Reviewing Feith, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Give Irony A Funeral


First of all, the look on the bookstore clerk’s face was priceless: “Um,” she said, and put it in the bag as though handling a diseased porcupine. Yeah, I have a copy on hold at the library but theirs isn’t there yet and I didn’t want to wait. My masochism: Let me show you it.

Second, oh, dear Jesus, I don’t know how you write an “insider’s account” of the Pentagon machinations leading up to the war and make it this dull. Bob Woodward, on whom Feith snarks pathetically in talking about “people who write long pages of dialogue from only their notes,” is entertaining, however annoying his mancrush on Bush might be. Woodward puts you in the room. Feith tells you what the room is called, lists who was in it, paraphrases what they said, and then is on to the next room. If you were playing Where’s Post 9/11 Waldo, it would be useful, but a good read it is not.

The book proceeds as a list, which I’ll paraphrase here:

I was born.

I grew up.

Kind of.

I work at the Pentagon!

Old school liberals aren’t pussies! They’re hawks! Richard Perle is awesome!

Being a lawyer sucks.


I shook the president’s hand! I was in a meeting! I wrote a policy paper! Rumsfeld listens to me! The president listens to me! Everybody listens to me!

The president didn’t want to go to war, except that he did, and we didn’t make him, except that we have enormous influence, which is impossible to resist.

I hate Seymour Hersh.

Colin Powell is an asshole.

The CIA sucks.


Acronyms. Operational details. Tom Clancy.


Whoa, war sucks.

Here’s what Bush screwed up to make the war suck.

Let me teach you my ways, so that you might replicate my phenomenal successes.

The end.

Interspersed with chapters that are answers to “critics,” most of whom are unnamed, chapters that come across as superfluous when they’re not outright desperate.

Seriously, some of it needs (not bears, certainly) re-reading, to be sure I understand the precise amount of straw he’s stuffing in his arguments (ie, “Seymour Hersh is a shitty reporter and mixed up my intelligence shop and the Office of Special Plans, even though he didn’t, and other people took him at his word, even though they didn’t”). Colin Powell, natch, comes off looking the worst, especially in instances where he advocated further sanctions against Iraq:

I saw Powell’s smart sanctions intitiative as a way toseem to be addressing a problem without doing anything difficult or risky — or effective.

And you know, I’ve got no great love for Powell, who started speaking up when it became politically convenient to do so. But that’s just tacky, coming from the guy whose entire third chapter is about taking military action specifically to show terrorists in places other than where we’re currently bombing what we’re capable of. You can’t bust on someone for making moves for appearances’ sakes after that. It’s just needy.

There’s not much here that hasn’t been debunked already; the rest of it is just “here’s what paper was on the table in the meeting the results of which you already know.” What struck me most strongly, in addition to the staggering hideousness of claiming that you knew Iraq could descend into chaos and didn’t do anything to prevent it, was the way in which Feith’s recounting of Afghanistan and Iraq differ:

The first third or so of the book is detail after self-congratulatory detail about what Feith wrote that influenced the president. What meetings he spoke up in, what ideas filtered all the way up to the top, what people had to say about his ideas.

Then, after he’s done talking about Afghanistan and into Iraq, it shifts. Meetings happen. Discussions are had. Things are done. Decisions are made. It’s not that he never talks about himself anymore, it’s that the preponderence of the explanation of decisions is made in the passive voice.

And the book ends with a truly stunning number, a little list of ways future patriots can learn from the Iraq mistakes, like this is an after-school special.

Don’t pretend to know more than you know. Don’t be categorical when you should be tentative.

Seek out important information, even when it’s hard to obtain.

Don’t scorn information from scholars, exiles and other open sources. Don’t assume the only reliable human intelligence comes from foreign officials who betray their governments to intelligence agents for money.

The list goes on for a while, including caution to keep the debate “civil,” but I’m sorry, that last? Zombie irony just rose from its grave and I have a stake that needs sharpening.


ps. Oh, and as to theliberal blogosphere’s book on Feith? He doesn’t mention it. He does refer sarcastically to people who “view reading the New Yorker as research,” though, so take that how you will.

