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War Can't Be Won, Writer Hersh Says; Pulitzer Winner Fears Bush Re-Election But He Has Concerns About Kerry, Too
Published on Thursday, October 28, 2004 by the Toronto Star
War Can't Be Won, Writer Hersh Says
Pulitzer Winner Fears Bush Re-Election But He Has Concerns About Kerry, Too
by Andrew Mills

Seymour Hersh's biggest fear is that George W. Bush is going to win Tuesday's U.S. presidential election. But he's also hoping that if John Kerry prevails, he won't try to win a war in Iraq that simply can't be won.

"This war's out of control. It's not winnable," Hersh said in Toronto yesterday. "The jet fuel that runs the insurgency is us. As long as we're there, nothing is going to happen."

In May, the celebrated investigative reporter was first to expose details of the torture at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in a string of New Yorker stories, a feat that bookends a career that took off in 1969 when he exposed the story of American troops who massacred several hundred Vietnamese civilians at My Lai.

For that, he won the Pulitzer Prize.

If Bush is re-elected, Hersh said, he will continue the war no matter the cost, no matter how many Americans or Iraqis are killed.

"Whether it's through karma or a crusade or divine intervention, whatever reason, for his father even, if re-elected he's going to continue the war," Hersh said.

"This man did not go to war for oil, for Israel. He went to war because he really believes that he can get democracy going in Iraq. It might take five years, 10 years, I've heard people say longer.

"His only option is to increase the bombing to keep the unpopular, unelectable (Iraqi) government in power. He's going to bomb and bomb and bomb and bomb."

If there is a second Bush term, Hersh believes European countries — spurred by large and increasingly radical Muslim populations at home and the fact that they are 5,000 kilometres closer to Iraq than the United States is — will band together to be more opposed to American policy than they already are.

"And I think you're going to see even the Germans say it's time to remove the United States as the sole interlocutor between Israel and the Palestinians," Hersh said.

And while he's betting on Kerry as "the only option," Hersh hopes the Democratic candidate won't try to win the war.

In recent stump speeches, Kerry has said he plans to win in Iraq by increasing the role of U.S. special forces and improving the Iraqi military and police, which Hersh dismisses as an impossibility.

"If you want to solve the war, you've got to talk to the insurgents, the Baathists and the Shiites," Hersh said.

Unless Kerry does this — which Hersh admitted will be politically difficult in a Washington that has vowed not to negotiate with terrorists — the insurgency will continue.

Hersh stopped in Toronto to deliver the first annual public policy lecture sponsored by the law firm Aird & Berlis and to promote his latest book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.

When asked why American voters are nearly equally divided in their support for Bush and Kerry less than a week from election day, Hersh just shakes his head.

"There are 70 million Americans who don't believe in evolution. Bush is playing to that core," Hersh said. "And can you imagine what the rest of the world is going to think if we re-elect this man?"

© Copyright 2004 Toronto Star


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