Max Fisher, now at Vox, learned well during his apprenticeship under Marty Peretz at The New Republic. This week, he was among the first to try to smear Seymour Hersh’s piece in the London Review of Books, which argued that pretty much everything we were told about the killing of Osama bin Laden was a lie. Most importantly, Hersh’s report questions the claim that Washington learned of OBL’s whereabouts thanks to torture—a claim popularized in the film Zero Dark Thirty.
There’s a standard boiler plate now when it comes to going after Hersh, and all Fisher, in “The Many Problems with Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden Conspiracy Theory,” did was fill out the form: establish Hersh’s “legendary” status (which Fisher does in the first sentence); invoke his reporting in My Lai and Abu Ghraib; then say that a number of Hersh’s recent stories—such as his 2012 New Yorker piece that the United States was training Iranian terrorists in Nevada—have been “unsubstantiated” (of course, other reporters never “substantiated” Hersh’s claim that Henry Kissinger was directly involved in organizing the cover-up of the fire-bombing of Cambodia for years—but that claim was true); question Hersh’s sources; and then, finally, suggest that Hersh has gone “off the rails” to embrace “conspiracy theories.”
To accuse Hersh of falling under the thrall of “conspiracy theory” is to repudiate the whole enterprise of investigative journalism that Hersh helped pioneer. What has he written that wasn’t a conspiracy? But Fisher, and others, believe Hersh went too far when in a 2011 speech he made mention of the Knights of Malta and Opus Dei, tagging him as a Dan Brown fantasist. Here’s Fisher, in his debunking of Hersh’s recent essay: “The moment when a lot of journalists started to question whether Hersh had veered from investigative reporting into something else came in January 2011. That month, he spoke at Georgetown University’s branch campus in Qatar, where he gave a bizarre and rambling address alleging that top military and special forces leaders ‘are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.… many of them are members of Opus Dei.’”
But here’s Steve Coll, a reporter who remains within the acceptable margins, writing in Ghost Wars about Reagan’s CIA director, William Casey: “He was a Catholic Knight of Malta educated by Jesuits. Statues of the Virgin Mary filled his mansion.… He attended Mass daily and urged Christian faith upon anyone who asked his advice…. He believed fervently that by spreading the Catholic church’s reach and power he could contain communism’s advance, or reverse it.” Oliver North, Casey’s Iran/Contra co-conspirator, worshiped at a “’charismatic’ Episcopalian church in Virginia called Church of the Apostles, which is organized into cell groups.”
Not too long ago, no less an establishment figure than Ben Bradlee, the editor of The Washington Post, could draw the connections between the shadowy national security state and right-wing Christianity: Iran/Contra was about many things, among them a right-wing Christian reaction against the growing influence of left-wing Liberation Theology in Latin America. Likewise, the US’s post-9/11 militarism was about many things, among them the reorganization of those right-wing Christians against what they identified as a greater existential threat than Liberation Theology: political Islam. Fisher should know this, as it was reported here, here, and here, among many other places.
Eager to debunk Hersh, it’s Fisher who has fallen down the rabbit hole of imperial amnesia.