Make that 15 km. Stay at least 15 km away from Billmon at all times:
Whiskey Bar: Pity Party: Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks thinks I'm being a little hard on him because I keep pointing out out the glaring contradictions between his original reporting from Iraq and the very different picture of the war painted in his new book. He complains that I'm not leaving enough room for "loyal dissent." Here he is holding forth on this theme at one of the Post's online chat sessions today:
It especially bothers me that there seems to be little room for "loyal dissent." People who try to make honest criticisms are attacked instantly. I am seeing this on the left as well as the right, by the way. I sometimes think that the left would only be happy if we started labelling all their enemies liars. I noticed that one leftish blogger criticized me for quoting generals who said in 2003 that we were winning the war. I don't think he understands that part of my job is to quote people accurately--even if I don't agree with what they are saying.
Well, I gotta admit, Ricks has me there -- he's a damned fine stenographer. And if by word or deed I somehow implied that he is not, then he has my deepest and sincerest apology.
But, as even Ricks seems to understand, things have changed a bit since 1500 B.C. and faithfully scribing the words uttered by Pharoah and his generals is now only part of a reporter's job -- and not even the most important part (although I wouldn't say that too loudly around the White House press office or you might get some really dirty looks.)
The problem is that Ricks' reporting from Iraq (at least through early 2004, which is as far as I've gotten) not only quoted the generals and colonels and majors accurately, but reflected their views entirely and almost exclusively. Ricks is using his official sources as human shields now, but I think any fair reading of his dispatches shows he swallowed their optimistic, gung ho predictions (predictions which he now admits were flat wrong) hook, line and proverbial sinker. The tone is one of a mutual admiration society, in which Ricks felt privileged to be a junior member.
But don't take my word for it. Go read some of them yourself...
By the way, Mr. Ricks, many of your sources in 2003 were liars, weren't they?