Hersh gave us stories about the My Lai massacre (1968), the Abu Ghraib torture (2004) and critical stories about the murder of Bin Laden (2011). These are just three peaks in the vast landscape Hersh has left behind in modern journalism. And yet he has not given up – at the age of 83 years.
In its heyday, as Hersh writes about in the book Reporter (2019): «There were no 'expert panels' or journalists on cable TV who started all the answers with the two most deadly words in the media – 'I think'. We drown in fake news, exaggerated and incomplete information, false allegations in an endless stream of daily newspapers, television, social media and our president ».
"I have always believed that it was the task of the newspapers to look for truths and not just refer to the debates about them."
We could have added self-proclaimed and commercial truth-tellers, thinkers, and the ideological thinkers of the gossip class. For fear of making a mistake, the editors outsource the truth work to "experts".
Hersh is not afraid to criticize the big newspaper houses. He sees that the hyper-commercialization of newspapers, magazines and television leads to cuts in resources and staff and thins out profits that could have been used to dig out the necessary truths and important issues: "I have always believed that it was the newspapers' job to search present truths and not just refer to the debates about them ", writes Hersh.
Set tracks in Norway
Seymour Hersh shows how intertwined good journalism is with the whistleblowers' efforts. His revelations have left traces in Norway as well. In 2004, the former diplomat and Liberal leader Gunnar Garbo (1924–2016) mobilized against the culprits after Hersh's torture revelations in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The Americans had continued Saddam Hussein's culture of torture at the prison, and American leaders gave the green light for torture. In the name of the fight against terrorism, everything was now allowed. New interrogation methods (read: torture) have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, boasted US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Garbo wrote a call to the Norwegian authorities in which he demanded that the culprits, including the leaders, be brought to justice. Over a thousand leading Norwegian women and men joined the appeal. Garbo was particularly moved when he saw that the very last signature came from former Labor Party and NRK leader Einar Førde, who signed the petition a few weeks before he died.
On April 30, Seymour Hersh wrote: “Torture in Abu Ghraib. Violent American soldiers in Iraq. How high is the responsibility? ». The signals from the top were unmistakable. Garbo believed that American leaders had articulated themselves in a way that allowed for the use of torture. The responsibility therefore lay with the top management.
Wikipedia's description of the court settlement after the torture revelations states that several were sentenced to prison for the torture culture in Abu Ghraib. What is not there, however, is that the only officer who was punished for the Abu Ghraib brutality was Steven Jordan. Jordan was not punished for gross brutality, but for talking to the press!
Again, we see that it is the warning about the criminal act that is punished and not the crimes themselves, and that it is the people at the bottom who are held accountable. The superiors, on the other hand, go free.
Seymour Hersh holds the author Harold Pinter very high and is happy to quote him, as in Statesman (2009): Pinter's speech of thanks for the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2005, while the Iraq war was at its worst, was not broadcast live by the BBC. In his speech, Pinter mentioned that the criminals at the top often went free, and had good advice on where to start: "George W. Bush," said Pinter, "has not recognized the International Criminal Court in The Hague, ICC. He has warned that he will send in military forces if US soldiers are brought to justice. But Tony Blair has recognized the court and can be convicted. We can let the court get his address. It's Downing Street 10, London. "