“The persistent self-defeating Dumbness of America”
For half a century, Seymour Hersh has exposed the excesses of America military adventurism and has kept American presidents in a state of shock and awe. At a moment when America risks slipping in yet another Middle East war, Hersh has harsh words for the latest actions taken against Iran. But the journalism veteran, 82, also agrees with key points of Trump’s foreign policy. And for the first time he speaks about his latest investigation into the United States Special Forces.
His name strikes fear and loathing in the heart of American national security experts. Pentagon officials fear his sources. Rival journalists dismiss him as a conspiracy monger. But admirers call Seymour Hersh “a groundbreaking journalist who has revealed some of America's darkest secrets” (The Chicago Tribune.) David Remnick, editor in chief of the iconic “New Yorker” magazine, hails Hersh, “Quite simply, the greatest investigative journalist of his era.”
It is just before Christmas, and I am sitting down with Hersh for an interview in his Washington office to discuss his recent book, “Reporter,” and his fifty years of investigative journalism. To my surprise, the legendary scourge of many a US president, reveals that he agrees with key points of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. He tells me, “I do support Trump’s willingness to reach out to foreign leaders.”
Only days after our meeting, the Middle East is about to spiral into yet another treacherous conflict. The United States military has carried out military strikes in Iraq and Syria targeting an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia blamed for a rocket attack that killed an American contractor. Thousands of angry pro-Iranian demonstrators swarm outside the US embassy in Baghdad, burning parts of the reception building, chanting “Death to America!”
President Trump blasts Iranian leadership that he will hold it “fully responsible” for the embassy rampage. He tweets: “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
“My president had no business authorizing the strikes he did in response to the death of one American contract employee,” Hersh tells me in frustration. “They were disproportional and in a clear violation of Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty.”
Hours later, Trump orders lethal drone strikes on Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, one of the most infamous military operators in the Middle East. As leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, Soleimani “killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more,” Trump tells the world.
Hersh is wary. After five decades in the field, he tells me, “It is much too early to predict what will happen next. But no doubt Trump’s ill conceived assassination will put immediate pressure on the Iraqi government to order all Americans out of his country.” Hersh warns that “yet another possible ally in the Middle East will turn on America.” He adds, “One also must remember that the Iranian Quds force, headed by Soleimani, played a major role in defeating ISIS in Syria which, presumably, was an American goal, too. One can only marvel at the persistent self-defeating dumbness of America.”
When I ask if it was not the President's duty to act in order to avert “imminent and sinister attacks” against US lifes?, Hersh is impatient. “I have yet to have a serious discussion about the killings with anyone who knows something...and even then, such is harder because Trump has surrounded himself with total loyalists.”
Days earlier, as I was sitting down with Hersh, the streets of downtown Washington were buzzing with merry Christmas shoppers. But even then, the tension in the US capital and around the nation were high. The front page headline in the New York Times blared, “Democrats signal plans to release articles of Impeachment today” after lawyers label President Trump’s conduct a “clear and present danger” to fair elections and national security. Hersh scoffs. He’s heard that accusation before — about himself.
Seymour Hersh, you have authored countless New York Times cover stories. Many of them shook the nation and had presidents trembling. What goes through your mind when you see today’s reporting?
One of the things that goes through my mind, “Why are they doing a process [impeachment] that they know will not work in the Senate?”
You are talking about the impeachment process initiated by the House Democrats?
Yes. They know the Senate is not going to go along. There are a lot of problems with Trump, and I have all of them. The reality is that I don't think this is the way, if you want to win reelection. This is the way to make him into a martyr. I don't think the Democrats know how to cope with him. They're going to do something that can't work, and the polls show people aren't interested in it. He's going up in the polls. He recently went up at over fifty percent [approval] for the first time ever because of the impeachment process. I don't know how he cannot be reelected if you keep on doing it this. That's what bothers me
For the newspapers, not liking Trump is very important because it means readership. It means more subscribers. As you know, the newspaper business in America and around the world is collapsing.
You’ve uncovered many scandals. Are there any hidden stories to be dug out with Trump?
No, not really.
What you see is what you get?
You see an awful lot. There's no president who’s been this open. He does everything so in the open. It's actually pretty funny.
On the very first page of your biography, “Reporter,” you write, “I am a survivor from the golden age of journalism.” What was the golden age of journalism?
