Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Travel Reading: War Reporting for Cowards

Having lots of time in the Seattle airport waiting for my trip to Japan, I succumbed to the urge to buy reading material, and among the material, I picked up Chris Ayres's book.

Ayres, as the book notes mentioned, was too much of a coward or too centered on his career to try to get out of going to Iraq as a war correspondent.

The reviews of the book were quite a bit out of kilter with what was inside; while Ayres's book is a great read, with lots of Gen-X type references, what strikes me as odd is the cover reviews that tout this book as "hilarious" ( from Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times), and "laugh out loud" (Time). There was one place where I caught a chuckle, but what strikes me is the extreme naievete and almost stupidity of Ayres. This is a guy who aparently did virtually no meaningful research on how a modern army is put together, logistics, and so forth.

That said, there are some themes in this book worth pursuing; among them, Ayres (somewhat dully) figures out that he's embedded to create propaganda, and understands and appreciates the military.

His take on Iraq is equally naieve, with no conception of the tribal nature of the Iraqis, the history of the region in the last century, the relationship to oil, etc. It is apparent that Ayres simply wasn't using the same set of information that those of us who opposed the war did, and that's the big shocker: this "media dude," intelligent, articulate, and connected, was hopelessly clueless when it came to the geopolitical strategic circumstances and implications of the invasion of Iraq.

That's the type of folks that make the mainstream media today.

All that said, Ayres is indeed a damned fine writer, and you could do far worse with other books.

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