Seymour Hersh stopped by the University last week. I meant to write about it earlier but one thing or another delayed it. The talk was brilliant. He was smart, funny, engaging with the audience, full of vitriol and condemnation. He grew up right near the University (on 47th & Drexel) and said some kind words about the going to the UChicago. Overall, his talk was more emotional than revelatory. I guess he is holding more goodies for his forthcoming blockbuster on Abu Gharib.
Here are a few things I jotted down*:
On Abu Gharib: Learned about it in December. Secret prisons still exist. Culpability goes to the highest level. We are in the "disappearing" business in Iraq. In terms of atrocities, we have seen nothing yet. There is a video (pics?) of children being tortured in front of their mothers. [when he said that, a shudder ran through the entire assembly.]
On Iraq: Iran is heavily involved in various funding/operation. The best future possible right now is a Balkanized Iraq with Kurdistan becoming the strongest US base in Iraq. Overall, it is pretty hopeless all around.
On NeoCons: What does it mean for a democracy when a cabal of 8 or 9 can take over the entire foreign policy of a country? Neocons probably do have a Zionist agenda as motivation for Iraq. Condi Rice is the worst National Security advisor in the history. She is not only ignorant but does not know that she is ignorant. She bought the NeoCon con hook, line and sinker. Ahmad Chalabi was selling for a long time but no one was buying it. Not until the NeoCons got in with Condi. And Bernard Lewis... someone needs to take Bernard Lewis to the floor [oh Edward Said why you left us?] because he is the one responsible for peddling this to Condi. He lunched with Condi almost daily and pumped Raphael Patai's Arab Mind with its long section on sex and humiliation in Arab society. Understandings that were converted into torture practices at Abu Gharib. Hersh called Lewis to ask him a question and Lewis answered: "I am a 87 year old man with bad memory".
On What Comes Next: If we get him for 4 more years, we deserve him. And how is the real estate market in Canada? This election is the most important in living memory and we have to make the right choice. Our credibility is shot in Middle East by the incredibly destructive alliance between Sharon and Bush. Abu Gharib has done us immense harm. Even the Israelis have asked, "what could you guys be thinking?".
Like I said. No new facts but lots of preaching. I am ok with that. There were small hints of a really great talk. He said a few words about the nature of democracy and whistle-blowers. What does it mean that until he uncovered the mess in My Lai, no one reported the atrocities? What does it mean that until he published his reports on Abu Gharib in the New Yorker, no one reported the atrocities? What is the relation of Media to Power? In a war? What is the effect of the new media (internet, blogs) on that traditional model of reporting?
Alas, he merely hinted at those things.
Lastly, one gentleman questioner called Hersh a true American hero and the audience gave him a nice long applause. Hear. Hear. To whistle-blowers everywhere.
*All errors are mine. Also that picture up there is not from this event. My phonecam was full of cute baby pics.
Neocons possibly have a Zionist agenda? I'm shocked, shocked!
Ian Buruma, a colleague of Mr. Hersh, has an interesting review of Lewis' latest opus, "From Babel to Dragomans" in the newest New Yorker. My favorite quote from it: "There is often a chasm, of course, between scholary and political acumen."
Ian Buruma's "review" set my teeth on edge. The article pretends to be critical, sets up all the issues...and then lets Lewis walk off? Why? 'Cause he LOVES the Arab World too much!? Lewis needs to be drubbed - Orientalist or no Orientalist and I bet that Rashid Khalidi (quoted in the review) probably said a lot of things about Lewis that did not make it into the review. the review is here for those interested: ian buruma on bernard lewis
Sepoy On Iraq - what I find most unfortunate is that the international media sees a "Sunni triangle", "Kurdish areas" and a Shia Sadr city. These divisions may have existed previously, but now they are made to appear like faultlines.
Nitin: could be self-fulfilling prophecy, sure. but, remember that there was no "iraq" under the Ottomans - rather three vilayats: Baghdad, Mosul, Basra. The British, keen to do nothing more than pump oil, created random lines on the ground to create Iraq. Damn the Empire.