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Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

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Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

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Group Blogs

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Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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July 23, 2004

An American Journalist is Murdered in Russia: Paul Klebnikov, 1963-2004

Only in a highly developed and reasonably secure political system do journalists have the luxury of thinking apolitically about their work. Only when democracy and the rule of law have won is it possible to lose your political identity as a journalist and go around saying things like: we're just reporting the news. Some reflections on national greatness journalism.

Only in a highly developed and reasonably secure political system do journalists have the luxury of thinking apolitically about their work. Only when democracy and the rule of law have won, historically, is it possible to “lose” your political identity as a journalist and go around saying things like “we’re just reporting the news.” Or I’m a professional and so my politics don’t enter into it.

Journalists who operate in more dangerous situations can never afford this illusion. Although I didn’t know him, and heard little about him before his death, Paul Klebnikov of Forbes, who was shot dead in the street in Moscow July 9, must have been the sort of journalist who knew very well that his work was politics, even though it observed the rules of a different discipline— journalism, category: investigative. From the Baltimore Sun account by Dougal Birch:

Four of the bullets struck Klebnikov before the sedan sped away, police said. A colleague working in the same building found Klebnikov dying on the sidewalk minutes later. “He said he didn’t know why he had been shot,” Alexander Gordeyev, editor of the Russian edition of Newsweek magazine, told the Associated Press.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office described the slaying as a contract killing yesterday and called the case “a matter of extreme importance.”

Klebnikov investigated rich, corrupt and dangerous people, ruthless billionaires in Russia (and also ruthless mullahs in Iran.) During the Yeltsin era, he published an expose in Forbes of Boris Berezovsky, the original oligarch, calling him a “gangland boss.” According to Andrew Meier, Moscow correspondent for Time magazine from 1996-2001, “Klebnikov’s investigation of him, in the article and later in a book, reverberated in Moscow boardrooms and dachas.”

When he became editor of Forbes Russia, a new publication launched this year, Klebnikov did what no editor in that country had ever done: he named Russia’s 100 richest people, including estimates of what they owned and how they had acquired their wealth.

“This authoritative list is often cited in local media, to the fury of wealthy Russian businessmen and women who prefer to keep their affairs quiet, and Klebnikov made himself no friends with its publication,” said The Guardian. “The attempts to shed light on the state of our businessmen, on their type of activities, is a very dangerous profession,” said Igor Yakovenko, general secretary of the Union of Journalists, according to the Interfax news agency.

By some accounts his killing is a direct challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin. By all accounts his death is a political crime. Andrew Meier wrote:

There is little doubt that Klebnikov’s was a contract killing. Moscow hadn’t seen the contract murder of an American citizen since 1996. Although during Putin’s presidency 14 reporters have been killed, with one exception they were all Russians, so Americans thought they were safe. Business, imagined Western reporters covering the rise of Russian capitalism, had matured. The bosses of the underworld and the lords of the oligarchy had learned. Disputes were settled in courts, not bloody sidewalks. How wrong we were.

It’s certain that his life was a political life.

Paul George Klebnikov, journalist, born June 3 1963; died July 9 2004, known to Russians as Pavel Khlebnikov, whose descendants left Russia after the Revolution in 1917; whose ancesters included Ivan Pouschine, a lawyer friend of Alexander Pushkin who had been exiled to Sibera for his role in the 1825 uprising against the Tsar; and who as a college student persuaded his grandfather, then 88, to return to the Soviet Union for the first time since he had watched his own father, an admiral in the White Russian fleet, assassinated by the Bolsheviks in 1917, (all this from the Guardian’s obituary) was an American who gave his life for Russia.

In announcing his death, the Russia Journal, published in Moscow, told what dangers journalists face there:

Contract killings, attacks, intimidation, frivolous legal challenges, threats of physical violence, arson and burglaries are ever-present features of honest journalists’ lives in Russia. News media and individuals that would not compromise their principles in their dealings with the oligarchs are intimidated in a gory manner across Russia. Even the official authorities have little or no sympathy for good, honest reporters. Few of the contract crimes have been solved, and even fewer are reported and investigated diligently. The list of assassinated, beaten, wounded and threatened journalists in Russia is endless.

Khlebnikov was killed because of his journalism, but also because of his politics, which called for truth in situations were no one but a journalist was going to find it, speak it and make people deal with it. “You can say of Paul, without exaggeration, that he gave his life for the truth,” said the longtime editor of Forbes, Jim Michaels, and he was right. It’s not an exaggeration. Daniel Pearl of the Wall Street Journal— same thing.

But then Michaels went on: “Paul believed in his soul in the greatness of Russia. His harsh criticism of the post-Soviet kleptocracy sprang from a passion to see that greatness realized.” A passion for truth is frequently attributed to great reporters. His former editor, Jim Michael, attributed to Klebnikov a different kind of passion, which informed his work: to see the greatness of Russia realized.

The editor of Forbes Global, Tim Ferguson, was more explicit: “With a couple of books in addition to his magazine journalism, the man known to Russians as Pavel was a pioneer in trying to bring about the kind of openness the country will need if it is actually to emerge as a modern economy.”

Notice, then, that Pavel Klebnikov, according to the testimony of peers who knew and admired him, was trying to bring about things in Russia, and from that passion sprang his investigative work. His survivors spoke repeatedly about this in their tributes to a slain colleague. After years of writing exposes for the magazine, Klebnikov moved to Russia this year to launch a new publication, Forbes Russia, which he launched on April 22, Lenin’s birthday.

Steve Forbes, publisher:

As Paul made clear at Forbes Russia’s launch, he thought that Russia, despite setbacks, was entering an era in which a lawful, innovative, opportunity-enhancing, free-enterprise kind of capitalism was beginning to emerge. Indeed, he felt that a new Russia was aborning that would, to use Abraham Lincoln’s words, “appeal to the better angels of our nature.”

Paul passionately believed in this better Russia and felt his work would play a role in moving this redemptive process forward.

