U.S. and British jets have bombed northern Iraq three consecutive days. Iraq’s official news agency reported yesterday that three teen-age boys were killed and two others were severely injured when two bombs dropped on northern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War exploded. [includes rush transcript]
Today, an explosive story on the final days of the 1991 Gulf War. There’s an article in the May 22nd edition of The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh called "Overwhelming Force." Hersh reports on the activities of the 24th Infantry Division in Iraq in 1991. The 24th was led by General Barry McCaffrey, who is now the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (Clinton’s drug czar). In three episodes of the Gulf War campaign, that infantry has been accused of wrongly shooting Iraqis who posed no threat to them and had already surrendered.
1. MARCH 2, 1991: McCaffrey reported that despite the cease-fire, his division had come under attack from a retreating Republican Guard division. There was disagreement among McCaffrey’s officers about the strength of the attack, whether there was an attack at all, and what the appropriate response should have been. Seven hundred Iraqi tanks, trucks and armored cars were destroyed.
2. FEBRUARY 27, 1991: Iraqi soldiers (382 in number) surrender to the U.S. forces. They are stripped of their weapons and lined up in rows. The Iraqis’ weapons were destroyed (an explosion detonated). A platoon rolled toward the prisoners, and opened fire.
3. MARCH 1, 1991: The day after the cease-fire was announced, another incident where American soldiers are accused of shooting unarmed Iraqis. A unit is clearing an Iraqi village. A group of civilian villagers were walking in the area, one holding a white bed sheet. A platoon member starts firing, and other machine guns join in. Fifteen to twenty Iraqis fall. A sergeant yelled "cease fire," but the firing continued.
We should note that the Army cleared McCaffrey of wrongdoing, but Hersh points out that key information and witnesses were ignored.
- Seymour Hersh, a veteran investigative journalist. He is well known for exposing the My Lai Massacre in which US soldiers massacred several hundred Vietnamese civilians. That led to a major investigation. He is currently author of The New Yorker article, "Overwhelming Force."
- Bob Weiner, is Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey’s Spokesperson.
US and British jets have bombed northern Iraq three consecutive days. Iraq’s official news agency reported yesterday three teenage boys were killed, two others were severely injured, when two bombs, dropped on northern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, exploded.
Today, another explosive story: the final days of the ‘91 Gulf War. There’s an article in the May 22 edition of The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh called “Overwhelming Force.” Hersh reports on the activities of the 24th Infantry Division in Iraq in 1991. The 24th was led by General Barry McCaffrey, who’s now the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Clinton’s drug czar. In three episodes of the Gulf War campaign, that infantry has been accused of wrongly shooting Iraqis who posed no threat to them and had already surrendered. McCaffrey denies the charges.
Here are some of the charges. On March 2, 1991, General McCaffrey reported that despite the ceasefire, his division had come under attack from a retreating Republican Guard division. There was disagreement among McCaffrey’s officers about the strength of the attack, whether there was an attack at all, and what the appropriate response should have been. 700 Iraqi tanks, trucks and armored cars were destroyed. It’s not clear how many Iraqis were killed.
This is the second incident that Seymour Hersh describes. On February 27, 1991, Iraqi soldiers and other Iraqis, numbered, it’s believed, 382, surrender to the US forces. They’re stripped of their weapons and lined up in rows. Iraqi weapons were destroyed. An explosion was detonated. A US platoon in Bradley tanks rolls towards the prisoners and opens fire.
And this is the third allegation: March 1, 1991, the day after the ceasefire was announced, another incident where American soldiers are accused of shooting unarmed Iraqis. A unit is clearing an Iraqi village. A group of civilian villagers were walking in the area, one holding a white bed sheet on a stick. A platoon member starts firing, and other machine guns join in. Fifteen to twenty Iraqis fall. A sergeant yells, “Cease fire!” But the firing continues.
We should note that the Army has cleared General Barry McCaffrey of wrongdoing, but Seymour Hersh points out that key information and witnesses were ignored in the Army investigation.
