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Apr 8

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, April 08, 2010 7:08 AM 

While we're on the subject, I think today is as good a day as any to post a letter I emailed last Wednesday to Commentary magazine's blog Contentions, where Max Boot posts amok. I had hoped for some form of a public correction attesting to my reportorial honesty, repeatedly impugned by Boot, but not having received any response to date, I will set the record straight here.

Dear Jennifer Rubin,

As editor of the Contentions blog, you are the gatekeeper of what appears. I don't know if you actually read, let alone edit, posts before they are published, but I write to you as the lady in charge. Also, the following is a private letter, meaning it is not submitted for publication or blogging. [Updated 4.8.10: Obviously, this caveat is no longer applicable. I had originally hoped a private letter would elicit an appropriate response.]

Twice in the last week I have been smeared on your blog by Max Boot. I choose the word "smeared" very carefully. It perfectly describes the technique he has used to depict me as a tainted source with your readers by branding me a liar in both posts (after misrepresenting me in an initial post) and offering no evidence of any lies.

I first wrote to him privately to ask him to reexamine the post (mine) on which he based this initial misrepresentation:

Boot: “It was from Walt, Ms. West claims, that Petraeus imbibed his `Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes.’ ”
I wrote to him: "Please reread my post with care. You will see this claim does not exist. Please write a correction so that your readers are not misled."

I do not know where or from whom Petraeus "imbibed" his "attitudes," nor does my post claim otherwise. Read it and see for yourself. At the end of a lengthy, careful parsing of the Petraeus-as-Arabist story to date, from the Foreign Policy blog to the Petraeus Senate testimony, I note the stunning news that Petraeus wrote his Ph.D. thesis under Walt. It is stunning news, posion icing on the cake, in my view, to hear that in the same week Petraeus airs his Senate testimony with its Arabist-inflected paragraph on Israel-PA, in the same week Obama kicks Netanyahu in the teeth, it turns out Petraeus wrote his thesis, even about Vietnam, even 20 years ago, with none other than Stephen Walt as one of two advisors, warmly acknowledged in the thesis as I noted. To me, this adds a twisted filip to what I consider to be the bitter irony that Petraeus will be awarded the Irving Kristol award at AEI next month.

Just fyi, as I noted in a subsequent item (not mentioned by Boot), Walt himself followed up on the Petraeus testimony by quoting it to bolster a related op-ed in the Wash Post. Of course, the point is not whether Petraeus "imbibed" from Walt -- unknowable information to date. The point is that there is now evidence of a shocking concordance, or, at the very least, significant overlap, in their views. Such views are compatible with those of Israel's (and the US's) enemies in the Arab world and elsewhere.  

Boot's first post, his only response to my email to him, is titled "I Make No Apology, Ms.West" -- implying that I asked for an apology, which I did not. He opens at a high rev, telling readers I "demanded" a correction, when I said "please." Small things -- but they set the hysterical tone of denunciation, which he maintained, if not intensified, as things went on.

Boot: "For my part, I await West’s correction and apology for the numerous calumnies she has lodged against the most distinguished American military commander since Eisenhower. Her accusations that Petraeus holds “Arabist, anti-Israel attitudes” are without foundation ..."

"Calumnies," of course, are false and malicious statements meant to harm someone's reputation. Slander. Lies. I defy you or Max Boot to find one false statement, lie, etc. that I have made about Petraeus. I oppose COIN doctrine, the COIN manual and policies, and have taken strong exception to assorted Petraeus statements about Gitmo and Hezbollah, for example, but that is something else again. Boot points to no false statement, just states that I have made them. That is a smear.

Meanwhile, his assertion about Petraeus' attitudes on Israel being "without foundation" is quite ridiculoius given the general's Senate testimony is the "foundation"  which, as I have written at length, and despite the Am Spec's "cold water" report, Petraeus has in no way repudiated.

Boot: "She made equally wild and specious accusations against General Stanley McChrystal, another of our most respected commanders... She writes, again with zero — sorry, “ZERO” — evidence, that McChrystal is `zealot' and `a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy' ..."

This is another smear. I have written extensively for the better part of the past year on this subject, offering copious evidence to back up my conclusions. (Not at all incidentally but also fyi, I have received precious letters of support on this very subject from men in the field, vets and their families.)

He also asked me how many jihadis I have killed. Question: Do you think that is a "debating" point worthy of Contentions/Commentary?

He concludes by comparing my "truly disgusting" charges to Moveon.org.

Apparently, that wasn't good (bad) enough, because in Boot's second post, I am now the new Joseph Sobran, while Andrew Sullivan "is a model of intellectual honesty compared to Diana West."

Another smear without offering evidence of falsehoods in my work.

He continues about my posts: They "display, as usual with this crowd, an utter disregard for basic facts and the conventions of rational debate. ... I’ve probably given West and her ilk more attention than they deserve because their work is so utterly inconsequential and uninfluential. But I do believe there is a duty to police one’s own ideological precincts, and because West & Co. claim to be conservatives, I think it is important for conservatives to condemn their extremist rhetoric — as has previously happened with Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, and other right-wing embarrassments."

Let's just forget the "right-wing embarassaments" and other name-calling. According to Boot -- and now, in the minds of your readers -- my work displays an "utter disregard for basic facts." Again, I challenge you and Max Boot to find one example of a falsehood, lie, etc., in my work. This is yet another smear made without supporting evidence. Such smears are extremely injurious to me as one who makes a living and maintains a reputation working with facts.

What is also notable about Boot's posts is that throughout he fails to address any actual arguments I have made about these serious issues; just smears them in toto as falsehoods without offering your readers evidence. Finally, he has assumed the role of ideological policeman and has declared me and my work verboten. He sums up by comparing me, again sans evidence, to Sobran, Buchanan, whose very names evoke a Walt-like antisemitism and animus toward Israel. How ironic.

I ask you, Jennifer: What do you propose to do about this?

Sincerely,

Diana West

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