Today’s war on terrorism originated from an idea pushed by a president that terrified his country, said award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.
Hersh, contributor for The New Yorker and Pulitzer Prize winner, visited campus Thursday evening to give a progress report on the state of the global war on terrorism as this year’s speaker for the 2012 Julius and Suzan Glickman Lecture.
“When other countries like Spain, England and India were attacked by terrorists, they responded using their justice system instead of military action,” he said. “We should’ve done the same, but we got caught up in Bush’s unjustified idea of what was going on.”
Best known for his investigative journalism, Hersh received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his exposure of the My Lai Massacre, in which the U.S. government covered up the killing of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians at the hands of American soldiers during the Vietnam War.
Stephen Sonnenberg, adjunct professor for the University’s Humanities Institute, said few individuals have the courage and conscious to expose a government that is acting against its society’s culture.
“It takes a very special person to uncover what Seymour did,” Sonnenberg said. “Optimism is an evolutionary phenomenon, and his work pushed for it.”
Summarizing the United States’ current relationship with the Middle East, Hersh said the Obama administration hopes to get out of Afghanistan before being “the last to die,” and Pakistan is under control. He said Syria is “an ugly picture,” and Iran and the U.S. want to avoid a preemptive Israeli attack against Iran.
“The Israelis have pulled down our pants,” he said. “We are just playing checkers while they are playing poker.”
Hersh is known for criticizing the U.S. government in his books on the war on terrorism. The United States should not be deemed a reflection of presidential decisions that were not fully thought out, Hersh said.
“We are not morally bankrupt,” he said. “We just have lousy leadership.”
Hersh praised today’s youth and said the Arab Spring was proof that younger individuals are learning that the key to bringing down an oppressor is in organizing themselves against it, even if it’s through Facebook and Twitter.
A governmental crackdown on the First Amendment through laws being passed in Congress will leave society on the streets, but the internet’s impact on the industry already has everyone running around, he said.
Hersh’s uncanny ability to find factual information not presented by the government or the press demonstrated society’s misguidedness, said Julius Glickman, UT alumnus and founder of the lecture series.
“His knowledge is proof that we aren’t getting as many of the facts as we need to make the right decisions,” Glickman said. “We need 10,000 more journalists like him.”