Here’s a Suggestion
I have so much to get done and no time to blog but today's piece by Thomas E. Ricks in the Washington Post was particularly galling and I feel I have to address it.
I have a suggestion to all the editors out there: when one of your reporters puts together a very slanted story—especially when it involves a reporter who has authored a polemical book on the same topic—then shouldn’t the newspaper qualify this reporter’s ideological bent by alluding to his or her book in lieu of a disclaimer for all us unsuspecting readers?
For example, it would be useful if it were noted, along with today’s front page story ‘Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say’, that Thomas Ricks is the author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (2006).
I mean, it should be clear that Ricks has chosen sides in the debate, and consequently he will not allow his argument (and his career) to go quietly into the night; his story today is a thinly-veiled Op-Ed constructed through the medium of selective interviewing.
As Victor Davis Hanson put it today:
Many anti-war critics are so invested in the notion of the Iraq war as the "worst" something or other in U.S. history that they cannot accept the radical turnaround after over four years of war.Thus, Ricks keeps beating this dead horse, or rather it’s a dead unicorn since his whole construct was mythical to begin with.
Thomas Ricks has made a career out being the bullhorn of mutiny: he is the go-to journalist for the military brass as they communicate their whisper-campaigns against the civilian leadership of the Pentagon. To this end, he was the preferred propaganda outlet for the officers’ putsch against Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith. Whatever gripe the officers are barred by law from divulging directly to Congress gets conveniently channeled onto the pages of the Washington Post through Ricks. Gotta love DC!
And when you have a crop of cry-baby officers running the show, then there’s plenty to whine, and write, about.
Check out this insolence by the 1st Cavalry’s Lt. Col. Mark Fetter:
As for the Sunni fighters who for years bombed and shot U.S. soldiers and now want to join the police, Fetter shrugged. “They have got to eat,” he said over lunch in the 1st Cavalry Division’s mess hall here. “There are so many we’ve detained and interrogated, they did what they did for money.”
Talk about projection, maybe Fetter is doing what he’s doing because of the money too. Forget principles, forget beheadings, forget leaving bombs amid grocery stalls—an insurgent’s gotta do what an insurgent’s gotta do!
I’ve met some American officers serving in Iraq who are wonderful and who have really tried to learn and compromise yet kept themselves morally grounded and more importantly, loyal to the Commander in Chief. But then again there are officers like Col. David W. Sutherland who are total jackasses; unfortunately, it is the Sutherlands and the Fetters of the world that reporters like Ricks are likely to interview.
Among other things, the officers in Ricks’ piece are offering-up pushback against federalism, a form of government for the New Iraq that is enshrined in its spanking-new constitution. Federalism is a very new concept for the Middle East even though the Iraqi opposition has been discussing it since 1992. That’s why self-described Middle Eastern experts are spooked by federalism and cannot understand it beyond the paradigm of ‘warlord-ism’; their brains short-circuit when the word is mentioned since they are, like the autocratic regimes of the region, afraid of change. “If the sultan in not in charge, then nobody’s in charge” they sing in chorus; to them, representational and local government is a pipe-dream.
And who has set himself up as the ‘available-for-media-comment’ fount of all wisdom when it comes to the follies of federalism? That would be Marc Lynch, of the Abu Aardvark blog, who is quoted in the Ricks piece.
Prof. Lynch seems like a genuinely nice guy who puts plenty of energy into his blog and keeps it lively. But I can discern two eras that color his blog in very different hues: pre-Washington and post-Washington. About six months ago, Lynch moved from his New England idyll and took a job at the George Washington University in DC, but it seems that the changed and charged atmosphere of his new locale has infected him with an ideological exuberance whereby his rhetoric got ahead of his knowledge—a transformation that's being egged-on by fellow travelers like Ricks through the flattery of attention.
The heady vapors of ‘Famous-for-DC’ eminence have gone to Lynch’s head, exposing him to the mistake of unintentional intellectual mendacity. Case in point, Lynch misread the research done by Daniel Kimmage back in July and barnstormed through the media proselytizing for his misinterpretation. When I challenged him on this point, he promised to look into it but never did, and I believe that he allowed the record to remain skewed lest his stardom dims a bit.
Lynch’s expertise is on Jordan and Aljazeera (…he’s a card carrying member of the ‘Friends of Aljazeera’ network!) but not on Iraq. He’s far more qualified to comment on Iraq than the other bozos out there, but still I get queasy when he markets himself as an Iraq expert.
Lynch often links to my work from time to time through his ‘del.icio.us’ margin and adds little quips such as referring to me as “totally nuts”—not that I’m disputing that! But there’s one thing that he did that still bothers me: when linking to my column ‘Jihadist Meltdown’ on March 12, 2007, he had this little line to add “The reason the press isn't reporting it is that it isn't right” but then, a few weeks later, he adopts my points and passes them off as his own. That too makes me queasy.
So to sum up, Thomas E. Ricks speaks for disgruntled officers who shirk responsibility and resist change, and Marc Lynch doesn’t understand federalism.
So, let’s see, who have I pissed-off recently? Marc Lynch-check; ideologues posing as reporters-check; Col. David Sutherland-check; the FSEC-check; MESA-check; the New York Times-check; the House of Saud-check; the Wahhabis-check; Ayad Allawi-check; the CIA-check; Jalal Talabani (…which really pissed off his cousin, my mom)-check; George Packer-check. I think my job here is done.
No more blogging!
PS: Ooooh, yet another milestone: this is my 300th post!