Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Odd Couple; Lara Logan and CBS

“He who allows oppression shares the crime.” - Erasmus

Lara Logan walked into a journalist’s worst nightmare. Instead of covering a story, she became the story. Such hazards are something of a tradition at CBS; Mike Wallace became the William Westmoreland story and Dan Rather became the George Bush story. Wallace had a nervous breakdown and Rather retired in disgrace. Unlike her predecessors, Ms. Logan’s problem wasn’t fabricated evidence; she was assigned to, or volunteered for, the wrong story in the wrong neighborhood. And as it turns out; she, 60 Minutes, and CBS were just as reckless as Wallace and Rather.

The stage was set by a spin cycle of politically correct talking points, in effect an Oval Office party line that a complicit media were quick to parrot. Demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt were represented as “peaceful and democratic,” never mind that neither country had any experience with democracy since the Roman republic. The peace rhetoric pretty much ignored the mayhem, killing, arson, and looting as long as it was done in the name of anti-regime sentiments.

Indeed, hypocrisy became comic opera when pyramid tour guides brought counter-revolutionary camels and horses to the fray in Tahrir Square. Tragically, some of the animals and their keepers were summarily executed on the spot, presumably in the name of democracy.

Nevertheless, in the space of a week, President Obama was pressing for “democratic” reform and Mrs. Clinton was holding the Cairo rioters up as a “model” for some undefined Arab utopia. Presumably, CBS executives, and possibly Ms. Logan herself, bought into this false narrative and wanted to be in Tahrir Square for the victory lap. Al Jazeera was the worst of the “revolutionary” shills, seldom broadcasting any footage that would challenge the anti-Mubarak narrative.

The drumbeat from most reporters, following al Jazeera’s lead, was to portray the demonstrators as peaceful, diverse, ecumenical, and enlightened. No anti-American or anti-Israeli sentiments were reported. The stage was set for tragedy when CBS allowed a slight blond American to mingle with a predominantly male, testosterone fueled, anti-Semitic and xenophobic mob in Tahrir Square. Indeed, Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, and Anderson Cooper had already experienced near misses. And if Christina Lamb’s research on the subject is to be believed, the photogenic Mr. Cooper was as likely to be buggered as any female reporter.

This is not to shoot the wounded or to suggest that the victim is to be blamed. Lara Logan, war correspondent, would be the last to think of herself as a victim; but, she was exploited nevertheless. She was undone by naiveté and high risk bravado - and these, CBS producers exploited in full measure.

Ms. Logan is as famous for her drop dead good looks and extramarital escapades as she was for her reporting. Indeed, there are numerous internet web sites dedicated to Lara’s secondary assets. Her journalistic colleagues broadcast “hotie” photos and Logan’s extra-marital exploits widely - and with relish. In short, you might say, as they did back in the day, she had a reputation.

Coverage of Lara Logan’s personal life, especially by Rolling Stone and Huffington Post reporters, was nothing short of salacious and predatory. Logan’s wedding was touted in one headline as a “shotgun” affair. An internet post by Matt Taibbis was entitled “Lara Logan, You Suck!” The girly men at Jann Wenner’s Chicago salon were incensed because Logan had dared to defend General Stanley McChrystal. Taibbis salted his attack on Lara with infantile bigotry; characterizing American soldiers in Afghanistan as “drunken assholes” and “insubordinate douche bags.”

CBS’s chief foreign affairs correspondent was savaged often and maliciously by colleagues, including Katie Couric, long before the Tahrir Square incident.

Surely, all of this is well enough for CBS ratings, but to send such a high profile, risky icon into a conservative, religiously intolerant, and misogynistic Arab hothouse approaches some unfathomed level of cultural ignorance and stupidity. Adultery can be a capital offense in dar al Islam.

Adulterers, especially females with celebrated indiscretions, are seen as prostitutes or worse in the world of Islam. No Arab male will be prosecuted for assaulting an American infidel, even one with press credentials. CBS executives had to know this; which probably explains network attempts to hide the Logan’s trauma from Egyptian authorities and the American public. A cowardly media mainstream is unlikely to seek justice for one of their own, especially a women. Treasured illusions about Muslim civility are too important to put at risk.

Lara Logan’s image was not the only risk factor. The near universal refusal of the professional left, the academy, and several American administrations to recognize or confront the golems of Islamic and Egyptian culture are part of the back story too. Many religious or cultural practices enable the abuse of women in Egypt and other Arab communities. These include, but are not limited to: vindictive fatwas, child marriage, honor killings, genital mutilation, amputations, stoning, purdah (burkas and hijabs), polygamy, consanguinity, slavery, and death penalties for adultery. Christina Lamb’s Afghan protégé characterized women under Islamic law as “insects in the dust.”

