I figured what the heck

Jackson Lears

  • Reporter by Seymour M. Hersh
    Allen Lane, 355 pp, £20.00, June, ISBN 978 0 241 35952 5

The world needs Seymour Hersh. Without his indefatigable reporting, we would know even less than we do about the crimes committed by the US national security state over the last fifty years. While most of his peers in the press have been faithfully transcribing what are effectively official lies, Hersh has repeatedly challenged them, revealing scandalous government conduct that would otherwise have been kept secret: the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the domestic surveillance programme run by the intelligence agencies in the 1960s and 1970s, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In each case what he discovered was an egregious instance of an ongoing wrong systemic to the US military and intelligence establishment: My Lai was merely the most horrific of the counterinsurgency operations that have characterised American wars ever since; the domestic surveillance that began in the 1960s was merely the prototype for the full-scale invasion of privacy that, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has since become standard government procedure; Abu Ghraib was merely the tip of the iceberg of ‘enhanced interrogation procedures’ still secretly in use in the endless war on terror. At our current moment, amid pervasive public ignorance about foreign policy, Hersh can claim much of the credit for whatever knowledgeable scepticism survives.

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