Friday, February 8, 2008

Al-Jazeera Interview: Seymour Hersh

By Sarah Brown

"Seymour Hersh, one of the world's best known investigative journalists, has turned his attention to the mysterious and controversial bombing of a Syrian facility by Israel last year.

In a new article for the New Yorker magazine, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, best known for his work exposing the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the horrific mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, says evidence indicates the bombing was a warning to Syria and its allies, including Iran.

Al Jazeera spoke to him about the bombing, why he feels the media failed on the story, and what it means for the Middle East......

....Syria of course compounded the problem by being hapless and feckless in response. It took them, I think, until October 1, almost four weeks after the incident before the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, acknowledged it had actually been bombed.....

...So what happened is: A raid takes place, they announced rather quickly there was an intrusion by the Israelis, they initially say after a couple of days that munitions were bombed, then the foreign minister says in Turkey four or five days after the incident that nothing was bombed however, bombs fell but nothing was hit.

Then, three weeks later, the president says: "Oh, well actually a building was destroyed". You can't programme something that inept and that's a reality. They just weren't very good.....

Q: Was the raid's purpose to act as a potential deterrent to Iran?

A: Of course that was the idea for the US, to let the Iranians know that despite the national intelligence estimate "We're ready to ... we have a proxy and the Israelis will go bang for us if we need.".....

....And also it was seen as a message to Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, who the Israelis believe has become cocky after the Hezbollah war because he was a big supporter of Hassan Nasrallah [Hezbollah leader] – he is Assad's big buddy.

The Israelis thought that they could take him down a peg, and also the message to Bashar Assad is: "So, what's Iran doing for you now, buddy? We go and pop you in the head and is Iran doing anything?".....

[On Israel] it's very hard, you know in America there's just no questioning. The American Jewish influence is enormous. There's a lot of money.

I just wish many American Jews would read the Israeli papers - particularly Haaretz - more carefully and they would see there's really a vibrant criticism of the Israeli government ... and you just don't see that today.

I'm Jewish and I'm not anti-Semitic and I'm not anti-Israel - [Israelis] understand that, just as by the way a lot of Americans don't understand that many of the leadership of Hamas and others....."

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