Roger L. Simon

Seymour: An Introduction

Pajamas’ Man in Beirut Michael Totten has a subuded but lethal attack on The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh on his (Michael’s) blog this morning. In general I try to resist “piling on,”but Hersh so perfectly exemplifies the formally-liberal mindset that I say has become reactionary that I would like to examine his comments for a moment. At the recent annual conference of the Middle East Institute in Washington, Seymour said:

“I’m exceedingly skeptical, and I have been all along, of the point of view of what happened to Hariri,” said Mr. Hersh. “The American point of view is that it was Syria with the aid of some people in Lebanon. Despite all the back and forth about how the American press corps was totally manipulated, to its embarrassment, about WMD, I would still argue, we’re still being totally manipulated by this administration about Syria and Lebanese involvement.”

Well, that was a UN investigation (in the hands of a German) that implicated Syria in the Hariri assassination. And the UN is a well-known “lackey” of the US (witness French and Russian Security Council “cooperation” with America during the run-up to Iraq). But let’s not quibble. We all have our biases. I admit to being biased against the Assad Alawite Baathist regime of fascist murderers in Syria. On the face of it, Hersh would seem to be biased in favor of (or at least in agreement with) Hezbollah, or so it might appear in the article Totten links.

But I don’t really think so. Any pro-Hezbollah seeming comments made by Hersh would merely be to épater les bourgeoisie… or what Hersh conceives to be the bourgeoisie (anyone more than fifty meters from Zabar’s – at least in world view). No, I think in comments like this he is trying to relive his glory days of the secret bombing of Cambodia when he, Seymour, was a hero.

I can sympathize. This is a temptation we all have. Maybe, just maybe, gold will strike again. [Well, aren’t you the clever boots when you’re still flogging a quote for The Big Fix right on this site?-ed. At least that’s only a mystery novel.] Unfortunately, history (pace Santayana) has a nasty habit of moving on. Iraq and the War on Terror, despite Hersh’s almost desperate desire for it to be otherwise, is not a replay of Vietnam, except in press response. If anything it’s more like World War II – and it’s not even very much like that.

In his need for things not to have changed, for him to remain dead center of the argument as he sees it and maintain his position at The New Yorker (even at the expense of that magazine’s credibility), Hersh has become reified into a kind of frozen artifact of 1972. Any hint of idealism that once was in him has been drained from his body. The idea that he could get any pleasure from democracy in Iraq is so remote as to be almost non-existent. I began this post with a playful (but slightly irrelevant) reference to Salinger. Actually, this reference to Edwin Arlington Robinson would have been more apt.