On my first day working for the New York Times in the 1970s, they asked me, "Do you have your passport with you?" I said, "No. I came up to New York for the week from Washington." "Go home, get your passport,” they said. “Get a plane tonight to Paris and go to see the Vietnamese at the peace talks and find out what's going on." I was staying at the Hotel de Crillon. I ordered a glass of orange juice. It was $12. What the hell was this? I couldn't believe how luxurious it was. I was given an American Express card and an air travel card that enabled me to fly any class internationally. The Times would pay. Nobody worried about money then. We published a big newspaper every day. It had huge advertisements. Reporters for daily newspapers did not have to compete with the 24 hour cable news cycle. There was sufficient time for reporting on a breaking news story. There were no televised panels of “experts” and journalists on cable TV who began every answer to every question with the two deadliest words in the media world: “I think.” That was the “golden age.” It's all different now.
But even in that “golden age” of journalism no newspaper would publish your investigative report on the atrocities committed by American troops against Vietnamese civilians in Mỹ Lai — the story that, once published, would shake the whole nation.
What I had figured out with my story on Mỹ Lai — I did five stories in five weeks — was that even though I was a punk kid, I could own the news cycle if I had the information.
It was that story on Mỹ Lai fifty years ago when your first hour of fame struck. Do you remember the moment when you knew this is going to be huge?
Sure. When I saw for the first time the charge sheet in the lawyer's office. He had it lying on his desk, and I'm sitting there pretending to take notes. And I'm reading it word for word, upside down.
What were the words?
The US Army announced that Lieutenant William L. Caley Jr. is charged with the premeditated murder of 109 oriental human beings. As if ten Orientals equals one white, or maybe three whites and one black and one Hispanic. It was the most racist thing I'd ever seen.
You tracked Caley down in Fort Benning, Georgia. He gave you a tip for the story that hit the nation like a bomb. It was perhaps the single biggest exposé of the Vietnam War. It was about an extensive massacre in My Lai committed by US troops.
Yes. I tracked him down later. But when I saw those words, I had a bunch of thoughts. Of course, I'd like to say to you that the first one was, “This is a war that's pernicious, and this is going to hurt the war.” But I'm sure my first thoughts were: “Fame, fortune and glory. I'm going to sell big.”
You found a lot of soldiers who were a part of that massacre.
Oh, yes. Oh, I did.
The one that impressed me most is the one from the soldier who shot himself in his foot.
Yes, Herbert Carter.
He said, "The prime targets are three to four-year-old children." He said soldiers were throwing babies up in the air and catching them with bayonets. Other soldiers told you how they flew helicopters and chopped off heads of civilians with the rotors. And late, you uncovered the horrendous, sadistic mishandling of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison after the US invasion in Iraq in 2002.
Have you ever found out what it is that turns a human into a beast in war?
It is common, done all the time, by most units. It was very hard to report on. But my job was to do the story. Herbert Carter, the one that shot himself in the foot to get out of the military, he was uneducated, a very bright African American kid. You know what he said to me? "What happened at My Lai was not a massacre, but a logical result of the war in Vietnam. The people didn't know what they were dying for, and the guys didn't know why they were shooting them.” It was so awful, so crazy, such bad leadership from top to bottom. Actually, I'm doing a project, now, that involves the whole question of why we think it's okay to kill 90% of the people.
Are you collecting new material?
Yes, I'm collecting like crazy. You bet. It's a hell of a story. But it can only be told after I have collected the facts.
You can't believe how crazy the newspapers are these days. They're just nuts. [laughs] I'm avoiding writing about the crazy stuff going on now [in the Trump administration.] I don't want to get into it.
Let's talk about your new project …
You finish your list of questions. I know your questions are very orderly. So, let's do your questions.
A particularly moving anecdote from the Vietnam War in your biography is focusing on the son of Robert McNamara [then US defense secretary]. Shortly after the publication of an excerpt one of your book on My Lai 4 in 1970, you got a call from then twenty year old Craig McNamara, who was against the war. He had left a copy of Harper’s magazine with your cover story in the living room for his father to see. Later he found it burnt.
In the fireplace.
How did you feel when you realized that your stories not only got right to the nerve of a divided nation, but into a divided family of the person who was in charge of conducting the war?
