Correspondence with New York Times Reporter Damien Cave

do you trust this man?

do you trust this man?

After reading and commenting on this article in the New York Times I wrote to Damien Cave, the author of the piece.

I have a love-hate relationship with reporters, I love to debate and challenge them and prod them for information. Most tend to be really interesting because no matter whether they agree with you or not, or put something positive about you in a newspaper or tv or radio spot, they have access to all sorts of information you wouldn’t otherwise have. If its an amicable relationship they can tip you off, on things like police raids.

I hate being in a position where feel forced to respect them by virtue of their position or pander to them. Seriously, many are very needy people.

I appreciate the fact that this guy took time out of his day to talk to me, albeit probably on a Blackberry. On the other hand I think this is a little bit of yesterday’s column A, shoddy reporting, and a little out of column B, media blackout.

Starbuck: Hi. I was reading your recent article (Back From War, and Into the Political Fray 10/27/08)on veterans from recent wars coming home and getting engaged with politics. I was upset to find that there was not one mention of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) especially because one vet was trampled by a police horse while standing on the sidewalk during a protest in the midst of the final Presidential Debate. I don’t want to go into a long rant, but was just inquiring about why they did not make it into the article. If you would like more info you can go to their website, the video of the incident i mentioned above is here. Thanks.

Cave: i know them well. but the story’s focus was on new groups, and new engagement. kokesh and the ivaw guys have been at it for a while and they’ve gotten a lot of attention for it. truth is, they do not represent the majority of young veterans in their single minded, protest-oriented opposition to the war; most vets (i interviewed more than 50 and covered the war in iraq for 18 months) have a much more nuanced view of things and that’s what the article reflects. it would have seemed unfair to focus on ivaw at the expense of the others. plus, the article was cut by 1,000 words from what i initially filed…if i had more room i would have liked to mention all of the different groups involving young vets. there’s a ton of them. and they’re all interesting in their own right.

my point i guess is that this wasn’t any kind of slight. it was just an effort to let people know that this generation of vets is possibly more involved, proportionately, than any generation that has come before, and in new, fascinating ways.

hope that helps.

thanks for writing.

ps – are you involved with ivaw?

Starbuck: Thanks for the reply,

I understand the space limitations inherent in writing any article, its unfortunate that so much had to be cut out. Its also good to know that it wasnt intended as a slight. It just seems a little silly to focus on a nonpartisan “pro-victory” group and not counter it with folks who have equally strident demands.

I am not involved with IVAW but have worked with them and their members on the west coast during blockades of military equipment coming through the Port of Olympia.

One last thing, I was on the VFF website and it lists on their board of advisors two members of the council on foreign relations and the director of homeland security for general dynamics, did you find anything more about this in your research?

Cave: the vff guys are pretty quiet about who funds them; they’ve chosen to funnel most of their money through the 501c4, which allow them to keep their donors private — and they wouldn’t tell me no matter how many times i asked. my sense is that it’s the usual suspects in the GOP, including perhaps some of the people who funded the swift boat stuff. i don’t have any proof but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Starbuck: Lame. If you’ll indulge me, why did you end up covering them in particular?

Cave: because, on the mccain side, they were doing the most interesting work, in terms of their ads and the dear mr. obama video. growing form 4,500 members to 40,000 since ’06, they were somewhat new to the scene.

on the left, i think the level of activity within the obama campaign was the most interesting new development. i interviewed more than 50 vets (along with many experts) all over the country and these were the 2 things they often pointed to — the obama vets and vets for freedom. because i wanted to make sure my story didn’t sound like it was written in 2006, these were the elements i focused on — those that offered the freshest example of engagement, in ways that were different from how vietnam vets interacted with the political process.

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