Monday, September 15, 2003

John Burns's disturbing whodunit. The New York Times' John Burns, whose courageous reporting and darkly lyrical dispatches while Baghdad was under siege comprised some of the best journalism of the war in Iraq, has some astounding things to say on the Editor & Publisher website.

The piece -- excerpted from an oral history -- demands to be read in full. But here is what is sure to be the most controversial paragraph:

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

The whole business is going to be buzzing over whom Burns is referring to. Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds calls this and other Burns tales of pro-Saddam lackeydom as "journalism's Nuremberg." Andrew Sullivan describes Burns's revelations as evidence of how "compromised and corrupt" much of the reportage out of Iraq was, and I won't disagree.

Burns calls to mind nothing so much as the admission by CNN's Eason Jordan earlier this year that his operation engaged in years of shameful toadying to Saddam Hussein's regime in order to maintain access.

Whether you're prowar, as Burns seems to be, or antiwar, as Media Log is, you don't want to be forced to depend on media that cover up evil in the course of doing what they think are their jobs. Their jobs are to tell the truth. Period. If they get kicked out of the country, so be it.

Burns's revelations are sickening, and they only increase my admiration for the bravery he showed while stationed in Baghdad.

They should also lead to a lot more than a one-day story.

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