Sy Hersh: Henry Kissinger Must “Count Burned and Maimed Cambodian & Vietnamese Babies” in His Sleep

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While Sy Hersh was working at The New York Times Washington bureau, he would watch reporters call then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger nearly every day, diligently writing down his comments and then reproducing them as front-page news. This is one of many stories Hersh tells in his new memoir, “Reporter.” We speak with award-winning investigative journalist Sy Hersh about his many years reporting on Kissinger. He says, “What I always said about Kissinger, publicly, and again and again, is that when people … can’t sleep and they count sheep, I think Kissinger has to count burned and maimed Cambodian and Vietnamese babies the rest of his life. But, of course, he doesn’t.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: “I’ll Move On Up a Little Higher” by Mahalia Jackson, yes, a woman, remarkable artist, who Seymour Hersh knew as a child. Seymour Hersh, award-winning investigative journalist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, he has written for The New York Times, for The New Yorker. His memoir is just out. It’s called Reporter. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Sy, I wanted to ask you—in your memoir, you have several chapters devoted to your period at The New York Times. And one of the most interesting to me was your account of the relationship of Henry Kissinger to key people at the Times, like Abe Rosenthal, and how he fed stories to the Times. And could you talk about that?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, I’m hired in '72 by Rosenthal. And at the august—and I always wanted to work—the Times then was—if you were a journalist, it's the place to work. It still is. It’s still a great newspaper. I hate their coverage of Trump. I wish they’d get off the tweets and do the kind of stuff that they’re doing now. That story was there two months ago. Come on. You missed it.

AMY GOODMAN: Migrants on the border.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, yeah, and Yemen. They’re missing it. I mean, they’re doing some stuff on it, but it’s really—the American role is so much deeper than they know. Anyway, keep on coming back to it.

AMY GOODMAN: Tune in to Democracy Now!

SEYMOUR HERSH: I joined the Times, and I’m just—I’m just minding my business. I get a place. I’m sort of the commie reporter. I hired May 1st, and I was sent to see—late October, I went to the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris and wrote stories. Within a week or 10 days of being on The New York Times, I’m interviewing Madame Binh, this marvelous woman that headed the National Liberation Front, who I went back—I went back to Vietnam a few years ago and had a long coffee with her, at 89, as sharp as ever. I mean, this amazing, beautiful, dark-haired—everywhere she went in Paris, women applauded her, a leading, just amazing woman.

Anyway, so I get back to the Washington bureau, and I’m seated—I’m just randomly given a seat next to a guy who did foreign policy. And I’m minding my business. And every day at 5:00, the secretary to the bureau chief would walk out. And the reporter was Bernie Gwertzman, who was a very competent, professional journalist. And she would say—Max Frankel was the bureau chief. She would say, “Max is done. Henry’s called. And we’re coming to you now.” And then, the next thing you know, Bernie would take notes. He would laugh and talk to Kissinger, and then he would write a story. And I’m watching it. And the story the next day would lead the paper and say, “Government sources said so and so.” About the third or fourth day, I said, “This is a pattern.” It was a moment—there was a moment when somebody going in diplomatic. But every day, Kissinger’s—would come from Kissinger through the bureau chief to Bernie, who was the chief foreign correspondent, into the front page of The New York Times without a hint of who. I mean, everybody sort of knew it was Kissinger. And so, I asked him, about the third or fourth day. And he’s a very straightforward guy. I said, “Bernie, do you ever talk to Mel Laird?” If you remember, I had a relationship, and I knew Mel was against some of the policies. “You ever talk to Secretary of State Bill Rogers?” who I didn’t know, the secretary. But Rogers was state, and Laird was secretary of defense. And he said, “Oh, no.” He said, “If we did that, Henry wouldn’t talk to us.” I’m just—this is, you know, out of the old verbatim dialogue that used to be in The Village Voice, remember?

AMY GOODMAN: So, Gwertzman is getting a daily call from Henry Kissinger.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, not—it was—that week, it was daily.

AMY GOODMAN: A regular call.

SEYMOUR HERSH: A call when there was a crisis that involved that stuff. I mean, it was like, “What?”

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read you a quote from the late chef and TV broadcaster Anthony Bourdain, who just took his own life. He was talking about Henry Kissinger. He wrote, in his 2001 book, A Cook’s Tour, quote, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia—the fruits of his genius for statesmanship—and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic.”

SEYMOUR HERSH: Wow!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Anthony Bourdain, who just killed himself.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Wow! Wow! I did not know that quote. The only thing I remember is I wrote this long book about Kissinger, which we talked about at length on this show. And somebody called it an indictment or bill of attainder. And I remember, the next year, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—to which no rational journalist should go to. Celebrating a president, it’s not our job. It’s not our job. And by the way, my complaint with The New York Times was, we shouldn’t recognize America. We’re not America first. We’re a news—an international newspaper. Why the America first focus? But that’s a more subtle issue. And everybody would want Kissinger, even the next year, at their table. What I always said about Kissinger, publicly, and again and again, is that when people have to count—they can’t sleep and they count sheep, I think Kissinger has to count burned and maimed Cambodian and Vietnamese babies the rest of his life. But, of course, he doesn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Because of what he was in charge of.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Because, oh, my god, not just Cambodia, in Vietnam—you tell me where it is. I mean, come on. I mean, we’re talking about—we’re talking about—this is, in any other society, he would be in the dock. He’d be right there—he’s absolutely right—in The Hague with Milosevic. War crimes. These were war crimes that were going on. And the Christmas bombing, when there was a peace settlement, and Nixon wanted more, he wanted—he was afraid. He wanted—Nixon was just—he wanted to shore up his support in Middle America, I guess they called it. So they drop—they do a Christmas bombing, that has nothing to do with the peace process. Come on. What is that? That’s just murder.

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