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Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Seymour Hersh Delivers Trinity’s Maverick Lecture
By Russell Guerrero ’83

April 2008

Seymour Hersh with Trinity student Elliott Wilkes.

Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who has uncovered scandals from the jungles of Vietnam to the arid landscape of Iraq, feels America has lost its way during the Iraq War and needs to find its moral compass. But the only way to do that would be to admit to wrongdoing in Iraq and try to fix the almost irreparable damage. Mr. Hersh spoke in April at Laurie Auditorium as the inaugural speaker of Trinity University’s Maverick Lecture Series.

Speaking in a conversational style in front of an audience of about 1,200 people, Mr. Hersh blamed the current malaise on both the Bush presidency and the national media.

“Bush is the most radical president we have ever had,” said Mr. Hersh.  He added that he thought the president believes he can impose democracy on Iraq and that it would spread across the borders to Iran and Syria.

Mr. Hersh said that the president wants to go to war with Iran, although he will not go as far as to start one.

Mr. Hersh was also critical of the news media. “We really let you down,” he said. “It was our job to ask the hard questions.”  Instead, the press has been too cautious, especially in the months before the start of the Iraq War, he contended.

The scandals that have emerged from the war, from the Abu Ghraib prison to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, have further blackened America’s reputation.  Mr. Hersh said the Arab world was shocked by the photos of naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib as well as the stories dealing with torture and humiliation.  Even a friend of his, an Israeli Mossad agent who admits having no love for Arabs, told him that they would never shame a prisoner like that.

Now with the war in its fifth year and with more than 4,000 military deaths, Iraq is broken.  “It’s a corpse,” said Mr. Hersh.  

However, he said that both Democrats and Republicans are “much too cavalier” about the war. “Talking about getting out is not enough,” he said.  “We have an obligation to Iraq. We need to at least acknowledge what we have done.”

He added that if America does not rectify the damage, “we will never have the moral high ground again.” 

Mr. Hersh first gained national recognition for reporting on the atrocities committed during the My Lai massacre, when American soldiers killed several hundred South Vietnamese villagers, many women and children, in 1968. He received a Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 1970 for his work.

In addition, Mr. Hersh has received five George Polk Awards, two National Magazine Awards, and more than a dozen other prizes for investigative reporting. His books include the best-selling exposé of President Kennedy, The Dark Side of Camelot, and The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House.  His most recent book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, was also a bestseller. 

The Maverick Lecture series is presented by Trinity University’s history department and underwritten by the William and Salomé Scanlan Foundation. The series was created to honor the late Maury Maverick Jr., the legendary civil rights lawyer, former member of the Texas Legislature, former Marine, and iconoclastic newspaper columnist.

© 2008 Trinity University

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