Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Democracy Now: Sy Hersh, Al Jazeera; Robert Parry, Nora Ephron, Arianna Huffington, Craig Unger ...

Four Members of Christian Peacemakers Team Kidnapped in Iraq
A multi-national hostage team is trying to find a group of four members of the Christian Peacemakers Team that were kidnapped in Iraq on Sunday. The group includes an American, two Canadians and a British man identified as retired professor and peace activist Norman Kember. The other three peace activists kidnapped have not been identified. The Christian Peacemakers Team is a non-missionary organization that has been documenting the abuse of Iraqi detainees and working with the families of prisoners. They opposed the war and continue to oppose the occupation.

U.S. Accused of Running Gitmo-Type Prison in Kosovo
The Council of Europe's Human rights commissioner has accused the United States of running a Guantanamo-style prison in Kosovo. The official, Alvaro Gil-Robles, revealed in an interview last week that he visited the site in 2002 and was shocked to see a barbed wire-rimmed prison inside a US military base. He told the French newspaper Le Monde the camp resembled QUOTE 'a smaller version of Guantanamo." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to travel to Europe next week and is expected to try to deflect growing European pressure over the CIA's secret operations.

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Sibel Edmonds
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds who has been trying to sue the FBI and Justice Department over her dismissal. Edmonds says she was fired after speaking out about possible security breaches, misconduct and incompetent translation work. A U.S. District Judge originally dismissed the case after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the rarely used "state secrets privilege." Ashcroft had warned that further disclosure of the duties of Edmonds and other translators could cause QUOTE "serious damage to the national security interests of the United States." Edmonds first made headlines when she claimed the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned before Sept. 11.

The three items above are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Liang, Micah and Carl. Democracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):

Headlines for November 29, 2005

- Rep. Cunningham (R-CA) Resigns, Admits to Bribes
- Four Members of Christian Peacemakers Team Kidnapped in Iraq
- Shiite Death Squads Blamed For Deaths of 700 Sunni Civilians
- Supreme Court Nominee Alito Argued Against Immigrant Rights
- U.S. Accused of Running Gitmo-Type Prison in Kosovo
- Vatican Bans Ordination of Gay Men Into Priesthood
- Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Sibel Edmonds

Los Titulares de Hoy: Democracy Now!'s daily news summary translated into Spanish

Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Seymour Hersh on Where the Iraq War is Headed Next

We speak with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine about his new article, "Up in the Air: Where is the Iraq War Headed Next?" Hersh discusses the ongoing debate in Washington over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, how President Bush is "impervious to political pressure" in his Iraq policy, the capability of the U.S. Army to sustain two or three more years of combat in Iraq and how a reduction of U.S. troops would be replaced by American airpower - which could lead to even more Iraqi fatalities.

Al Jazeera in the Crosshairs: Did Bush Really Want to Bomb the Arabic TV Network's Headquarters in 2004?

The Arabic satellite network Al Jazeera continues to search for answers over reports President Bush wanted to bomb its headquarters in Doha. We speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill about the Bush administration's attacks on Al Jazeera and Dima Tahboub, the widow of Al Jazeera Baghdad reporter, Tareq Ayoub, who was killed April 8th, 2003 when the U.S. military bombed the network's office in Iraq. She is considering suing the US government for her husband's death.

Coloradans File Federal Lawsuit Charging White House Staffers with Unlawful Removal During Bush "Town-Hall-Style" Event

Two Denver residents filed a federal lawsuit last week after being forcibly removed in March 2005 from an event with President Bush for their perceived political views. We speak with Alex Young and Leslie Weise about the details of the case.

notes that he appreciated the critiques of Bob Woodward this morning and highlights Robert Parry's "Mystery of Woodward's Three Sources" (Consortium News):

