A Seymour Hersh Reader

Since the subject came up in the comments, I thought I’d offer a little reading list on the issue of Seymour Hersh’s credibility. Some of these are rather long, a few raise duplicative subjects, and some are obviously written by people with axes to grind, but the sheer mass of problems with Hersh’s writings and speeches, combined with the near-impossibility of confirming the truth of most of Hersh’s anonymously-sourced claims, makes it foolish in the extreme to take Hersh’s reporting at face value:
*Long 2003 profile of Hersh by Scott Sherman in the Columbia Journalism Review, focusing among others on the credibility problems that led to Hersh’s departure from the New York Times.
*Wikipedia on Hersh’s tendency to “fudge” in speeches.
*Barbara Comstock at National Review (May 2004) on Hersh’s rap sheet, focusing on his book on the Kennedys and other books.
*Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette (May 2004) on Hersh misrepresenting the Abu Ghraib investigation.
*John Miller at National Review (December 2001) on Hersh an anonymous sources, focusing on the Kennedy book and his reporting on Afghanistan in 2001.
*Max Boot in the LA Times (January 2005) on various Hersh misstatements.
*Lowell Ponte in FrontPageMag (May 2004) on Hersh’s history, with skeptical quotes from several liberal journalists, reference to a 1991 book sourced to a scam artist and criticism of Hersh’s reporting on Chile in the 1970s.
*Dafydd ab Hugh email posted at Powerline (May 2004) noting an obvious misrepresentation of the Taguba Report.
*Michael Totten (November 2005) on Hersh’s distortion of the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
*Scott Shuger in Slate (November 2001) on Hersh’s Afghanistan reportage.
*Jason Maoz of The Jewish Press (January 1999) summarizing multiple attacks on Hersh’s credibility.
*Two Pentagon press releases (May 2004 and January 2005) directly challenging Hersh’s reporting.

28 thoughts on “A Seymour Hersh Reader”

  1. Here is one more: Jacob Weisburg in Slate (https://www.slate.com/id/2292/).
    I agreed with you earlier and I’ll agree with you now.
    But don’t try to change the subject too much. The president is still a delusional dolt. We invaded a country the size of California. It was in rough shape before we invaded, and its in rougher shape now. Yet the President wants to blame all of Iraq’s problems on “The Terrorists!!”
    That’s like blaming the problems in New Orleans on “The Terrorists!!” In fact, when GWB first got to Alabama after the Katrina hit, while he was still in deer in headlights mode, he started off a speech saying, “The Terrorists’ look at this destruction and it makes them happy.” Oakayy Mr. President…and when you’re ready to join us back here on Planet Earth, maybe you can help us relocate a few of these people.
    Do you think when Laura yells at George for leaving the seat up, he blames it on “The Terrorrists!!”

  2. I attended the actual pep ralley for Wes Clark at which Michael Moore stood on the stage and called GWB as an AWOL soldier.
    I immediately knew that would be a lot of trouble for Clark, the Democrat I thought (and still think) was best suited to lead the nation out of this mess.
    Sure enought yahoo, loudmouth Republicans all over the country were equating the five star general with the big mac eating filmmaker.
    Here Crank is trying to do the same thing. Yeah it works. Congratulations. But where does it get the country?

  3. I’m not looking to distract anyone from anything, or to tar all liberals with Hersh’s flaws. I just wanted a reference point I could point to to explain why I don’t take Hersh seriously and why so many other people don’t either.

  4. I think it’s funny that you will go to such lengths to show sources that discredit Hersh due to his use of questionable sources, anonymous sources and known liars/scoudrels YET when it is shown about a million times over that the Bush Administration cozies up to the same pack of scalawags to drag us into war in Iraq you get your panties all in a bunch. I’ll take Seymour Hersh lying to me over the President any day.

  5. Well said Jim. I’d trust something written by Sy Hersh and ok’d by the editors of The New Yorker 1,000 times more than anything promulgated by Dick, GWB, Scooter, Karl and the rest of the Misleaders of our Nation. Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be leary of Sy’s writing. It just means the New Yorker’s fact checkers, I guarantee, are more demanding than whoever signed off on the Niger/Yellowcake connection and the aluminum tubes/nuclear devices fib.

  6. But be careful, GOP Yahoos will quickly turn the discussion into who is more credible, GWB or Sy Hersh. Which is pretty irrelevant. But they will beat it into the ground, ’till finally you concede and then, somehow we’re left with our Frat Boy in Chief who is in so far over is head its not funny.

  7. Pat: Are you trying to say that, right now, at this very minute, Iraq does not have a terrorist problem? If so, I think you probably need to wake up. Iraq is now the front on which the “war on terror” is being fought. This is not the same as saying that Saddam and Osama were hanging out plotting the destruction of America. But the terrorists (which includes anybody who straps a bomb to his own body and blows himself up to kill civilians) have now determined that America is most vulnerable in Iraq and have chosen to focus their attacks there. To ignore this reality would be to bury your head in the sand because of your political and, apparently, personal dislike of the President. Of course, that kind of thinking is good enough to qualify you for a seat in the House of Representatives.

