4. Your book pays at least as much attention to the Pentagon press corps and its relationship with power as it does to Stanley McChrystal and his team, and you write that after your article ran, you found that you had few problems dealing with military and political figures, but your relations with many of your fellow journalists had been poisoned. Why?
The original article contained an implicit criticism of a few of my colleagues, so I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the backlash. They would have ignored the implicit criticisms if they could have, but the story garnered too much attention. All of a sudden Jon Stewart is on the Daily Show saying,“Hey, you other guys suck.” I think that embarrassed a number of folks who weren’t used to being embarrassed. They are accustomed to being the unquestioned journalistic authorities of these wars. And, as a general rule, war correspondents are a competitive and catty breed. Put ten war reporters at a dinner table and one of them leaves the room, seven others at the table will tell you the guy is a dick, she misbehaves with sources, he’s a sketchy womanizer, he can’t be trusted, he makes stuff up, she doesn’t deserve this or that. Usually—it’s such a small, tight-knit community—that kind of dirty laundry is kept secret among the “luckless tribe,” as one reporter once described us. That’s the micro level.
On the macro level, there was something much larger than myself, or Rolling Stone, or McChrystal. It had to do with how the media, as a whole, had been covering these wars. And despite the best efforts of a number of excellent journalists, on stories from WMDs to the escalation in Afghanistan, we’ve done a pretty spotty job, I think. I also came to consider the Pentagon press corps not as a watchdog of the Pentagon, but an extension of the Pentagon. This was a critical insight for me.