Monday, November 10, 2008
'You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on 20 January [the date of the next president's inauguration],' he says, with relish. '[They say:] "You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then." So that is what I'll do, so long as nothing awful happens before the inauguration.' He plans to write a book about the neocons and, though it won't change anything - 'They've got away with it, categorically; anyone who talks about prosecuting Bush and Cheney [for war crimes] is kidding themselves' - it will reveal how the White House 'set out to sabotage the system... It wasn't that they found ways to manipulate Congressional oversight; they had conversations about ending the right of Congress to intervene.'
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.