From gyrene to jihadi journalist—it’s not the usual American career trajectory.
Those who have seen the remarkable documentary Control Room will recall debut author Rushing as the Marine public-affairs officer doubtfully interpreting the American invasion of Iraq for a doubtful press corps. Located behind the lines in Qatar, Rushing found some of the most interesting and confounding questions coming from the journalists of Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language news network headquartered there. “Al Jazeera was a hostile network, and its portrayal of the U.S.’s actions frustrated my superiors,” he recalls. Against that official line, he advanced the argument that progressive Arab journalists might be able to explain the U.S. version of things to the Arab world; for so doing, he was all but accused of treason. Thoroughly disillusioned by events in Iraq, Rushing was put back on his soft beat working as a liaison with Hollywood. But there he got himself in still further trouble by making public comments about Control Room that took him “outside his lane,” as the Marines say. His bosses accused him of vying for 15 minutes of fame. He left the Corps and was preparing to take a job in PR in Texas when the programming director of the new Al Jazeera English station, headquartered in D.C., called to offer him a job—whereupon, well, his difficulties truly begin, not least with the FBI. Rushing and as-told-to partner Elder turn in an earnest but often plodding narrative, but this story tells itself: Rushing is still trying to explain America to the Arab world and vice versa, and his vignettes clearly reveal what a tough job that is.
A long list of people won’t like this book, from George Bush to Gary Busey. Gary Busey? Yes—and that’s just one instance of culture clash.