Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Memoirs vs. Documents: the Case of an Attack on Syria

Elliot Abrams has published a fascinating story about the bombing of the nuclear reactor in Syria in September 2007. As a high official in the White House of George W. Bush, he was privy to extremely classified meetings and deliberations, and his tale is profoundly revealing. Startling, even, since the documents themselves, as he comments, will remain locked up for many years. And yet he tells quite a bit about what's in them, which of course raises the interesting question as to where the line goes between what must remain closed and what can be written in memoires.

Along the way, he alludes to aspects of his story in the already-published memoirs of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abrams obviously can't say what transpired in Israeli deliberations at the time, since he wasn't there; we can say that Israeli top-secret security documents stay sealed for decades, and we aren't aware of Israeli memoirs which refer to these events, nor even to any official Israeli allusions to them at all. If there's an Israeli story to tell, it hasn't been told and isn't told by Abrams. It is however interesting to read his article with an eye towards the types of things that appear in memoirs vs. what will eventually come out of the documents: the latter can expected to be more precise and less subjective. For all his riveting tale, it is very much his subjective memory of what was going on, seen from the perspetive on an individual who can report on what he saw and heard, and can't report on what he didn't see or hear.

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