Craig, today, actually owns a very prosperous walnut farm in California, and he's very bright, obviously. But that's a good thing for him to do because he was so troubled by the war. So was his older sister, and it was hard. When I covered the war at the Pentagon, I had a lot of contact with McNamara because he was secretary of defense, and I concluded even then that he was a psychotic liar. They (the Pentagon) were running “Murder Incorporated.” They had done internal studies that they've suppressed.
They lied about the war.
They were lying about it constantly to themselves, too, because they were killing, I forget how many Vietnamese. General Westmoreland ran the war for four years, and 34,000 Americans died and maybe one million Vietnamese. It was just mass murder, and they lied about it. I figured that out.
What was the most important lesson you learned as a young reporter?
Read before you write. Really read and learn about things like arms control. You read the things that are complicated, that seem boring. [Today’s reporters] are just so happy reading the tweets, because the more you write about the tweets, the angrier the public in New York and Washington who don't like Trump get, and the more they buy your paper, and the more they read it. For the first time, you have a synergism. Trump loves his tweets, and you love them because they give you readers. You don't look at it. You run them once he does a tweet. The cable news, which are the worst things in the world, immediately make big news.
After Vietnam, you turned to the biggest story of them all: Watergate. The highest ranks were in shock and awe about you. Nixon is on tape saying, “God damn it. This story in the Times, the one by Hersh, he doesn’t usually go with something that’s wrong. I mean, the son of a bitch is a son of a bitch. But he is usually right, isn’t he?” And Deputy Attorney General Silberman said, “The SOB has sources that are absolutely beyond comparison.” The CIA Director William Colby replied, “He knows more about this place than I do.”
How did it feel to have such power over presidents and their staff?
I never talked about it that way. I was just doing business. The CIA did a classified study of Watergate. It was a secret for thirty years, and it was declassified about five years ago. Somebody said, "You better read it. There's a whole chapter on you," with a big picture of me. That's where it came from. Some CIA analysts did a study of William Colby, the head of the CIA. Colby was actually a decent guy, by the way. A very tough son of a bitch. I had his private phone number. He had no choice with me because I was getting information. Colby, instead of saying Hersh is an ogre son of a bitch, he would talk to me.
Henry Kissinger was afraid of you. He said on the record, "Seymour is out to get me." Why were you out to get him?
The truth was out to get him. That's the real phrase.
You write that the highest importance for you is to talk directly to a source. You would fly thousands of miles to do this. But Kissinger said you never talked to him. When you did the book on Kissinger in 1983, he went on Nightline with the legendary Ted Koppel. And he said, “I've never met him." Is this not a contradiction? How can you find the truth when you don’t speaking directly to the key figure?
By the time Kissinger said this on Nightline, I must have talked to him about fifty times. [chuckles]
You talked to him?
Of course. He had to deal with me.
I'll tell you my favorite story about Kissinger. He'd always say, "What's the ground rules?" I'd say, "Well, you set. You're the boss." He said, "Well, we are just two people talking privately." I could maybe write something indirectly. "Kissinger is known to believe..." I would take notes, but not in verbatim. But he would get a transcript. He had a woman taping it. He would get a transcript of our talk. By the time he goes in Koppel in 1983, he's got fifty transcripts of our conversations. [chuckles] None of which I knew about. And he says, "I never met him. Why is he doing this to me?"
He's a marvelous liar. I have respect for him.
Kissinger was always wiretapping people. You wrote about this, and it was one of your big scoops. You had the information from a senior CIA official, William Sullivan. He left an envelope on his chair with seventeen wiretaps from Kissinger. He had his closest aides wiretapped to find out who was leaking.
The point being that there was something fascinating about it.
What is it that you criticize about him?
I criticized everything about him in the Vietnam War. I thought he was a mass murderer. Vietnam was a war he knew he couldn't win. He knew it before McNamara knew. And McNamara knew early, too. You know what we do when we can't sleep at night? We count sheep. For Kissinger, he has to count, for the rest of his life, burned and maimed Cambodian and Vietnamese babies. That's his sin. He has to live with that. He has to live with what he did.
Today, he’s considered the doyen of US foreign policy and that he understands China.
If Trump said, "Come and be my adviser," he'd do it tomorrow. [laughs] Maybe not. He's 96. But ten years ago, yes. He is much, much better today. For example, he's wise about Iran. He's right about some of the crazy things we're doing.
The fact that you were revealing some of the United States’ best kept secrets and were attacking America’s key decision makers raised criticism. Some said that you were damaging your nation.
