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Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein

Posted: August 6, 2008 08:45 PM

Judith Miller: She's B-A-A-A-C-K!


Yes indeed. The nation's most gullible neocon journalist is back to cheerlead the Iraq war. Just in case you're wondering what august nationally-distinguished journalistic enterprise is gracing its pages with Miller's deeply researched writing, let me spare you the suspense: it's the Reader's Digest. Yes, I know. The decline and fall from the pages of the New York Times and the embrace of Punch Sulzberger to the Reader's Digest is sharp and steep--and fitting.

You couldn't possibly think I would spare you some of the lucid and convincing prose she's peddling to paint the joys and wonders of the U.S. occupation, could you? In Iraqi Militants Becoming Citizens, she toots the horn of the commanding general for the former Abu Graibh detention facility (which conveniently is no more). General Michael Stone, don't you know, is simply working wonders at transforming hard core Al Qaeda insurgents into model citizens:

Cement walls and concertina wire still surround the two vast camps where nearly 23,000 people suspected of aiding the Iraqi insurgency are being held. But the men, women, and teenagers "inside the wire" no longer languish without hope...


Rather, thousands of once illiterate detainees have learned how to read and write. Hundreds more are now studying math, science, geography, civics, Arabic, and English and learning carpentry, bricklaying, and other skills that may enable them to feed their families after their release. They play soccer and Ping-Pong, visit their families, pray, and debate how to accurately interpret the Koran they can now read for themselves.


Yes, General Stone is a regular Annie Sullivan teaching all those Iraqi Helen Kellers the wonders of their religion and civilization. But one nagging question bothers me: how do you take an illiterate Iraqi and in six months teach him enough classical Arabic to read and "accurately interpret" the Koran? Ah, but that's a minor quibble with Miller's otherwise clear-eyed analysis.

I also enjoyed this little passage describing an incentive program the general created to promote "good behavior" among the inmates:

They also devised a system of incentives to reward detainees for "productive" behavior and instituted a pledge for detainees just before their release that they would live peacefully and respect the laws of the government of Iraq. They began paying those who volunteered to learn a skill and participate in the camp work programs the equivalent of $1.10 an hour -- a considerable sum in post-Saddam Iraq. The money is kept for the detainees in bank accounts or given to their families during visits.


"This is an Arab culture," says Stone. "It's all about business."

It's also about respect.

Ah yes, thank God for that little bit of wisdom from Stone displaying his deep insight into the Arab mind. But the real clincher is Miller's "it's all about respect." Yes, and harboring prejudicial assumptions about Arab culture certainly does show such respect.

Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Stone. Perhaps he is effective at what he does. But with ideas like this can you blame me for my derision?

Stone generates a new idea a minute -- not all of them successful. There was, for example, his flirtation with giving juvenile detainees tie-dyed uniforms, an initiative that quickly died.

I guess he was trying to turn the former insurgents into Deadheads.

If I were really cynical I'd point out programs during Don Rumsfeld's tenure which paid people to write puff pieces about the Iraq occupation. Miller's piece is so puffy and so lacking in rigor, evidence or specificity you can't help but wonder whether there was some under the table scheme involved in writing or publishing it. But Judy Miller doesn't need to be paid to whore for the Bush administration. She does it for free.

The kicker for me is this bio of Miller at the end of the story:

Judith Miller is a journalist and contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.

The Manhattan Institute is New York headquarters for the neocon mafia. If you're a right wing New York intellectual who doesn't want to move to DC to work at the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute, you'll end up at the Manhattan Institute. One of its founders was "Wild Bill" Casey, Ronald Reagan's top spook and a mastermind behind the Iran Contra initiative. Whatever you say about Judy Miller, she's ended up where she belonged all along.

I just can't wait for her book. That should be something. What I'd love to see would be a literary collaboration between Judy and Scooter, a romantic thriller about a powerful, manly key aid to the v.p. and a dashing journalist misunderstood by her editors and everyone but the manly man she loves. They pursue hair-raising adventures around the globe to protect everything that we hold dear in western civilization. That too would be something.

Thanks to my old friend, Mike Rose, whose grandparents of blessed memory bought him a lifetime (yes, lifetime) subscription to Reader's Digest when he was born. Just think, if not for that Mike never would've read this and I would never have brought it to your attention. Can you think of a greater tragedy?