For the rest of the show, this is what we’re going to do. We’re joined now by Seymour Hersh. And then, according to rules set down by the spokesperson for Barry McCaffrey, Bob Weiner, he will listen to what Seymour Hersh has to say, but will not engage in discussion with Seymour Hersh; he will then respond to the charges.
But we do begin with Seymour Hersh, veteran investigative journalist, well known for many exposés, including the My Lai Massacre, in which US soldiers massacred several hundred Vietnamese civilians, which led to a major investigation. He is currently author of this New Yorker exposé called “Overwhelming Force.” Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh.
Glad to be here.
Well, why don’t you lay it out for us, exactly what you believe from this six-month investigation, where you conducted hundreds of interviews, took place in the last days of the Gulf War and the days after the ceasefire?
Well, you did a pretty good job of summarizing, actually, essentially without getting in a lot of detail. Essentially what I quote people as telling me and what the available evidence shows is that the war ended, as many people in your audience remember, on February 28th, when George Bush, the President, decided that the — I guess you call it the Highway of Death, if you remember the carnage that was being inflicted on the retreating Iraqi soldiers out of Kuwait by American warplanes and helicopters, etc., was such. And it was such a turkey shoot, really, that it was going to be counterproductive for the United States to have this kind of massacre take place. So we ended the war very abruptly, after less than — after, as you said, 100 hours of ground war, ended four days plus a few hours.
And at that time, everything was supposedly frozen in place. There was a ceasefire order given, a unilateral ceasefire by us. The official talks with the Iraqis were to take place March 3, three days later, and most of — you know, what happened, is most units simply stopped. They celebrated the end of the war and stopped in place and stopped offensive operations. They still protected themselves when they thought they had to, but basically the offensive war ended.
McCaffrey, for reasons known only to him, did not stop. His troops kept on moving, and over the next two days moved twenty-five kilometers, roughly forty miles — some more, some less — moved that much further east into the Euphrates Valley, where they were supposedly being serving as a blocking force in case of a war. They were famed left-hook. McCaffrey’s unit was — McCaffrey was part of a corps, an Army corps made up of three divisions, whose job was, in case the Iraqi forces in Kuwait tried to break out into the southern part of Iraq, that he would be there to block them. They had made a — driven 250 miles or so to put themselves in position. But they also were, after the war ended, the ceasefire — McCaffrey’s movement to further east towards Basra, the city of Basra, the largest city in that part of southern Iraq, his movement to the east put him directly — was not known to the higher authorities in the senior headquarters above him, and put him directly into the retreat route of Iraqi forces.
One of the ways from Kuwait into Baghdad was across a causeway over something known as Lake Hammar in the Euphrates Valley. You had to cross a causeway, and then you were free, a straight shot into Baghdad. And this troop, these 700 tanks, etc., a lot of people — a lot of people in that convoy were simply soldiers and some civilians crammed into stolen — in many cases, stolen — vehicles in Kuwait — they were going home. The war was over; they had lost badly.
And McCaffrey engaged his defeating army. He had moved to the east without telling anybody. The argument about whether or not he had the provocation by the Iraqis was sufficient. Most — I will tell you the Army did an internal investigation that essentially cleared him. But the investigation also cleared him of criminal conduct, although it did not clear him at all of misjudgment. That was a separate issue that never was adjudicated. The question of whether he acted proportionally, whether he acted responsibly, was never acute, never dealt with. He was just cleared of having — of any criminal conduct in connection with what he did.
But he alleged — the Army itself could find only one rocket-launched grenade, a grenade launched from a weapon held by a soldier, was fired at a tank or a Bradley vehicle, a fighting vehicle, which McCaffrey acknowledged in his own criminal investigation as being the equivalent of a mosquito, you know, biting, you know, etc. But a mosquito bite, not serious. And there was another reported firing of a missile that nobody — nothing ever landed, nobody was ever hit. And between the times of the reported firing and McCaffrey’s all-out offensive against the retreating troops six or eight miles — eight kilometers, rather, further east, there was anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour-and-a-half or two hours, during which there was no aggressive action. It seemed to be clear that there was — certainly very strained to call this “defending yourself,” and there was a serious investigation based on it, and I just write about it in great detail, raising anew many of these questions.