I come from an immigrant family. My parents were Lithuanian Jewish. They didn't even speak English. At home, they spoke Yiddish. My father had a little cleaning store and laundry. I worked there during college. My father died of cancer. I had to take care of my mother. I come from nothing, and I'm sticking two fingers in the eye of a sitting president, Richard Nixon, and writing about a massacre of American boys. The worst story you could ever write about him. It took me a hell of a time to get it in print. I'm getting prizes and fame, and you tell me I'm a critic of America, the most amazing place in the world? Are you kidding? Nobody could have more respect for this country than I do.
Given your criticism of America’s wars, I guess that Trump's policy of less interference abroad would appeal to you.
Of course it does. Trump doesn't want war. But listen, don't get me going on Trump because it's very complicated. I'm a Democrat. I wouldn't vote for Trump in a million years.
You are a lifelong Democrat. What do you think of Obama?
I have tremendous problems with Obama. I thought Obama, in the second term, was not a good president on foreign policy. I thought he was very weak, and he masked it with his charm and being a pretty boy. I think he was awful. He certainly let Hillary Clinton do what she wanted.
Anyway, the point is, Trump has one thing going for himself. I have no idea whether it comes from a profound conviction, or whether it just comes from a belief that war is bad for the hotel business. He's not interested in war.
Trump is so unconventional that sometimes I get the impression that people underestimate him.
There is a reality that the Democrats don't want to know about, which is that the economy is going. The stock market went to something like 28,000 — some high place it went to for the first time in history. Unemployment is down. I don't know if it's working, but I know the indexes that are being published are accurate. Look, I wish he weren't president, period.
Then, you would have Hillary Clinton as president and we probably would have war against Russia. Who knows?
Categorically, you'd have Hillary. Hillary lost the election. My own personal belief is that the Russians had as much to do with it as I did. But that's always a good story. We'll find out more. I don't understand the American press.
The way the media treated the Russian thing and Putin was hectoring. They didn't do reporting. The real story is the extent to which the Obama White House was going and permitting the agency to go public with the assessment. I said this early on in an interview just after Trump’s inauguration.
What does an “assessment” mean? It’s not a national intelligence estimate. If you had a real estimate, you would have five or six dissents. One time, they said seventeen agencies all agreed. Oh really? The Coast Guard and the Air Force — they all agreed on it? And it was outrageous, and nobody did that story. An assessment is simply an opinion. If they had a fact, they’d give it to you. An assessment is just that. It’s a belief. And they’ve done it many times.
We now have a situation where the Democrats hate Putin, hate Russia. The Cold War is just as they were, the Democrats just after World War Two. Hate Syria, hate China, hate anybody he wants to deal with it. If he's talking to the North Koreans, which to me seems eminently rational. No, he can't do it. He's a fool. He doesn't know anything.
Do you approve the fact that Trump wants to have a rapprochement with Russia?
We never understand Russia's point of view. Putin is the most powerful man with Merkel stepping down, now, and she's lost power because of the immigration issue anyway, political power. He's the most important man, now, in Europe. Very conservative and tough as nails. People have looked forever for the billions of dollars they claim he's hidden, like all these the rest of the KGB guys and the oligarchs. But we haven't found it.
Putin plays his cards well.
Are you kidding? He's the smartest guy going. And he's got a back channel relation with Trump, absolutely. And Putin and President Zelensky in Kiev clearly have been working together trying to end the war in the Ukraine. But Zelensky has the extremist nationalist crowd he can't cope with. If he could end the war tomorrow, he would. But they won't let him. They'll fight him. So, how do you deal with it?
The opposition in the Ukraine knows that the moment they get aggressive with any advanced weapons, Russia will just smash them. He [Putin] has improved the military enormously, the morale, their capability. He's improved everything. He's done amazing strides with the military, new command centers. It's no longer a place of disrespect. But if you are a Democrat, today, you have to say, “I hate Putin.” You have to say, “My biggest friend now is Brennan, the head of the CIA.” Whoever heard of the Democrats loving the head of the CIA? What do CIA people do? They're trained to lie. The good ones in the CIA are the best liars.
What do you think about the media hiring Brennan and Clapper as commentators?
Crazy. Beyond belief.
They're on the payroll of the main stream media.
Forget that. It's the Democrats thinking that they're the best thing going because they complain about Trump all the time. So, therefore they're good. I don't understand what's going on with the Democrats. What are you going to do?
