On Sunday, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a story in the London Review of Books calling the Obama administration’s account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden pure fiction, a cover story for an elaborate conspiracy between the American and Pakistani governments. Immediately, many began questioning the reporting in Hersh’s story. For a person familiar with Hersh’s famous revelations about the My Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib, the idea that he is even capable of producing shoddy journalism is shocking.
But the criticism of Hersh’s latest piece echoes the controversy that recently met Hersh after he published two other stories—in December 2013 and April 2014, also in the London Review—about the Syrian civil war. Both stories cited anonymous sources, corroborated by second- and third-hand accounts, saying that Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, were the first to use chemical weapons in the country’s ongoing civil war, specifically in a sarin gas attack on Ghouta, Syria, on Aug. 21, 2013.