Investigative journalist Robert Parry died last week at the age of 68. Jon Schwarz writes about the qualities that made him a great journalist which, as should not be too surprising, made it hard for him to work for his former employers at the Associated Press and Newsweek that he said tried to suppress his accounts that held the powerful to account, so he started his own news service called ConsortiumNews.
As many other media observers have noted, the US is quite an open society but much of the real information is buried under mountains of dross. It takes diligence to uncover it and most mainstream journalists are simply unwilling or unable to dig through it.
He read the voluminous reports that the government produces when forced to address scandals – and he read them from beginning to end. Most reporters just skim the executive summaries, which are always written to be as exculpatory as possible. But Parry knew that the body of these reports is often filled with revelations that blatantly contradict the headline.
Take, for example, the CIA’s 1000-page report on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, which reveals Saddam Hussein was not burning with the desire to kill Americans. On the contrary: During the Clinton administration, Hussein repeatedly begged the United States to be his buddy again, claiming that he could be America’s “best friend in the region bar none.”
This nugget is just sitting there for anyone to read on the CIA’s website, yet it has gotten almost no play in U.S. media. It has literally never appeared in the New York Times and appears never to have been referenced on American television. (The Washington Post mentioned it once in 2004, in the second-to-last paragraph of a story buried in the back of the paper.)
Parry had two rules for writing stories: always include the history and repeat yourself, over and over. As a a result of these qualities and his diligence, Parry broke several major stories in addition to the Nicaraguan angle to the Iran-Contra affair. Schwarz describes each one of the following:.
- The Reagan administration protected cocaine traffickers
- Richard Nixon conspired to keep the Vietnam War going
- The 1980 Reagan campaign almost certainly conspired with Iran
- Jimmy Carter may have given Saddam Hussein permission to invade Iran
- Top Democrats allowed Republicans to get away with everything
He will be missed.