Moving things forward. C.J. Chivers said the same thing from the Moscow bureau of the New York Times. “Mr. Klebnikov had alighted in Moscow with a spirit of civic reform.” Which reforms? Transparency, openness, “the dictatorship of the law,” which he not only believed in, personally, but wanted his work to advance. He practiced what we might call national greatness journalism— for Russia. I think this is what Steve Forbes meant when he wrote, “Paul didn’t see his purpose as being only to expose malignantly entrenched wrongdoing.” He was also trying to bring about an open society—open for business, for capitalism, being included in that. Here’s Chivers of the New York Times again:

Having studied both early privatization and the hints of maturation, he dreamed of a better Russia: open, honest, law-abiding, an evolving nation with its wilder impulses tamed. He also saw a chance for the synthesis of Western standards and Russian traditions in a newly strong state.

Those are things that might be said about a visionary political leader. But they were said about a visionary journalist, whose politics were understood to be at one with his journalism, category investigative. But not only his politics— his personal commitments, his family, his heritage. If he did practice a kind of national greatness journalism, and fought for a cause in Russia, it was also a very personal form. The meaning of his work and the meaning of his life were pretty much the same thing.

You could say Paul Klebnikov died for truth, and Jim Michaels did say that. But you cannot say his only cause was the truth. You cannot say he kept his politics separate from his journalism (category investigative.) You cannot say that his only public commitments were to his profession, or that he was just a neutral agent reporting what went on, but taking no part in it.

You cannot say he distanced himself from the story of the new Russian state in order to see it clearly. (Rather he immersed himself in it, in order to see it whole.) You cannot say he had no stake in the subjects he was writing about. You cannot say any of the things that journalists like to say about themselves when they are out to convince us—or maybe it’s themselves—that the story is the story, and politics of it is left to others.

Klebnikov believed in truth-telling, in hard-hitting, fact-filled, tough-minded exposes, the form of reporting with the highest prestige in the American press. He also believed in civic reform, dreamed of a better Russia, and let that dream motivate his work as a reporter and editor.

Civic reform? It would be a comic under-statement to say that our journalists do not grant prestige to that; and if you asked most of them: are you a civic reformer? they would grimace first before telling you no, that’s not our role. This is all part of an apolitical—and ahistorical—identity our press has developed in a secure republic. Necessary, it is said, because truth must prevail over “politics.”

“Mr. Klebnikov’s work—informed and sometimes brazen—inserted him squarely into the worlds of Russian business, crime, power and wealth,” wrote C.J. Chivers of the Times. That work also inserted him squarely into Russian history, which he sought to affect for the better. By also having a politics, was he compromised as a journalist? No, we cannot say that. He was constituted as one. It would insult his memory to call him detached, and yet he was a great reporter who died for truth, and angered powerful people by exposing their deeds.

As I prepare to pack off for Boston and the Democratic National Convention, where no one in the press expects to find greatness, I keep thinking about Klebnikov and his complicated loyalties— mixing truth, politics, nation, history, family and biography. And it makes me wonder: It is said that we have, or ought to have, national greatness conservatives. But is there an American version of Klebikov’s national greatness journalism, fully compatibile, as his was, with the truthteller’s creed and courage?

Do we need such a thing? Would it necessarily be conservative? And what would it look like, sound like—what would it be about—if someone dreamed of it, and found it could be done?

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

The Economist’s obituary I found to be the best.

See also Peter Lavelle, Forbes’ Paul Klebnikov: A Victim of Political Terrorism?

The account of Khlebnikov’s death in Russia Journal includes this observation:

Unlike most current and former foreign reporters working for Western media in Moscow, Khlebnikov was known to have clean hands — a real professional journalist who saw it as his mission to tell the true story of Russian capitalism. To those who knew and associated with him, Khlebnikov was an impartial and fearless reporter.

Andrew Meier in the Los Angeles Times, Moscow Murder’s Other Victim: (July 14)

Author of a dissertation on Russia’s prerevolutionary land reforms, the New Yorker had moved to Moscow with an Arcadian dream of the land of his grandparents. Recently, he had taken a trip into the Russian provinces. Days before his death, he told a colleague of his unexpected joy at seeing the outlying regions doing well. Now more than ever, he said, he believed in the future of Russia. But after four fatal shots from two hit men, his stunned colleagues knew the truth.

A war is on in Moscow. The last round has gone to the opponents of free speech. And the fire, thus far, has gone unreturned.

From a Washington Post account by Peter Baker and Susan B. Glasser (July 15):

Klebnikov’s two older brothers said Wednesday that Russia could validate their dead sibling’s faith in the country by finding his killers. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the Russian government to show the world it has turned the corner,” Michael Klebnikov said at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy. “They have every incentive to demonstrate their competence.”

…The experience left even optimists about Russia questioning their faith. As Jordan left the service Wednesday, he shook his head. “It’s a catastrophe,” he said. In a later telephone interview, he added, “If this is not resolved, it will put an incredible amount of doubt in people’s minds about whether they can do business here, whether they should send journalists here and whether Russia belongs to groups of civilized nations like the G-8.

Posted by Jay Rosen at July 23, 2004 2:14 PM   Print


According to some, Klebnikov was a raving anti-semite.

link one

link two

Posted by: pan at July 23, 2004 3:54 PM | Permalink

I think it might look a lot like Bill Moyers.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 23, 2004 3:55 PM | Permalink

It might look a lot like Democracy Now.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 23, 2004 3:56 PM | Permalink

The credo "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" is an activist credo.

And even in the US, it's possible to get killed reporting on thugs in power - it's just that the government, at high levels, is mostly not really bona-fide thugs (note this started not to be true under Nixon!).

But most US journalists are just stenographers *to* the powerful - not a trivial game, given the rivalries, but at a different level than opposing the powerful.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 23, 2004 4:31 PM | Permalink

But no journalist is as brave as Michael Moore, who risks making a few million dollars and recieving praise from a fawning media and Democratic politicians. Oh, the crushing of his dissent his horrible.

