Monday, March 13, 2006

The war coverage (and lack of it)

A number of e-mails come in (from members) regarding "Other Items" and "Democracy Now: Remembering Tom Fox, examing Milosevic; NYT punked." Erika was the first to ask for more on the topic (as did Eli, Rachel, Zach, Liang, Mia, Kayla, Gina . . .) Elaine and I spoke about the issue on the phone today and I really think she's covered it this evening. But it has seemed to resonate so I'll toss out whatever I can here. (Consider this a "just talking" entry.)

Michael Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor's offered up "Dash to Baghdad Left Top U.S. Generals Divided" in this morning's New York Times. It's time for the third anniversary of the illegal invasion/occupation. Three years is some cake walk.

So with casualites and fatalities piling up, with the public support for Bully Boy's war of choice cratering, it's time for "collective wisdom."

Gordon and Trainer could have spoken to former supporters of the administration turned critics.

But they didn't.

They could have covered details that have emerged in the public record (usually as a single paragraph or sidebar).

But they didn't.

They could have spoken to people who spoke out before the invasion.

But they wouldn't.

So instead we get the tired nonsense that we got on the talking head shows (including PBS' NewsHour) of how 'strategy' went wrong in the execution of this military plan or that plan or how the planning wasn't sufficient. Get ready, the military critics are out of their arm chairs and back with "analysis."

And a visitor felt the reporting was "brave."


There's nothing brave about it.

What does it take for the New York Times to examine the lies that led us into war?

Forget the strategy and the second guessing of how the invasion should have been carried off. The invasion should have never happened.

Are we still in Iraq now because alternate military plans weren't used?

No. We're still in Iraq because of the fact that Bully Boy launched an illegal war of choice built upon lies.

You'd think on the third anniversary some reality could make it to the pages of the New York Times. (The news pages, we're not talking columnists or editorials.)

We're still there. We need to bring the troops home, but we're still there.

And the paper of record wants to offer up 'strategy' mistakes instead of addressing the larger issue of how we got there.

The article's the sort of thing some people get excited over. "See ___ (fill in the oval office occupant) messed us up big!" That did in fact happen.

But it's not an issue of where this wave started from or how many were in that wave. It's a bigger issue than that and it goes to how we got over there.

We didn't get into Iraq because of squabbles over military strategy.

We got there by lies. False links between 9-11 and Iraq (regularly peddled by the administration and their puppets in the press) fed into an anger that was covering for fear. Iraq became the emotional substitute in ways that Afghanistan couldn't. We needed a really big villain and Afghanistan (war torn long before we invaded it in 2001) didn't cut it. Many had never heard of it, many were shaky on the facts and the war lords didn't give that "it was him!" feeling that we're so primed for. It's always an individual. We're an individualistic society -- fed narratives of the lone person. The mythic cowboy in countless books, songs and movie. The lone gunman. The brave soul who overcomes adversity all on his own. (It's generally a "he.")

But Saddam had a reputation. And all the anger/fear could be focused there provided the administration could manipulate the press and the people.

Linking the two in repeated statements wasn't enough. They also needed to scare the people. So the fear merchants of the current administration started talking "mushroom clouds." They invented reports knowing that many of the public wouldn't bother to hunt them down. (And the lazy, complicit press helped out there as well.) They peddled any falsehood they could and were helped out by factions in the press (throughout the press, not just limited to Fox "News") perfectly willing to prove how "American" they were by practicing a very unAmerican act: silencing dissent.

The press did that. Whether it was the apparent ban of Scott Ritter at the New York Times or the supposed objective journalists who tossed around words like "treason" and "traitor" to describe the people rallying against the war in the lead up.

The United Way acted cravenly (cancelling an appearance by Susan Sarandon) and they weren't alone.

The message was sent out that you do not veer from the accepted script without a cost. Sarandon and others (Tim Robbins, the Dixie Chicks, go down the list) were demonized.

We ended up over there for a number of reasons. It went beyond Judith Miller's creative "reporting." It even went beyond the Bully Boy's blood lust. The press shares a huge portion of the blame but that apparently will have to wait for another anniversary to be dealt with.

