May 12, 2004

John Burns

The New York Times most talented correspondent explains why he has appeared to adopt an Afro-style haircut, why he almost O.D'd on caffeine in Iraq, and why there are "probably closer relations between reporters of all major newspapers and news networks here [Iraq] than there have been in any place IÕve ever worked."

This despite the fact that some journalists may have been angered when Burns charged some Western press outlets with whitewashing some of the worst aspects of Saddam's reign.

Burns reminds us that the coalition--despite all the major problems the coalition has had to date, continues to face, and will face going forward-- has nevertheless dismantled a terror state in Iraq:

"I believe that thereÕs tremendous redemptive power in nature," he said. "One of the things thatÕs happened in the course of the last months of increasing hazard here is that weÕve all drawn together. And that includes myself and the people of whom I spoke critically at that time. It reminds me of a wonderful phrase from Rupert BrookeÕs First World War poem. In another context, he talked about Ôall evil shed away.Õ WeÕre all in this together now. If there were people who were wary about stating the essential truth about Saddam HusseinÕs regime, which is to say that it was a terror state, those people now are showing tremendous bravery, and IÕve also seen just how good they are as journalists. ItÕs a different time. ItÕs a different challenge. That seems a country far away and long ago. And one or two of my colleagues who were upset by those remarks are now friends again. So all evil shed away." []emphasis added]

UPDATE: A reader writes in:

"On the terror state boldage in your John Burns article, I read terror as "brutal police state existing through influence of fear" rather than "international terrorist supporting country." You don't add any analysis, but your bolding puzzled me, and it seems that the second interpretation (in my eyes the incorrect one) of journalists uniformly accepting that Saddam harbored AQ etc would be more bold worthy, as it would be far more relevatory."

Good feedback and I should have been more specific. No, I didn't mean UBL and Saddam were in deep huddle in Prague hotel lobbys with Mohammed Atta serving up tea as they talked about delivering anthrax through rush hour Grand Central.

But, perhaps unlike the reader, I do think it's "bold worthy" to remind ourselves that we did put an end to a terror state--read a neo-Stalinist thugocracy that pursued genocidal policies, started two regional wars, used WMD in the past, had tried to assassinate a U.S. President, and so on (we all know the long list by now...)

Posted by Gregory at May 12, 2004 06:34 AM
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