Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ruth's Morning Edition Report

Ruth: I wanted to note three stories from Monday's Morning Edition.

The first two go hand in hand.

Troops and Contractors Come into Conflict in Iraq
by Eric Westervelt
Morning Edition, June 13, 2005 · Confusion over a shooting incident between U.S. Marines in Iraq and a private contracting firm has highlighted the tensions between private security contractors and the miltiary and communication and coordinatinon problems. Last month, 16 U.S. contractors were held in a detention center and allegedly roughed-up after Marines claimed the contractors fired on both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The contractors refute the claim.

This story dealt with a conflict between contractors and U.S. soldiers. The conflict was surprising to the contractors boss since all sixteen contractors were ex-military and half were former Marines. During the detention, it's reported that one current Marine mocked the detained "as rich contractors" while "another Marine slammed a contractor to a cement floor" before he "crushed" the contractor's "testicles" and asked "How's it feel to make that contractors' money now?"

The story informs you that there are between "15,000 and 20,000 American contractors working in Iraq" and that the sixteen detained have now "been barred from working in Iraq."

This report was followed by a conversation.

Author Says Rules for Military Contractors Often Unclear

Morning Edition, June 13, 2005 · U.S. contractors have few rules when working in military zones abroad. Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, talks about the complicated relationship between contractors and U.S. military personnel.

Peter Singer has a bit to learn. It would help if he'd make his sentences clear but there's an attitude that might need adjustment as well.

Steve [Inskeep]: Has anyone at a high level at the Pentagon raised concerns about whether private military contractors are doing more harm than good as the US military tries to win over the population of Iraq?

Peter Singer: Unfortunately, it's not been dealt with at the senior leadership level. You're getting this bubbling to the surface from the field. Lots of different complaints about how the contractors are interfacing, but also at a broader level, why do we have them in certain roles? That in some roles it makes a lot of sense to have contractors. I mean as cooks, or basically handling jobs that you don't want to waste soldiers' times doing. But what is happening in Iraq is that you have them in many mission critical roles. Also you've got a number of contractors in these armed tactical roles, carrying weapons, carrying machine guns, etc. And so there's some concern about what that means, why have you placed them in this? And it really comes down to, they're in roles that you wouldn't want private soldiers in. They're in roles that effect how we win hearts & minds there and so sometimes it really backfires on us. To the civilians on the ground, they don't make the difference.

Mr. Singer is quick to make the privitization argument. He offers no validity for it other than that "you don't want." You? On NPR, Brookings passes for left. Mr. Singer is commenting on conflict between contractors and military. Apparently the idea that if the jobs hadn't been outsourced, the "cooks," for instance, of whom he's so dismissive, you might have cohesive units and not two groups at cross purposes with antagonism towards one another. That thought appears not to have entered Mr. Singer's mind set and Steve's not bringing it up. Which is too bad because this is a discussion that needs to take place but one which will, apparently, have to take place somewhere other than Morning Edition.

The third story I wanted to note was this:

Political Wrap: The Guantanamo Problem
by Juan Williams
Morning Edition, June 13, 2005 · Political pressure is growing for the White House to address the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. And a new poll shows 52 percent of Americans say the war in Iraq is not in the long-term interests of the United States.

Renee [Montaigne]: And as the week begins support for the war in Iraq has hit a new low. A Washington Post/ABC poll shows that 52% of Americans say the war is not in the best interest of the nation's long term security and 58% believe that the war is not worth the loss of life and the cost. What's the White House saying about that?
Juan [Williams]: Oh boy, I tell you Renee. The falling support's hurting the president's approval ratings and in combination with economic anxieties it has about 60% of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track.

Juan notes that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on Guantanamo Bay Wednesday.

A number of e-mails have come in due to a Morning Edition Report last week. Members and visitors have referred to an online column by NPR ombudsman Jeffery Dvorkin where he singles out The Guardian for the work they've done reporting on the Downing Street Memo. Mr. Dvorkin's online column provides no links to any of this reporting he feels the need to refer to in generalizations.

If it exists, it needs to be cited, by either Mr. Dvorkin or myself. I spent time this weekend to again attempt to track down some reporting by The Guardian on this issue. Once again, I found none.

Visitor Serena e-mailed Charles J. Hanley's "Bolton Said to Orchestrate Unlawful Firing." That article, which has been noted here and by The Third Estate Sunday Review, is about the workings at the heart of the Downing Street Memo controversy; however, that story is also an Associated Press story.

I will gladly note any coverage that The Guardian has done on the matter. Running an Associated Press article is not coverage by The Guardian. While silence has surrounded the Downing Street Memo in this country, in England, where The Guardian is published, that has not been the case.

As for Mr. Dvorkin's column, it appears to exist only to celebrate and applaud The Guardian for its relationship with NPR. There is a sense of mutual praise for each. If I went into my e-mail account this week and discovered fifty e-mails, each containing a story written by staff at The Guardian and run in that paper, it would not change the fact that when given the chance to raise the issue on NPR, The Guardian staffer did not. Mr. Dvorkin's past columns have relied on "conventional wisdom." I do not doubt that conventional wisdom says The Guardian has been leading on the coverage of the Downing Street Memo; however, conventional wisdom is not fact.

The bulk of the e-mails were from people who had attempted to track down coverage and had not found any. If it exists, it's not easy to locate via the paper's search engine. But whether you wrote in to note that you could not find any articles by The Guardian on this matter or you wrote to suggest that The Guardian must have covered this, I appreciated the e-mails.

I also contacted Treva and she replied that she wouldn't be surprised to learn that The Guardian hadn't given the issue a great deal of attention because the shift from Labour to New Labour is echoed in the paper and not a great deal different from the our own domestic conflicts between the Democratic Party and the Democratic Leadership Council.