Well, Sy Hersh, General McCaffrey, in several of his written responses to your article, claims that you’re basically rehashing old news that was already investigated several times over. And, in fact, he says that almost all the 200 or so people that you interviewed were already interviewed through those investigations. Is there anything new in your articles that did not come up in those investigations, or was it just the process of those investigations that you think are highly suspect?
All I can say is that — who am I speaking to? Who is that?
This is Juan Gonzalez. I’m co-host with Amy.
Fine. Hi, Juan.
No, the bottom line is simply this, that of course there was an investigation. McCaffrey was never asked any of the questions I posed in these articles. In the criminal investigations, some of which — much of which was released in the Freedom of Information Act, McCaffrey’s operations officer, a lieutenant colonel named Patrick Lamar, spoke very directly to the Army investigators in August — the middle of August 1991, right after — six months after the war. He made it very clear that he did not think there was enough justification and that also that there was an immense — what he described as a mistake in the map coordinates for the ceasefire line. In other words, McCaffrey was claiming that one of his aides had misread the coordinates, and that’s why he expanded his forces twenty-five miles to the east, because of misreading a map. And obviously you can make of that what you will, but McCaffrey never censured the officer involved, and in fact that officer’s still serving, served many years with McCaffrey, was promoted with McCaffrey. Clearly he — whatever mistake he made wasn’t considered to be serious enough for McCaffrey to take any action, although it’s a very serious action to put your troops twenty-five miles away, further to the east into a war zone than they’re supposed to be.
None of these questions were asked of McCaffrey. Lamar talked about not enough incoming. Lamar testified about the fact that he thought McCaffrey needed to go to a higher authority for — he couldn’t just engage these forces twenty or thirty or an hour after — actually he talked about two hours after the rather inconsequential offensive actions by the Iraqis, if they indeed took place. It’s not clear that they did. And so, you had an investigation that simply didn’t do the job.
One of the recommendations of the criminal investigation that took place — one of their investigations was that all of the data they had be given to the Army Inspector General. What happened is the war ends, an anonymous letter comes into the Pentagon, they convene a criminal investigation into McCaffrey. The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, these are the guys who usually look into rape or child abuse. They rarely, rarely do generals. They do this general. They investigate him. They conclude there was indeed at least one or two reports of incoming fire, but they recommended that the Department of Army Inspector General’s office do a full-scale investigation that never took place. Once they completed their investigation, the CID, the issue was gone, never raised again. And so, the notion that this was a serious investigation into McCaffrey is just ludicrous.
I will also tell you that in one of the incidents described — we’ll just have to ignore it, that’s a — not getting any more phone calls. In one of the incidents described, where the 382 or perhaps more, perhaps less, 350 to 400 prisoners of war were shot up, the Army investigation was done by the unit that did the shooting, and that investigation concluded that nobody was shot. The most astonishing finding. That nobody was shot! And so, you just have to wonder what kind of investigations they are, and, you know, I have said publicly I do believe that they weren’t worth the paper they were written on.
Sy Hersh, let’s talk about that, February 27, 1991, if you can flesh it out a little more. You’re talking about the possibility of between 350 and 400 Iraqis killed. Can you describe the scene the way you laid it out in your piece with the hospital bus, etc.?
What happened is that — and there’s — the Army nomenclature’s important here. There was a battalion that was in one of the brigades in McCaffrey’s division. McCaffrey was Division Commander. McCaffrey has nothing to do directly with this. This is his men. He runs a division. The division has three combat brigades. In each brigade are four or five battalions, or three battalions, three combat battalions. One of the battalions in one of the brigades was the 2-7 of the 1st Brigade, headed by a lieutenant colonel named Chuck Ware, and this battalion, on the fourth day of the war, February 27, was operating in no-man’s land in the desert, not much opposition. It was composed of five companies of armored vehicles and tanks. They needed to be refueled in the middle of the afternoon on the fourth day. That’s a very sensitive time for an army unit, a tank unit, because they’re all at the same place. A shell or two could hurt them, badly.