Buried deep in an article by the Washington Post's media writer Howard Kurtz is new evidence that senior Bush administration officials knew their case for war with Iraq was shaky -- and that the Post's star reporter Bob Woodward ducked his duty to the American people to present this information before the invasion began.
Toward the end of a lengthy Style section piece on Nov. 28, Kurtz makes reference to an interview he did with Woodward in 2004, in which the famed Watergate reporter laments his failure to turn a more critical eye on the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction.
In the new article, Kurtz wrote, "Woodward has faulted himself for not being more aggressive before the war when three sources told him the weapons intelligence on Iraq was not as strong as the administration was claiming. 'I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder,' he said last year."
That Woodward quote about blaming himself came from an Aug. 12, 2004, article that Kurtz wrote about shortcomings in the Post's pre-war coverage of the WMD issue. But that article made no reference to Woodward having three of his own presumably well-placed sources challenging the administration's WMD intelligence.
Instead, Kurtz's 2004 article focused on Woodward's pre-invasion efforts to help Post investigative reporter Walter Pincus polish up one of his story that raised doubts about the WMD assertions. But without Woodward's full participation, the Pincus story ended up stuck on Page A17, a marginal item that did little to deter the march to war.
Without doubt, a co-bylined story with Woodward -- that added the gravitas of Woodward's three administration sources -- would have landed the story on Page One. Such a story might then have had a serious impact on the national debate about whether a preemptive invasion of Iraq was justified.
Woodward's Risks
But if Woodward had written such a story, he would have been risking his journalistic reputation -- if WMD were later discovered -- as well as his cozy relationship with the Bush administration, which granted him extraordinary access for his best-selling books on Bush's decision-making, Bush at War and Plan of Attack.
In the 2004 Kurtz article, Woodward observed that journalists risked looking silly if they questioned the administration's WMD claims and then the U.S.-led invasion force found the weapons.
Woodward also noted the complaints about "groupthink" in the U.S. intelligence community on Iraq's WMD, adding, "I think I was part of the groupthink. …We should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this was shakier" than widely believed. [See Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2004.]
Given Woodward's high-level access inside the Bush administration, WMD doubts expressed by his sources would have carried far more weight than those of other reporters who were seen as speaking more from the perspective of mid-level government officials.
Woodward is known to talk with officials in the government's stratosphere, including top State Department officials such as Colin Powell and Richard Armitage as well as senior military officers at the Pentagon and top political operatives at the White House. So a Woodward-bylined story citing doubts about the WMD intelligence would have sent shockwaves through the Washington Establishment.
But during the run-up to war, Woodward chose to remain in the background, boosting the skeptical reporting of Pincus -- even suggesting how Pincus might rewrite some paragraphs of one pivotal story -- but not getting out front..

Staying with the topic of Bob Woodward, Cindy e-mails to note Nora Ephron's "What About Bob?" (The Huffington Post):

I can't believe that it falls to me to explain Bob Woodward. I can't believe it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I don't speak to Bob Woodward and Bob Woodward doesn't speak to me. The reason for this is that when I was married to Carl Bernstein, Woodward's former partner, Carl wasn't speaking to Bob, so out of loyalty I wasn't speaking to Bob either.

[. . .]
Many years ago, a journalist named Theodore H. White revolutionized campaign reporting by writing a series of books called The Making of the President. He became an insider, and everyone on the campaign spilled their guts out to him. Woodward has essentially become our Theodore H. White. He's so used to being told secrets that when he first heard Valerie Plame's name from his still unnamed source, it probably did seem casual, informal and not particularly conspiratorial, as he said last week. But I can't help but be reminded of what happened to Teddy White. By the time he wrote his third book, The Making of the President l972, he was so far inside that he managed to miss the major story of the campaign, which was Watergate. The reporters on it were, of course, Woodward and Bernstein. They were outsiders, and their lack of top-level access was probably their greatest asset.

had a question regarding whether the White comparison (whom Cindy's never heard of) was a compliment which also brings up a question Brady asks involving Woodward. Brady's question is the "junk-yard dog" term Woodward applied to Patrick Fitzgerald. Brady wonders if it wasn't intended as a compliment of sorts? Of sorts, possibly. But in terms of context (the context of Woodward), it's not a compliment. "Persistent" can be read from the term. More key to Woodward is "breeding" and "junk-yard dog" is not intended as a compliment. (Nor was it intended as a compliment, when he said it, as a 'compliment' to a reporter present on the same Larry King show.) Now for Ephron. Cindy, I believe Ephron wrote a wonderful critique (I'm thinking for Esquire) that demolished White and his "books." The point of which was that by then (end of his reign) the "books" were writing themselves.

