u n c o v e r I r a q . c o m


I Shall Be Your Humble Servant, Conrad Black
by Drew Hamre


“Asked if he should have told his readers of the payments he had received from [Lord Conrad Black’s firm], George Will said he saw no reason to do so. ‘My business is my business,’ he said. ‘Got it?’" – NYTimes, Dec. 22

Our local peace activists are some of the finest people I know, but I swear: if I have one more cup of battery-acid coffee in one more church basement, I will choke and die gasping on the scuffed linoleum.

Call me a sellout, but the lush life beckons. Sir Conrad Black, I am available. You’ll be pleased to learn, sir, that this pundit is officially for rent.

I’ve followed your troubles from afar, Lord Black, as your conservative media empire unraveled: The Chicago Sun-Times, Jerusalem Post, and London Telegraph now risk blowing down the street like parade confetti. I’m certain there are compelling reasons why stockholders’ millions were funneled into your pockets, and those of your friends. I’m certain you’ll reveal these reasons to astound the court of public opinion, perhaps after your attorneys sign ironclad plea bargains.

I am a man of the world, Lord Black, and not some dewey-eyed naif. I wasn’t surprised to learn you paid George Will -- and those aging compost heaps Richard Perle and Henry Kissinger -- tens of thousands of dollars to support their politically friendly views -- each undisclosed; each contributing in their own way to the pre-war hysteria.

Quid pro quo, I say. What are friends for?

But if I may be blunt, Lord Black, your immediate future seems dire: attorneys’ fees, security and exchange snoops, public ridicule. The BBC reports you’ve promised to repay $7.2-million in unauthorized payments. Ouch! As every dollar now counts, I risk impudence and assert that I’m quite the bargain compared to the others.

Be confident, sir, that I can do the job while standing on my head (and in fact, I find this posture helps). A sample: “Clausewitz blah blah blood and treasure blah blah Thackeray/Old Hickory put it best ...” You get my drift. If borrowed gravitas and Barclay’s erudition is your cup of tea, then I’m your boy.

I must make one stipulation, however: No Bow Ties. I admired the irony of many pro-war pundits' affectation, as the overt twerpishness somehow disarmed the charge of ‘chickenhawk’. But bow ties don’t work for me. Perhaps I could wear camo and brandish a Ka-Bar knife. With all the typewriter commandos in your employ, I presume you have consultants adept in this sort of makeover. Let’s talk.

Concerning the job description, public records imply that your pundits must:
> Be nimble when shifting narratives. At the drop of a hat, wars “forced upon us” by WMD (voila) became wars of liberation (voila) become corrosive occupations that bide time until a pre-election exit.
> Ignore Iraqis’ postwar life (60% unemployment, 16-hour power outages, block-long gas lines, and paralyzing insecurity). This war wasn’t about them (see ‘nimble’, above).
> Ignore inconvenient elephants in the corner, such as 500,000 excess deaths among Iraqi children during the sanctions decade – surely the largest unremarked political toll of the century.
> Ignore anti-terror successes unless there’s a parade involved. Disabling former Soviet weaponry? Success, but no parade: ignore. Funding air security? Big threat, but no parade: ignore. Developing alternative schools to compete with the radical madrasahs? Big threat, but no parade: ignore. I feel safer already.
> Ignore the war’s dead – both theirs and (increasingly) ours.

(Excuse me, sir, but I must pause to gather my thoughts. I read this list and find myself sickened; is this even the same universe as Ernie Pyle, Daniel Pearl, and Charles Kuralt? How can one explain the prominence of that clump of anti-matter, Richard Perle, who may yet be the death of us all?)

I am a realist, however, and apparently this is how the big leagues play. I can pinch my nose and hold out my hand as well as the next beggar. Money stinks, but so does cheap Merlot. Please remember my aversion to bow ties, as I really must draw the line somewhere.

Yours faithfully (for a fee of course, but worth every penny), Etc. etc. etc.


[Note: Written in late 2003. -DH]



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