19 thoughts on “Reviewing Feith, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Give Irony A Funeral

  1. A, reading that sounds painful. Like you’d nod off, or have to start the page again and again cuz your mind wandered to something else.
    Did you throw things?

  2. leinie, I didn’t throw things. After a while I realized what he sounded like: A conservative blogger. Full of himself, screaming at the top of his literary lungs about how terrible the forces were arrayed against him on the field of Agincourt, and honestly unable to countenance the idea that anything was his fault.
    It wasn’t infuriating so much as pathetic and sad.

  3. “OK, Marge, things were said, mistakes were made. Let’s end this madness and move on with our lives.”

  4. When you wrote “My masochism: Let me show you it.”, I had a sudden fear that your review would be inlolspeak.
    Perhaps for therapy (if not entertainment), it would be interesting to have the book translated into lolspeak? (Examplehere.)

  5. Well, we learned one thing from this: Dougie truly is the stupidest fucking guy on earth. That is such a grandiose statement I have been having doubts about its veracity. The doubts are gone, but they will rise up again if anyone takes that book seriously.

  6. pansypoo. EXCELLENT question.
    And one that is answered in another of Athenae’s books titled “It Doesn’t End with Us” I am a proud owner of 3 copies. Two of which are going to the journalists of my choice.
    But to answer your question. Look to history. What has always gotten Republicans in trouble? Money. And weird personal habits that they are hypocrites about or that are just plan morally repugnant.
    Read the fine print here:
    Feith is really, really smart. I’m sure he won’t make any mistakes and has figured out how to exploit the policies of the university correctly. He’s smart in that way that only people who work for organized crime are smart. They cover their back. But the people who normally would look out for Feith, they don’t like him. Especially after he just dumped on all of them in public. When Bush and Cheney are out of power there will still be someone to protect Feith, but not like they did before when he was bringing in the goodies from Curveball. He has outlived his usefulness for them.
    Greed and hubris are often their undoing. They don’t have the self awareness to be shamed. They aren’t going to resign when they realize what they have done. They will smugly sit there and wait for people on the left to defend them from other people on the left. They love to take advantage of us that way.
    But when you focus on the money you don’t have to worry about the “first amendment platitude thinkers” defending him.
    I do wish some of the really smart lawyers and HR professionals who are graduates of Georgetown or with in the University would think a bit more about how to make Feith’s stay less profitable. I’m sure that they can figure out how to be smarter than Doug. I can’t, but then again it’s not my college he is tainting with his presence. I wasn’t smart enough to get into Georgetown or in law school, but I’d like to think that they could use some of that extra brainpower that they were granted at birth to protect the brand of their University. Letters to the Regents are good and important, but they really need to think deeper.
    “Hey Bill did you know that your alma mater hired a War Criminal? Boy, Georgetown must really be desperate for staff if they have to do that. I won’t send my kid there, yuck.”
    I know why they don’t go after Feith “They might come after me/us!” well guess what, they already are and we aren’t the ones who are war criminals.
    Finally, How do we define war criminals? Does Feith fit this defination? If he IS a war criminal then how does this match the Mission statement of Georgetown? Are they in violation of their own charter?
    Mission Statement
    Georgetown is a Catholic and Jesuit, student-centered research university.
    Established in 1789 in the spirit of the new republic, the University was founded on the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical, and spiritual understanding. We embody this principle in the diversity of our students, faculty, and staff, our commitment to justice and the common good, our intellectual openness, and our international character.
    An academic community dedicated to creating and communicating knowledge, Georgetown provides excellent undergraduate, graduate, and professional education in the Jesuit tradition for theglory of God and the well-being of humankind.
    Georgetown educates women and men to be reflective lifelong learners, to be responsible and active participants in civic life, and to live generously in service to others.

  7. The recent Pentagon report on Saddam Hussein and terrorism really vindicates Feith’s contention that the secular/religious divide between Saddam and al Qaeda was not going to stop them from cooperating. It lays out how Saddam’s Iraq funded, trained, armed and encouraged al Qaeda affiliates.
    I’ve written about this for years at as well as the hundreds of Baath detainees who have admitted this.
    I guess some consider it fun to trash those who saw Saddam as a threat but do you really wish he were still in power? Do you think him being in power would have no cost?