Look, Trump is something like we've never had. At this point, most of the smart people I know say he’s got a year to go. Come on. It's eleven months. You're not going to get him out with impeachment.
A lot of people think Trump is influenced by people around him. Who drives Trump, if not Trump himself?
You can't ask me those questions because nobody knows.
I have horrors of the many of things that are going on. But you also have to recognize that he's a very political animal.
I do understand that there's no big secret in this. But look, don't make me say I like Trump. I don't. I wish he weren't president. I don't think he's smart enough. I don't think he pays attention to details. I do not at all approve of the chaos that he has created inside the American bureaucracy and in the White House and among many of our allies. He has devalued the White House and the presidency with his lack of information and disregard, more or less, for the Constitution.
What I do support is his willingness to reach out to foreign leaders, controversial ones like the guys in North Korea, Iran and Russia, and try to engage with them. I would not be surprised if he started talking to Damascus, too. Nothing wrong with that, and I am dismayed that the Democrats seem to be appalled by such.
On New Year’s Eve, thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators swarmed outside the US embassy in Baghdad, chanting “Death to America!” Some tried to scale the compound’s walls, and others clambered onto the roof of the reception building they had burned the day before. Trump said Iran would be held “fully responsible” for the attack. He tweeted: “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!” In your view, how should the American President respond to this attack?
My President had no business authorizing the strikes he did in response to the death of one American contract employee. They were disproportional and in a clear violation of Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty.
By having Irani General Qasem Soleimani Presidnet killed, Trump, who had promised multiple times to bring US troops home, might have opened a Pandora's box. Does the killing of Soleimani symbolize a change in the Trump foreign policy? What is at stake for the region and the US?
It is much too early to predict what will happen. But no doubt Trump's ill-conceived assassination will put immediate pressure on the Iraqi government to order all Americans out of his country. Yet another possible ally in the Middle East will turn on America. One also must remember that the Iranian Quds force, headed by Soleimani, played a major role in defeating ISIS in Syria — which, presumably, was an American goal, too. One can only marvel at the persistent self defeating dumbness of America.
Don't you think that is the president's duty to act in order to avert "imminent and sinister attacks" against US lives?
It's way too early for me or, for that matter, anyone who is half serious to deal with this question. I have yet to have a serious discussion about the killings with anyone who knows something. And even then, such is harder because Trump has surrounded himself with total loyalists. One obvious point is that the assassination was not the result of superb detective work and data obtained through torture by the U.S. intel community or the special forces command; Soleimani flew to a commercial airport in Baghdad when, of course, there are many far more secure landing strips to get to.
You are known for writing very long and detailed articles. Were you never afraid of writing too much for an audience that has a limited time?
Well, I remember the first story I ever did for William Shawn, this marvelous editor of The New Yorker. It was a long piece about the Vietnam War, and I called him up, "Mr. Shawn, I'm sorry. I wrote so long. Twelve thousand words." And he said, " Mr. Hersh, stories are never too long or too short. They're either too interesting or too boring."
When you write, does it come easily from your hand?
I always could write. As a kid I knew I could write. When I was in college, they all thought I'd write the Great American Novel because I read a lot. I had a way with words. Words are beautiful. They're wonderful.
Do you ever suffer at your computer?
Are you kidding? What are you talking about? You tell me anybody who likes to start a story. That's going to be a week of agony. Are you fucking kidding? I hate it. Once I do it, I could do first takes.
There are stacks of documents piling up in your office. Are there many stories yet unpublished hidden in those thousands of pages?
I was supposed to write a book on Dick Cheney [vice president and national security advisor to President George W. Bush]. But I pulled out because it was too secret. It would have put some of those people who spoke to me in jail.
Why are you not storing your notes on your computer? Are you scared that somebody might hack you?
No, I'm more than scared. My children, my two boys and my daughter, laugh at me about my lack of security.
Somebody could break into your office here.
But then you can't find out from reading my handwriting. Look at my handwriting. [Shows his handwriting, and then turns to his computer and starts to type.]
Last night, I stayed up and here's what I did. This is where it gets hard. My password is the name of my favorite baseball player from fifty years ago in Chicago. It's a great password. Nobody will ever get my password.
[laughs] Well, that is a good hint.
Last night, I sent a recent article on the Seal crisis to myself. When I work at home, I have to remember to send stuff from my office to myself. So I can print it out. [He prints another copy of the document.]
