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Today's word on journalism

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Objectivity:

"I still insist that 'objective journalism' is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of 'subjective journalism' and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidates the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612 -- or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing: CORRECTIONS, RETRACTIONS, APOLOGIES, COP-OUTS, ETC., a 1972 memo to Rolling Stone editor Jann S. Wenner, excerpted in the current (November 2007) issue of Harper’s Magazine (Thanks to alert WORDster Andy Merton)

From General Sanchez's desk: A Convenient Truth

Editor's note: Leon D'Souza is a graduate of the Utah State University journalism and communication department. He now serves in the U.S. Army.

By Leon D'Souza

October 15, 2007 | Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is frothing at the mouth about the incompetence of the Bush administration. The war in Iraq is a 'desperate struggle,' he says, 'a nightmare with no end in sight.'

And more gloom and doom is sure to follow.

It's a quagmire of epic proportions, you see. The Bush plan is "catastrophically flawed"; "unrealistically optimistic," the former theater commander insists. As for the much-ballyhooed "surge" into Baghdad? Pure humbug, Sanchez says.

"Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat."

Uh-huh, sure. And we're only discovering this now? Thousands of lives later? Weren't things, in fact, beginning to look bleak in 2003, minutes after our tanks rolled into Firdos Square?

Ah, but back then the general was marching to a different drumbeat; one that he hoped would earn him a fourth star, and eventually a cushy berth in the Washington bureaucracy.

Here's what he told the American Forces Press Service in July that year, while cheerfully intoning his way down a list of accomplishments assembled to illustrate the assured prosperity of post-Baathist Iraq: "Upon our arrival in Baghdad in late April, we found that most institutions and governing structures had disappeared along with the regime and the Iraqi army. It is truly amazing how far we have traveled together with the Iraqi people in just over 100 days since the start of the conflict."

Then this: "...Am I optimistic about the future of Iraq? You're absolutely right. I've said before that even without all the progress, even if we were living in darkness, just the mere fact that the Iraqi people are free of the terror imposed by the Saddam Hussein regime is enough for all of us to be hopeful for the future."

Now, all of a sudden, the general is seeing terrifying visions of dystopia? If he truly believed the administration didn't have a workable strategy in Iraq, why did he wait so long to speak his mind? More to the point, is it not the constitutional duty of members of the general staff to advise the president on prudent courses of action?

Clearly, General Sanchez didn't seem to think so at the time. Instead, he preferred to view the future through rose-tinted glasses. Understandable, of course, since you don't get an extra star for being an enfant terrible.

It was only after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, and the succession of events culminating in his retirement from the service, that the general found his courage - and possibly enough motivation to fill a book.

I, for one, am sick of such brazen opportunism in the ranks of the military's power elite.

Please, General Sanchez, spare us the tour de force. The American people shouldn't have to spend on the conveniently-timed memoirs of a barefaced hypocrite.

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