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Chris Hedges Unmasks American Empire in "Unspeakable"

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But before all that, you're part of the team that covers 9/11?

Yeah, I reported from cities such as Paterson, New Jersey, where six of the hijackers had been living. Then I was sent to Paris to cover Al Qaeda in Europe and the Middle East.

And you're finding out that the facts on the ground don't go along with the emerging Bush-Cheney story line, that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

The French government was apoplectic about the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. It made no sense to them. They knew Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, that its army and military was severely degraded. Iraq was not a threat to its neighbors, much less to Europe and the United States. It did not have weapons of mass destruction. The French government, since I was with the Times, gave me carte blanche. I could go into the ministry of interior and ask for intelligence files. They were desperate to stop the war. It is a pity they failed.

They saw this train running out of control, driven by Cheney and his crowd.

Yes, and Al Qaeda was the problem, not Iraq. They had long experience with Islamic radicalism starting in the 1980s with the Paris Metro bombings by Algerian terrorists. I would come back to New York for meetings with the Times investigative unit. Judy Miller was part of that group. And the reporters and editors dismissed the French intelligence. They all drank the Kool-Aid. They were sure Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- an Eaglebrook graduate, by the way -- and the others in Cheney's and Rumsfeld's cabal were telling them the truth. The crazies were not only running the country but the coverage inside the paper.

You believe that Judy Miller, whose journalism career was eventually ruined, got scapegoated for spreading the WMD propaganda?

Yes, even though Judy Miller epitomizes everything I detest in reporters, but...

But she wasn't the only one.

That's right, it was an institutional failure at the Times. Howell Raines, and his successor Bill Keller and the investigative editors and reporters were all Bush's useful idiots. It was a colossal journalistic failure -- equaled by the paper's cluelessness about the 2008 financial crash -- that was dumped on Miller. They were all complicit.

Did any of your reporting that contradicted the Bush-Cheney line about Iraq get into the paper?

I was covering Al Qaeda. I wasn't covering Iraq. I had one brief foray into that morass.

Yes, Judy Miller -- in her own defense -- later said, "Oh, even the great Chris Hedges got snookered by the Iraq story."

Judy Miller and [investigative journalist] Lowell Bergman were working with Ahmed Chalabi [the Iraqi exile leader who was one of the principal sources behind the false WMD story]. Lowell was a producer at PBS's Frontline. There was a joint project between the Times and Frontline. I was in Paris or somewhere in Europe. Lowell had set up an interview with what he said was an Iraqi defector in Lebanon -- but he couldn't go with his camera crew. The Times sent me. I didn't vet the guy, I didn't set up the interview. This often happens in big news organizations. You share reporting and information. I did the interview. It later turned out the guy's story [about the Iraqi regime training Islamic terrorists] was bogus.

So you too played your own small role in the Times' disgraceful reporting during the runup to the Iraq War?

Yes. I have to take responsibility for it. It was my byline.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of (more...)
 

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