Posted by: Anonymous at July 23, 2004 4:48 PM | Permalink

The difficult part about 'national greatness' journalism in the U.S. is that we have such a hard split between advocacy and accuracy. It distorts more than it clarifies. F'r instance:

I can't tell you how many times I've seen the word "claim" in bizarre places in a story, when the reporter was trying to be 'objective': "Congressman X introduced legislation that he claimed would unite immigrant spouses and children by allocating visas..."

It's not THAT hard. A bill like that either will, or it won't, just like a tax bill will either raise taxes for x, or not.

Other things politicians say are genuine claims -- that raising taxes for these guys, and lowering 'em for those guys, will do this, that or the other for the economy. Reasonable people can (within reason) disagree about that.

But it is considered advocacy, not accuracy, when reporters sort out the difference. It would be as if they had their own agenda -- namely, the truth.

Most of the time, reporters are intensely discouraged from writing about obvious, important stuff unless it's already part of the buzz. There are a dozen critically -- hell, tectonically -- important stories that nobody writes about, because reporters don't set their own agenda.*

Can't do NG-journalism without that.

*Just as an example of unreported political tectonics: When was the last time you saw a reporter explain why there are twice as many voters electing Congressional reps in NY and Mass, which are gaining population but losing representation, as in Arizona and California?)

Posted by: theAmericanist at July 23, 2004 5:24 PM | Permalink

Amen, Americanist. "Party member X claimed today that gravity rules even in Washington" type avoidance of truth claims is maddening. How and when did the abdication of reality checking get defined as fairness or objectivty in the newsroom? Why exactly did this become the rule? Whose idea was it?
The other day, Juan Cole was noting the idiocy of this model in concrete context, for example claiming that medical schools should hire doctors who represent the other side of the debate on lung cancer, that cigarettes don't cause cancer. That's not another side that adds fairness, it's objectively wrong and endangers the lives of as many people as continue to act on the basis of their misguided relativism. There are countless similar examples that spew forth from the media on a daily basis such as the Americanist has pointed toward.
When did we arrive in this alternative universe of media relativism that allows the most bald-faced lie belied by a 30 second Google search to be published as a newsworthy "claim" to be recycled through the echo chamber yet one more time?
It is clear that we now have alternative Republican and Democratic universes going strong, to say nothing of alternatives on either side and in the middle. Still, the empty-headed idiocy of a lot of this relativist "claims"-based journalism is maddening. Why does it go on? How did we get here?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 23, 2004 6:05 PM | Permalink

Dear Joe,
Juan's example was actually a hypothetical. He was saying, what would it mean if we translated this absurd, "both sides of the story" rule of fairness in journalism to medicine? His answer is that it would require institutionalizing objective falsehoods.
The implication we are clearly supposed to draw is that this example calls into question the rationality of the "two sides of a story" equals fairness doctrine. Sometimes one side is simply and factually wrong. When that is the case, the point should be forcefully made near the top of the item.
There has got to be some way that public discourse can begin to differentiate between spin and absolute fabrication of falsehoods out of whole cloth. It's breathtaking and it happens on a daily basis. Until something breaks through on this front we will continue to suffer from social psychosis where political and policy debate are supposed to be. It really is a form of social derangement.
It is unavoidable that this toleration of fantasy reporting is centrally responsible for the extraordinary number of mental breakdowns that occurred among troops in Iraq when they met a reality that absolutely contradicted everything the adminstration's fall war product roll-out told them and the major media passed along with exclamation points.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 23, 2004 8:12 PM | Permalink

I find it interesting that you wrote, "Only in a highly developed and reasonably secure political system do journalists have the luxury of thinking apolitically about their work.", but you did not also mention that such security and "highly developed" (free?) system is also required to consider journalism that is more transparent, more communicative.

Unless you equate Klebnikov's drive for civic reform and openness -- pulling back the curtains on power centers in society -- with pulling back the curtains and removing the barriers of commodified journalism. I don't think you do, am I wrong?

Obviously, Klebnikov was a partisan who could visualize green spinach while dealing with people telling him it was blue and yellow and ignoring journalistic standards that demanded descriptions in tones of gray.

He was also a gladiator in the arena, not a bystander or spectator.

When you have an obligation to remain outside the arena, it is also tempting to feel above the partisans who are struggling within that arena. (But then where else are they going to struggle?) You learn the attractions of a view from nowhere. The daily gift of detachment keeps giving, until you're almost "above" anyone who tries to get too political with you, or at least in the middle with the microphone between warring factions. There's power in that; and where there's power, there's attraction.
There are different rules in different arenas, with different weapons and different levels of motivation.

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once."
- William Shakespeare

Posted by: Tim at July 23, 2004 8:16 PM | Permalink


It is unavoidable that this toleration of fantasy reporting is centrally responsible for the extraordinary number of mental breakdowns that occurred among troops in Iraq when they met a reality that absolutely contradicted everything the adminstration's fall war product roll-out told them and the major media passed along with exclamation points.
I think that conclusion is entirely avoidable.

I say that as a troop that has been sent to many realities that absolutely contradicted everything the [Democrat/Republican] administration told me and the major media passed along with exclamation points.

God bless you Ben, really, but there is a certain condescension in that level of perceived naiveté among our troops.

Posted by: Tim at July 23, 2004 8:29 PM | Permalink


It is unavoidable that this toleration of fantasy reporting is centrally responsible for the extraordinary number of mental breakdowns that occurred among troops in Iraq when they met a reality that absolutely contradicted everything the adminstration's fall war product roll-out told them and the major media passed along with exclamation points.

Which conflict of fantasy vs. reality are you referring to, Ben? The reporting on the 'silent genocide' in Afganistan that never materialized? Or perhaps you mean the one where reporters dragged out 'expert' after 'expert' to liken Baghdad to Afghanistan and Chechnya days before it fell (even as one reporter famously claimed that the Americans were nowhere to be seen)?

Or since you are referring to troop morale, maybe you are simply referring to the U.S. media's printing more negative articles about our troops than they ever did about Saddam's rape-and-murder factory? Or, say, CNN's admission that they refused to print the truth during the Saddam era, but now feel free to make up fake stories about 'fake turkeys' for the petty purpose of tearing down a thanksgiving visit to the troops?

