It has become a cliche to call Bob Woodward and Seymour Hersh the greatest investigative reporters of their generation — Woodward the consummate insider, Hersh the ultimate outsider. In truth the differences outweigh the similarities.Of course, what Boot specifically tackles in this piece is Hersh's latest report of an ongoing para-military effort in Iran and a secret ramp-up for a more extensive attack in the future. (I don't have the link handy, but if you just do a search for "Hersh" and "Iran", I'm sure you'll find it).
Though he achieved fame by bringing down a Republican administration, Woodward is no ideologue. His only bias, as far as I can tell, is in favor of his sources. Within those parameters he produces invaluable, if incomplete, accounts of government deliberations.
Hersh, on the other hand, is the journalistic equivalent of Oliver Stone: a hard-left zealot who subscribes to the old counterculture conceit that a deep, dark conspiracy is running the U.S. government. In the 1960s the boogeyman was the "military- industrial complex." Now it's the "neoconservatives." "They overran the bureaucracy, they overran the Congress, they overran the press, and they overran the military!" Hersh ranted at UC Berkeley on Oct. 8, 2004.
Hersh doesn't make any bones about his bias. "Bush scares the hell out of me," he said. He told a group in Washington, "I'm a better American than 99% of the guys in the White House," who are "nuts" and "ideologues." In another speech he called Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft "demented." Hersh has also compared what happened at Abu Ghraib with Nazi Germany. (Were American MPs gassing inmates?) He has claimed that since 2001 a "secret unit" of the U.S. government "has been disappearing people just like the Brazilians and Argentinians did." And in his lectures he has spread the legend of how a U.S. Army platoon was supposedly ordered to execute 30 Iraqis guarding a granary.
Friday, January 28, 2005
Max Boot: "Digging Into Seymour Hersh"
Max Boot reviews Seymour Hersh's track record of predictions and finds a less than stellar performance. Karnak he ain't. But what struck me as an eye-opening couple of paragraphs is how Boot contrasts Hersh with another conservative whipping boy Bob Woodward.