Seymour Hersh – who won a Pulitzer in 1970 for exposing the My Lai massacre – has in recent years been going in for conspiracy theories based on unnamed and/or unreliable sources and generally tenuous evidence, resulting in unlikely conclusions that often defy common sense and certainly defy the principle of Occam’s razor.
Over the last three years, for instance, Hersh has come up with pieces alleging that the George W Bush administration trained Iranian militants in Navada and that Turkey (not Assad) was behind chemical attacks in Syria.
Hersh’s most recent ‘revelation’ appeared in the 21 May edition of the London Review of Books, in which he claimed that the official White House account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden “might have been written by Lewis Carroll.” Far from being a top secret US action, the raid was, according to Hersh a joint operation between the US and senior officers of the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
Central to Hersh’s account is the claim that since 2006, bin Laden was under Pakistani control, kept in the Abbottabad compound with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia. The problems with this scenario are pretty obvious – not least, why would the Saudis support someone who wanted to overthrow them? And if the US and Pakistan were actually co-operating, why was an elaborately staged and risky raid necessary in order to kill him?
But, with all due respect to the journalists who have spent much time and effort examining and debunking Hersh’s version of events, the best response to his LRB article (and, by the way, its a long article, spread over more than five full foolscap pages) is a brief letter published in the present edition. My only quibble with Francis X. Archibald of Hilton Head, South Carolina would be his use of the words “Most Americans”; I’d have said “most rational people”:
Regarding Seymour Hersh’s story, the facts are these (LRB, 21 May):
1. Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
2. The CIA found out where he was living.
3. US Navy Seals killed him.
End of story. Most Americans don’t give a flying f**k about the details of the venture.