Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize winning left-wing investigative journalist, is accusing Pres. Obama of lying about the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a 10,000 word piece on the London Review of Books.
The article, which was released Sunday, was so widely read that it crashed the LRoB’s website briefly.
Hersh’s story describes a politically obsessed President Obama rushing to get word out about the raid over the objections of key officials like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Hersh points out that the bin Laden raid “was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election.”
Hersh’s other main claim involves the knowledge of Pakistani officials. Hersh says the Obama administration claimed:
that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account.
Appearing on CNN Monday morning, Hersh strongly defended the story from attacks by host Chris Cuomo and CNN Security Analyst Peter Bergen, who wrote a lengthy rebuttal for CNN.
Responding to the charge that his article was based primarily on just one single, anonymous source, veteran reporter Hersh told Cuomo he had “vet[ted] and verify[ied]” his reporting with other sources.
Bergen claims Hersh’s argument is essentially a massive conspiracy theory, calling it “farrago of nonsense that is contravened by a multitude of eyewitness accounts, inconvenient facts and simple common sense.”
In his criticism, however, Bergen notes that the Obama administration made false statement right after the raid.
In his article, Hersh correctly points out that in the immediate aftermath of the bin Laden raid, White House officials initially made some false statements about the raid — for instance, that bin Laden was using his wives as human shields during the raid — but these were quickly corrected.
Hersh says the reason for the inaccuracies is that President Obama wanted to take immediate credit for the raid. Hersh said that the initial plan was to announce the death of bin Laden about a week later, but Hersh writes:
Obama’s speech was put together in a rush, the retired official said, and was viewed by his advisers as a political document, not a message that needed to be submitted for clearance to the national security bureaucracy. This series of self-serving and inaccurate statements would create chaos in the weeks following.
Hersh quotes from Robert Gate’s book Duty about how upset Gates was that President Obama decided to push narrative in order to take credit.
That we killed him, I said, is all we needed to say. Everybody in that room agreed to keep mum on details. That commitment lasted about five hours. The initial leaks came from the White House and CIA. They just couldn’t wait to brag and to claim credit. The facts were often wrong… Nonetheless the information just kept pouring out. I was outraged and at one point, told the national security adviser, Tom Donilon, ‘Why doesn’t everybody just shut the fuck up?’ To no avail.
Hersh reports others were also incensed by President Obama’s approach to organizing and delivering the speech:
Gates wasn’t the only official who was distressed by Obama’s decision to speak without clearing his remarks in advance, the retired official said, ‘but he was the only one protesting. Obama didn’t just double-cross Gates, he double-crossed everyone.
The White house has yet to comment on the report, but expect the Hersh piece to be the subject of discussion in the days to come.