The New York Times was wringing its hands the other day about using any reporter who learned enough about anything to write a book about it. Having written four books in my years at the Times, I found that discussion bizarre.
Anyway, here’s the Times picking up some more side money with a quickie paperback history of the war–stitched together from dispatches by the Times’s army of embedded correspondents.
The Times couldn’t after all review its own book, so it hired a well-connected expert from a centrist think tank in Washington to do the job.
The result today is amusing.
He was not about to.bite the hand that fed him, but he had his professional pride. So he kept saying how brilliantly Todd Purdum wove that yarn together. But he had to mutter now and then that the yarn didn’t live up to the title: “A Time of Our Choosing: America’s War in Iraq.” It didn’t tell why we chose that time, why Iraq, why so much that was said turned out to be false. (I say “we” because that’s how they talk, but it’s absurd to imply that the American people were in charge.)
Here is a great tragedy waiting to be recorded. Bits of the truth have been dug up, but not much of it by The Times — not nearly as much as the falsehood it has helped to peddle.
As I’ve written before, I’m appalled at the thought that historians still rely on the so-called newspaper of record.as a mine of information. There is some there, but it’s mixed with a lot more disinformation.
Sifting it out is our job.
JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.