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Monday, March 14, 2005

 

I Get Mail From David Morris (Still Nothing From Chris Hedges)

Dear Benjamin,
This is Dave Morris, author of STORM ON THE HORIZON: KHAFJI-THE BATTLE THATCHANGED THE COURSE OF THE GULF WAR. First off, let me thank you for giving mybook such a close textual reading. It's always pleasing to see. Recently, I hadthe occasion to re-read Hedges' book and noted again the apparentinconsistencies in the narrative in regards to the battle for Khafji. Hisaccount piqued my interest because virtually no journalists were given accessto the battle due to the CENTCOM's media "pooling" policy in effect at thattime. All this stands in marked contrast to the Pentagon's current policy ofembedding reporters.In response to your essay, let me say that I consider Chris Hedges' book WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES US MEANING to be an unusually insightful, morally-rigorousif occasionally sanctimonious memoir. I think the recent accusations to theeffect of "Hedges' book is a work of fiction" that have appeared on severalwebsites are somewhat overheated and rash. Hedges discusses Khafji for a singlepage and while his recollection of being present with Marines on a rooftopwhile they are calling in airstrikes certainly seems suspect, it does notnecesarily mean that he is a liar, a cheat and a pedophile with bad credit assome are implying. There were literally DOZENS of US military teams working inthe Khafji area during the recapture effort and it's entirely possible that heWAS on a rooftop where US Marines were calling in airstrikes. Nevertheless, Ihave interviewed scores of Marines who fought at Khafji (including nearly allof the cut-off reconnaissance Marines) and no one has confirmed that Hedges wasat Khafji.
This, of course, proves nothing. In your heady indictment of Hedges, you argue "If Hedges was not in Khafjion those rooftops with the Marines, then he MUST have been carrying on thegrand tradition of those who covered Vietnam from the Caravelle’s bar"[capitals mine]. This is a classic example of what logicians refer to as "theblack-white fallacy," e.g. "Either you play football or you are not a man.There is no middle ground." In this post-Watergate, post-Jayson Blair, post-Rather time of ours, it iseasy to assume that errors committed by journalists are the work of nefarious,syphilitic, Smeagol-esque characters habitually fingering their Pulitzers (Mypreciousss...). Sadly, the truth is usually much more boring. Working underintense deadlines and with a slew on contradictory eyewitness accounts,lamentable errors pass into print. While working on my own book, a fewdecorated, active-duty US Marines lied through their teeth to me about theiractions at Khafji. It was only through exhaustive interviewing that theirfabrications were eventually uncovered. Still, an error is an error and whilebloggers are, perhaps unfairly, not held to the same standard as those they so frequently accuse, authors and journalists should be held accountable for what they write.
Best,
Dave

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