The” “Target Is Destroyed

The most serious crisis in United States-Soviet relations in the 1980’s was brought about when the Russians shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 as it flew into their airspace. Few events in recent history remain so fraught with mystery. Did the Soviets recognize KAL 007 as a civilian airliner and shoot it down anyway? Did the United States send the plane into Soviet airspace intentionally, and, if so, was it to spy or to provoke an incident? If the incursion was accidental, how could it have happened? After the incident, was the United States completely honest about what it knew about the shootdown? Was Russia?

Many books and articles have been written attempting to answer these questions. Hersh’s account may well be the most authoritative to appear so far, because of his lengthier investigation, his extensive contacts, and his objective and logical presentation. A final resolution to this controversy may not be possible for a long time, if ever; thus, each reader must finally decide what to believe.

Hersh describes the downing briefly, then explains exactly what information American intelligence gathered about the event and how. He found that politics profoundly affected how raw intelligence was processed by the American military and government and what conclusions were reached. Finally, Hersh relates a plausible scenario that accounts for KAL 007’s accidental straying off course because of pilot error. He concludes that the incursion was accidental, and that the Soviets involved made a tragic mistake. Unfortunately, the whole problem was compounded by American insistence that the Soviets had deliberately murdered the passengers and the Soviet refusal to admit error. Anyone interested in current United States-Soviet relations should read this balanced, reasoned account of a tragedy and its far-reaching effects.