Monday, January 17, 2005

Sometimes journalists make history

Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst's yellow journalism spurred the United States to launch the Spanish-American War. The work of Upton Sinclair, author of The Jungle, led directly to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's stories on Watergate forced a president to resign.

Freelance journalist Seymour Hersh may soon join that list thanks to his report in this week's edition of The New Yorker that the Bush administration plans to launch airstrikes against Iran during its second term. Hersh's information came from several "inside" sources who, he said, went public because they desperately want to stop the Pentagon from going to war with yet another country before Afghanistan and Iraq have been stabilized.

The neoconservative self-delusion revealed in Hersh's story is truly stunning. He reports that Pentagon officials ignore warnings that the U.S. military is already overstretched and that Iranians, whose religious leaders have preached for decades that America is "the Great Satan," would likely unite in opposition to any American attack. Instead, Hersh said, they prefer to believe that Iranians will greet U.S. troops as liberators. (Heard that one before?) "[I]f you don't drink the Kool-Aid, you can't go to meetings," Hersh said. "That isn't a message anybody wants to hear."

The White House responded to Hersh's story with much sound and fury, claiming it was "riddled with inaccuracies" and that "some of the conclusions he's drawing [aren't] based on fact." What you'll notice, though, is that White House spokesmen aren't pointing to anything in particular that they allege to be incorrect. They're just issuing a blanket denial and lashing out at the reporter's credibility, which is what subjects of investigative journalism often do when they're embarrassed about having been exposed.

Hersh seems convinced that it's only a matter of time until Bush and the Pentagon neocons attack Iran. If they don't, however, historians may some day point to Hersh as the anti-Hearst: the man who almost single-handedly kept America from going to war.


Blogger Jen said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

I hope no one tries anything like that.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Of course no one wants anything to happed, but for everyone on this side of the Atlantic (Andrew Sullivan comes to mind) who claims it is our God-given right to defend ourselves by invading countries (clandestinely and overtly) to protect ourselves from perceived terrorist activities, by the same logic why would it not be Iran's right to defend itself from us by invading our country or attacking our leaders? This one-sided, we're right/they're wrong argument drives me insane and has already gotten a lot of good people killed on both sides.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

You raise an excellent point about the potential unintended consequences of a national defense strategy centered on pre-emptive strikes. As for Sullivan, it's fun to read his stuff from time to time and try to count the number of knots he twists himself into by trying to have it both ways on all kinds of issues.

In case you were wondering what happened to it, I've deleted your first comment because it inadvertently violated the blog's comment guidelines. (They've been in the archives since day one, but I had forgotten until now to post them on the home page.) I know you meant no harm by it, but I still have to stick to my own rules. Please don't take it personally.

12:00 PM  

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