I'll just read the first page. We're talking about the SEAL, Gallagher.
“Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was accused of stabbing a captured teenager Islamic State fighter to death and randomly shooting civilians while serving in Iraq, including a young girl. Footage from a helmet camera showed the former unit chief approaching the body of the semi-conscious IS fighter in May 2017. The camera was then shut off, but three members of Gallagher's unit testified that he stabbed the boy in the neck with his hunting knife, before holding an impromptu ceremony over the body as if it were a trophy. A photograph taken at the scene showed Chief Gallagher posing over the body, holding the boy's hair in one hand his hunting knife in the other (…) Giving evidence to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) soldiers from Gallagher’s Platoon Seal Team 7 were visibly nervous and some broke down into tears as they recalled what they had witnessed. "The guy is freaking evil," said Special Operator Craig Miller. (…) Gallagher was demoted by the Navy after his trial earlier 2019 but President Trump reversed the decision. In doing so, the president contradicted the Navy's most senior leaders.”
Well, there's an incredible story in this – so I have been told.
What's the story?
Well, he [Gallagher] thought he was God because he was on a secret mission.
Then behaved badly.
Yes, but he was on a secret mission that was approved.
What's the secret mission?
I can't tell you, but he was on a secret mission, so I have been told, to do something heinous. [laughs]
You still have your sources in the inside?
Of course. What we have is a real problem with the Special Forces. A real problem of morality, legality, and it goes beyond Gallagher. It's a serious, serious issue.
Is this like the Navy SEAL Rob O'Neill talking to the public about how he killed Bin Laden?
Well, that wasn't true, but that's another story.
He described DIE WELTWOCHE in an interview recently in detail how he killed him.
The truth is they all took shots at bin Laden. SEALS work in squads of six.
On May 10, 2015, Hersh published the 10,000-word article "The Killing of Osama bin Laden" in the London Review of Books. Hersh says the official story told by the Obama government was a cover story to conceal Pakistan's relationship with the Al Qaeda leader:
“The killing was the high point of Obama's first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan's army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration's account.”
Your investigative story on killing Bin Laden drew harsh criticism from academics, media, and officials. One critic wrote that it was, "a messy omelet of a piece that offers little of substance for readers or journalists who may want to verify its many claims." Do you still stand with your story today?
Stand with my story? Of course! I don't like to go back over stories defending myself. I don't do it.
After that story, some people even said Seymour Hersh was losing his fastball.
That's right. Here's the thing. They had a raid. The SEALs did go in. They did train for it. They went in, and they killed him. That's all true. Everything else is a lie. This is what you call a “turkey shoot.” The SEALs weren't proud of this. They were murdering a prisoner of war. If they had been arrested by the Pakistanis, and the ISI [Pakistani intelligence service] decided to turn around and screw them and grab them all, they would have been prosecuted as spies.
Back to your new investigation. You say there is a problem with the Special Forces?
Well, there's a huge problem. I'm not going to talk about it. There's a huge problem because they're out of control. They're all over the world and it’s not clear who in Washington knows what they are doing. There was a study done by the Watson Institute at Brown University about two years ago.
They said, "Right now we're in 76 different locations, kinetically, with arms."
The problem is not the SEALs, themselves, but the people who command them?
There are always good and bad in any military unit. Right now, there are serious questions about the leadership of the Special Forces command.
There's a problem with the commanders, you say?
I understand that General Mattis [former US defense secretary] tried to clean it up, but he couldn't do it. There is much that isn’t known about the inner workings of the Seal command, and much that needs to be changed inside the U.S. Special Forces Command. Mattis tried hard. But he was only able to get rid of two generals. He wanted to do more.
Something to do with the way Special Forces are operated?
No, I'm not going to tell you that. There's more to all of it. There's more to this Eddie Gallagher's story. There's a whole other facet to it.
When are you going to publish it?
I'm just not sure what to do right now.
Why? The whole world will read it if your name is on it.
What's the sense of writing a story now that's a one day story? Because everybody will deny now. I wait for the right time.
Seymour Hersh, Reporter: A Memoir, Penguin, 368 pages.
Seymour M. Hersh has been a staff writer for The New Yorker and The New York Times. He established himself at the forefront of investigative journalism in 1970 when he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his exposé of the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam. Since then he has received the George Polk Award five times, the National Magazine Award for Public Interest twice, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the George Orwell Award, and dozens of other awards.