You have to hand it to Bob Woodward; he really knows how to promote a book. Even Tom Friedman must be jealous. Days before publication the press near and far is hyping his message and for the second time in two weeks Mike Wallace is interrupting his “retirement” to conduct a 60 Minutes interview. Of course most of us, including myself, have not read Woodward’s latest sure fire best seller, but the word is out that the fabled “investigative” reporter has discovered an astounding fact. The war in Iraq is not going well, and the folks who gave it to us are either in denial or have not been leveling with the American people. Now that’s real news. The only problem is that lesser lights (including this very dim bulb) with lesser or absolutely no access “discovered” and have been talking or writing about this astounding information for a very long time. Frank Rich’s new book and weekly columns are just one of many examples. So what is new about Bob Woodward’s revelations?
It’s not the intimate details among them that Laura tried to do a Nancy on Donald Rumsfeld, though obviously with much less success. Nancy’s intervention caused a cabinet shakeup. The behind the scenes tidbits only corroborate what we have all known. The real news is Woodward himself. As suggested in my last posting, the Washington Post star reporter, akin to a moth, is attracted to the light of power. He likes access and will flatter to keep the lines open. So the message of his first two “insightful” from the inside studies of the Bush Administration was that they had it and he wanted to remain on the guest list. In State of Denial, the opposite is the case. Translation: Bush is over. He and his crowd are finished, kaput, yesterday’s news. I’m not suggesting that they can’t (and won’t) do considerable damage during their next two years exiting the scene which would be naïve, but being abandoned by power’s ultimate friend Bob Woodward is a real story, real news.
Meanwhile back on the ground things get worse by the day and the press sadly, like Woodward, is either still not doing its job or now being prevented by conditions from doing so. As to the first, on September 21 Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator reported that, ”torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners.” In short, if you add in the lack of security things are not merely worse for Iraqis, they are far worse than under the evil one. Aside from an AP wire report, a brief BBC story and a mention (not expanded upon) in the day’s headlines on The News Hour, that horrific bit of news seems to have fallen into a black hole. I could find no mention of it in the next morning’s Times and indeed a Google search will show you that it got virtually no play anywhere else. Torture isn’t news any more? Wow! As to not being able to cover the story, many months back one of the vocal non-combatant Administration war proponents complained that negative news was coming out of Iraq because reporters were pontificating from hotel rooms instead of reporting from the ground. It was precisely at that time when an unprecedented number of them were actually being killed while reporting to us from the battlefield. Now that flack’s contention has actually come to pass as many reporters in Iraq including CBS’s new, youthful and impressive chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reported last night. A courageous journalist who willingly dons flack jacket and helmet, she reports that it’s simply not possible to go out any more. Oh, we’re making great progress and I’m so relieved that Bob Woodward has caught on.
A personal note.
It has been eighteen years to the day since my father Joachim Prinz died. He lived through Nazi Germany in 1930s Berlin, the challenges of McCarthy, the Civil Rights struggle, Viet Nam and so much more in the succeeding years here in the United States. He was consistently early in speaking out against evils and in pointing out governmental missteps both moral and political, never one to latch on to conventional wisdom or yesterday’s obvious truths. I miss him (and those like him in that generation) particularly in times like these when we so desperately need his voice to break through the silence. Even more, after all this time, I miss him on a personal level. At the same time, there is something in me that is grateful he doesn’t have to bear witness to the world in which we find ourselves, to our great slide backwards into what so often seems at root medieval masked, and not very well, by the accoutrements of technological advance. That feeling, that acknowledgement of what has become of us, truly makes me sad.