  8. Thanks for taking the bullet for us, but you didn’t really have to. I couldn’y care less what that SOB has to say. All I wanta hear out of him is when he whines for a blindfold before the firing squad does him or the trap door drops, whichever..

  9. Damn, I know we’re not supposed to underestimate these guys (lord knows, they’ve done enough damage to drive that point home), but srsly, the summation?
    “Don’t pretend to know more than you know.” No shit, Sherlock. You mean you didn’t learn this in college? That’s what comes from being convinced you’re always the smartest guy in the room–you don’t learn shit.
    “Seek out important information, even when it’s hard to obtain.” The DUH! It burns us!
    Honestly, it took this guy 54 years to figure out something I knew when I was TEN! And precocious I wasn’t.
    Fuck me. This is a guy advocating for *war*, telling the President of the Fucking United States that we should go kill lots of people. And he couldn’t be bothered to seek out important information before doing so?
    If I were Georgetown, we couldn’t fire this guy fast enough. Actually, if I were Georgetown, I’d … well, perhaps I should end here.

  10. “I guess some consider it fun to trash those who saw Saddam as a threat but do you really wish he were still in power? Do you think him being in power would have no cost?
    Posted by: Mark Eichenlaub | April 09, 2008 at 06:42”
    well, thank you, mark eichenlaub, for clearing my fuzzy little brain so that i can line up behind you in understanding when all of our military resources SHOULD have been brought to bear on the people who ACTUALLY committed a very significant attack on new york city, saddam hussein was just such a bad motherf*cker that we simply HAD to immediately bog our entire military down in what was foreseen by anyone with enough “imagination” as the clusterf*ck it is, killing MORE iraqis in five years than saddam hussein was able to manage in 25 and killing MORE americans than al-aqaeda managed on that black september morning.
    i’m just glad you’re feeling satisfied with yourself. really. everything is SO much improved now that saddam hussein is dead.

  11. … killing MORE iraqis in five years than saddam hussein was able to manage in 25
    WTF??? Is this an alternate universe? WOW!

  12. What Karen Marie said.
    I’d add only that by the time the party conventions are done this summer, the war that took out Saddam (and so much else in Iraq) will have gone on longer than U.S. involvement in WW1 and WW2combined (total: 64 months).
    Nice work, Feith.

  13. the war that took out Saddam (and so much else in Iraq) will have gone on longer than U.S. involvement in WW1 and WW2 combined (total: 64 months).
    So what is your point? The US should have carried out the bombing campaigns we did on German and Japanese cities? Or drop 2 nukes in Iraq? Or instead of 4000 deaths in Iraq we’d have the combined total of WW1 and WW2, 500,000? Those would be ‘good’ things?

  14. liontooth —
    Cripes but you’re obtuse. The point is that, quite aside from picking the wrong fight in the wrong place at the wrong time for utterly wrong reasons, BushCo can’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel. And Feith is the embodiment of all that willful and unrepentant incompetence.

  15. picking the wrong fight in the wrong place at the wrong time for utterly wrong reasons,
    REALLY? So Iraq had NOTHING to do with bin Laden? The sanctions should have just continued? Not according to bin Laden.
    From bin Laden’s 1996 Fatwa:

    “It is out of date and no longer acceptable to claim that the presence of the crusaders is necessity and only a temporary measures to protect the land of the two Holy Places. Especially when the civil and the military infrastructures ofIraq were savagely destroyed showing the depth of the Zionist-Crusaders hatred to the Muslims and their children…”
    “More than600,000 Iraqi children have died due to lack of food and medicine and as a result of the unjustifiable aggression (sanction) imposed onIraq and its nation. The children ofIraq are our children. You, the USA, together with the Saudi regime are responsible for the shedding of the blood of these innocent children. Due to all of that, what ever treaty you have with our country is now null and void.”

  16. Can’t wait to hear Gen. Tommy Franks review of this pile of third world toilet paper some would call a book.

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