A Son’s Death Didn’t Make a Critic ‘Credible’

Over on Twitter, Glenn Greenwald recommended this USA Today profile of Boston University historian Andrew Bacevich, who has been one of the most prolific and incisive critics of U.S. foreign policy in recent years.

Greenwald called it “surprisingly good,” which is right. But one thing about the piece really bothered me–how it dealt with the death of Bacevich’s son in Iraq. Reporter Rick Hampson tells that story via the classroom:

The students knew that Bacevich had always opposed the war in Iraq. They may have known that his only son, Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich, Jr., was an Army officer there. They did not know that the day before he had been killed there.

That awful irony–a son follows his father into the military and dies in a war the father fought to end–has helped make Bacevich one of the most prominent and credible critics of U.S. foreign policy.

I doubt that USA Today really means to say that the death of Bacevich’s son “helped” make Bacevich’s critique more “credible,” but that’s certainly what comes across here. As a politically conservative critic of Clinton, Bush and now Obama policies, one would hope that his record speaks for itself.

Bacevich doesn’t speak publicly much about his son’s death–I recall that from an interview he did with Bill Moyers in 2008. And Bacevich says much the same later on in the USA Today article:

Bacevich says his son’s loss does not affect his analysis and should not affect how it is received. “I’ve never said, ‘You need to listen to me because my son died in Iraq.'”

Again, this is one troubling aspect to an otherwise interesting piece about an important voice in our national debate. But that passage was a little off.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.