Seymour Hersh wanted to make sure no one confused him with last year's speaker."I have to say a sentence I will never say again in my life," Hersh said at the beginning of his speech Wednesday night. "I am not John Ashcroft."
There was little confusing Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, with the former attorney general, last year's speaker for the Public Affairs Distinguished Lecture series at Skyview High School.
Hersh made sure about that when he characterized the remainder of the Bush administration as "656 days left in the reign of King George the Second."
Hersh, a former New York Times reporter who now writes for The New Yorker magazine, repeatedly jabbed Bush and portrayed the president as stubborn, inflexible and uncaring during a 70-minute speech that rambled from point to point but still resonated with the largely anti-Bush crowd.
"Another 1,000 body bags of Americans, and God knows how many Iraqis, doesn't seem to be a big issue for this White House," he said.
"It's really very scary," he said. "He is incapable of learning so that's why we are still on this path."
Hersh didn't pick only on the current president. He called Bob McNamara, the former defense secretary during the Vietnam War, "a psychotic liar." He described 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry as "so inept." And he wasn't particularly kind to former President Clinton.
"This former president did not speak out against this war, and you cannot forgive him for that," he said during a question-and-answer session that lasted 40 minutes.
Hersh, one of the nation's top investigative journalists for almost 40 years, was the latest speaker in a series that has included 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean and former White House Chief of State John Sununu.
The series is sponsored by the Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver, the Thomas Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service and The Columbian.
Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the 1968 My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. He gave a chilling account of how U.S. soldiers systematically murdered woman and children and then casually took a break for lunch.
"What was going through their heads, don't ask me," he said.
A year later, when Hersh was tracking down soldiers who were present during the massacre, he traveled to a small town in Indiana where he met a soldier's mother.
"I gave them a good body," she told Hersh. "And they sent me back a murderer."
Thirty-five years later, Hersh played a major role in exposing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Hersh told the audience to expect more stories on the Abu Ghraib scandal.
"It isn't over," he said. "You aren't hearing about it, but it's not over."
Hersh said he first heard about Abu Ghraib in December 2003 from a former two-star Iraqi general. He later learned that top military authorities were routinely visiting the prison.
"It was impossible not to know," he said. "Everyone was running around naked in the place. It was one way to humiliate them (prisoners)."
Hersh said the nation is only starting to feel the emotional fallout from the war. As of two years ago, Hersh said, 180,000 of the 1 million soldiers and Marines who served were seeking counseling through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"We aren't even dealing with what we have done to Iraq," he said, referring to estimates that more than 650,000 Iraqis have died during the past four years.
As for the war itself, Hersh said the is no doubt about the inevitable outcome.
"It's gone folks," he said. "There ain't no victory there. We aren't going to win."