Seymour Hersh has been a legendary investigative reporter since 1969 when he broke the My Lai story in Vietnam. His considerable skill and well-placed sources inside the government, intelligence community, military, and the diplomatic corps have allowed him access to a wide range of information unavailable to most reporters. Chain of Command is packed with specific details and thoughtful analysis of events since the attacks of September 11, 2001, including intelligence failures prior to 9/11; postwar planning regarding Afghanistan and Iraq; the corruption of the Saudi family; Pakistan's nuclear program, which spread nuclear technology via the black market (and admitted as such); influence peddling at the highest levels; and the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison, among other topics. The book collects and elaborates on stories Hersh wrote for The New Yorker, and includes an introduction by the magazine's editor, David Remnick, on Hersh's background and his sources.
Part of Hersh's skill lies in uncovering official reports that have been buried because government or military leaders find them too revealing or embarrassing. Chain of Command is filled with such stories, particularly regarding the manner in which sensitive intelligence was gathered and disseminated within the Bush administration. Hersh details how serious decisions were made in secret by a small handful of people, often based on selective information. Part of the problem was, and remains, a lack of human intelligence in critical parts of the Middle East, but it also has much to do with the considerable infighting within the administration by those trying to make intelligence fit preconceived conclusions. A prime example of this is the story about the files that surfaced allegedly detailing how Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger in order to build nuclear weapons. Though the files were soon proven to be forgeries, the Bush administration still used them as evidence against Saddam Hussein and therefore part of the reason for invading Iraq. In these pages, Hersh offers readers a clearer understanding of what has happened since September 11, and what we might expect in the future. --Shawn Carkonen