So during this time, the Scout, the advanced patrol unit of the battalion, the Scouts, equivalent to the World War II point men of — you know, these were the guys who stand — the thirty guys or so who operate in front of the main units. The Scouts were told to cut off any road — there was a road nearby — cut off traffic. The Scout unit was headed by a very fine officer named Kirk Allen, a lieutenant, a very honorable, admirable guy. They weren’t trigger happy. They were very solid guys. And they stopped — the first vehicle they stopped — they stopped all the traffic on the road — was a hospital bus marked, clearly marked, with the Iraqi equivalent of a Red Cross sign, which was a red crescent. And so, they — it was filled with wounded Iraqi soldiers. They took off the soldiers, and they treated with them with appropriate care under the Geneva Convention, took their weapons away.
Other Iraqis in the boondocks out in the desert saw that this was a unit that wasn’t trigger happy, and they began surrendering like crazy. More cars came along the road. As soon as they stopped, everybody wanted to surrender. There was obviously a lot of fear about how to surrender safely. But this unit was safe. Within a half-hour or an hour, they had 382, by one count, and the numbers probably went more, soldiers that they had taken, from which they had stripped all the weapons. They put them into a series of — some sort of order, a series of circular rows, group of rows, in a large sort of circular design, and then they were told to move on. Refueling was over.
And as they left, the Scout platoon, they had radioed ahead. They had told everybody in the battalion, “We have prisoners. They’re off a hospital bus.” They radioed the position. They said, “We’re going to destroy weapons.” They did indeed blow up the weapons, and they took all the weapons off the — four or five hundred weapons, put them on a truck and blew it up.
You describe in the piece how one man was so afraid — Iraqi – he asked what? That if he had been taken prisoner?
Well, one of the concerns the Iraqis had was obviously they were afraid of being shot. And the Americans — one of the things about the American guys is that we’re guys, and the Iraqis are guys. We’re not at war with the Iraqi people. And so, some of the Iraqis that the Scouts had an hour or so to talk to people — there was a doctor who was trained at, they thought, the University of Chicago. Somebody at one point had his card, but he lost it, one of the soldiers, one of the Scouts. And they talked — those who knew English talked about what they knew from America. Everybody knows something about America — the Chicago Bulls, you know — there’s some of this conversation goes on.
One of the soldiers, a young man from Georgia named Testerman, described to me very movingly, one of the guys who came in was acting very tough. And they were offered water and food — MREs, meals ready to eat, prepackaged food, not very tolerable, I guess. These soldiers shared their food with the prisoners. They gave away all their water, which is obviously — nothing special about it. That’s what GIs do. They’re good people. And this one Iraqi in particular was very hostile, refused, thought he was going to be poisoned by the Americans, so this young soldier Testerman opened up an MRE and took a bite, chewed it carefully, then gave it to the tough guy, who immediately burst into tears, because he thought he was safe.
And — but he wasn’t, because when the Scouts were called away to go chase a truck full of — a truck that maybe had a missile on it or something — that’s their job — as they pulled out, a platoon, one of the platoons, a company of platoon Bravo Company, I believe, a company of Bradley fighting vehicles, suddenly rolled up into sight, saw — and as the Scouts were leaving, the Bradleys, each having a machine gun on them, very intense weapons, a machine gun capable of firing 700 to 1,000 rounds-a-minute of large high-explosive shells, really quite killing shells, huge shells, they opened fire — thirteen to fourteen of these Bradleys — on the prisoners. Most of the Scouts were retreating. There were bullets coming in their direction, so they were getting out of there, boogeying out, as they said. Nobody actually witnessed, per se, the mayhem. All they saw were bullets going directly into the area. They just left. Machine — and the vehicles getting blown up, people scrambling, running for their lives. And then on the radio —
We’re going to have to hold the radio for a minute, because we have to break for stations to identify themselves for sixty seconds. We’re talking to investigative reporter Sy Hersh, whose exposé, “Overwhelming Force,” appears in the May 22 edition of The New Yorker. And when we finish with him, we’ll be joined by the spokesperson for Barry McCaffrey. Stay with us.
