For those of us of a certain vintage, this tremendous autobiography is long overdue, though I’m ashamed to say that I was likely too young (and thus probably too callow and disinterested at the time) to have followed Hersh’s first notable dispatches when they were penned back in the 70s.
It wasn’t until I was a lot older, by which time my own cynicism in the political establishment - of any persuasion and nationality - was approaching fruition, that I came to fully admire the breadth and quality of Hersh’s writings (some might say crusades) – most notably his coverage of the Vietnam War, Watergate (in conjunction with Woodward and Bernstein), his dismantling of JFK’s reputation and the machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose covert operations (for that read highly illegal) continue to span the globe.
Hersh’s reminiscences take us from the USA, through Central and South America, the Middle East, Europe and South East Asia. There’s not a dull passage in the book.
His run-ins with various newspaper editors, military bigwigs, national security agencies and, most notably, a veritable smorgasbord of venal politicians and power brokers, make for fascinating reading and I suspect they'll do nothing to alter the electorate’s growing disillusionment with the people (and here’s the scary thing ) who have been elected to govern us and who, in their increasing paranoia, have committed umpteen misdemeanors in their devious attempts to maintain their influence (and wealth) with utter disregard for the trusting - or gullible, depending on your point of view - souls who chose to put their cross on the ballot papers.
From Nixon and Johnson to Bush Senior and Junior and their various, vile henchmen, the cast of characters – including other foreign leaders - within these pages will be instantly familiar to those who keep abreast of events that have helped shape today’s insecure world.
What'll be immediately apparent, given the present incumbent of the White House, is that attempts to combat criticism of the ‘most powerful man in the world’ by accusing the media – in particular the written press - of concocting ‘Fake News’ is nothing new. Pretty much every political leader there’s ever been has been guilty of that - though perhaps with not so much gusto as one D J Trump esq. Nixon’s protestations of innocence during the Watergate scandal and his attempts to cover up the lies and distortions connected with the USA’s involvement in South East Asia are prime examples.
In the current climate, we need investigative journalists like Hersh more than ever. Though, I can't help wondering, with the decline in newspaper sales around the world, if it’s remotely possible that people of his calibre are coming up through the ranks. God, I do hope so.
Be that as it may, this memoir will be savoured by anyone who has even a smattering of interest in politics or who may be considering journalism as a career.
A cracking read.