Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tom Hayden's fetishism

"I hesitate to pass this on but I can't wait to see what you do with it," admitted a Nation magazine friend over the phone this morning, passing on Tom Hayden's "After Nearly Nine Years of War and Occupation, America to Withdraw All Troops From Iraq."

I'd thought, as I read through it, there might be some way to praise it or even offer a mixed endorsement; however, reading along it became clear that Tom Hayden has reduced himself to some form of rare fetishist -- say a man turned on by women's ankles when the feet are submerged in shrimp cocktail and some early 80s New Romantic tunes play in the background on a victrola. In other words, it's the rare year when anything remotely about his fetish will be published so he forever gloms on to articles that, for example, are about a broken ankle and uses them to demonstrate that his fetish is actually highly popular and mainstream.

That's how you get someone exclaiming in their first paragraph that "a stunning and largely unexpected victory" has taken place and, in the second paragraph, immediately offering the qualifier "Assuming the report is true". He's referring to AP's report Saturday. They spoke to sources who stated that the negotiations between Iraq and the US were over. No one else could offer original reporting to back up that claim and, in fact, the White House, the Pentagon and the State Dept rejected the story and done so on the record.

If that were the article's only problem, the opening, I'd be praising it right now. But it's one problem after another.

Reading it, I'm reminded of his infamous 2006 appearance on Radio Nation with Laura Flanders -- the one where Flanders felt the need, as soon as he was off the phone to note that she couldn't believe he was asking Americans to become pen pals with insurgents. We were willing to give him more space and only noted, the day after that interview, that we needed to hear more about his plan. He never offered more, never returned to the topic -- maybe he was scared, maybe he was just too busy running away from Iraq, a sport he began to pursue in earnest as 2006 drew to a close.

So if he's misunderstood for his call for Americans to become pen pals with Moqtada al-Sadr and others who advocated the killing of US troops in Iraq, he has no one but himself to blame.

And I bring that up not to try to humiliate him (if I wanted to humiliate him, I'd be quoting the entire exchange on the pen pal proposal but instead I'm biting my tongue) but because it was and is so simplistic and so dualistic that it truly sums up the stunted intellectual Tom Hayden grew into. Moqtada is against the Iraq War. Therefore, in Tom's thought process, Moqtada is a friend. (And worthy of pen pal letters.) It's that simplistic foolishness, that need to see everything in with-me-or-against-me Bushisms that prevents Tom Hayden from becoming any sort of political theorist of consequence. And it's what leads to his never-ending distortions. Especially with regards to Moqtada.

"Internal Iraqi politics obviously played an important role," Tom writes -- already forgetting his qualifier of if the AP report is true, "with the Shiite bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr vociferously opposed to whatever offers were being put forward. According to the AP, Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki told the diplomatic corps that he could not win approval of immunity from the Iraqi Parliament, where the Sadr bloc is significant." Yes, it was Moqtada . . . in Tom's mind. And Moqtada, not by violence or threats of violence (remember, Tom sees Moqtada as a cohort, friend and, judging by the pen pal suggestion, a bon vivant and raconteur), but via his bloc in Parliament.


Obviously, Tom is not someone you instruct to "do the math." Not if you want the correct answer.

At most, Moqtada al-Sadr controls 43 seats in Parliament.

How many MPs are in Parliament?


It's not just math, don't ask him to do a timeline either.

Aside from the AP, the mainstream media downplayed or missed the story announcing the end of the American war. The New York Times ran a short account on page 11, saying the Panetta proposal for training Iraqi troops had been "scaled back" to "far less" than the 3,000–5,000 figure. "No final decision on a remaining force had been reached," the Times quoted White House and Pentagon sources as saying.

He's referring to Michael S. Schmidt and Tim Arango's "U.S. Cuts Back Proposed Size of Forces in Iraq" -- and there's so much wrong with that paragraph. First of all, the article went up online Saturday. The same day Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana's late breaking AP story went up. In fact, the AP article was hitting sites just as the Times was publishing their piece online. Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt are journalists and should be critiqued -- positively and negatively -- but it needs to be accurate.

They really can't cover an AP exclusive in an article they're publishing at the same time.

Second of all, Reuters (like AP, a wire service) was covering it Saturday and was noting the denials. Greta VanSustern was also covering it Saturday evening and noting the denials. No one ran with the story because it was an AP exclusive that no one could back up with their own original reporting. (USA Today repeatedly teased out the AP article as did the Telegraph of London but USA Today at least had the good manners to credit the AP.)

I hope that's clear. I'm all for criticizing the press. But I'm also all for accuracy.

And Tom's not for accuracy at all. I read the article online Saturday and I scanned it in print Sunday to see if there were any changes. That was the paper at my home in California. Presumably, the same version Tom saw. So where he's getting his 'quote' from the article, I don't know.

This is the last paragraph of the article Arango and Schmidt wrote:

Both the White House and Pentagon released statements saying that no final decision on a remaining force had been reached.

Tom turns it into:

"No final decision on a remaining force had been reached," the Times quoted White House and Pentagon sources as saying.

A quote is exact words. The paper had no quote in its final paragraph. It summarized "statements" (plural). That's not quibbling. Tom Hayden is not just an author of books, he teaches college courses. He damn well knows what a quote is or isn't.

We're still not done. Iraq hasn't a census since the 90s. Point? Population figures are estimates. But there's Tom trying to work out his long standing grude against Saudi Arabia (I've shared before the glazed look he used to get in the 80s when raving on about Arab countries, it was all a conspiracy, he'd insist -- it was that thinking that led to Jane's only bomb as a producer: Rollover) so he wants to divide the country of Iraq into Shi'ites and Sunnis and then inform you that Sunnis are "roughly 20% of the population." So we're not including Sunni Kurds or Sunni Turkomen? I guess there's not time when you're potraying your crush Barack as battling the Pentagon and playing multiple dimensional chess and all the other b.s.

That b.s. is annoying from a 20-year-old. It's especially annoying when it comes from someone who supposedly has been around the block a few times. Even more so when this pro-Barack spin comes from someone that Barack has publicly derided (remember he didn't need nor want "Tom Hayden Democrats"). But that goes to Tom. He's never been a leader. Though it actually brought him back from the political dead, the years 2001 through 2008 were personally scary for him because it gets harder and harder for him to go against the current. He's much more comfortable leading the Pep Squad than leading a revolution. He has a deep-seated need to blend in.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan and -- updated last night and this morning:

I'm running late this morning and this was a dictated entry. At the last group last night, we were asked if we could come in early and lead another discussion on the war. As soon as I'm in the car, I'll pull out the laptop and get to work on a second entry. Thank you to ___ at The Nation.

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