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Seymour Hersh to Speak
At UW-Eau Claire Oct. 22
MAILED: Oct. 9, 2002
EAU CLAIRE — Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh will speak Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, as part of The Forum lecture series.
His address, titled “Foreign Policy in an Election Year,” will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Zorn Arena. Hersh’s formal presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session and a reception.
One of the top muckrakers in the business, Hersh frequently writes for The New Yorker’s “Annals of National Security” department. In the magazine’s Sept. 30 issue, he examines the Justice Department’s handling of the case against Zacarias Moussaoui, indicted as the alleged 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 conspiracy — casting doubt on Moussaoui’s purported role in the conspiracy and raising questions about the government’s strategy to seek the death penalty rather than plea bargain for information about Al Qaeda.
Hersh’s other in-depth reports in The New Yorker over the last year — on the failure of U.S. intelligence, infighting within the Bush Administration, and American policy toward Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — address the core problems of ideology and personal intrigue that drive so much of U.S. foreign policy.
“I do want to urge you to show up in late October when Seymour Hersh comes here,” Ralph Nader said during his sold-out Forum address on Sept. 24, “because if there’s anybody in Washington, D.C., who knows more what’s going on and can tell it more truthfully, I haven’t met that person yet. It’s really important, especially given today’s headlines, to come and listen to him and interact with him.”
Born in Chicago in 1937, Seymour Hersh received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago. After flunking out of law school he was hired to work in the City News Bureau, a pool set up by the Associated Press and Chicago newspapers to cover the courts. Hersh was a journalist even during his Army service, working on the base newspaper at Fort Riley, Kan. He spent a year reporting for United Press International in South Dakota before he rejoined the AP, working in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Hersh was promoted to Pentagon correspondent in 1966. When a series he had written about chemical and biological warfare was savagely cut and rewritten, Hersh left the AP for a freelance writing career. He wrote several articles on chemical and biological weapons for The New York Times and The New Republic, which led to his first book, “Chemical and Biological Warfare: America’s Hidden Arsenal” (1968). That year he also became a press secretary for antiwar presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.
In September 1969, the 32-year-old freelancer was tipped about a story that he knew would be big: a U.S. Army officer was about to be secretly court-martialed for the murder of civilians in Vietnam. His Pentagon sources eventually led Hersh to a stockade in Georgia, where he interviewed Lt. William L. Calley Jr. — the only person who would ever be convicted in an atrocity known as the My Lai Massacre. On March 16, 1968, Calley had led more than a hundred soldiers of Charlie Company in the four-hour slaughter of 504 unarmed noncombatants in Son My, a village in central Vietnam that was called My Lai 4 on the soldiers’ maps. It was a year and a half before the world learned of the incident, one of the darkest episodes in American history.
“It was pretty rough stuff,” Hersh said in a 1998 interview for The Progressive magazine. “And it was hard for a lot of people to understand. I had a hell of a time when I went to sell the story. Nobody wanted it.”
In November 1969, Hersh’s exclusive was put out by a small newspaper syndicate and picked up by three dozen newspapers, including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the London Times. It was a turning point in the public perception of the Vietnam War.
“It was the most miraculous thing,” Hersh said. “I got a Pulitzer Prize as a freelancer, which almost never happens, writing a story that was so negative about America.”
He wrote a book, “My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath,” in 1970, and won a George Polk award for special reporting. “Cover-up: The Army’s Secret Investigation Into My Lai 4” followed in 1972 — the year Hersh began a seven-year run as chief investigative reporter for The New York Times.
Hersh was unparalleled in his reporting of the foreign policy abuses in the Nixon Administration, winning three more Polk awards for national and investigative reporting. He told the world of the CIA’s complicity in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile; of the secret B-52 bombing of Cambodia; of the unconstitutional wiretapping of journalists and White House aides authorized by Henry Kissinger (who called Hersh “my nemesis”); and of the CIA’s illegal spying on American antiwar activists and other citizens, which led to highly publicized Senate investigations.
Hersh went on to reveal the CIA’s illicit sale of U.S. weapons to Libya; the criminal activities of Panama’s Manuel Noriega; the CIA’s complicity with South Africa’s spying on the African National Congress; the deceit and incompetence of the 1983 invasion of Grenada; and the growth of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
Hersh received the National Book Critics Circle Award for “The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House” (1983). His other books are “‘The Target Is Destroyed’: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It” (1986), concerning the 1983 shoot-down of a South Korean airliner that strayed into Soviet air space; “The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy” (1991); “The Dark Side of Camelot,” a 1997 bestseller about corruption in the Kennedy White House; and “Against All Enemies” (1998), about the extent of Gulf War Syndrome and the government’s attempts to deny its existence to ailing veterans.
Admission is $7 for the public, $5 for those 62 and older and UW System or Chippewa Valley Technical College faculty and staff, and $3 for those 17 and younger and UW System or CVTC students. Tickets are available at the University Service Center in Davies Center and will be sold at the door.
Patrons may also charge their tickets to MasterCard or Visa when they order by phone. Call the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727 — or, outside the immediate Eau Claire area, call toll-free (800) 949-UWEC. A $3 handling fee will be added to all telephone charge orders.
The Forum is funded by the students of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and administered by the Activities and Programs office of University Centers and Programs.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: October 9, 2002