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Seymour Hersh Weighs In on Sanders vs. Clinton: “Something Amazing Is Happening in This Country”

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Legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh weighs in on the foreign policy positions of the 2016 presidential candidates. “For me to say who I’m going to vote for and all that … I’m not a political leader, that’s not what I’m into,” Hersh says. “But I will say this: Something that’s amazing is happening in this country, and for the first time, I do think it’s going to be very hard for a lot of the people who support Sanders to support Hillary Clinton. … There’s a whole group of young people in America, across the board, all races, etc., etc., who have just had it with our system.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Yes, we’re on our 100-city tour marking Democracy Now!'s 20th anniversary. Today, I'll be speaking in Albuquerque, and I’ll be in Las Alamos and Santa Fe at the Lensic on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I’ll be in Flagstaff, Thursday in Phoenix and Tucson, then on Friday in Fresno, Saturday in Grass Valley. Then we’re on to Houston and New Orleans on Sunday, and beyond. Check democracynow.org.

As we turn right now back to Seymour Hersh, who has a new book out—it’s called The Killing of Osama bin Laden. Sy, I want to ask you about the presidential race. Last year at a debate in New Hampshire, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of being, quote, “too much into regime change.” This is what he said.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: But I think—and I say this with due respect—that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be. Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gaddafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after.

HILLARY CLINTON: Now, with all due respect, Senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. You joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Gaddafi, and you asked that there be a Security Council validation of that with a resolution. All of these are very difficult issues.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debating in New Hampshire a while ago. So, Seymour Hersh, if you could talk about this issue and this most recent news, Charles Koch, the Republican megadonor, the oil baron, saying he could see himself actually supporting Hillary Clinton over a Republican nominee.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I don’t believe that for a minute, but that’s another story. What Koch said, I think that’s just all part of pressure to get rid of Trump, who, in some ways, Trump’s pretty—I mean, who ever heard of a Republican talking about ”NATO is useless”? Which, of course, pretty much a lot of people I know believe it is pretty much useless. There’s a lot of things Trump said that are pretty remarkable. He would talk to Putin, etc. It’s a pretty interesting campaign on the Republicans, how they’re sort of internally eating up themselves.

But Sanders is right, of course, about that issue. I don’t think Sanders is as sound on foreign policy as I’d love him to be, I wish him to be. I don’t think he really—he doesn’t quite understand the consequences of—he doesn’t—I don’t think he’s terribly—he just hasn’t done enough to make me comfortable. But, of course, Hillary—my favorite line about Hillary Clinton is, after Gaddafi was executed—as you know, he was killed by his own people. He was actually sodomized by swords. It was a horrible death. And she said on one show, “We came, we saw, and he died,” with a laugh. And that kind of talk is sort of almost bizarre.

You know, here’s what I think about this campaign. It doesn’t—you know, it’s clear where my political thoughts are, but it’s—for me to say who I’m going to vote for and all that, I don’t think anybody—you know, I’m not a political leader. That’s not what I’m into. But I will say this: Something that’s amazing is happening in this country. And for the first time, you know, I do think it’s going to be very hard for a lot of the people who support Sanders to support Hillary Clinton. Now, times can change. There’s a lot more time to go. We’ve got months before an election and a convention, etc. But at this point, I’m at the point where—I go back to the old days. Remember, if you—you might not remember. We had a lot of talk about a third party in America, a progressive third party. Barry Commoner was one of the people who was going to run it. It went nowhere. But there’s really—it seems to me, with what’s going on now with these people, 45 and under, the enormous support they’re giving to Sanders, just we know by polling, etc.—doesn’t always show up in the—it turns out, in the election results. I mean, it certainly didn’t show up in New York. And so—but they are there. There’s a whole group of young people in America, across the board, all races, etc., etc., who have just had it with our system.

