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Harsh Hersh

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Barring ballot recounts and legal wrangling, the nation should now know who prevailed in what arguably has been the most important and fiercely fought presidential election in decades. But regardless of who has been elected the next commander in chief, the country’s in a heap of trouble, says investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who’s been uncovering corruption at the highest levels of government far longer than George W. Bush has sworn off beer and blow.

While an unknown freelance writer, Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for a series of stories he wrote about American soldiers who slaughtered 500 civilians in a Vietnamese village called My Lai. While on staff at The New York Times, he was the first to report about former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger’s surveillance of government employees, the U.S.-backed coup in Chile in 1973 and the secret bombing of Cambodia. And last year, he broke the story on an internal military report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba that describes how American soldiers, at the direction of their superiors, tortured Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

Last week, Hersh spoke at the University of Michigan, where more than 600 people packed a campus theater. With him was David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, where Hersh is now a staff writer. Remnick wrote the introduction to Hersh’s new (and eighth) book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib. Remnick explains in Chain that a couple of hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, the two men met and decided that Hersh would follow the story “no matter where it went.” Hersh did exactly that. And it led him to conclude, as he said at U-M last week, that America is now in far more danger of being attacked than before the Iraq war because we sexually abused, humiliated and tortured Muslims at Abu Ghraib. Others have said the same, but Hersh underscored his point by comparing America to Israel

Hersh relayed a conversation with an Israeli soldier and friend who told him that no matter how much Palestinians and Israelis may hate each other, they’ll eventually have to live side by side. But the friend also said that had Israeli soldiers done what the Americans did to the Abu Ghraib prisoners, Palestinians and Israelis could never be neighbors.

Not only did the Abu Ghraib tortures fuel the Muslim world’s hatred for America, but the Iraq war has resulted in thousands American soldiers and personnel being killed or wounded in and outside of combat, Hersh said, adding, “And you have to ask, ‘For what?’”

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