Seymour Hersh … & Philippe Sands

Part of an interview by Rachel Cook with Seymour Hersh:

Four decades separate My Lai and Abu Ghraib. You have to ask: wasn’t it appalling for him to be investigating US army abuses of civilians all over again? Didn’t he think that lessons might have been learnt? Yes, and no. It made him feel ‘hopeless’, but on the other hand, war is always horrible. In 1970, after his My Lai story, he addressed an anti-war rally and, on the spur of the moment, asked a veteran to come up and tell the crowd what some soldiers would do on their way home after a day spent moving their wounded boys. With little prompting, the traumatised vet described how they would buzz farmers with their helicopter blades, sometimes decapitating them; they would then clean up the helicopter before they landed back at base. ‘That’s what war is like,’ he says. ‘But how do you write about that? How do you tell the American people that?’ Still, better to attempt to tell people than to stay feebly silent. What really gets Hersh going – he seems genuinely bewildered by it – is the complicit meekness, the virtual collapse, in fact, of the American press since 9/11. In particular, he disdains its failure to question the ‘evidence’ surrounding Saddam’s so-called weapons of mass destruction. ‘When I see the New York Times now, it’s so shocking to me. I joined the Times in 1972, and I came with the mark of Cain on me because I was clearly against the war. But my editor, Abe Rosenthal, he hired me because he liked stories. He used to come to the Washington bureau and almost literally pat me on the head and say: “How is my little Commie today? What do you have for me?” Somehow, now, reporters aren’t able to get stories in. It was stunning to me how many good, rational people – people I respect – supported going into war in Iraq. And it was stunning to me how many people thought you could go to war against an idea.’

Read the whole thing here

And from Philippe Sands:

As the US presidential election reaches a climax against the background of the financial crisis, another silent, dark, time bomb of an issue hangs over the two candidates: torture. For now, there seems to be a shared desire not to delve too deeply into the circumstances in which the Bush administration allowed the US military and the CIA to embrace abusive techniques of interrogation – including waterboarding, in the case of the CIA – which violate the Geneva conventions and the 1984 UN torture convention.

The torture issue’s cancerous consequences go deep, and will cause headaches for the next president. New evidence has emerged in Congressional inquiries that throw more light on the extent to which early knowledge and approval of the abuse went to the highest levels. What does a country do when compelling evidence shows its leaders have authorised international crimes?

The rest is here.

I’ve been on vacation so I’m very aware of how difficult and stressful it is to read this stuff and not lose hope.  Those of us who care to know what’s going on in our world walk a fine line between knowing and acting, and frank despair.  Think of how it feels, then, to be a person victimized by torture or war or any other catastrphic event, natural and man-made, and then to be erased and forgotten.  Well, think about it if it doesn’t throw you into despair.

I try daily and often, hourly, to understand how and why we have let the crimes committed by Bush/Cheney just slide.  I like Sands’ hope and belief that these “issues” will have to be dealt with.  I’d say, only if the American people want that and make their wishes known.  I hope they do.  These crimes will be repeated with impunity if the perpetrators are never held to account.

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