Monday, November 07, 2005

NYT: Eric Lichtblau lets Pat Roberts spin about a report no one's seen

Reading the bulk of Eric Licthblau's "No Evidence of Pressure on Iraq Data, Senator Says" in this morning's New York Times is like flashing back on their "no cocaine shipments by contras!" coverage in the nineties. A report is in draft stage and will soon be issued. Lichtblau hasn't seen the report, let alone checked out its details. But he's happy to give the first five paragraphs to "nothing to see here" Pat Roberts. He's happy to report nothing he can prove or verify and let Roberts attempt to get ahead of the story.

This is bad reporting. He has a non-verifiable claim by Roberts on a report he hasn't seen and he's starting the piece reassuring readers, for five paragraphs, that a "report" will say there was no manipulation of intelligence by the administration.

The Times loves this official sources nonsense. And they love doing book reports -- where they tell you what a book says as opposed to analyzing the book and turning in a "review" (they're all thinking on an elementary school level -- children rarely question an administration). They love book reports even better when someone will pass them Cliff Notes and they don't actually have to wade through anything.

It's bad reporting. It's embarrassing and possibly their public editor should examine the story and ask why it leads with Roberts claims (which can't be verified)? The question now is, having been spoonfed by Roberts, who will be changing Lichtblau's nappy?

From the land of grown ups, we'll note Don Nash's "Dahr Jamail Interviewed by Don Nash" (Iraq Dispatches):

Q. What does Iraq actually look like two and a half years after the U.S. invasion?
Most of Iraq is a disaster and in a state of complete chaos.
The security situation is more accurately described as a brutal, guerrilla war which spiraled out of control over a year ago. Attacks on US forces even now average over 70 per day, and are expected to increase in coming months.
The myth that the US military has control over any portion of Iraq is just that-a myth. Even the heavily fortified "Green Zone" is mortared on a regular basis. If one wishes to fly in or out of Baghdad International Airport, get ready for a spiral descent/take off... as this has been necessary for also over a year due to the inability of the military to safeguard the area around the airport. Like in Vietnam, planes will be shot down if they don't use the spiral method of taking off/landing.
The infrastructure is in shambles. For most of the western companies who were awarded the no-bid cost-plus contracts in Iraq, it's their dream contract -- guaranteed profits with no oversight. Companies like Bechtel have been paid out in full for their initial contract worth $680 million and awarded contracts totaling over $3.8 Billion, despite the fact that many of their projects in their initial contract were not even begun.
Meanwhile, Iraqis suffer and die from waterborne diseases, child malnutrition is worse than during the sanctions, and there is over 70% unemployment.
Q. How do the Iraqi people feel overall about the U.S. occupation?
According to a recent poll commissioned by the British military, 82% of Iraqis want all occupation forces removed from their country, less than 1% feel occupation forces have improved security, and 45% openly admitted to feeling that attacks against US forces are justified. This is quite similar to what I've seen during my 8 months in Iraq as well, aside from the fact that I found a larger percentage (greater than 45%) of Iraqis in support of the Iraqi resistance.
Q. Is there anyway to know how many Iraqis are being held in detention by the U.S.?
No. But there is now a huge number of missing persons in Iraq (over 100,000 according to two Iraq NGOs [non-government organizations] I know of), many of which are feared to be detained by the US. One NGO, Doctors for Iraq Society, estimates that there are 60,000 Iraqis in US military detention facilities in Iraq.
Q. What really happened in Fallujah and Ramadi?
During the November, 2004 siege of Fallujah, 60% of the city was completely destroyed. Most of the rest of it had moderate to severe damage done as well. Iraqi NGO's and medical workers in and around Fallujah estimate over 4000 dead, mostly civilians. To this day, over 50,000 residents of Fallujah remain displaced.
The US military used cluster bombs, depleted uranium munitions, and white phosphorous (a new form of napalm) during the siege, and appear to have used forms of chemical weapons as well.
I have described Fallujah as a modern day Guernica, and prefer to call it a massacre rather than a siege. Fallujah is the model of Bush Administration foreign policy. There has been next to no reconstruction completed inside the city, as was promised by occupation authorities.

Erika e-mails to note Linda McQuaig's "Beneath Spy 'Outing' Lies Story of Lies About Iraq" (Common Dreams):

The indictment brought down last month doesn't deal with any of this.
It simply charges Libby with lying to a grand jury about his apparent attempts to discredit Wilson, by outing his CIA agent wife.
But lurking beneath the outing-the-agent story lies the much bigger story — easily a match for Watergate -- of how a small cabal in the vice-president's office falsified the case for a war that has already killed tens of thousands.
Whether that bigger story, and the role played by Cheney, emerges depends partly on the media and the Democrats, which is not encouraging.
In a TV interview, top Democrat lawyer David Boies told CNN's Lou Dobbs that he'd like to see a deal worked out because if the Libby case goes to trial "a lot comes out" and "it damages America."
Responded Dobbs: "I'm like you. I would like to see this resolved so that it is less injurious to the nation."
Richard Nixon would have dreamed of such an opposition.

I'll add that the Times position appears quite similar to Dobbs' and that they no longer have the excuse of "we don't want to hurt Judy's chances in court" to hide behind their lack of any interest in the story of the outing of Valerie Plame or the larger issues behind it.

