In the Arena

A Note on Sources

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Several of the usual suspects have questioned the use of semi-anonymous sources in my column this week. They also seem not to have read beyond the first paragraph to consider the bad news from Iraq, which also came from anonymous sources.

For the past four years, much of what I’ve learned–and print readers of Time and now you Swampland readers have read from me–about the disastrous nature of this war has come from anonymous sources outside the White House. Some of these people have risked their careers to talk to me. When these sources tell me something is going right–as in al-Anbar province–I tend to take them seriously, given all I’ve learned from them about what is going wrong. I can’t remember the last time I took a tip from a White House spinner, or was given one. (The Bushies tend not to approve of me.) If I ever were to get that sort of tip, I would check it with people I trust outside the administration before printing it.
(By the way, that’s my policy as well when I get oppo spin from political campaigns–I don’t take dictation.)

Finally, I find it amusing that some doubt the military source who told me the good news in Anbar province but don’t question the sources who told me about the growing pessimism about the Shi’ites ever putting together a viable government…Why does good news about Iraq, however modest–and this was truly a modest, if intriguing, development–trouble you? Isn’t it about time that the suffering Sunnis of Anbar Province had a little good news? (And the fragility of the good news is emphasized by a terrible bombing in Falluja today.)

In fact, my good news about progress against Al Qaeda was bad news for the White House: it came the same day that Bush was speaking at the Coast Guard Academy warning about the dire threat from Al Qaeda in Iraq in his usual hyperbolic way. Perhaps, in some small way, my column undercut the credibility of his latest Armageddon scenario.