Somebody's Got It Wrong About What General Jones Said

In State of Denial, Bob Woodward claims Marine Gen. James L. Jones, the U.S. commander for Europe, said that the Iraq war is a "debacle" and that "the Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld."

Two reporters from two publications followed up on the story. They couldn't have reached more diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether Woodward quoted Jones accurately. How's this for dueling headlines?

U.S. European Commander Confirms Quotes in Book

NATO Chief Denies Quotes in Woodward Book

When it comes to contradictions, it doesn't get more stark and point-blank than that. The first headline, claiming Jones did indeed making the critical comments, is from a Washington Post article written by Thomas Ricks. The second headline is from a US News & World Report story by Linda Robinson.

So, short of subjecting the good general to the sodium pentathol ourselves, are there any clues as to which reporter might have an agenda that would lead him or her to twist the truth? Well, let's see. Linda Robinson is a senior writer at US News, and was formerly a Senior Editor at 'Foreign Affairs,' neither a hotbed of pro-war activism.

And Thomas Ricks? His official title at the Washington Post is the innocuous-sounding "staff writer."' But let's Google him. Say, what do you know? Turns out that in his spare time, Ricks authored Fiasco, which Amazon describes as a "devastating" and "damning" portrayal of the Bush administration's Iraq war policy. When it comes to condemning the president, Ricks makes Woodward look like a piker.

So, who ya gonna believe? A foreign affairs expert with no apparent axe to grind who says Jones denied the critical quotes? Or an ardent Bush administration critic with a book to sell who says his heavy-hitting Washington Post colleague got it right?

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY. Download podcasts and webcasts of Mark's award-winning TV show 'Right Angle' here. Contact Mark at

Foreign Policy Iraq Washington Post US News