Zach e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Kerry Suspects Election 2004 Was Stolen" (Consortium News):

Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, has told acquaintances over the past year that he suspects that the election was stolen, but that he didn’t challenge the official results because he lacked hard proof and anticipated a firestorm of criticism if he pressed the point.
"Kerry heard all the disquieting stories" about voting irregularities in Ohio and other states, said Jonathan Winer, a longtime Kerry adviser and a former deputy assistant secretary of state. "But he didn't have the evidence to do more."
The Massachusetts senator conceded to George W. Bush on Nov. 3, 2004, the day after the election when it became clear that the uncounted votes in the swing state of Ohio were insufficient to erase Bush's narrow lead.
The move infuriated some Democratic activists who felt Kerry should have lived up to his campaign promise that he would make sure every vote was counted. In January 2005, as Bush's victory was being certified by Congress, Kerry also refused to back a resolution challenging the fairness of the Ohio vote.
Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University professor and author of a new book about the 2004 election entitled Fooled Again, said he discussed the voting issue with Kerry on Oct. 28 when he encountered the senator at a political event.
a Nov. 4 interview on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now," Miller said he gave Kerry a copy of Fooled Again, prompting Kerry’s comments about the 2004 election results.
"He told me he now thinks the election was stolen," Miller said. "He said he doesn't believe that he is the person who can go out front on the issue because of the sour grapes … question. But he said he believes it was stolen. He says he argues about this with his Democratic colleagues on the Hill. He had just had a big fight with Christopher Dodd."
Miller and Winer said Kerry suspected possible tampering with electronic voting machines, but that he was persuaded by his campaign's top advisers, including veteran consultant Bob Shrum, that contesting the results only would lead to accusations that Kerry was a sore loser.
'Disquieting Stuff'
In an interview with me, Winer said the "disquieting stuff" that troubled Kerry included reports that touch-screen systems had malfunctioned in such a way that voters who tried to vote for Kerry saw their votes switched to Bush. Kerry also was upset with reports that Ohio's Republican election officials shorted Democratic strongholds on voting machines, Winer said.
In some Democratic precincts, there were complaints that voters waited in line for hours or gave up and went home, while in heavily Republican precincts, there were plenty of voting machines and lines were relatively short.
Democratic activists also cited the disparity between exit polls, which showed Kerry winning by about 3 percentage points nationwide and carrying key swing states, and the official count, which flipped the results giving Bush wins in most swing states and a national popular vote margin of about 3 percent.
Some defenders of the election results argue that the exit-poll discrepancies could be explained by Bush’s supporters just being less willing to answer questions from pollsters after leaving the voting booth. According to this argument, Bush voters disdained the "liberal media" which they saw represented by the exit-poll questioners.
That explanation, however, doesn't explain why historically exit polls have been highly accurate or why the 2004 exit polls were on target when it came to the results for Senate candidates, while off the mark on the presidential race. Presumably, if conservatives were ducking the exit pollsters, there would be a similar percentage shift for statewide races.

If you're looking for Ruth's Morning Edition Report and wondering where it is, it's not here. Ruth pulled it. That's her choice and I respect it. In it, she criticized a guest who was completely unprepared ("completely unprepared" is my statement on him, it's a radio program I also listen to, and when you repeatedly say "I've been told" when you were brought in, as an expert, to discuss court verdricts, you need to have read them and not just say "I've been told" -- my opinion). Ruth was negative on the guest (much less so than I am in this paragraph) and was afraid that her critique of the guest might turn people off to the program.

Ruth's Morning Edition Report is Ruth's space and she can offer any critiques (positive or negative) she wants there. It's her "op-ed" and doesn't have to reflect my opinions or anyone else's. She's thinking of reworking the pulled report to remove all refs to the guest. If she does and wants something up here, it will go up. (It would go up if she decided to have the original posted.) But e-mails have already come in this morning from people assuming I was too busy on Saturday to post Ruth's entry (I was busy, but Ava posted Maria's and would have posted Ruth's as well) and then forgot on Sunday. Since a number of members don't check in on the weekends, we rerun Ruth's Morning Edition Report on Mondays. So if anyone's wondering where it is, that's the story on it.

Don't forget to check out Democracy Now! today by listening, watching or reading the transcripts.

And since some members will be checking in for the first time since Friday, we'll again notes Gareth Porter's "Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh" (IPS):

The accounts collected by the U.S. military in reports dated Oct. 15-19 were made available to IPS on condition that they would not be quoted directly and that the U.S. military unit forwarding them would not be identified.
The first-person accounts gathered by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Nineveh were obtained and translated by Michael Youash, executive director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project in Washington. The names of the NGOs were not provided in the document given to IPS because of fears of reprisals. None of the accounts reported by the military are from Sunnis. All of the sources quoted in those reports are either Kurds or trusted Assyrian Christians who have been advisors to the U.S. military on local developments and are generally favourable to the constitution. Thus they represent the view from those in the province least likely to have a political motive for depicting the referendum as rigged.
The reports compiled by the U.S. military include an account of the voting in Mosul by an Assyrian Christian source which observes that Kurds voted for the constitution but represent only a small percentage of the estimated 1.7 million people in the capital -- which holds roughly two-thirds the population of the province. That account contradicts both widely reported explanations for the alleged failure of the Sunnis to achieve a two-thirds majority against the constitution in Nineveh -- that the Sunnis in Mosul were divided over the constitution, and that Kurds represent a very large proportion of the population of the city.
The final official vote total for Nineveh was 395,000 "no" and 323,000 "yes". However the IECI in Nineveh had told the media on Oct. 16 and again on Oct. 17 that 327,000 people had voted for the constitution and only 90,000 against, with only 25 out of the 300 polling stations in the province remaining to be counted.
Thus, between the two counts, 5,000 yes votes had apparently disappeared and 295,000 no votes had mysteriously materialised -- all from only 25 polling places. No explanation has ever been provided by election authorities for those contradictory data. The U.S. military's informant supports the view that Kurdish and Sunni vote totals in Mosul were significantly altered.

The e-mail address for this site is