Democracy Now Radio – September 14, 2004

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan?

SEYMOUR HERSH:….I got there after action started, which was just devastating, I mean, brutal. There’s always internesting warfare, but this was extraordinary. They just said, this was the worst they have ever seen. One air force colonel, who is a wonderful, bright young air force colonel said to me, “Well, the army demonstrated that they were able to send a bunch of boys up a mountain to their death.” That’s what they showed in this mission. Complete disaster. They tried to tell the press as many as 700 al Qaeda were killed. Newsweek reported ten bodies were found. Shades of Vietnam again. But I didn’t write it.

What makes it interesting, while doing reporting on it, I called Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander, who is sort of an interesting guy in this stuff, because early in the war, early in my reporting on the war, I had written critically about a Delta Force operation. Delta is the secret unit of the army. The commander unit. They had been ambushed. The Delta guys were enraged. I’m talking about the first month of the war because they had been sent on this stupid operation and they had gotten hurt very badly. And they don’t like it. Delta guys, they like to crawl in little holes for a week and get to their target. They were ordered to do it in a different way.

Everybody denied the story like crazy. And Wes Clark, to his credit, told a bunch of newspapers, “Look, I know this is right.” I had said 13 people were hurt and he said 12 was the number that he had. I saw in him somebody with a great streak of integrity, difficult he may be. In any case, I called him about this story while I was doing it. He encouraged me to write it. I didn’t write it.

About a year-and-a-half later, he’s running for president. I mention this in the book, and I bump into him, and he jumped all over me. He said, “Why didn’t you do that story?” I said, “Well, I just thought, it just would have been — I just didn’t do it.” He said, “You should have done it. That was your job.” Pretty scary. You know, he was right.