Mayhap you are referring to a certain 'documentery' that is intended to be a living, breathing deception yet recieved rave reviews from a partisan media.

If you aren't referring to the above, I find your calls for ending this absurd, "both sides of the story" rule of fairness in journalism to be highly suspect. In science (of which medicine is a discipline) there is often only one correct side to a story, the challenge is finding it. If the same were true in politics, we wouldn't need democratic institutions, including the press, in the first place. No one would call democracy scientific, in part because seeking out one viewpoint, declaring it 'truth' and silencing opposition is inherently anti-democratic.

Never fear though Ben, you do have supporters in the realm of applying science to political institutions. As I recall, Marx and Engels wrote a book entitled "scientific socialism". Perhaps you can find some emotional support there. As well as helpful guides for obtaining a more well-behaved media, like the ones russia used to have.

Posted by: Ryan Waxx at July 24, 2004 6:38 AM | Permalink

Anotherwords, your particular favored spin is 'the news', and all other voices must be silenced.

You don't get it. And you won't. And because of that, your own ideological blinders will cause you to make more mistakes than any pretended deception by your pet bogyman.

This 'suicides' spin is a case in point. You had the sheer arrogance to claim out of the blue that you, the annointed, not only knew that there is a common reason for the suicides, but that you knew what that reason was. Not only that, but you ALSO knew that the reason couldn't possibly be what your political opponents charged.

Such is your majesty, authority and sheer knowledge that you didn't even feel you needed to provide any... evidence that your conclusion was correct. No, baldface assertion is plenty reason for the plebes to believe your version, as long as those nasty absurd other sides of the story go away.

And you wonder why people have difficulty deciding weather reporters or lawyers are less trustworthy.

Posted by: Ryan Waxx at July 24, 2004 8:23 AM | Permalink


For a guy whose namesake was known for searching for "just the facts," your screeds present precious few - once again illustrating that "believing is seeing."

Sample: "Painting schools without books is a symbolic gesture."

True, on its face. Insomuch as aesthetics are primarily symbolic, painting (all types) is symbolic. The implication, however, is that here's one more example of the evil Machiavellian administration duping the poor, ignorant massess with symbolism over substance.

So let's see. I'll stipulate to the assertion that some schools in Iraq are being painted even though there are no books for the students. Your unexamined assumption is that books are essential to learning in a classroom. What crap. Was there learning prior to the existence of books/manuscripts, etc.? Can a teacher teach without the support of a text? The answers are obvious and blow your nasty little example out of the water.

If time allowed, I'd Fisk the rest of your clap-trap, too. . .

are ya feelin' me?


Posted by: scott the scot at July 24, 2004 8:42 AM | Permalink

Tim and Ryan:
Thanks for your very civil tone and your substantively based objections to my post.

As you demonstrate, I overstated my case. My hypothesis is that media coverage following what I take to be patent falsehoods put out by the administration--perhaps based on close-mindedness and self-deception--deeply conflicted with the facts on the ground and that this was a central causal factor in the enormous number of mental breakdowns in theater. I could be wrong. I am sincerely interested in hearing your own theory. What do you think caused them? The most obvious candidate would be living in a situation of guerilla warfare. The Powell Doctrine was explicitly designed to avoid such situations. Bush and company bear deep responsibility for adamantly rejecting this approach which could very arguably have avoided putting us in the situation we are in. Terrorists did not put us in a guerilla war in Iraq, Bush did.
We could argue all day about what the falsehoods in question were. Sadly, we can't even say that history will demonstrate which of us is correct given that several of you still hold the position that Vietnam was a "Good War." (It would be interesting to hear how that understanding fits in with the clear continuity between the resurrection of French colonial control and our position in Vietnam. That says to me that our side in the Vietnam War effectively opposed Vietnamese national liberation from colonialism.) I would like to add that I was not at all opposed in principle to taking out Saddam given a debate on the merits, a political decision to do so, and the use of diplomacy to forge an alliance that didn't martyr middle class US taxpayers. Given that there was NO urgency to fighting this war, I consider that to have been easily achievable and if necessary, the war should have been postponed until it was. The main stumbling block appears to have been an initial Bush administration insistence on monopolizing oil contracts for US companies and unilateral political control so they could build a puppet state. A UN alliance would not have contradicted US objectives if Bush had core goals more seriously concerned with the welfare of the Iraqi people.
My overriding feeling regarding the war, however, is that even a just cause would assuredly be betrayed by a leader as craven and corrupt as I consider George W. Bush to be. It is painful to oppose a just cause simply because it is being hijacked.
I trust George W. Bush to privatize my ass out from under me and call it the "Free Chairs Initiative". As far as I can see, Bush's betrayal of any good that could have come of the intervention has reached levels of incompetence that even I could not have imagined beforehand. The State Department has just realized one of the more obvious policy points: Sending truckloads of cash to Halliburton in the guise of "reconstruction" did NOTHING to get Iraqis to work. Attending to this very elementary strategic point (repeatedly emphasized by pre-war State Department planning Rumsfeld willfully ignored) might very well have given the Iraq war a chance to mean something positive in world history. From my perspective, Bush's policy fundamentally and systematically ignored the welfare of the Iraqis we claimed to be fighting on behalf of. They have quite naturally taken up arms against us. Of course, Baathists and Jordanian terrorists are also in on the action. Again, the Powell Doctrine would predict Sunnis won't be happy to lose power and will resist. Serious strategists with passing familiarity with Iraqi history had to expect guerilla resistance from Baathists. This has nothing to do with a cult of Saddam. Blowing off the Powell Doctrine meant willingness to put our troops in a guerilla war we are forced to fight solo and therefore without political legitimacy that might appeal to less interested Iraqis. That looks like a bad idea to me. Bush opened the borders to Zarqawi (who was operating in Kurdish and UN controlled territory for most of the 90s).That's all on Bush, not the troops.

