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Rumsfeld's War: Seymour Hersh

by Karl Grobe Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004 at 7:54 AM

Did the government deceive itself? Or did it feed the Congress and the public with false information? Hersh concludes in the epilogue: This was Rumsfeld's war.. Rumsfeld did the dirty work and guarded the secrets..


The American reporter Seymour Hersh from September 11 to Abu Ghraib

Book review of Seymour Hersh, The Chain of Command. From September 11 to Abu Ghriab, 2004

By Karl Grobe

[This book review is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Richard Perle, the arch-conservative architect of Bush’s foreign policy, described Seymour Hersh as “the element in American journalism that comes closest to a terrorist”. In the intellectual magazine “The New Yorker”, Hersh revealed that Perle was connected with firms that could earn vast sums in the Iraq war that Perle sought and the Bush administration has waged for one-and-a-half years.

Seymour Hersh as a reporter followed this war and the occupation policy. He first reported about the torture scandal Abu Ghraib. What was written a year ago in the New Yorker and escaped part of the US public that is neither intellectual nor east-coast-oriented can now be read in his book “The Chain of Command”. His reports are deepened, expanded and documented. The Abu Ghraib scandal first really became a scandal when several television stations investigated and confirmed Hersch’s disclosures. For the author, this was not a new experience. His sober reporting about a mass murder of Iraqi soldiers in the first Gulf war (1991) is still generally unnoticed. In another New York journal (Review of Books), Hersh showed how the US military in cold blood shot down frightened conscripts ready to capitulate and fleeing to Kuwait. No one contradicted the report. No court took up the scandal. At least this changed after Abu Ghraib.


From September 11 to the Iraq war, Hersh aims and strikes the rulers and their lies. Others spoke openly of the failures of the secret service before September 11 and its structural incapacity to grasp the connections of terrorism. “The government didn’t know what it knew” although it was warned in detail on August 6, 2001.

In the US, half of the surveyed still think Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks. Official Washington maintained this and cited this as a reason for war. In the meantime government member Donald Rumsfeld denied this, the Donald Rumsfeld who in 1998 was one of the signators of a memorandum to President Bill Clinton that in drastic words warned of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) of the Iraqi dictator.

This was untrue in 1998, 2003 and anytime since the beginning of the nineties. The UN inspectors knew this. Secretary of State Colin Powell knew this although he told the UN General Assembly something else to move them to war. In the meantime Charles Duelfer, sent out to find these weapons and make a fool of the UN, confirmed the UN findings. This reason for was a chimera.

Hersh pursued several individual problems like the claim that Iraq wanted to buy uranium in Niger. This claim was not true. “Did the government deceive itself? Or did it feed the Congress and the general public with false information?”

Hersch analyzes many details and concludes in the epilogue: “This was Rumsfeld’s war. The president and vice-president were drawn in the affair. Rumsfeld did the dirty work and guarded the secrets. He and the two leaders of the White House made a good team.”


Hersh ends with the sentence: “Many regard George W. Bush as a liar, a president who consciously distorts facts when this benefits him politically. However lying assumes that one knows what one wants, what is possible and how it can be best reached. The explanation that words have no meaning for our president beyond the immediate moment seems more plausible to me. He believes his phrases become reality when he pronounces them. A frightening idea.”

Seymour Hersch did not write this impetuously. As he has become known since his disclosures on the US massacre in My Lai (Vietnam 1972), he is a methodical reporter not fixated on the journalistic first strike. He researches thoroughly over a long time, documents his sources exactly and protects his informants wherever necessary. He is the counter-example to the “embedded journalist” and also the opposite of those for whom a camera, a microphone and a captured statement are enough to make readers believe they have the whole story.

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