In the U.S., we witnessed the best in journalism yesterday: after Michael Hasting's Rolling Stones portrayal of General Stanley McChrystal and his replacement by General David Petraeus, the war in Afghanistan will never be the same. I'd recommend that those advocating an extension of Canada's military presence in Afghanistan in particular read Mr. Hasting's piece - "The Runaway General" - which begins: "'How'd I get screwed into going to this dinner?" demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It's a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He's in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies - to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States. Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany's president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.
"The dinner comes with the position, sir," says his chief of staff, Col. Charlie Flynn.
McChrystal turns sharply in his chair.
"Hey, Charlie," he asks, "does this come with the position?"
McChrystal gives him the middle finger."
Here in Canada, on the other hand, we've just seen the worst in journalism, with the CBC's broadcast of an interview in which CSIS Director Richard Fadden states that a number of Canadian politicians are influenced by foreign states. Now, politicians and pundits are criticizing Mr. Fadden for making this statement. And calls for his resignation are being heard across the land.
How does the broadcast of this interview reflect the worst in journalism, you ask?
Buried within Colin Freeze and Ian Bailey's fine report of the interview fallout in Thursday's Globe and Mail, we read: "The timing of the CBC interview was not Mr. Fadden's choice. This spring, CBC approached him to repeat remarks he had made at a private, but videotaped, speech at the Royal Canadian Military Institute. The public broadcaster kept the interview in its back pocket until it broadcast the exclusive this week."
In other words, CBC sat on the explosive interview for weeks, if not months. And it chose to make the interview public on the eve of a state visit to Canada by China's President Hu, and on the eve of a summit to be attended both by him and by the Prime Minister of India.
Shame on the people who made that judgment. Heads should roll all right - heads at the CBC.
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