You know you have a dogmatist (would-be totalitarian) when they try to tell you that "up is down", 2+2=5. Bush trys to do this on a daily basis. A free press in any serious sense of the phrase would call him on it. Being able do addition with accuracy and confidence does not require scientific socialism, though comparative study of educational systems frequently might suggest otherwise.
Democracy Now is my model of what all of the population should at least have available to them as an alternative interpretation of world events. For my money, they've consistently been VERY accurate. I'd be very interested to hear about what you take to be major problems in their coverage.
Lastly, do you seriously believe that we are building FOURTEEN permanent US bases in Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people's welfare? Can you really look me in the eye and say that without laughing?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 8:42 AM | Permalink


Whenever I hear/read of those who are willing, at this point, to assess the historical impact of our "Iraqi Adventure" I am reminded of the following anecdote.

Back in the days when Chou En-Lai and Mao Zedong were battling for control of China, Archduke Otto von Habsburg, pretender to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, asked Chou En-Lai: "What do you think of the French Revolution?" Chou En-Lai was silent for a moment, but finally answered with conviction: "It's too soon to tell."


Posted by: scott the scot at July 24, 2004 9:13 AM | Permalink

There are better examples of how to report facts er, factually than the motivations for soldier suicides in Iraq. That'd necessarily be an example of something that would have to be explained, rather than reported, right?

Reporting that smoking tobacco causes cancer is more factual, I think. But a better example (cuz it's more controversial) would be global warming: it s a fact that the planet is a bit warmer than it used to be. There is a consensus among scientists that industrial pollutants are a contributing factor. Those scientists who reject that consensus are uniformly funded by industries who don't want to be restricted. Why not state those as facts, rather than as sides to the debate?

But it's the "national greatness" part of this that appeals to me. I've never thought we need to whitewash American history to be patriotic, and I don't understand the notion that reporting needs to be reflexively anti-American to be objective.

But, personally, I reject the idea that being accurate is anti-American: ever. It isn't so much soldier suicides (which are alarming, of course) that I want to see reported properly from Iraq, as it is how all of the objections to knocking off Saddam the LAST time are playing out, now that we've done it: Is the country falling apart, the Shi'a, the Sunnis, the Kurds? Are we gonna have to occupy it, to hold it together? What is our theological strategy for radical Islam? (We have to HAVE one, ya know: fighting radical Islam without theology would be as if we fought the Cold War without ideology.)

Trouble is, most players (as opposed to observers) won't bring any of that up except as either supporters or critics of the war. Forcing everybody into that template writes the story -- and thus, distorts it.

Why can't reporters adopt a sensible standard on their own to measure by (like what I just noted about Iraq), say what it is, and then hold the pro/con debate up against it?

Posted by: theAmericanist at July 24, 2004 9:33 AM | Permalink

Dear Americanist,
I very much agree with your point that being accurate is not being anti-American. I see Richard Clarke as having laid out a very clear position regarding theology and terror. I tend to agree with him on this point. I see Wolfowitz and Friedman as deeply misunderstanding the question.
I hear you calling for reporters to adopt a position closer to Scowcroft or Kissinger. What realpolitik interests are being served? How does our strategy measure up? Is that what you are getting at? Am I following you?
Or are you saying that serious opposition requires taking theological sides? From my perspective, Wolfowitz and Friedman are blinded by precisely this sort of thing. Their taking sides seems to preclude them from active curiosity concerning what their beliefs would actually mean to Iraqis.
Perhaps the deeper problem is the connection between theology and strategy. That strikes me as where the breathtaking disjunctions occur. In Vietnam, similarly, you had attribution of common agency to the Soviets, the Chinese, and the N. Vietnamese which was largely a function of US theology interfering with US strategy. In Iraq, we have a seeming lack of interest in distinguishing practicing Sunnis, Wahabbist revolutionaries from Saudi Arabia, secular democratic Shia, theocratic Shia, and culturally Sunni Baathist nationalists to say nothing of the Kurds. These groups are players with divergent interests. War on terror seems determined to conflate and antagonize everyone in theater to the benefit of noone. In the last couple of months, Bush has tossed the ball to the realists. Do we see a strategy emerging? Can anyone explain what it is? Sometimes I think invading Iraq is the Vulcan plan for dealing with Saudi Arabia. I'm not impressed, but at least it has a shred of strategic logic to it. Fisk was just reporting yesterday that the Americans are no longer even a visible presence outside Baghdad. It's starting to look like the situation in Afghanistan. Any thoughts?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 10:28 AM | Permalink


While I am sure that you would like to bask in the same spotlight as the brave journalism that is being lauded in this wonderful post, your post is simple, dishonestly spun propaganda. Mind you, I doubt that you think it is dishonest, you have the sound of a true believer. Pardon the rest of us as we shake our head and wonder how the fundamentalist dogma of the left has managed to seize hold of such an obviously intelligent person.

A few examples:

"My hypothesis is that media coverage following what I take to be patent falsehoods put out by the administration...deeply conflicted with the facts on the ground and that this was a central causal factor in the enormous number of mental breakdowns in theater. I could be wrong."

First, what numbers do you have on the number of "mental breakdowns in theater"? Please don't point me to "" for the "facts". How do you explain the fact that, while the suicide rates for soldiers in theater is higher than for other soldiers (17.3 per 100K vs 12.8) it is actually much lower than for non soldiers of the same age? (17.3 vs. 21.5). If they are subjected to such "deep conflict" why do they kill themselves at a lower rate than the average? (see http://,13319,FL_suicide_032604,00.html)

You come much closer when you point to the stress of being in a guerrilla war but *that in itself is all the explanation that you need* - not the added spin that there is, in addition, some deep-seated conflict over the disparity between the administration's "patent falsehoods" and the "facts on the ground." In other words, you explain nothing by throwing in your spin and, in fact, are left flat-footed by the fact that the suicide rate of soldiers in Iraq is *lower* than the general U.S. population.

But I'm sure it feels good to say it. Fundamentalists always feel good after saying it.