  8. Iraq has lots of problems. Terrorrism may crack the top ten list of problems – but just barely.
    Iraq is like Oakland, or Camden, NJ or Gary, IN or some other god forsaken American city, but with no reliable electricity and no reliable plumbing. Oh and no reliable police and no reliable courts. Oh in fact, there is no government there either.
    Now if you took those things away from Oakland, Camden, NJ or Gary, IN, do you see that the list of problems woud be pretty long? Right. Lots of people would probably be committing serious crimes. Right. Now, if some dim wit looked at that situation and said the root of the problem is “Terrorism!!,” wouldn’t you kind of turn your head sideways a little and say, ‘huh?’

  9. “Iraq is like Oakland, or Camden, NJ…”?? Good God. How did we lose 2 out of the last 7 national elections against these supporters?!!

  10. By the way, I was kidding – your point was pretty stupid, or actually non-existent, but on reading it, I could almost hear the ignorant chortle that accompanied its creation. On re-reading my sarcastic comment, i figured I had to clarify, considering my audience.

  11. Of course Iraq has a terrorist problem now! Holy crap what do you mean?! We are creating it for them! This is Osama’s fantasy come true. An at-home, real-time training ground in a completely chaotic situation replete with infidels (their terminology) that grow increasingly hated on a daily basis. Prior to this war Iraq was not the center of terrorism and this Administration can lie all they want to about that but it simply was not.
    By the Pentagon’s own numbers terrorist attacks are up at least 3-fold since 9/11. This is only one of the myriad of problems with this war but it is a GIGANTIC ONE. This war has in no way made this country or any country safer.

  12. “We are creating it for them!”
    No, I’m pretty sure it is the wacko nuts strapping bombs to their backs that are causing the terrorist problem. It is fine if you don’t like what America has done in Iraq, but it is ridiculous to try and blame Bush for idiots who blow themselves and others up.
    “Terrorrism may crack the top ten list of problems – but just barely.”
    I think the people who are losing their lives to the terrorists would probably disagree with you. I know not having reliable running water (which, by the way, most of the country does actually have) may be a problem, but I think getting blown in half might be a slightly bigger inconvenience. Just a hunch.

  13. Let me quote Crank quoting the Prez:
    ***Terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida make up the smallest enemy group but are the most lethal and pose the most immediate threat because (1) they are responsible for the most dramatic atrocities, which kill the most people and function as a recruiting tool for further terrorism and (2) they espouse the extreme goals of Osama Bin Laden — chaos in Iraq which will allow them to establish a base for toppling Iraq’s neighbors and launching attacks outside the region and against the U.S. homeland.
    The terrorists have identified Iraq as central to their global aspirations. For that reason, terrorists and extremists from all parts of the Middle East and North Africa have found their way to Iraq and made common cause with indigenous religious extremists and former members of Saddam’s regime. This group cannot be won over and must be defeated — killed or captured — through sustained counterterrorism operations.**
    So note, even the Prez admits there are far fewer foreign terrorists causing problems in Iraq than there are homegrown criminals/anarchists etc. You can call them Saddamists or Loyalists or whatever. But the bottom line is that in any city in the world, a potent criminal element would develop if nobody is there to police it.
    In my own city, murder rates are climbing once again as arrest rates and murder convictions have fallen. I think the same thing is occuring in Iraq but on a supersized scale.
    Now season this awful concoction with a potent dash of international terrorists and what do you have: Iraq, 2005.
    Cleaning the place up requires a Herculean Effort from the entire world. Do you think it will happen in our lifetime?

  14. The goal isn’t to eliminate crime or even, necessarily, to eliminate all sources of unrest. If you can KO the foreign terrorists and put in place an Iraqi force capable of confronting the domestic Iraqi insurgents, then we can leave. We’re still steadily progressing towards that goal.
    Will Iraq look like Connecticut in our lifetimes? Unlikely. But if it looks like Poland or Mexico 5-10 years from now, or even if it looks like Russia or South Africa or Ukraine, that’s a big improvement over what it was like in 2002, both for average Iraqis and for US national security. Heck, even if Iraq looks like the Philippines or Indonesia 5-10 years from now, that’s progress from where it was before the war.

  15. Aerto,
    How many people were blowing themselves up and taking others with them in Iraq prior to our presence there? Our presence makes this fertile territory. What is seen there as our invasion and hostile occupation of their land pisses people off to the point that they end up fighting with people who oppose us. This makes Iraq a big, multi-faceted training ground for terrorist organizations that largely have nothing to do with Iraq. I would also say that not everyone over there committing car bombings, etc. is really a terrorist. If some other country was occupying the U.S., had vastly superior military armaments and had essentially reduced the country to rubble wouldn’t you fight back in any and every way conceiveable? Herein lies another big problem with this ill-advised war: Most of the people we are allegedly liberating hate us and the majority of them want us out of there.