The silence of American feminists on institutionalized Arab misogyny is deafening. High profile American women like Madeline Albright (now at PEW Global Attitudes), Hilary Clinton, and now Michelle Obama, ladies who could make a difference, have yet to act against the systematic abuse of women among one fourth of the world’s population. Tongue tied feminists are co-conspirators with the “animals” of Tahrir Square.

World Health Organization (WHO) studies reveal that over 90% of Egyptian women have been abused by circumcision. Apologists regularly defend genital mutilations in Egypt as “cultural” practices, as if that matters to young girls, butchered to suppress their sexual pleasure. PEW and other polling agencies, that survey Egyptian and Arab attitudes, also document wide-spread support for terror, religious law, anti-Semitism, and political Islamism. How do these facts not influence the judgment of the Oval Office, the State Department, and the corporate offices of American news networks?

Sexually repressed cultures like those of the Arab League are unlikely to see a difference between liberated working girls and targets of opportunity. If just one of those 200 “peaceful,” democratized, internet savvy Arab males knew of Ms. Logan’s history; in their culture, she’s fair game. Islamic law does not distinguish between adulterers and whores. No Muslim male will ever be prosecuted for “raping” a woman who flaunts marital indiscretion. If Rachael Maddow (of Air America fame) ever covered a Muslim riot for MSNBC, her life might be forfeit under at least two Sharia statutes. The truth about the worst in Islam is ever a bitter pill.

And there’s a profound difference between courage and recklessness. CBS and 60 Minutes knew of Lara’s personal baggage and sent her into a howling mob of angry Arab males anyway. And Ms. Logan, having been warned at least once by the Egyptian officials, chose to put herself at risk again, among those she may have imprudently thought to be on “the right side of history.” She and CBS were tragically wrong about the risks of an irredentist Egyptian revolt and nearly fatally wrong about the personal perils of xenophobic, misogynist cultures.

CBS probably can’t be charged with sexual abuse, but someone should sue the suits for reckless endangerment. The American public should demand to know also how and why the men in the CBS support crew did not fight to protect Lara Logan from a gang assault. That story is one you may never see in Rolling Stone or on 60 Minutes.

Post-mortem commentary on the Logan affair is as shallow as earlier collegial attacks on her character. Most, like that in the Chicago Sun Times fall under the “s—t happens” school of journalism: “Women are victims because they are women.” Here Richard Roeper cites obscure and questionable (Egyptian) statistics about trivial harassment of women in buses and on Cairo streets:” Such analysis is pure bandwagon. CBS and NPR are worse still, still desperately trying to hang the Logan assault on Mubarak.

Lara Logan wasn’t assaulted because she was a vulnerable, attractive woman caught in a city of fanny pinchers. She was attacked for the same reasons that Daniel Pearl was beheaded. She was a journalist (aka spy), an American, and thought to be a Jew. For too many in the Islamist and Arab world, such credentials are presumptive evidence that merits vigilante justice.

The most distressing fallout of the Lara Logan saga lies ahead. The Obama/Clinton team is unlikely to change the party line about the Arab League; full speed ahead with revolution, consequences be damned. And American journalists, especially women, are unlikely to stop their suicidal rooting for Islamic monoculture. In all of this, politicians and pundits will fail to see the hazards of haste and cultural denial - where the enemy of our enemies will never be our friends.


The author also writes at G. Murphy Donovan. This essay appeared in the 22 February 11 addition od American Thinker.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rumsfeld: Truth is the Best Revenge

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

Donald Rumsfeld has written a book. Four years out of office, such tomes ought to be called “shots from the grave,” a fusillade of explanations after the fact. Such literature has a long and honored tradition.

Dwight Eisenhower wrote and spoke of the dangers of the “military/industrial complex” as he lounged on the 19th hole; and Maxwell Taylor sounded The Uncertain Trumpet about nuclear weapons as he left the Pentagon. Their arguments were bestsellers in their day, but that industry complex and those megatons are still with us. General Taylor was right about several things however, especially the need for Special Forces designed to fight below the nuclear threshold.

Media critics are no happier with Rumsfeld’s memoir, Known and Unknown, than they were with his tenure as Secretary of Defense. Reviewer angst begins with the title which is both a poke at detractors and a paraphrase of Rummy’s most famous soliloquy:

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.”

This infamous quote is a velvet stiletto; a masterful parry - and twist of the knife; a kind of humility and honesty you seldom see in journalists. The Defense Secretary was telling the Press that there were things that he did not know; and that there were things that he and they might never know. In short, nobody has good answers to stupid questions.