You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, as we continue with investigative reporter Sy Hersh. His piece “Overwhelming Force” on what happened in the last days of the Iraq War and the day after the ceasefire. You were just describing this incident that took place in Iraq just before the ceasefire, and you talk about the Scouts leaving the Iraqi prisoners of war who were holed up around, what, it was a kind of “u” of three buses — a bus and two vehicles that had been set up, and then the gunfire of the US Bradleys going into it.
Yes. And what happened is that, amazingly, one of the soldiers, the radioman, a guy named Brasfield, who — out of Kansas, a young soldier, a sergeant, or a Specialist 4, was — the radioman was making a tape. He happened to be making a tape for his wife of, you know, “This is what war is like, Hon,” you know, that kind of stuff. And the tape was turned over, was made available to me, actually, in the process of reporting this. I talked to a lot of the Scouts. And the tape is very vivid, because the soldiers are screaming and yelling about the awful — the troops behind them that were simply shooting up the prisoners they had just left. It was very traumatic for them.
And one of the soldiers, subsequently, in 1994, four years later — or 1993, three years later, after the war, filed a — wrote a letter just sort of ad hominem to the Army. He was then a student at Rensselaer, a young man named James Manchester, Rensselaer Polytech, I think it is, up in Upstate New York, an engineering student. He wrote a letter to the Army and reported it and was sent back a very polite letter a few months later saying, “We have investigated it totally,” and, you know, not only, “Yes, there was an unfortunate incident in which some follow-on troops did shoot at some prisoners, but nobody was shot. There were no bodies.” So the Army’s explanation for it was that nobody was killed. And the investigation was handled — it was — the investigation was done inside the brigade to which the battalion was attached. It was done by one of the senior officers of the brigade. And, you know, clearly there are a lot of problems with this kind of an investigation. In the article I quote Army law people, Judge Advocate General, the Army’s judicial process offices. I quote some of their senior officers as saying that “an investigation this serious should have been done by an officer outside of the combat unit involved,” just for obvious sake of fairness. And it was not done. It was done in-house. And frankly, it — you know. I can only say, as I said, it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
We’re going to have McCaffrey’s spokesperson on in a minute. What do you think are the most powerful indictments of General McCaffrey in these last days, in 1991, of the Gulf War and after the ceasefire?
It doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what I quote people as saying. Many of McCaffrey’s own peers, his fellow generals, were quoted as saying extensively in the article by me — as saying that they had grave questions about McCaffrey, they have grave questions about what happened. They knew — nobody thought his actions of conducting the war two days after a ceasefire, a major battle, was in any way uplifting or respectful of the traditions of the US Army or the general leadership. There were a lot of questions about his leadership.
And I should say that after the article was published, three or four generals subsequently sent letters to McCaffrey, all saying the same thing, amazingly, all saying they were not misquoted. As you know, some of your audience may know, The New Yorker has a wonderful fact-checking department, and clearly nobody wanted to say they were misquoted, because that would have been a little awkward. But they were quoted out of context. Well, they were not. I mean, I’m sorry that they felt they had to say that, but they were not quoted out of context. The context was understood. But, you know, generals are often more loyal to the institution.
Colin Powell warned you after you talked to him about —
I beg your pardon?
Colin Powell warned you after you talked to him about going after someone as big as General McCaffrey.
Well, what Colin Powell said to me was — I don’t know how much of this I quoted, but I’ll just tell you. I did talk to him. I’ve known him for obviously fifteen, twenty years, and he’s a pretty straightforward guy. He clearly likes McCaffrey, respects McCaffrey. He hired McCaffrey. He promoted McCaffrey after this incident. He knew nothing about it. He made the routine inquiries, was told by the Army that everything was OK. McCaffrey just — Colin Powell, just to be sure, told me that, you know — he said, “Sy, just be sure you’re careful about it.”