Whether someone wants to apply context or not, both "junkyard dog" and Ephron's comparison of Woodward to White have a context. In terms of Woodward, my argument (though not stated as such in Ephron's piece for The Huffington Post) would be Woody's got a nice little formula going for his books and, like White's, they are more or less preordained and then pasted together.

was also visiting The Huffington Post and calls our attention to Arianna Huffington's "Bob Woodward, the Dumb Blonde of American Journalism:"

So how come Woodward, supposedly the preeminent investigative reporter of our time, missed the biggest story of our time -- a story that was taking place right under his nose?
Some would say it's because he's carrying water for the Bushies. I disagree. I think it's because he's the dumb blonde of American journalism, so awed by his proximity to power that he buys whatever he's being sold.
In her scathing 1996 essay in the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion criticized Woodward's reporting as marked by "a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured."
And far from shying away from his reputation as a stenographer to the political stars, Woodward has embraced his inner bimbo and wears his "scrupulous passivity" as a badge of honor, proudly telling Larry King that his "method" means that "everyone in the end... pretty much gets their point of view out."
Woodward also told King: "I am strictly in the middle." The problem is, the truth isn't always in the middle; it's often located on the sidelines, or hiding in the shadows amidst the endless rush of detail Woodward so loves to fill his books with.
What Woodward fails to do again and again is connect the dots. He prefers to gather as many dots as he can, jam-pack his pages with them, and then let the little buggers hang out by themselves. Critical thinking that draws conclusions can be such a messy thing.

One of the loudest moments of laughter on the set of Today came after Woody finished his inane "calcium in the backbone" nonsense. Dumb Blonde? I think it's apt. Although I see him more as the "Big Blonde" (Dorothy Parker's short story.)

Changing topics we'll note Craig Unger's "American 'Rapture'" (Vanity Fair) which looks at the administration, Falwell, the "Left Behind" series, and much more:

In the 90s, Fhantich says, Israeli intelligence began watching Christian Evangelicals. "As the millennium approached, you had many people waiting for the appearance of Jesus Christ.… And Jerusalem, of course, is the home of the Jerusalem syndrome," he says, referring to the phenomenon whereby obsessive religious ideas can trigger violent behavior. "If someone believes God told him to do something, you cannot stop him.
"The mosques on the Temple Mount are like the red flag for the bull. You have to be prepared minute by minute. These Christians, they believe what they are doing is sacred. Some of them are so naïve they can be taken advantage of. If something happens to the Temple Mount, I think these American Evangelicals will welcome such an act. After all, religion is the most powerful gun in the world."
Moreover, a potential attack on the Temple Mount, as disastrous as it would be, pales in comparison to the long-term geopolitical goals of some right-wing religious groups. Orthodox Jews, Christian Evangelicals, and the heroes of the "Left Behind" series share a belief that the land bordered by the Nile and Euphrates Rivers and the Mediterranean Sea and the wilderness of Jordan has been covenanted to Israel by God. Taken to its literal extreme, this belief obliges Israel not only to retain control of Gaza and the West Bank but also to annex all or parts of Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Such a campaign of conquest would be certain to provoke a spectacular conflict.

(Full title of Unger's piece, "American 'Rapture': Best-selling author and evangelical leader Tim LaHaye has contacts that extend to the White House. That Could spell trouble, since his theology espouses a bloody apocalypse in Israel.")

(The transition, by the way, there was one, was that Van Fair has an article on Arianna Huffington. It's by Suzanna Andrews and I haven't read it yet. So read at your own risk -- hopefully it's not a Goldsmith-type article.)

Yes, the "award winning" Dexter Filkins had an article on the front page of the New York Times. Juggling the phones this morning, I passed on reading it to focus on reality this morning. I've now read it. Yawn. There's nothing in it that we haven't learned from outside the Times. Dexy tells us (so we know it must be true!) that Sunnis are being targeted by Shi'ites in Iraq.

We needed Dexy to tell us that? We already knew that. We've known it for some time (and provided many links to articles on that). As always with Dexy, what's more interesting is what he doesn't tell us.

He doesn't tell us if the United States just knows of the practice or has actively encouraged it? (As a friend said on the phone this morning, "Negroponte was sent to the area for a reason.")

It was more shaky reporting from the New York Timid.

What's going on has become so public that even the Timid has to weigh in in some manner. Fortunately for the US administration, Dexy Explains It All in such a way that it all just happened . . . for some strange reason. When you need "reporting" that never bites and pulls every punch, go with the "award winning" Dexter.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

Yahoo! Music Unlimited - Access over 1 million songs. Try it free.