The Fourth Estate hates such candor. Press scribblers prefer the comfort of lies to the discomforts of truth. This, and low standards, probably explains why Bill Clinton and Julian Assange have become Media idols – especially in America.

A survey of the reviews of Known and Unknown, reveals a uniform list of complaints – or better still, talking points. Rumsfeld is characterized as arrogant, combative, and dishonest; he is also charged with sanctioning torture and refusing to send enough troops to Iraq, almost precipitating a catastrophe. These complaints, in part or collectively, could be dismissed charitably as “bravo sierra!”

Gwen Ifill (of NPR) writing for the Washington Post is typical of the “hot wash-ups” on Rumsfeld’s book . Her brief 8 February book review contained at least two factual errors. Any writer who doesn’t know the difference between a civilian Service Secretary and a military Chief of Staff shouldn’t be writing about defense issues.

Donald Rumsfeld was indeed pugnacious, not a handicap for a warrior. The two-time Secretary of Defense was a college wrestler, a fighter pilot, and a retired Navy captain. He did not suffer fools gladly; his candor was often mistaken for arrogance. Alpha males are seldom appreciated among the girly men and khaki sniffers that frequent Pentagon press conferences.

The charges of sanctioned torture and of strategic incompetence are more serious, yet even less credible.

On the torture charges, there are multiple layers of civilian and military bureaucracy between the remote Abu Ghraib prison and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The military police responsible for the prisoners were poorly trained reservists from rural Cumberland, Maryland. The idea that any cabinet-level appointee would direct or condone torture of prisoners is ludicrous. A more likely culprit would be the Army Chief of Staff, the Army theater commander, or the on-site commander in Iraq.

The commander of the prison guards at Abu Ghraib was Brigadier General Janis Karpinski another reservist, a lady who pleaded ignorance about the criminal behavior under her nose. Karpinski also tried to implicate the Israelis in the Abu Ghraib fiasco. If anyone in DOD was blame worthy, or got a pass on their culpability, it was Karpinski. Instead of trying to hang Rumsfeld for Abu Ghraib, you would think that critics might want to ask the Army how and why Janis Karpinski dodged a court martial.

Karpinski was first demoted to colonel in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal and then promoted back again to general by the Army before she was allowed to retire gracefully with full benefits.

And the claim that the “surge,” 30,000 fresh troops, was the only tactic that saved the day in Iraq is nonsense too. More critical was the decision to buy off Sunni al Qaeda supporters with bribes. Only when that money dries up, will we know which way that insurgency blows. In any case, having reversed the sectarian poles in Iraq, the last chapter of the Iraq ‘victory’ is yet to written.

The most malicious and mendacious charge against Rumsfeld concerns the now mythical Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. “They (Bush and Rumsfeld) lied and people died” critics cried. Trying to lay blame for the flawed 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) at the feet of the Secretary of Defense misrepresents responsibilities and history.

The bogus Iraq estimate was prepared by the Intelligence Community with George Tenet’s CIA in the lead. One of two footnotes (dissents) in the document was taken by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence Research (INR). State analysts didn’t think the nuclear weapons evidence was convincing.

The deceptive speech at the UN was delivered by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Tenet and Powell secreted themselves in the woods of Langley a week before the fateful speech in New York. Somewhere between Foggy Bottom and New York, Colin Powell was rolled. He contradicted his own State Department intelligence analysts at the United Nations.

Rumsfeld’s rap against Powell was that he couldn’t be trusted. Indeed,
since his retirement, Powell postures like Arianna Huffington; a kind of political hermaphrodite – a chap who could play for either team.

Rumsfeld’s criticism of the former Secretary of State is generous because no interpretation of Powell’s behavior in 2003 can be rationalized. He was; either ill-informed, incompetent, gullible, or mendacious. None of the options are flattering. Rumsfeld lets Powell off the hook by simply writing that he was “wrong.” Yet the bottom line is clear, if anyone cooked the intelligence books on Iraq, it was Tenet and Powell, not Rumsfeld and Bush.

Pundits are fond of claiming that “journalism is the first draft of history.” Unfortunately, political myth and innuendo sell better than facts. The real truth about Rumsfeld and the Press is their mutual contempt. And coverage of Rumsfeld isn’t the first draft of history as much as it is an insult to truth.


G. Murphy Donovan was the Senior USAF Research Fellow at RAND Corporation when Donald Rumsfeld served on the RAND Board of Directors. The author also writes at G. Murphy Donovan. This essay appeared previously in th American Thinker.


About Me

The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.