  16. Or it could end up looking like Haiti, Iran, Sudan, Rhodesia, Beirut and so on. It’s not like any of these guys knows, has a real plan (that piece of crap they put out doesn’t count) or really gives a damn.

  17. Crank:
    “why I don’t take (him) seriously and why so many other people don’t either.”
    Up is down and black is white.
    Granted, Sy Hersh is only — and this is inarguable amongst anyone not fooled by right-wing histrionics — the second-best (although closing fast) investigative reporter of our time. (Bobby Woodward.)
    But that’s right, I live in the reality-based world. So maybe in fantasyland “many other people don’t either.”
    Oh, and pat_rick, that Jake Weisberg sure has a lot of street cred these days, doesn’t he?

  18. TFD, I agree. Also inarguable amongst anyone not fooled by right-wing histrionics, Jayson Blair the third-best (although closing not so fast) investigative reporter of our time. Peace and love, next time pass on the kool aid.

  19. Ohhh, forgot to mention….
    Pentagon directly challenging his reporting? Oh that sure means he’s full of errors.
    And a poster to Powerline? Wow, I’m convinced. The 101st Fighting Keyboarders at work.
    Max Boot; ’nuff said.
    Mudville Gazette…right up there with the journalistic integrity of the New Yorker.
    Scott Shuger is about the only one I’d at least read, and when I have time I will.
    Oh well, Crank, it was a nice thought….

  20. TFD – At least you didn’t use that silly “101st Fighting Keyboarders” line on Greyhawk. I’m sure your service record matches his. (In fact, I’d bet that besides Kos, very few of the people who use that line have done anything for this country nearly as risky and time-consuming as flying dangerous fighter jets for the Texas Air National Guard, but that’s another day’s argument).
    You know, to those of us outside the “reality-based community,” just saying something doesn’t make it so. You can repeat all you want that Hersh is a great reporter, but it doesn’t change two basic facts:
    1. Many of the things Hersh has reported have been wrong and/or based on obviously unbelievable sources.
    2. Many of the things Hersh has reported that have not been proven wrong and as to which we can’t challenge his sources, also can’t be proven right and we don’t know who his sources are or whether they even exist. We just have to trust his word, and given his record I don’t think he’s earned that.
    Has Hersh broken some real stories? Yeah. He’s got a very long record, and he talks to a lot of people, so he’s bound to get some things right. But don’t expect me to believe any fact is true if Sy Hersh is your only source for it, that’s all I’m saying.

  21. TFD, I’m just having fun, the research is done. The weekend, and all that good stuff. Relax, live a little. Regarding Hersh, Peter Arnett broke some stories as well. Take it all with a grain of choice. And put some vodka in that kool aid.

  22. As I said in the earlier discussion when Hersh’s name first surfaced: he’s been singing the same tune since the sixties – our military is an evil and corrupt institution. But like a stopped clock, he is correct twice a day (or maybe twice a decade).
    Still, I am much more leary of those who attack journalists rather than discuss what a mess President Oops is making of our country.
    Republican yahoo’s somehow turned the 2004 election into a referendum on Dan Rather’s credibility. I have just one word for that “COURAGE!”

  23. Crank: Oh the irony. The point of the “101st” line is that it makes fun of the pajamas crowd that has never seen anything related to military service. Now you are using it against the ‘left’. Interesting, but you have it backwards.
    As to the RBC, you’re right just because we says something doesn’t make it so. However, saying that Hersh is not one of the best investigative reporters today doesn’t disprove it either. What you’ve put forth is just plain silly compared to the overwhelming evidence that supports my supposition.
    Abe Shorey: Forgive me, I don’t get around these parts often, so I may not have realized when your :-)ing. But again Peter Arnett is not even in the same class. That’s like saying LeBron and Dale Davis are both NBA players and have made points against NBA defenders so we can compare them. Wrong…they’re on a different plane.
    Also, no vodka here. Gin, sure; wine, better. No vodka. Cheers to you!
    pat_rick brings up a good point. Hersh may only be right twice a lifetime, but OH WHAT TWO TIMES TO BE RIGHT! He knows bladerdash when he sees it, folks.

  24. I am much more leary of those who attack journalists rather than discuss what a mess President Oops is making of our country.
    pat_rick – You make the classic error of assuming that I must discuss all subjects in all posts. The point of this post was simply to address why, precisely, I don’t put stock in people citing Seymour Hersh to me in the process of making arguments about Bush or anyone else.

  25. It is kind of funny that you created a topic about Hersh’s lack of credibility because of his use of questionable/unreliable sources yet you defend this Administration to the nth degree whose modus operandi is unreliable and uncheckable sources and liars. Hersh writes stuff based on his sources; this Administration drags us into ill-advised wars killing untold numbers of people while spending/giving away billions of dollars. I think people are interested in how you reconcile castigating one while being fine with the other.

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