He subsequently has pretty much attacked me. The general response has been to sort of behead the messenger, which is the way it usually goes these days. One of the more amazing responses was the White House spokesman. Joe Lockhart, who I’ve never met, publicly was asked about my piece and said something to the effect that I’m just simply throwing it against a wall and seeing what sticks, which is sort of ludicrous. I mean, it’s not a response to a serious article. There’s no question it’s a serious article, and whether it will get a serious hearing or not, I don’t know. As some of the audience knows, The New York Times, other newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer over the weekend wrote a long editorial insisting that some investigation be taken. I just don’t think we can let this stand.
I think it raises a lot of questions about the Gulf War, to which there were no reporters invited. It was a war in which the press simply — we were all — the reporters were simply held in Saudi Arabia and given briefings. We weren’t in the field. We couldn’t see what happened.
And so, I just don’t think — I think, as a matter of common sense, you really don’t want any institution to wage a war, judge its success, and tell you how good they are without any independent assessment. And without that — I think if reporters had been there, I think some of the actions, perhaps, of the 24th Division wouldn’t have taken place. I think McCaffrey would have been much more chary — I’d like to think so, anyway — about waging a four-hour assault, you know, an hour or two after alleged incidents took place. And —
You accuse him also of — or people you interview accuse him of changing his records afterwards.
There’s no question he did that, not so much change his records, he just was muddled. He went to a commanders’ conference a few days after the war, where all of the general’s officers got together at King Khalid Military City in Saudi Arabia, and it was just the strangest performance anybody could see. He just simply kept on insisting Thursday was Wednesday and Wednesday was Friday. He just had his records all muddled.
And pretty amazing, since most of the other units, whatever — wherever they said they were, they were always within a few dozen meters of — you know, they could be tracked by overhead satellites or other means within a few dozen meters of where they reported. In McCaffrey’s case, he would report a position, and they couldn’t track it to within, you know, ten, twenty miles at almost any given time. I don’t know how much of this was genuine. I don’t know how much of this — one of his problems, McCaffrey’s problems, would have been, it seems to me, that if on March 2, if the Iraqi retreating units had stood and fought and a major battle had taken place, a lot of people would have wondered, “What was he doing there? Why was he twenty-five miles out of position?” You know, nobody seemed to know where he was. And everybody now is sort of scampering around saying, “Of course, we did,” but the fact is they did not know that, and I quote them saying that. And I’ll stand on what I write, very much.
I want to thank you for being with us, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. His piece is called “Overwhelming Force.” It appears in the May 22nd edition of The New Yorker, one of the biggest pieces they have ever run. It is truly a small book.
Well, I wish this could have been a discussion, debate, with our next guest, but he said that the — that General McCaffrey’s office will not do it like this, and hasn’t in any interview, that they listen to what Seymour Hersh has to say, and then they respond afterwards. And so, we are now joined by Bob Weiner, who’s listened to everything that Seymour Hersh has had to say. Bob Weiner, spokesperson for the Drug Czar’s office, spokesperson for General Barry McCaffrey, can you respond to what Seymour Hersh has said?
BOB WEINER: Hi, Amy and Juan. It’s good to be with you, and thank you for having us. Seymour Hersh has a storied career. He has done some wonderful things. His Pulitzer for My Lai was well deserved. But since then he has been severely criticized for his tactics, for his substance, and in many ways it seems as though he’s been trying to reinvent My Lai and what he created there.
The New Yorker report, over thirty pages, is a wonderful piece of prose. It is extremely well written. There are extraordinary skills that he demonstrates that he still has. But it is fiction! It is a conspiracy theory! It is ten years after the fact, and every single instance that he talked about, he doesn’t have anyone who actually saw what he’s claiming occurred! These are witnesses who were worried that something might have occurred, Scouts who went out and then came back, and something very different happened when the Scouts came back.
The famed radio interview that he talked about with Mr. Brasfield, other media wouldn’t even use that for major stories because it was way away from what he thought was occurring, which was the claim of shooting prisoners, when in fact it was a shooting at the vehicles! The interviews — the incidences simply did not occur. The claim that McCaffrey was twenty-five miles out of position and nobody knew, that is such nonsense! He reported at every stage, and guess what? They had GPS! They were pinpoint-precision located! What does he think? The military’s fuel trucks have to drive somewhere where they don’t know where to go? And they’d be driving around the desert wildly, not knowing where to go to fill up the tanks of the vehicles? It is a nonsense kind of a statement that he has put out there.
