Tom Ricks’s award-winning blog has posted a curious broadside against me over my misidentifying the charity Paula Broadwell is contributing some of her book royalties to. The author, a Major currently teaching at West Point who founded the charity she does contribute to, spends about a thousand words calling me shameless while expressing outrage I donated $100 to the wrong wounded veterans charity in my post criticizing Paula Broadwell’s ever-changing version of events at Tarok Kolache and oh yeah I don’t know what leadership is or something.
Needless to say, he didn’t even get the name of this blog correct, referring to us as Registan.com. Among other issues were his focus on a frankly trivial tangent to a post detailing how poorly Broadwell presented her hagiography of General Petraeus. Ricks was kind enough to let me post a response, which I’m detailing below but still: can Broadwell’s defenders even do a basic diligence on her stories? Because in the few I’ve poked into, they just don’t add up. It makes me wonder what else in her narrative needs independent confirmation.
I appreciate MAJ Erwin’s service to our country. But I would also appreciate his portraying my comments accurately. I never claimed to “review” Paula’s book (and in fact say very specifically that I did not). While he can proclaim me shameless, I find a certain shamelessness in ignoring 1500 words about Paula Broadwell’s many problems with telling the truth, presenting that truth accurately and consistently over time, or portraying her critics fairly.
Rather than focusing on a throwaway line at the end of a long analysis of a small anecdote in Paula’s book, MAJ Erwin chose instead to take exception at my donating money to the Wounded Warriors Project with the wrong rhetoric attached to it. That’s certainly his right, and he has every right to assume my motives to feel outrage.
But the decision to focus on such a small point — literally my decision to donate to an organization supporting wounded veterans so I wouldn’t deny them a small royalty check by not buying Paula’s book — while ignoring the much bigger points about Paula’s issues with telling the truth is worrisome. Either Paula told a false version of what happened at Tarok Kolache on this blog last year, or she is telling a false version of what happened in her book. The two do not match, and it would serve EVERYONE interested in character and leadership, like Major Erwin, to contemplate that as well.
The real issue here isn’t whether I donated to the Wounded Warrior Project with the right motives, but whether Paula Broadwell is telling an incomplete version of the truth to tell the story she wanted for her hagiography of General Petraeus. No matter what people like Major Erwin try to deflect attention from that point, it doesn’t change the real issue here.
Anyway so that’s all I say about that particular topic. I am heartened to see the stories Majors teaching at West Point hold a blog to a higher level of factual accuracy than an edited book. I’m also happy to see a focus on trivial issues rather than the substantive factual ones raised in Broadwell’s book. I’m certain that attitude is a healthy one to cultivate in future Army leaders.
IMAGE: a vegetable stand in Kapisa province, taken by Joshua Foust