And there’s something wonderful in the—you know, look, I’ve been to Israel many times, have a lot of friends there, and there’s a lot of very good people there, but we all know it’s headed for—it’s chaos coming. And here we have a guy running for president. This is something, I guess, you know, forbidden—a forbidden statement. But he’s the first Democrat since I’ve been watching politics, 50—I’m old, older and crankier than Bernie. But anyway, it’s the first Democrat that I can remember that actually did not have to go to the Jewish community in New York to get money to run. And that’s something amazing. We may be able to actually change our policy and let the Israelis know that there’s going to have to be a settlement—not just divided, not just two countries, but a real settlement, a peace settlement, in that area.

And we’ve seen some terrific changes happening in this election, as the Democratic Party has been moving to the left, with a lot of contempt for the way the party manages itself, by the people who are pro—working—are interested in Sanders, that look at the chaos on the right. Our system is basically breaking apart right now in this election. And you can only say, “Yay! It’s great!” So, it’s inchoate. It’s not very good. It’s a little bit like the new generation of journalism we have with the tweeting and—you know, and blogging, that’s going to clearly replace the newspapers, which are dying as we sit, every day. It’s all sort of a new world coming.

AMY GOODMAN: Sy, President Obama appeared on Fox News on Sunday a few weeks ago, and he was asked what was the worst mistake of his presidency. This was his response.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond, and particularly focus on Hillary as secretary of state under President Obama?

SEYMOUR HERSH: First of all, you’re just going have to take my word for it. Gaddafi was a tame cat. We got to him in the Bush-Cheney years. If you remember the history, we had a lot of bad trouble. Bush and Cheney were—I think normally would be embarrassed, should have been embarrassed, by the lies they told and the mistakes they made—let’s put it that way—about the WMDs that the—Saddam did not have an ongoing nuclear weapons system, which was known to an awful lot of people before—before we took over Baghdad and discovered nothing. At that point—I think it was a year later, in 2004—suddenly, Gaddafi, after allegedly having caught—we caught a ship full of some dual-use goods, and we stopped a ship that was going to Tripoli with it. He suddenly announced that he was giving up—unilaterally going to give up all his chemical arsenal and his WMD, his nuclear plans or options. And it was a big victory at a very much needed time by the Bush and Cheney crowd, that was a victory that showed our policy is working right. Money was involved, the CIA, covert money. A lot of stuff was going on. As you know, I’ve been doing a book about Cheney for a long time. And I can tell you that it was a considerable amount of CIA activity involved to turn him around.

I don’t think—which is amazing—it’s clear to me that the president and Hillary, the secretary of state, did not know about this secret agreement made. It’s just amazing to me that one administration will leave—it’s one of the things I first learned from a friend who went to work—I think it was way back—maybe it was for Clinton. This friend got a job, a high-ranking job, in the government. The first thing he discovered, that all the files related to everything significant that had happened, all the agreements that had been made in his area—it was in the State Department—had been gone, had been cleaned out. Nothing was left. So, they were—you know, as I said, they were going after a guy that had been doing a lot of good work for us, believe it or not, horrible as he was. He was a horrible human being. Bad things happened inside that country to the people. But he was actively working with us on the al-Qaeda issue, and, you know, if the—I don’t believe al-Qaeda exists there. I think the al-Qaeda we talked about disappeared with bin Laden. There’s just copycats, and we like to call it al-Qaeda. But Sunni jihadists, Sunni Salafist and Wahhabi extremists are spreading all over, in part in response to what we did after 9/11. But that’s the story we all know. So, they didn’t really know what the hell had happened with Gaddafi. They took out a guy that didn’t need to go. And the French were pushing for it, and we went along. It looked good.

It’s a little bit like putting a couple hundred guys, and maybe a lot more that we don’t know about, into Syria now, and many more than that into Iraq, where the—God knows what’s going to happen in both places. It’s just—it’s done without consulting the Congress, which probably this Congress probably doesn’t want to be consulted, but that’s the—you know, the Constitution is not a nuisance, as many in the Republican Party, as Bush and Cheney, and now, in many areas, even Obama believes, it seems to be a nuisance. We don’t tell Congress anything. We don’t go and—we don’t tell the people anything. And the control—the control of the media that goes on now, the major media, is, I think, much more acute now. I can go days wondering, you know, why we don’t do more aggressive reporting on certain things.

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