And in terms of The New Yorker’s fact checking, it’s so serious that when a letter came in from a command sergeant major, that the letter went back from Mr. Remnick: “Dear Major” and then the cover sheet was “Dear Sergeant.” They couldn’t even get this critical, wonderful, important person’s title right, let alone all the other facts that they supposedly were checking.
This was decisions made by commanders on the field, on the ground, who were taking fire and made the decision at the point of — when they had to report that these things were occurring, and the decision was made based on events on the field at the time, real things occurring, not theories from other generals who were in other divisions far away, not theories by people ten years after the fact, that there was an attack, and it had to be responded to.
And the concept that Mr. Hersh puts out there, of you have to respond proportionally, as Colin Powell said on This Week with Brinkley — excuse me, with Cokie and Sam last week, “Not in any military school I’ve been to! You respond with overwhelming force.” And if what Hersh had done was to put a national security debate out there as to whether overwhelming force should be the tactic that the military uses in wars like this, that would have been a major contribution, and that debate could go on, and it would be a wonderful national security debate.
But to slam, demean, and to defame the character of 26,000 soldiers who were defending the country against the fourth-largest military in the world, a military who, as Georgie Geyer reported, was putting boxes of hundreds of women’s breasts out there, who was committing the worst kinds of atrocities, who were taking over Kuwait and were trying to take over Saudi Arabia, and who our military defended America — our military defended American interests in doing, and to put these kinds of criticisms after the fact of people, including Director McCaffrey, who was a national hero and was promoted for what he did in the Gulf War, the courage, a man who has one of his arms dangling from three wounds in battle, this is an outrage! It is an absolute outrage that he would do the kinds of things for which, in the Kennedy book, he had to admit lying in court.
And Hersh mentions the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer editorials. OK, let’s take the New York Times. I talked to the New York Times
’s editorial writer at 6:00 in the morning after he wrote it. And I asked, “Have you read the Army’s 2,100-page investigation with 200 interviews that went thoroughly into this, allegation by allegation?” And by the way, that is the judicial process in this country. We do have this thing called the judicial process. And the editorial writer said, “No, we didn’t. I relied on Sy’s article. I’ve known Sy for thirty years.” Oh, and by the way, the New York Times didn’t disclose that Hersh was a former reporter for the New York Times. So they basically did “one for the Gipper” and didn’t actually do their homework in even reading the report that they said was insufficient! And this report, I’ve got it, I’ve looked through it. It’s a page-and-a-half thick! Anybody can get it by a FOIA. You get it in —- Freedom of Information Act request. You get it within twenty-four hours. And in it -—
Well, Bob, could I just interrupt you for one second. In terms of some of the — you mentioned generals that were far away from the scene. One of the generals he quotes is Lieutenant General John Yeosock, who was in charge of enforcing the ceasefire.
BOB WEINER: Right.
And he quotes Yeosock as saying, what Barry ended up doing was fighting sand dunes and moving rapidly. He was looking — quote, “looking for a battle.”
BOB WEINER: What Yeosock says — all four of the generals have said that Hersh was quoting them totally out of context, and they were actually talking about other things! That’s the kind of tactics that Mr. Hersh used in this story. And Yeosock —- I’m going to read you from Yeosock’s letter of May 16 that he sent to Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker -—
We have fifteen seconds.
BOB WEINER: “The above statement is used out of context. The statement had nothing to do with the events of 2 March, 1991. What McCaffrey was doing was exactly what he should be doing.” And all four generals said they wished they hadn’t done the interviews with Hersh.
On that note, I want to thank you for being with us, Bob Weiner, spokesperson for General Barry McCaffrey, now the Drug Czar of the United States.
BOB WEINER: I would just like to summarize that as one paper said, this was an exposé that went “thud.”
That does it for today’s program.