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Bush’s Useful Idiots

Tony Judt: Whatever happened to American liberalism?, 21 September 2006

... been largely taken over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists – Seymour Hersh, Michael Massing and Mark Danner, writing in the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. The collapse of liberal self-confidence in the contemporary US can be variously explained. In part it is a backwash from the lost illusions of the ...

How to Defect

Isabel Hilton: North Korea, 10 June 2010

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea 
by Barbara Demick.
Granta, 314 pp., £14.99, February 2010, 978 1 84708 014 1
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... attack in what Condoleezza Rice termed ‘anticipatory self-defence’. As one US official said to Seymour Hersh: ‘Don’t be distracted by all this talk of negotiations … they have a plan and they are going to get this guy after Iraq. He’s their version of Hitler.’ Such rhetoric may play well at home, but it did little for the citizens of North ...

Why use a Novichok?

Tom Stevenson, 6 May 2021

Toxic: A History of Nerve Agents from Nazi Germany to Putin’s Russia 
by Dan Kaszeta.
Hurst, 408 pp., £25, July 2020, 978 1 78738 306 7
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... WMD debacle would be repeated to justify increased American military intervention. Some, including Seymour Hersh in the LRB (19 December 2013), argued that Ghouta might have been a false flag operation conducted by rebel factions with Turkish support, but the weight of evidence suggests that the attack was carried out by the loyalist side. In 2017, sarin ...

Don’t do what Allende did

Greg Grandin: Allende, 19 July 2012

Allende’s Chile and the Inter-American Cold War 
by Tanya Harmer.
North Carolina, 375 pp., £38.95, October 2011, 978 0 8078 3495 4
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... reform in Latin America. All kinds of cataclysmic events rolled around, but Chile scared him.’ Seymour Hersh, drawing on a conversation with another NSC staffer, wrote that what Kissinger feared most about Allende was not his winning the presidency but that at the end of his term ‘the political process would work and he would be voted out of office ...

The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr, 8 February 2018

Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... that Aldous does not want to bore us with, say, the endless stand-off between Schlesinger and Seymour Hersh at the gates of Camelot. He continued to be flat-footed in his attacks on student movements, always prescribing bigger doses of liberalism for students in revolt against the cure. He became a critic of the Vietnam War as practised by his friend ...

Touch of Evil

Christopher Hitchens, 22 October 1992

Kissinger: A Biography 
by Walter Isaacson.
Faber, 893 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 571 16858 2
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... pain. The accounts are basically congruent, whether you draw them from Clark Clifford’s memoirs, Seymour Hersh’s critique, Stephen Ambrose’s judicious biography of Nixon or the recollections of Averell Harriman, Richard Holbrooke or Daniel Davidson. Mr Isaacson has added some extra but exiguous detail to the story. By shopping on both sides of the ...

Operation Barbarella

Rick Perlstein: Hanoi Jane, 17 November 2005

Jane Fonda’s War: A Political Biography of an Anti-war Icon 
by Mary Hershberger.
New Press, 228 pp., £13.99, September 2005, 1 56584 988 4
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... when he left captivity. Melvin Laird, the defense secretary, told stories of unmitigated horror. Seymour Hersh uncovered a Pentagon letter to pow families reassuring them that this was only a stratagem: ‘We are certain that you will not become unduly concerned over the briefing if you keep in mind the purpose for which it was tailored.’ ...

Give or take a dead Scotsman

Liam McIlvanney: James Kelman’s witterings, 22 July 2004

You Have to Be Careful in the Land of the Free 
by James Kelman.
Hamish Hamilton, 437 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 241 14233 4
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... penal culture and the secret state’s holding centres, you don’t read James Kelman – you read Seymour Hersh. That its satire is paler than the reality it confronts is one reason You Have to Be Careful is an awkward book to place. Its calibration, its basic orientation towards its material, is not always clear. Time and again you taste its sentences ...

The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh: Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels, 17 April 2014

... In 2011​ Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons ...

Whose sarin?

Seymour M. Hersh, 19 December 2013

... Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack ...

The Vice President’s Men

Seymour M. Hersh, 24 January 2019

... When​ George H.W. Bush arrived in Washington as vice president in January 1981 he seemed little more than a sideshow to Ronald Reagan, the one-time leading man who had been overwhelmingly elected to the greatest stage in the world. Biography after inconclusive biography would be written about Reagan’s two terms, as their authors tried to square the many gaps in his knowledge with his seemingly acute political instincts and the ease with which he appeared to handle the presidency ...

Nixon’s Greatest Moments

R.W. Johnson, 13 May 1993

Nixon: A Life 
by Jonathan Aitken.
Weidenfeld, 633 pp., £25, January 1993, 0 297 81259 9
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... because he is in some respects a wild chancer, he has always had an element of danger about him. Seymour Hersh, in his biography of Kissinger, tells how Nixon and Henry decided at the outset that the way to play the Chinese was to put it about that Nixon was mad, that he might order a nuclear strike at any time: this was, after all, how the West saw the ...

Wrath of the Centurions

Max Hastings: My Lai, 25 January 2018

My Lai: Vietnam, 1968 and the Descent into Darkness 
by Howard Jones.
Oxford, 504 pp., £22.99, June 2017, 978 0 19 539360 6
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... November 1969, when Associated Press wires carried the first report by the freelance investigator Seymour Hersh indicating that men of the 23rd Americal Division had carried out a massacre of civilians at My Lai, a few miles from the sea in Quang Ngai province, and that some officers were to face courts martial. During the months and years that ...

Military to Military

Seymour M. Hersh, 7 January 2016

... Barack Obama’s​ repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin ...

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

Seymour M. Hersh, 21 May 2015

... It’s been​ four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance ...

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