Between the Lines: March-April 2006

March 31, 2006

One of the academic year's most compelling speakers was George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate. In the book, Packer traces America's involvement in Iraq, where he made four tours on assignment for The New Yorker.

One of the most compelling characters sketched by Packer is Ahmad Chalabi; Packer quotes an adviser to the occupation authority in Iraq who calls Chalabi "the Jay Gatsby of the Iraq War." Abandoning his efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein from Iraqi Kurdistan, Chalabi established a base of operations in Washington. Packer writes, "Assisted by his young American representative, Francis Brooke--an evangelical Christian and PR man who had first met Chalabi in London while on the CIA's payroll--Chalabi began to court the Republican right."

In Chalabi, Packer says, those favoring a muscular approach to Iraq found someone who said all the right things. And in Brooke '83, Chalabi found someone who could effectively deliver his message.The media have portrayed Brooke as "larger than life," says Duke Magazine writer Barry Yeoman. Yeoman's portrayal of Brooke shows not so much a zealous ideologue--the convenient stereotype--but rather someone driven by a desire to do good. Brooke impressed Yeoman as "an ordinary guy committed to his cause. His humanity was evident in his townhouse, which doubles as the Iraqi National Congress' Washington headquarters. It was littered with children's sneakers and youth-soccer newsletters."


With this issue, the magazine bids farewell to associate editor Sam Hull, who is moving on to direct alumni communications. Sam's contributions date back to the magazine's prehistory: He edited the Alumni Register, the magazine's predecessor. For more than two decades, he has brought creativity, wit, and insight in areas ranging from headlines and class notes to design and editing. He has had a major impact on the magazine's evolution as a publication that is true to its roots but cherishes new creative currents. We wish him well in his own evolution.