Politico's Dylan Byers has written one of the fairest, most earnest reviews of another journalist's work that I've read in some time, particularly when it is about a writer who enjoys enviably high degrees of access at the White House, CIA, State Department and Pentagon. There is none of the cheap shot snark that invades too much of today's punditry.
I am referring to Byers' piece that just appeared today profiling the work of David Ignatius, who recently was given some insider access to Osama bin Laden files taken during the Navy SEAL Team 6 raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad; and in general has been a valuable lead in the journalistic corps digging out detail on the Obama administration's course that many others have been unable to do.
Just today, Ignatius continues his exclusive reporting on the bin Laden files in the Washington Post with a piece titled "A Lion in Winter." Here is an interesting excerpt from Ignatius article highlighting bin Laden's lament about al Qaeda's situation and fears about the state of his movement and the deaths of his key followers:
Bin Laden wanted to save what remained of his network by evacuating it from the free-fire zone of Pakistan's tribal areas. He noted "the importance of the exit from Waziristan of the brother leaders. . . . Choose distant locations to which to move them, away from aircraft photography and bombardment."
This evacuation order comes in the most revealing document I was shown, which is a voluminous 48-page directive to Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who served, in effect, as bin Laden's chief of staff. Throughout this document, bin Laden pondered the likelihood that al-Qaeda had failed in its mission of jihad.
Bin Laden begins by recalling the glory days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when his al-Qaeda mujaheddin were "the vanguard and standard-bearers of the Islamic community in fighting the Crusader-Zionist alliance."
But the al-Qaeda leader turns immediately to a bitter reflection on mistakes made by his followers -- especially their killing of Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere. The result, he said, "would lead us to winning several battles while losing the war at the end." Bin Laden ruminated on the "extremely great damage" caused by these overzealous jihadists. Not only is the organization's reputation being damaged, he noted, but "tens of thousands are being arrested" in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
I was pleased to see that Sally Quinn, wife of legendary Washington Post executive editor Benjamin Bradlee and editor-in-chief and co-founder with Jon Meacham of On Faith, credits the book America and the World: Conversations on the Future of US Foreign Policy with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft as a pivot point helping to trigger Ignatius' recent three year ascent to the top of national security columnists.