Ithaca College Quarterly 2005/1


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Seymour Hersh
"Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib"

Speech at Ithaca College, March 25, 2005
Transcribed by Tasha Kates '05

We're at a strange place.

Here's the situation: I think I'm virtuous -- I have the white hat and I win these prizes, I'm conducting things with what I see as the utmost honor and integrity. But we have a president who absolutely believes that what he's doing is equally as virtuous. He believes that he has the white hat; he believes that he's doing exactly the right thing. He believes he is perfectly serene in what's going on.

What I'm trying to tell you is: He's not reachable -- not by me or my colleagues at the New York Times, NBC, or CBS. We can't reach him. Because he thinks that he's going to be judged.

He's got 1,500-plus body bags.

I wouldn't presume to say that anybody wants more deaths. I can't begin to imagine he does. But if another 1,000 or 2,000 American body bags come back, it's okay, because he sees himself in the middle of some -- you could call it a crusade. I have no idea what's in his mind, whether he's doing it for his father, whether he's doing it out of a religious conviction. He believes that it is his mission to bring democracy to the Middle East. He defines the Middle East as Iran, Iraq, Syria, and now what they call in the White House "occupied Lebanon." That's his definition.

But he believes this. This is not some con act. He thinks that, okay, if it doesn't go well in Iraq, if it's going to take 5 more years or 10 years, he'll be judged on what happens in the long run. If it's 15 more years, they'll view him as the man who changed the world, who took advantage of the opportunity because of the fact that he was elected and reelected after beginning the war. He calls this second election sort of an accountability.

The Washington Post did an amazing interview before his second inaugural that raised questions about all the people who made so many errors and so many misjudgments in the first war (that is, the war against Iraq that he began in 2003), all those horrible mistakes that we see played out every day. And [yet] Condi Rice is promoted. Wolfowitz is now promoted, or staying in office. Rumsfeld, Cheney, everybody. And is there accountability? And the president said, Yes there is. He said ,"The election, the American people voted me back. That's accountability; they passed judgment on me." So he's got a ticket to ride. Now he's got three and a half, four years more.

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Photo by Charles Harrington

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