Anyone who saw the movie "Control Room," about the Al-Jazeera network in the first weeks of the Iraq war, surely remembers Capt. Josh Rushing, the handsome young Marine public affairs guy who, over the course of the documentary filming, seemed to learn a bit more about his country and the way war is depicted in American media.
Well, he is now joining Al-Jazeera's new English network
Is he a modern-day Tokyo Rose, the nickname GIs in World War II gave to the women they heard on Japanese radio trying to turn them against America? Is he a propagandist set to tear down the country he once served? A collaborator aiding the enemy?
Rushing, 33, has taken a job reporting for a new channel for Al-Jazeera. That's the Qatar-based network that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said is "perfectly willing to lie to the world" and has "a pattern of playing propaganda over and over and over again" for its 50 million viewers, most of them in the Arab world.
Rushing left the Marines not long after "Control Room" made its debut and became a film with worldwide reach:
Soon after, Rushing was ordered not to talk to the media about the film. "I didn't think it was appropriate for him to be speaking about this documentary -- almost promoting it," says Lt. Col Stephen Kay, deputy director of public affairs for the Marine Corps. "It was purely a decision I had to make as his commanding officer."
Rushing had been debating whether to apply for training to be a Marine foreign affairs officer or to leave the Corps. He decided it was time to leave.
When I saw "Control Room," I was impressed by Rushing's willingness to engage in dialogue with the producers from Al-Jazeera. He seemed to appreciate that they were much more worldly than he, even though the Department of Defense branded the network as an evil propaganda arm of al-Qaeda.
Of course, USA Today had to go and be "fair and balanced":
Not everyone agrees with his reasoning. "I don't see how in good conscience he can work for Al-Jazeera," says Cliff Kincaid, editor of the conservative Accuracy in Media Report. "It incites Arabs and Muslims to kill Americans."
Too bad he couldn't find much work after leaving the Marines:
Al-Jazeera approached him earlier this year about joining the new channel, Rushing says. He was out of work, giving speeches while trying to decide what to do next.
The network has been hiring staff for more than a year. A spokeswoman, Katie Bergius, said in an e-mail that the channel is "over halfway there" in hiring the "hundreds" of people it will need. In past statements, the network has said it will need about 200 staffers.
So far, Bergius said, Al-Jazeera has hired reporters and producers from several Western competitors, including the Associated Press, the BBC, the Canadian Broadcast Corp., CNBC, CNN and Fox News.
Will the right-wing attempt to paint him as a Tokyo Rose? Not if he has anything to say about it:
Rushing's response to such criticism: "I believe in America so dearly and the values that it stands for that I'm in no way threatened by the kind of information this station's going to put out. ...
"Besides," he explains, "once a Marine, always a Marine."
How Rushing, a self-described "blue-eyed, American son from Texas," has wound up working for Al-Jazeera is something of an only-in-America tale.