: New: Book Report: Reporter

content warning: war crimes, uspol

It's an autobiography by Seymour Hersh, who reported on (among other things) the My Lai massacre, Watergate, and Abu Ghraib.

There's an important lesson for soldiers in this book. If an officer orders you to do something illegal, that probably doesn't mean that they're desperate to accomplish some goal vital to our nation. "We will disavow all knowledge" isn't cool. They probably don't need you to take extreme measures to save the day. They're probably just taking sloppy shortcuts, hoping to get promoted before anyone figures out what you did. Oh yeah, and part of their strategy to buy time for that "before anyone figures out" part: they'll throw you under the bus if investigators show up.

The Vietnam war was going poorly for the USA. But the press pool working at the Pentagon didn't know it—they were so glad for "access" to Pentagon reports that they passed those reports along uncritically. Hersh followed up on rumors of things going poorly, followed up on rumors of an atrocity. And thus he turned up some ugly truths. E.g., he found out about the My Lai massacre, which was pretty horrible. And he found out about the officers who put those massacre-ing soldiers into that situation and… and there are reasons you don't put soldiers into that kind of situation and we know this and yet. And yet. Ugh. So there was a cover-up, ostensibly to protect the soldiers, but really to protect those officers. And Hersh navigated this tragic mire.

And there's more in this vein.

Hersh mentions that he didn't want to tell other reporters about his investigation methods because he wanted to keep getting scoops. But with the benefit of hindsight, you want to tell him: There were plenty of scoops for every reporter thinking of investigating wrongdoing by the Vietnam-war-era Pentagon.

This book isn't an uplifting chuckle. But it's interesting if you have a strong stomach… and maybe some lighter reading you can switch to when you need it.

Tags: book brutal truth

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