Mag-nificent reading

Jul 18, 2007 at 12:00 am

If you are looking for some light summer reading, you've come to the wrong place for a suggestion. News Hits, despite having decidedly unattractive legs, has always aspired to be the Tina Turner of journalism. As the esteemed TT famously noted in a version of "Proud Mary," we don't do anything "nice and eeee-zeee." But if you're interested in counteracting the soporific effects of warm sun and chilled piña coladas, we're here to recommend a couple of recent magazine articles for your perusal.

First is a piece by the late, great David Halberstam in the August issue of Vanity Fair. Written before his death in a car accident in April, this piece demonstrates why Halberstam, who made his mark covering the war in Vietnam, will be so sorely missed.

Titled "The History Boys," the piece looks at President Bush's attempts to find historical parallels that put his Iraq debacle in a more favorable light. We offer the opening paragraph as an enticement:

"We are a long way from the glory days of Mission Accomplished, when the Iraq war was over before it was over — indeed before it really began — and the president could dress up like a fighter pilot and land on an aircraft carrier, and the nation, led by a pliable media, would applaud. Now, late in this sad, terribly diminished presidency, mired in an unwinnable war of their own making, and increasingly on the defensive about events which, to their surprise, they do not control, the president and his men have turned, with some degree of desperation, to history."

Viewed through the administration's distorted lens, Saddam was this generation's Hitler, and Bush is the second coming of Harry Truman, a president who sustained abysmal public approval ratings while in office because of a highly unpopular Korean War. Just as historians came to elevate Truman's stature, so too will Bush be redeemed by those looking back on his presidency.

As the magazine's editors note in the intro to the article, Halberstam considered such spin to be based on "wishful thinking, arrogance, and a total disdain for the facts."

Also on our list of recommended reading is a lengthy report from The Nation, which details the results of an investigation that involved interviews with 50 Iraq War combat veterans. What unfolds in the piece "The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness," by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, are chilling firsthand accounts of a "brutal side of the war rarely seen on television screens or chronicled in newspaper accounts."

"Many of these veterans returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the U.S. government and American media," Hedges and Al-Arian write. "The war the vets describe is a dark and even depraved enterprise, one that bears powerful resemblance to other misguided and brutal colonial wars and occupations ..."

It is chilling and depressing and vital stuff.

Before taking on any of this, though, pour yourself another tall, cool drink — and make it a stiff one — because you're going to need it.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]