September 20, 2007
Q & A with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh
"The bottom line is nobody in this government talks to me. I've been around for 40 years -- in Bush I, in the Reagan years, certainly in Democratic regimes, but even in Republican regimes where I am more of a pain -- I've always had tremendous relationships with people."
(Page 2 - Previous Page)SH: He seems to have learned from lessons that were not very valid. Nobody wants to be a loser. Bush is going to disengage to some degree, and he's going to claim the country is more stable. He's just going to say whatever he wants, and he's going to get away with it because who knows what is going on in Basra. Nobody I know in their right mind would go down there. You'd get whacked.
And the Democrats have fallen into the trap of saying, "We shouldn't get out." As far as I am concerned, there are only two issues: Option A is to get out by midnight tonight, and Option B is to get out by midnight tomorrow.
JJ: Having grown up in a Yiddish home, the son of Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, how would you describe your Jewish identity?
SH: Vague. I like a lot of the historical stuff; I'm agnostic about the religion. But I certainly understand the power of faith, and I wish the American Jews could talk more to some of the Israelis I know and see how open-minded they are about many issues American Jews are not. There is tremendous diversity in Israel. Here the stuff of conversation ends up in a bloody fight; there you can discuss anything.
My [three] children chose: Some went through the bar mitzvah process; some did not. I'm a believer in you do what you want to do. For me, my Jewish heritage comes mainly in literature. I identify very strongly with the Saul Bellows and Philip Roths of this world. But it's so irrelevant that I am Jewish when I write about Jewish issues. It really is for me. It's just like it is irrelevant what my personal opinion is on things.
JJ: I was going to ask if your being Jewish has in any way affected your coverage of Israeli politics, particularly security?
SH: No, no. It gets me in more fights.
JJ: The book "The Israel Lobby" just came out. How would you characterize Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's assessment of the power of the pro-Israel community?
SH: You can't touch them in terms of being anti-Semitic. They are realists. They are from the realists' school. I haven't read the book, but it's not either/or, either support Israel or don't. It's: try and use the tremendous support and relationship we have to modify their behavior more than we do. But this government and that relationship [with Israel] is really profound, and it is just very secretive between us and Israel. It is not transparent, and that is not healthy for anybody.
JJ: You turned 70 this year. Why keep working so hard?
SH: I don't work that hard. I write four or five pieces a year. Secondly, what do you want me to do? Play professional golf? I can't do that. You do what you can do. And I'm in a funny spot because I have an ability to communicate with people I have known for a number of years. They trust me, and I trust them, so I keep on doing these little marginal stories.
JJ: That's all they are? Marginal?
SH: With these stories, if they slow down or make people take a deep breath before they bomb Iran, that is a plus. But they are not going to stop anybody. This is a government that is unreachable by us, and that is very depressing. In terms of adding to the public debate, the stories are important. But not in terms of changing policy. I have no delusions about that.
For more information and tickets to UCLA Live, call (310) 825-2101.
1 | 2