the extent to which he succeeds in Iraq, but rather how long it takes him to bring us, the American people, to the real epiphanies about what can and cannot be accomplished.
His Vietnam experience is highly relevant to this campaign, as he would be in the Nixon seat in 2005 following Bush's stubborn-and-wrong LBJ impersonation. The worst periods of that war came under Nixon's watch, and Kerry would be in a position to make some of the very same mistakes. Nixon bombed the fuck out of Cambodia, destabilizing that country and creating a vacuum that allowed the Khmer Rouge to more easily take power and kill 2 million of its own people. Hersh pointed out that Bush's war in Iraq has already swung the pendulum in neighboring Iran away from democratic reform and back towards the anti-US fundamentalist hardline autocrats. Kerry's future decisions will either exacerbate or mitigate these trends. We know which way Nixon went. We also know which way John Kerry went at that time. Will he see the light, if there is light to be seen?
The old Vulcan proverb is that only Nixon can go to China. We may be about to find out if it takes a non-neoconservative to properly carry out a neoconservative pipe dream. Perhaps the difference between a Kerry administration and a Bush administration is in that central, hideous tenet of neoconservatism: democracy by any means. That was the tenet which spawned Abu Ghraib. Like John Kerry said in the first debate, "there's the right way to go to war, and there's the wrong way". Are there "right means" to democracy in Iraq on any realistic timeline, given what we've done so far? Guess we'll have to wait and see.
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. Cranky memo to students and adults alike, who feel the need to ask lecture-givers questions via microphone at the end of an appearance:
1) I don't care about your little organization.
2) You're not talking to God, so don't expect precisely the answer you want.
POST-POSTCRIPT. I just converted the Kerry's-prospects portion of this post into a letter to the editor, and sent it to my school's paper, the Daily Nexus. They've printed me before, so let's see if they bite again. And yes, I broke it up into smaller paragraphs. (: