Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Embedding and Coopting


It had been my intention to fire one of these things into the blogosphere no more often than every week or ten days, tops.  Also, I hope to deal in subjects, ideas, not personalities.  I focused in one blog not long ago on the distinguished and courageous journalist Dexter Filkins not to defame him in any way, but rather to suggest that his years as an "embedded" reporter for The New York Times prevented him from asking the large questions -- especially about the economics underlying our occupation of Iraq -- which might have helped his readership (and his editors) better comprehend the rationale behind our involvement.  Free of The Times, Filkins judges our involvement in the area as a disaster of "mismanagement."

That is certainly a start. Even now the motivations that pushed us into that feckless project are becoming clear enough -- we went into Iraq because it looked like easy pickins on the ground, because important players in our military-industrial complex were running out of work and needed a secure base in the Middle East, and because there was all that oil.

If that sounds like leftie talk to students of this blog, what can I say?  A couple of times recently Steve Mumford has dressed me down for impugning the integrity of our brave journalists. Mr. Mumford, I discover on Google, was himself an embedded artist in Iraq, a painter of recruiting-poster-style renditions of street scenes and battle tableaux during our years of embroilment. Having been himself embedded, Mr. Mumford is no doubt qualified to speak for others on whom such unavoidable limitations have been imposed.  I welcome his input.

But to dismiss my observations as the sputterings of a "leftie" suggests that Mumford has skipped his homework.  I have been an independent writer and journalist my entire professional life.  Independent politically and independent intellectually.  I've been under attack from the left for going after the Kennedy family in Bobby and J. Edgar by suggesting that they cherished Joe McCarthy (Eunice almost married him) and going "soft on Hoover" (David Corn in the Times).  Right-wing commentators -- and the Agency itself -- were infuriated by my insistence in The Old Boys that the Eisenhower-era CIA was duped unceasingly by the KGB, which planted virtually every scrap of information about the Sovier Union on which the Agency based its appraisals.  In fact, Dick Helms was my source for a lot of that, and James Jesus Angleton remained a friend until the day he died.

Mumford suggests that I am "surprisingly thin-skinned" about "the term 'leftie'; I didn't call you a commie after all.'"  I suppose; I didn't call Mumford a Nazi, which no doubt covers me with glory.  As far as I am concerned, that is not the point.  Mistakes are mistakes, on every level.  At the recent Republican candidates' debate almost every participant pushed to get out of Afghanistan, faster.  Ron Paul -- who has the credentials -- wanted to clear out yesterday.  This is about initiatives, not labels.

Good luck to all of you in August,


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