Seymour Hersh blasts US policy in Middle East in Doha lecture

New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh said that he was disappointed with US President Barack Obama and dissatisfied with the direction of the US  foreign policy, charging that it had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative crusaders.

“Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn’t get one,” he was quoted as saying on the Bush and Obama eras at a

lecture at the Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Doha..

According to the investigative reporter, the inaction of the US administration that promised to change the nation’s outward policies, especially in the Middle East, was a deep shock.

The Obama’s administration has failed to advance from the Bush years in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, tensions with Pakistan and Iran and various other issues related to the region, Hersh said, Qatari daily Gulf Times reports on Tuesday.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, who broke the story of the massacre at My Lai, said that religious tensions affected the US foreign policy and that the prevalence of anti-Islamic sentiment has led to many US army officials to believe they were on some sort of crusade.

Citing several examples of US generals and various other officials, Hersh said that they have set back the concept of religious tolerance by centuries through their actions.

Hersh said he was currently working on a book on what the “Cheney-Bush years” and was keeping a “checklist” of aggressive US policies that remained in place, including torture and “rendition” of terrorist suspects to allied countries, which he alleged was ongoing, Foreign Policy reports on Wednesday.

He also charged that US foreign policy had been hijacked by a cabal of neoconservative “crusaders” in the former vice-president’s office and now in the special operations community.

“What I’m really talking about is how eight or nine neoconservative, radicals if you will, overthrew the American government. Took it over,” he said. “It’s not only that the neocons took it over but how easily they did it – how Congress disappeared, how the press became part of it, how the public acquiesced.”

Hersh then talked about the widespread looting that took place in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussain in 2003. “In the Cheney shop, the attitude was, ‘What’s this? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? … Don’t they get it? We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get all the oil, nobody’s gonna give a damn.’”

“That’s the attitude,” he said. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

According to the Foreign Policy report, Hersh alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) before briefly becoming the top US commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei. They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They seem themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

“They have little insignias, they coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins,” he continued. “They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war,” he said, quoted by Foreign Policy.

Torture in Afghanistan, assassination missions in Pakistan, and the continued support of an Israeli regime with questionable intentions are all serious issues that have yet to be significantly addressed by Obama, according to Hersh.

The Israeli shift to the right represented by the new political appointments in their government is a source of concern, he said.

With more hawkish and right-wing Israeli politicians replacing or in the process of replacing outgoing officials, Hersh worries about what the future may hold.

He also expressed concerns about Israel’s lack of willingness to deal with Fatah, even after being offered “the deal of their dreams.”

Hersh said that the US must enter into a dialogue with Mullah Omar if they wish to get out of the country in the foreseeable future.

Arguing that there are no national security concerns related to the US involvement in Afghanistan, he urged Obama to withdraw from the country as soon as possible to avoid any more loss of life in the drawn out conflict.

“There is a way out,” he said, “but we’re not going to take it.”

Hersh also expressed his concerns about developments in Iraq, and said he believed the Iraqis “would rather burn their oil” than see it go to the US.

Recent developments in Tunisia will “scare the hell” out of other leaders in the region and countries experiencing economic distress could well witness similar political action, he said, according to Gulf Times.

The current system has seen many rulers clutching on to power by appeasing the US and providing them with natural resources.

“They know they are allowed to continue their despotic ways because we are here to back them up,” he said, adding that leaders in the region effectively stay in power because “we get what we want.”

Although he said he was “shocked and appalled” at Obama’s apparent lack of desire to change the situation he found thrust upon him when he entered the White House, Hersh did offer one crumb of comfort – albeit a wishful one.

He said that Obama may be bidding for time, ensuring that he wins re-election before “becoming more like the Abraham Lincoln style President we hoped he would be.”

Obama may well be waiting before delivering on the promises he made upon entering the White House, Hersh said. He however admitted his concern. “I’m very sceptical,” he said. Source