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June 21, 2007

The Making of Mideast News at the New Yorker

Hersh small.jpe
Two months before the fighting broke out between the Lebanese army and Fatal al-Islam, Seymour Hersh claimed that Prime Minister Siniora was funneling money to the terrorist group

Emmanuel Sivan writes about the very dubious origins of a bizarre claim written by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker

that the U.S. administration, embracing realpolitik, was siding with the Sunnis in their conflict with the Shi'ites. This led the administration to cooperate even with those who are hostile toward the United States, including groups linked to Al-Qaida. To back up his claim, Hersh wrote that the United States was transferring funds to the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, even though it knew some of the money was going to the Palestinian group Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. (The article was published about two months before fighting broke out between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army.)

Sharp-eyed reporters in Beirut read the article in astonishment. Siniora, of the Lebanese Sunni establishment, was assisting allies of Al-Qaida who had split off from a pro-Syrian organization? And the United States was aware of this and might even be planning it, in order to strike at Hezbollah? And all this was in the context of aid to the Sunni forces in the Middle East in their conflict with Shi'ites backed, according to Hersh, by Iran? A world turned on its head. How could it be?

But it was published in The New Yorker, a magazine known for its meticulous fact-checking. The Lebanese reporters began investigating the story on their own.

Hersh said he heard the story from Robert Fisk, the bureau chief of The Independent's Beirut office. But Hersh did not check out the story himself. For his part, Fisk said he heard the unconfirmed report from Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence agent and the founding director and Middle East representative of the Conflicts Forum, a non-profit organization that aims to build a new relationship between the West and the Muslim world. Crooke, who gained his reputation through his involvement in the conflict in northern Ireland, does not know Arabic. When Lebanese journalists spoke to Crooke about the report, they said he told them only that he had heard it "from all kinds of people."

Posted by TS at June 21, 2007 05:58 AM


He didn't check Fisk, the man whose name has actually become a verb (to fisk) which means to fact check a story line by line because it is so riddled with errors.

Posted by: Dave at June 21, 2007 10:37 PM

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