ELLENVILLE – I’d like to take this time to mourn the passing of a great man, a journalistic giant — Robert Parry, who died unexpectedly late last month at the age of 68.
As one of the greatest investigative reporters of the last fifty years, Parry uncovered untold government maleficence, including breaking the Nicaraguan side of the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration (for which he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.) He was so bad-ass that the CIA was terrified of him, and would refer to him on a first-name basis. ("How did that CIA assassination manual get out — oh, that was Bob.")
Parry was not an extremist, and he did not hold to any radical ideologies, beyond "reality is important" and "the government shouldn’t lie all the time about everything." (To some, I suppose, these ideas are radical.)
His investigations were explosive: Parry proved that Richard Nixon successfully conspired to keep the Vietnam War going for years; Nixon opened up secret channels to the South Vietnamese government to encourage them not to sign the peace accord, to ensure his own election. Parry also reported evidence that Nixon tipped off a banker buddy so he could place bets and profit off Nixon blocking the peace deal.
It is because of Parry’s dogged pursuit that those documents and secret memos were uncovered. He was relentless — he wouldn’t simply research a subject, write about it, and move on. He was committed. Voluminous reports like the CIA’s 1,000-page report on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction — he read it. Parry would read and research and study subjects from different lenses, different angles, repeatedly.
In 1985, Parry reported that the Nicaraguan Contras were being funded with the proceeds from cocaine sales in the United States — that the Reagan administration was protecting cocaine traffickers. Parry, always committed, kept working on that story for the rest of his life.
He worked for Associated Press and Newsweek, but became disenfranchised with what he believed was mainstream media’s easy conformity. He understood all too well one of the central themes of George Orwell’s 1984: "History" is continually being rewritten by the people in charge… and so he always provided extensive backstory. In fact, two of his books are called Lost History and America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama.
In their obituary, The New York Times noted that Parry was considered something of a "pariah" by "the major established news organizations, which he viewed as constituting a kind of parallel ‘permanent government.’"
Oliver Stone, the filmmaker, and a friend of Parry’s, wrote that Parry’s death leaves "a giant hole in American journalism."
Journalist Caitlin Johnstone wrote, "It wasn’t his connections, his political opinions, his ideas, or even his raw talent; it was the fact that he cared so much. The fact that he couldn’t dissociate himself from the horrors of this world, the evil things humans are doing to one another and the omnicidal trajectory we appear to be headed along. He saw it all, he felt it all, and he let it move him."
In October 2015, Parry was awarded the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, "for his career distinguished by meticulously researched investigations, intrepid questioning, and reporting that has challenged mainstream media."
Parry was a dedicated journalist, and he will be missed. We should all strive to live up to his legacy, and who knows, perhaps to have the CIA know us on a first-name basis.