You go on to say:

"The Powell Doctrine was explicitly designed to avoid such situations. Bush and company bear deep responsibility for adamantly rejecting this approach which could very arguably have avoided putting us in the situation we are in. Terrorists did not put us in a guerilla war in Iraq, Bush did."

This is true as far as it goes (and it doesn't go far) but almost utterly irrelevant. We could have refused to invade Iraq because we didn't have a clear "exit strategy" just as we could have refused WWII because the Japanese and Germans didn't offer an "exit strategy." You refuse to see (or simply cannot see) the deeper strategic picture of the war against Islamic Fascism. Failing this, you pretend it doesn't exist. Of course, if no deeper picture exists, none of the rest of it makes sense and your critique would indeed be brave and accurate.

Bush has been crystal clear, however, that this is *not* a police action against al Qaeda nor is the battle restricted to rounding up the specific terrorists responsible for this action. This would make no more sense than trying to arrest the pilots (and only the pilots) who bombed Pearl Harbor. Islamic fascism has roots deep in the culture of religious and political oppression that dominates the M.E. It will not go away by breaking up al Qaeda any more than an infection will go away by mopping up the fever's sweat from your brow.

You say:

"From my perspective, Bush's policy fundamentally and systematically ignored the welfare of the Iraqis we claimed to be fighting on behalf of. They have quite naturally taken up arms against us."

The only problem, of course, is that this is, at best, a half-truth. First, do you honestly believe that removing Saddam does not, in itself, undercut your claim that we've ignored the welfare of the Iraqis? Worse yet, you not only ignore the enormous number of rebuilding projects we've undertaken (schools, hospitals, universities, electricity, water, sewage) but claim that it is all subsumed under: "Sending truckloads of cash to Halliburton in the guise of "reconstruction" did NOTHING to get Iraqis to work."

What utter crap this is! Halliburton's prime competency lies in oil industry infrastructure. It makes utter sense to have them rebuild or build anew the oil industry in Iraq. I won't defend the company itself (a losing proposition if there ever was one). But the idea that *all* of the reconstruction in Iraq is simply a boondoggle for Halliburton is just utter garbage.

However, you hit a deeper point: all of the rebuilding in the world will not likely change things for the better when the ideological battle remains in such jeopardy. Our difficulty in winning "hearts and minds" has little to do with the pace of our material reconstruction. It has everything to do with the fact that the Islamists have been largely unchallenged - or even cheered on by the Western left - as they attempt to define this conflict as one of the West against Islam. In reality, it is a battle for Islam itself. In reality, it is a battle that we are losing at the moment. And, in truth, it is a battle that those who hate and oppose Democratic Capitalism are all too happy to see us lose.

You say:

"Lastly, do you seriously believe that we are building FOURTEEN permanent US bases in Iraq for the sake of the Iraqi people's welfare? Can you really look me in the eye and say that without laughing?"

Can you really look me in the eye and claim that you don't understand that this is about something bigger? Do you really miss the big picture so completely that you think that our ultimate objective is the Iraqi people's welfare? We win if the Iraqi people ultimately win a country that is peaceful and prosperous. But the point isn't their welfare - the point is to create a world where we ourselves are not subject to the constant threat of large-scale death perpetrated by Islamic fascists. And the fact is that the Islamic fascists have a say in this battle: they are going to try their best to crush this experiment in Iraqi self-governance. And every time they push us a step back - no matter how many steps we've taken forward - it appears that they will have a cheerleader who calls himself, ironically, "Ben Franklin" on the 'net.

Posted by: WildMonk at July 24, 2004 10:45 AM | Permalink


As much as I would enjoy the substantive exchange over the politics, diplomacy, "strategery", exceptionalism, mishaps and misadventures of the past 3+ years, I don't feel comfortable doing so here, on this site, for three reasons:

1. I have been warned off politics over press discussions here previously and I think the watcher(s) in the tower would disapprove -- so I am modifying my behavior accordingly.

2. I don't feel compelled to defend or "fisk" the Bush administration here, other than when my perceptions of truth's ambiguities differ from another poster and are then perceived to be from either a Bush-bot or Bush-basher.

3. The wealth of information available to exchange and debate, much of which you provide above, would be a clear hijacking of the thread.

If I may be allowed, I'll briefly hit a few points and do my best to relate them to the topic of the thread:

On suicides: I am sincerely interested in hearing your own theory. What do you think caused them?

In Haiti, 10 years ago now, the media made suicide a big issue. It was an issue for the first Gulf War and before. It was an issue during "peace" operations. It is an issue today. I don't think you'll find that the rate or reasons that people commit suicide differs in the military very much. But to offer a personal anecdote, my first encounter with suicide in the military was when a student in the Ranger Course killed himself. He was at the top of the class and had just failed a patrol, we were told. Was that the reason? Too many times we're left guessing why.

On falsehoods: My hypothesis is that media coverage following what I take to be patent falsehoods put out by the administration ...

No administration seems to hold the patent on falsehoods. As I pointed out on the previous thread, I think there are three types of falsehoods, deliberate, overcome by "ground truth" or "conventional wisdom" and the falsehoods of "first draft" fallibility.

I think in politics, compared to journalism, there are additional falsehoods. One might be the motivational falsehood: we're going to save lives, prevent tragedy, or "We'll only be there a year."

I don't always agree with reporting that states, or implies, a falsehood was deliberate. I do understand the bias for conflict and drama as the reason journalists do so. Soldiers are trained to expect the worst and hope for the best. They tend to be skeptical of civilians, politicians and journalists top the list, and optimistic because when you expect the worst, you are never disappointed.

On Greater America:

I think there is a palpable division on what a "Greater America" is domestically, culturally and how it relates to a post-Cold War/Global War on Terrorism world.

