One man’s recent wanderings among Ground Zero, Saddam City, and other global hot spots.
Australian journalist McGeough is one of the most practiced foreign correspondents at work today, and though this narrative lacks the tight focus of Steven Brill’s After (p. 323) or Thomas Friedman’s Longitudes and Attitudes (2002), his observances from the field add considerable depth to recent headlines. Take, for instance, the case of the unfortunate Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Masoud, assassinated by Al Qaeda operatives on September 9, 2001, and subsequently portrayed as a martyr in the antiterrorist cause; writes McGeough, “Because he was pitted against the tyrannical Taliban, he enjoyed a generous press that too often ignored the less attractive side of his own history, such as the massacre of members of the Hamza minority by his own men in Kabul in 1995, and the destruction of Kabul because of his stubborn refusal to abandon the capital during the Mujahideen wars in the early nineties.” Or take America’s support for another tyranny, the government of Uzbekistan, which one of McGeough’s confidants characterizes as “by far the Central Asian country with the worst record in human rights”—with the possible exception, that is, of Turkmenistan, whose people have no civil or political rights at all. Or take the Bush administration’s shift of the war on terror from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein, a shift that McGeough carefully documents with undisguised skepticism. The most resonant portions here, for those recently glued to coverage of the war in Iraq, will be McGeough’s prescient notes before the fact on how the campaign would unfold, with a bombing campaign “the likes of which would not have been seen before” (read “shock and awe”) against carefully selected targets meant to bring the regime to its knees. As indeed happened, and if some of McGeough’s predictions are sometimes off by a hair or two, most are uncannily on the money.
A boon for news junkies, full of solid, eye-opening reporting and smartly delivered opinion.