by Jin-Min Lee / Daily Staff Writer –
(November 13, 2003) — Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour M. Hersh criticized the Bush administration’s operations in Iraq as a “massive failure” during a lecture at the Fletcher School yesterday. He is the winner of a Pulitzer-Prize and regular contributor to The New Yorker.
The biggest problem, according to Hersh, is that “there are no weapons of mass destruction [WMD].” Hersh found it “unnerving” that US authorities sincerely believed in the existence of WMD in Iraq. “A lot of people I like and respected really thought there was an issue there, but I don’t think so,” he said.
Hersh believes the majority of the weapons in Iraq were gone by the early 90s, most by 1991. “How come in twelve years we never figured out what really happened? It’s an amazing failure,” he said.
Hersh said what the US now needs to do is accept the truth that Saddam did remove his WMDs more than a decade ago. He said this also raises a reliability question on the US intelligence information on North Korea other regions of the world.
Speaking on Bush’s stance on the war, Hersh said “Bush is gonna hold Iraq. It’s the super arrogance of the American power. And the President believes that that’s the mission of America.”
The President’s plan had included a vision of significant regional impact beyond Iraq, the journalist said. “I think the initial plan was very grandiose. They thought, maybe get a regime change [in Iraq], then certainly Iran would change, and this would take the pressure off the Israelis, and Sharon would make a more progressive move,” Hersh said. “The picture,” however, “is gloomy in the short-run. Our allies are bailing out like crazy,” he added.
Hersh predicted “real trouble” for the President in the 2004 elections. “You have a war fought by the underclass, financed by the underclass and for the profit of the upperclass,” He said. “I think Bush’s going to lose [the election], unless he makes some radical change, which he’s not going to do.” The operation in Iraq has put pressure on the President, Hersh said. “Bush’s got money troubles, troop troubles; he’s going to have to hold it. I just don’t see any way out.”
In the past weeks, problems within Iraq have increased. 40 US soldiers have been killed in the past 10 days. 116 soldiers were killed during the entire war, which ended officially in May.
On the current situation in Iraq, Hersh said “it’s a Mafia economy on the street level. That’s way below the level of our operations.” Hersh spoke of riding gangs and oil being smuggled in from Turkey. “It’s worse every day, we are basically nowhere.” He also pointed to the potential danger of leaving US troops in Iraq. “In the army, the only thing that matters is loyalty to your fellow soldiers.”
As the soldiers watch their friends perish in Iraq, “they are going to start taking it to the people and to the wrong people.” He ended the lecture with a sarcastic remark. “I’m glad to share my joy with you.”
During the Q&A session, Hersh also spoke against the notion that without the US presence, there will be wild chaos in Iraq. “But there is wild chaos now,” he said. “What I would really like to see is peacekeeping forces, not American forces, who speak the language,” Hersh said.
After the lecture, Leila Fawaz, Fletcher’s Issam M. Fares Professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean Studies, said Hersh “had a lot of courage to face unpleasant roof. I thought he did it in order to help the US come out on top. I hope his message is heard.”
Roham Alvandi, a second-year Fletcher student and an Iranian, said he agreed with Hersh’s views on the improving US-Iran relations. “It’s a privilege to hear him speak. He’s an insider,” Alvandi said.
Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his reporting on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. The speaker was presented by Richard H. Shultz, Professor of International Politics at Fletcher.