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Seymour Hersh’s ‘Justice’

5:39 PM, Apr 12, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Writing at BuzzFeed, my colleague James Kirchick informs readers that famed New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh once opined that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy “might have been some justice.” Kennedy had plotted to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. So, in Hersh’s view, it is “right” to believe there may have been some “rough justice,” as one of Hersh’s readers put it, in Kennedy’s “terrible death by assassination.”


Kirchick’s column builds off of a superb essay he wrote for Commentary magazine, “The Deceits of Seymour Hersh.It is worth reading Kirchick’s pieces in full, so I won’t try to summarize them entirely here. But I do want to pull out just one of Kirchick’s keen observations and add a footnote to it.

Kirchick writes in Commentary that Hersh “is the leading reportorial expositor of a narrative that has proven very useful to liberals, particularly after it became clear that the intelligence regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was inaccurate, and the swift overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime gave way to a destructive, years-long insurgency.” Hersh “reassured” readers that the case for war against Saddam’s regime was “based on a series of deliberate falsehoods,” instead of flawed intelligence.

It didn’t matter that many on the left endorsed the case for war, or believed that intelligence to be true. By shifting the blame to a bunch of “Straussians” who supposedly lied America into a war, Kirchick argues, Hersh absolved “the liberal establishment, from journalists to elected officials, of intellectual responsibility for their words and actions.”

This is an excellent summary of the American elite’s post-March 2003 world. Kirchick’s analysis is buttressed by countless statements by Democrats, as Norman Podhoretz has previously noted, who made many of the same arguments as the Bush administration during the lead up to the Iraq war. After these statements turned out to be untrue, the Democrats simply blamed Bush and the nefarious (and ubiquitous) “neocons” for making it up. It was, and remains, a politically convenient argument.

In the aftermath of Iraq, Hersh took this much further, as did many on the left who followed. As Kirchick notes, Hersh warned readers over and over again that the Bush administration was plotting a war against Iran. The same type of skewed morality that Hersh employed when writing off Kennedy’s assassination as possibly “some justice” led him to trivialize Iran’s decades-long terrorist assault against America and her allies. The real villain, in Hersh’s telling, was the Bush administration with its lust for war.

That war never came. But Hersh has continued on, even now that a Democrat who ran as an antiwar candidate inhabits the oval office. In relations between Iran and the U.S., Iran still comes off in Hersh’s reporting almost as a victim.

It was not always this way, and here I’ll add my footnote.

Hersh’s arguments are actually quite malleable – just as long as his real villain remains in the crosshairs. I have previously written about Hersh’s reporting on the war with Iran that was supposedly coming. I pointed readers to the forward he wrote for Bob Baer’s 2002 book, See No Evil. Baer recounts at some length the ties between Iran and its chief terrorist proxy Hezbollah, on the one hand, and al Qaeda on the other. Baer surmised that Iran and Hezbollah may have even helped al Qaeda pull off the September 11 attacks.

Here is what Hersh wrote about this possibility (emphasis added) in November 2001 forward:

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