Monday, December 05, 2005

NYT: Edward Wong still in his Green Zone pretends otherwise

Many Sunni Arabs, who ruled Iraq for decades, boycotted the vote last January for a transitional National Assembly, but say they now regret that because they ceded too much power to the Shiites and Kurds.
The Shiite Arabs, who make up at least 60 percent of the population, see the coming election as their chance to enshrine majority rule of the country, denied them since Iraq was formed by colonial powers during the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.
The Kurds, one-fifth of Iraq, want enough say in the new government to protect the autonomous status of their northern homeland, and to stem the growing religious influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite parties.
Everyone knows that much is at stake. Nearly 230 groups or individual politicians have registered, with some of those having banded together into 19 coalitions. Campaign posters and television advertisements are proliferating.

The above is from Edward Wong's "Sunni Candidates in Iraq Face Enemies on All Sides" in this morning's New York Times and is a hallmark of bad reporting with phrases such as "many" in front of Sunni Arabs who boycotted the last election but now feel that was a mistake. How "many"? Did they talk to him in the Green Zone? Did he share room service with them?

A number of members noted the article in e-mails (with questions about it). If there's reporting to be done in Iraq, it won't come from the Times (or their bodyguards). Forget that it reads as though the military was Wong's uncredited co-writer (hey, maybe he too can be "award winning" soon?), he's making statements (such as "many") that he can't back up because he's unable to speak to anyone, he's unable to move freely. He's stuck in the Green Zone with the possible exception of the occassional military escort to a battle. The Times needs to stop pretending. (And playing readers for fools. But that's a longstanding practice . . .)

Let's note Polly's highlight from yesterday, "Viewpoint: UK war reporter Robert Fisk" (BBC):

You've been critical of what you describe as "hotel reporting" from Iraq. What should news organisations be doing that they are not?
The first thing they should do is say to their readers or viewers that they are confined to their hotels and don't leave and don't do any street reporting.
By using a Baghdad dateline they give the impression they can check stories that they can't.
So for example, when the Americans claim they killed 142 "terrorists" in Tal Afar, the impression is given they can check the story out, but they can't because they can't go there.
The reality is they are merely being an echo chamber for various spokesmen, officials and generals - there is nothing wrong with that, but just tell the people at the other end of the story the circumstances of your own reporting.

Brady had two items he felt meshed together and were worthy of highlighting. First, Alexander Cockburn's "The Revolt of the Generals" (CounterPunch):

The immense significance of Rep John Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the US senior officer corps, seeing the institution they lead as "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth", to use the biting words of their spokesman, John Murtha, as he reiterated on December his denunciation of Bush's destruction of the Army.
A CounterPuncher with nearly 40 years experience working in and around the Pentagon told me this week that "The Four Star Generals picked Murtha to make this speech because he has maximum credibility." It's true. Even in the US Senate there's no one with quite Murtha's standing to deliver the message, except maybe for Byrd, but the venerable senator from West Virginia was a vehement opponent of the war from the outset , whereas Murtha voted for it and only recently has turned around.
So the Four-Star Generals briefed Murtha and gave him the state-of-the-art data which made his speech so deadly, stinging the White House into panic-stricken and foolish denunciations of Murtha as a clone of Michael Moore.
It cannot have taken vice president Cheney, a former US Defense Secretary, more than a moment to scan Murtha's speech and realize the import of Murtha's speech as an announcement that the generals have had enough.

But Bully Boy's claim is (always is) that he listens to the generals. Listens? The Bully who told Tom Brokaw that he didn't have to explain himself to anyone (due to office) but that people had to explain themselves to him?

Brady's second highlight is David Lindorff's "A Sudden Rush for the Exits?" (CounterPunch):

Meanwhile, there is the problem of military morale. It was relatively easy to get the troops all fired up and ready to kill and be killed during the invasion of Iraq. Officers drummed it into the heads of the grunts that they were getting revenge for what Al Qaeda had done to America. It was a lie--Saddam Hussein and Iraqis in general had had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks--but with nobody to rebut the propaganda, it worked pretty well. Later, there was "overthrowing Saddam" and "building democracy." Those rallying cries didn't work so well, and as months turned into years, and hundreds of deaths and thousands of casualties turned into thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries, morale plummeted.
But think what will happen now, once soldiers understand that they are being asked to gradually--ever so gradually--retreat from Iraq, leaving the place in a complete mess, handing the government over to militias, thugs and religious fanatics, all the while being hit with sniper fire, IEDs, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. This will be like Vietnam in 1970, when troops knew it was over and they were being asked to fight and die for nothing except Nixon's re-election. Now it's Bush's and Cheney's and Rumsfeld's asses that soldiers are being asked to shield with their bodies.
Anyone want to make any predictions about morale and fighting spirit over the next year?

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