I think everyone, including objective journalists, are trying to visualize that "Greater America". I found it interesting to listen to former President Clinton put his "best face" on the Bush administration's foreign policy view of a "Greater America":

Here we are at the end of the Cold War. We are the only military superpower. We have no idea how long this is going to last, so we ought to get every bad guy we can and fix every problem we can, beginning with Saddam Hussein, not with Osama bin Laden, but with Saddam Hussein. And we ought to do it--if we have to do it on our own, because we're not an occupying power, we're not bad people. We've never tried to occupy anybody. Look at us in Iraq, we're turning it now over to the U.N. We want NATO now to come in, and that's what we ought to do, and because we need to fix every problem we can while we got the whip hand here.
I'm not sure I agree with him, or that the Bush administration would accept his characterization out of whole cloth, but I thought it was an insightful application of the "Clinton Test" by Clinton himself.

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 11:05 AM | Permalink

Dear Wild Monk,
I think you are raising real objections that have to do with legitimate disputes concerning "what reality" do we expect the media to be covering.
My point was exactly that to the degree that we are locked in struggle with an organized enemy, it would be Saudi Wahabbists. They don't live in Iraq. You know Clarke's comparison. Invading Iraq to challenge the threat of Saudi Wahabbism is like invading Mexico in response to the ominous threat of Japanese fascism.
As for deposing Saddam being per se in the interests of the Iraqis, that goes precisely to my point that it is how it is done and with what objective that makes all the difference. Tojo liberated Manchuria from ruthless, exploitative Chinese warlords. Does that mean the Japanese erection of the puppet state of Manchuria was ipso facto in the interests of the Manchurian people?
I take you to be sincere when you say we are building fourteen permanent bases in Iraq for the cause of combating Islamo-fascism. The Wahabbists are in Saudi Arabia. Is enraging the Shia who are despised by the Wahabbists really an intelligent strategy for fighting the Sunni Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia? If you are determined to lump Shi Iraqis and Saudi Wahabbists into one "Islamo-Fascist" ball, I say you are Don Quixote (or Paul Wolfowitz) fighting a fantasy war that conflates distinct parties. This is quite analogous to the confusion of the Chinese, Soviets, and N. Vietnamese in Vietnam. The US government fought them as if they were a single enemy until Kissinger and Nixon woke up and started thinking about the relation between their cold war metaphysics and actual strategy on the ground. The metaphysics of opposing "Islamo-fascism" may feel good since you can compare it to W.W. II, but from where I stand, it puts the US in Japan's position of establishing puppet states in the name of "liberating" a strategically important area from the previous bad guy.
Your side really needs to get past this very unhelpful, misleading, and inaccurate analogy between Wahabbism and Fascism. You are conflating the religion of Islam with the fanaticism of Wahabbism. That's like confusing Christian terrorists with the pope in Rome. It doesn't reflect the kind of attention to detail and historical situation a serious threat to the US should call for. Do you really not see the difference between a Shia in Iran and a Wahabbist in Saudi Arabia? And what would either of them have to do with Saddam?
My impression is that we are in the course of moving into alternative media universes that more closely reflect these nearly mutually exclusive readings of our current situation. Maybe the better strategy is to complete construction of our alternative media universes and then discuss re-opening negotiations at that point.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 12:34 PM | Permalink

I'm not sure what national greatness journalism is, but my impression is that mainstream media today are engaged in national baseness journalism: all politicians are corrupt; Americans are fat, lazy and greedy; we don't care about the poor; we don't go to war to help or rescue anybody, just to build our empire and reward Big Business; that sort of thing.

Posted by: AST at July 24, 2004 1:11 PM | Permalink

I'm not sure what it is, either, AST. My point was it's almost inconceivable in American journalism as it practiced today. An American reporter can practice it in Russia, but not here.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 24, 2004 1:32 PM | Permalink

I am quite serious when I suggest that I see Democracy Now as American greatness journalism entirely comparable to Klebnikov's work in Russia. Every story they run is designed to force the US to act in better accordance with its ideals.
There are two differences I note: One, it is apparently not as widely disseminated in the US as Klebnikov's work was in Russia. Secondly, it isn't widely thought of as American greatness journalism simply because it is easy for us to appreciate Klebnikov goring oxes in Russia, but many of us tend to take offense when the oxes involved are corporations, states, and foreign policies we personally and politically identify with. That's just un-American.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 2:02 PM | Permalink

Do you really not see the difference between a Shia in Iran and a Wahabbist in Saudi Arabia? And what would either of them have to do with Saddam?

Ben, perhaps you could begin by explaining the differences between Saudi Hezbollah, Iranian/Lebanese/Syrian Hizbollah and other various constituent groups that have been mentioned as associated with and/or allied with "the base"?

I would also be interested if you could contrast these historical ties to such legacy groups, and perhaps the role of Saif al-Adel, with upstart Ansar al-Islam and its feelings toward Iraqi Shia and Kurds.

Is it important to distinguish between Wahhabism and Qutbism, especially as it pertains to the geographic plotting of that strain of Islamic extremism?

Another interesting question might be why we would want forces in the smack dab middle/heart of the Middle East? I'm not sure if Clarke's correct about Mexico. Maybe North Africa instead?

I guess we could go back to Fallow's minimalist/maximalist discussion from December 2001. Somehow, I don't think that debate has been resolved.

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 2:20 PM | Permalink


An American reporter can practice it in Russia, but not here.

Could there be two reasons for this?

1. Klebnikov's "greatness of Russia" was an abstract in contrast to ideals he brought from America.

2. What is the idealistic contrast Americans possess? Is it early America, an amalgam of the revolutionary and constitutional federalism that spanned the late 18th and early 19th centuries? Is it modern day Finland, or Sweden?

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 2:42 PM | Permalink

If you really want to change the behavior of every man, woman, and child in the Middle East toward the US, changing our Israel policy has much better odds than overthrowing every one of their governments. The Shock and Awe strategy is irrational in the way Hitler's fighting on two fronts was irrational. It is a fight that cannot be won with that strategy. We shouldn't be betting the US farm on the Likud Party. Fix the policy that causes the hostility and you solve the problem.
They don't hate us for our freedom. They don't hate us for fun. They don't hate us because they believe in Allah. They hate us for our middle east policy. Change the ridiculous policy and they will no longer wish to kill us.
You may like to think this is naivete. Refusing to see it strikes me as blindness. Sorry, I couldn't connect this one to media. If you want to discuss it further offline, I'm game.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 3:15 PM | Permalink

Dear Ben,

If you really want to change the behavior of every man, woman, and child in the Middle East toward the US ...

