Earlier this month, I argued that pro-war journalists and pundits had escaped real accountability for their support of the disastrous war and occupation in Iraq. I opened by expressing surprise that George Packer in his elegant “Talk of the Town” piece on George Tenet’s new memoirs could indict the Bush Administration for coming “close to perfecting the art of unaccountability” without including a critical inventory of his own and other pro-war journalists’ accountability. Just the other day, I received an e-mail reply from Packer–someone who’s written over the years for this magazine, though not on Iraq. I thought it worth sharing–and with George’s permission, I post it here.
I only just read your blog post on my comment about accountability.I appreciated your kind words about it, but I also wanted to answeryour point that I haven’t held myself accountable on Iraq. This isuntrue. When I wrote “The Assassins’ Gate,” well after it was clearthat the Iraq war had gone badly wrong, I let readers know that Ihad supported the war despite many misgivings and much ambivalence–something they would not otherwise have known, since I never wrotea word in support before the war. I “outed” myself when it wasn’tnecessary or in my interest, because I thought I owed it to myreaders. This turned out to be a P.R. mistake, since I’m nowroutinely lumped with all the liberal hawk pundits who cheered onthe march to war. There’s nothing I can do to correct thatmisimpression, but I can ask other writers of good will not torepeat it. Since the beginning of the war, I’ve gone to Iraq againand again to find out what is happening there, and I don’t think anhonest reader could say that my reports have been easy on pro-warideas, including my own. What I’ve written has given war critics agreat deal of ammunition against war supporters, and they have usedit. I’ve written many times, including in “The Assassins’ Gate,”that the war turned out to be a disaster and an epic mistake. Ifall of this isn’t holding myself accountable, then your idea ofaccountability is narrower than mine.