Ohmygoodnessgracious, no. I'm not sure when that became my argument. I think that's called a straw man.

They hate us for our middle east policy., ... changing our Israel policy has much better odds than overthrowing every one of their governments. and Fix the policy that causes the hostility and you solve the problem.

Islamic extremism is based on anger and frustration that pre-dates Israel by 20 years. In fact, "overthrowing every one of their governments" (or perhaps most of them) is a stated goal of our Islamists enemies.

The struggle between Israel and the Arab world has been a scapegoat too often for opportunists on both sides. We could wipe Israel off the map and it would not change a single Arab society or why "they" hate us. We could drag UBL's maggot riddled body out tomorrow, and it would not fix the problem.

Of course, our defense of Israel and interventions in Afganistan and Iraq have inflamed Arabs and others in the world. No question. But that's not why "they" hate us.

But I will say this -- which ties in nicely I think to the thread topic -- there are a number of Arab journalist that report with a sense of national greatness, or pan-Arab greatness or Islamic greatness in the Middle East.

Perhaps, where you see Democracy Now providing American greatness journalism, others see Fox News providing it?

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 4:22 PM | Permalink

These reasons they hate us that predate Israel by twenty years--pray tell. I doubt I'll agree, but I am curious to hear your alternative history.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 6:57 PM | Permalink

Ben: It's the linked New Yorker story in my above post. It's a good article, so I won't try to repost it all, but here is a single quote to back my assertion:

"Modern Islamic radicalism was born in the twenties in the villages of the upper Nile and the streets and mosques of Cairo."

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 7:03 PM | Permalink

I just noticed your link to the twenty years before Israel point.
The example you give for why their hate has no connection whatsoever with the actions of the Western world is anti-colonialist resistance groups formed in the twenties? You seriously believe Israel and US policy has NOTHING to do with keeping this alive for the last fifty years? Please tell me you're kidding.
The world just happens to the US? They act and we react in a world of their creation? Didn't you notice in passing that the US was the dominant world power from 1945 until today?

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 7:07 PM | Permalink

You seriously believe Israel and US policy has NOTHING to do with keeping this alive for the last fifty years? Please tell me you're kidding.

I'm not sure how to tell you I'm kidding about something I never said.

In fact, I'd have to say your last post is so unrepresentative of what I wrote that I can only respond by asking you to read it again.

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 7:18 PM | Permalink

I'm sorry if I mischaracterized your post. Thanks for the link to the New Yorker article. I'm not buying your argument, but the article has some useful information. I'm not so familiar with Qutb. Contra your representation of Israel's relatively incidental relation to Arabic hatred of us, according to the article, Qutb was nearly obsessed with Israel and Zionism.
I am simply not impressed by this idea that because a group of Islamic reactionaries hated the West in the twenties, anything that happens after that for the next ninety years simply inflames a prexistent hatred and involves no responsibility on the part of those who continue to "inflame" it. From my experience of human nature, if you stop screwing people for a while, they begin to consider moving on.
If we had tried that approach in the middle east, contra your assertion that Israel could be wiped from the map and not make a difference, I say UN peacekeepers guarding the 1967 boundaries would take care of 80-90% of the problem.
I appreciate your continuing to communicate despite our starkly different readings of the situation. I am genuinely curious why you see it the way you do and this exchange was helpful for me in that regard.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 7:34 PM | Permalink

Goodnight Ben.

Posted by: Ben Franklin at July 24, 2004 7:34 PM | Permalink

I am genuinely curious why you see it the way you do and this exchange was helpful for me in that regard.

Thank you Ben, I also enjoy it.

I'm not sure how to convey the other issues, or complexities, involved in Islamic extremism - as I understand them - without seeming to downplay Arabic obsession with Israel and Zionism.

I'd like to say that I agree with you about UN peacekeepers, but considering how many times it's been tried: UNTSO, UNEF I, UNEF II, SFM, UNFIL, MFO, ..., and yet the problem remains.

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 8:06 PM | Permalink

Actually, I need to correct my post above. The MFO, arguably the only successful peacekeeping operation involving Israel in effect today, is NOT a UN operation.

Well, I guess my mistake actually reinforces my point, so --

Posted by: Tim at July 24, 2004 8:12 PM | Permalink


What form of journalism is John Burns practicing in Iraq? How does it differ from Klebnikov and why?

This is not a reporter willing to call himself pro Bush, anti-war, left, right or pacifist, but John Burns--who is keenly aware of the power of his newspaper--is here saying: I am a human rights organization, myself, as well as a journalist. If you want me as your correspondent, expect my passions to influence my work. Burns puts himself above no one. He declines the view from nowhere. Him we can talk to. - The View from Nowhere

Is Burns' passion less nationalistic, more humanitarian or worldly? Is it the greatness of Iraq that imbues his writing, torments his soul and fuels his passion? Is it the greatness of America that colors what he sees in the Iraqi people, tortured by Saddam and frustrated with occupation?

I'm not sure what it is, either, AST. My point was it's almost inconceivable in American journalism as it practiced today. An American reporter can practice it in Russia, but not here. - Jay Rosen

Is it truth because enough of us agree that that windmill really is a giant?

Is it the difference between pornography and art? The difference between recognizing the human condition and objectifying it?

Posted by: Tim at July 25, 2004 3:32 PM | Permalink

Is transparency part of distinguishing between greatness of ... journalism and what is practiced in America today?

"Granted that he states only facts, it is still essential to know what are his emotions, what is his motive. It may be that twelve hundred men in Tottenham are down with smallpox; but we want to know whether this is stated by some great philosopher who wants to curse the gods, or only by some common clergyman who wants to help the men." - G.K. Chesterton

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