The "rush to war" phrase is accurate in many ways but it's not all encompassing. "Rush" implies everyone was on board (and everyone was wrong -- the collective defense of "we were all wrong") but not everyone was on board and not everyone was wrong.

Believe it or not, that's a news story. But instead the Times wanted to figure out a better war game. (And promote the book by two of their own. Released tomorrow.) We already suffered through one excerpt (they call it "adapted") of the useless book. Today we got another installment.

There was nothing brave about the articles. Nor is there anything brave about the book which, honestly, may be a little late. It will sell but it really should be in paperback right now and on display in supermarkets (due to the percentage of Americans who've turned against the war).

Neither are they military historians. It's the equivalent of a debuts in paperback bio on some actor that was at their zenith two years prior to the cheesy book coming out. They sat around, listened to some war (planning) stories, assembled them into a book and there's nothing brave about that (happens countless times with every war).

But we're supposed to be impressed and think, "At last some serious criticism of the administration." Three years after the invasion, four/five years after the press began feeding the people lies, this "Oh if only we'd . . ." nonsense doesn't cut it.

Forget that saying it was the work of hacks would be elevating the writing, the fact remains that the people have turned against the war and the administration and it's Congressional allies are increasing the war on the press. At this late date, offering up that junk on the front page goes beyond timid and cowardly.

How the war was and is waged doesn't get to the why.

Three years in, you'd think we could get to the why. But apparently not.

Did you read about the march Camio Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Aidan Delgado and others are taking part in this morning? Not in the New York Times. Do they have an article in the pipeline on Kevin Benderman? Are they going to tell their readers about Katherine Jashinski?

Have they done a piece on the peace movement? No.

They're continuing to the same pattern they maintained before the war which is to continue shutting out the voices that make them uncomfortable. And this is the paper that in their non-mea culpa made the non-promise to examine their own reporting on the lead up to the invasion.

Ron (Why Are We Back In Iraq? and regular contributor to Raw Story) sent me an article. "John Burns, Back from Baghdad: U.S. Effort In Iraq Will Likely Fail" from Editor & Publisher.
Now the reporting in the paper has yet to reflect that. In the article (about an appearance Burns made on Bill Maher's program), Burns is quoted as saying, "It's always been a civil war." Whether you agree with that or not (there are many who believe that the civil war angle is being sold to push for troops to remain there), has the reporting in the paper "always" reflected this?

From the article:

Burns said that he and others underestimated this problem, feeling for a long time that toppling Saddam Hussein would almost inevitably lead to something much better.

He and others may have, but not everyone did. More importantly, remember the Times prizes the "objectivity" they helped popularize, what does that statement say about his reporting? Hope trumps what you see with your own eyes? That may be a skill prized in the administration but it's not one that reporters are supposed to practice.

He and others underestimated this problem (the civil war that he says was "always" there) because of a hope? That's not a reporter the way the New York Times has defined it. (We're talking about the myth, not the reality.) The myth is that you're objective.

Now Burns embarrased himself earlier with a statement to the effect that he tailors his coverage for an American audience. So now not only were the reports 'tailored' but there's also the hope factor that led him "and others" to be blinded. Burns may be describing a form of journalism (opinion journalism?) but he's not describing reporting as defined by the New York Times.

And I'm not impressed with his tiny-culpas. Dexter Filkins (the "award winning" Dexter Filkins) was present for the November 2004 massacre in Falluja but reported it in a way-awesome-Dude! manner. If the tiny-culpa means anything then why isn't Burns addressing that?

What's going on Iraq is that the situation has gone from ___ to worse ___. Instead of examing how we got into this situation, everyone's attempting to justify and minimize. Burns pins it on "High Hopes" and Gordon and Trainor pin it on the execution of strategies. All the rats are leaving the ship. And as they depart, they complain about the voyage but never get to the issue of why the ship set out in the first place.

Danny Schechter's noted that attempts (they were sincere) to reach out to the mainstream media and begin a genuine dialogue have been met with silence and shuffles. If any tiny-culpa or mea culpa was sincere, what's the reason behind this refusal to meet with activists? I was told on two phone calls this afternoon that "it's not time yet." It's not time to begin a dialogue?
Schechter's not intending to have a screaming marathon, he's attempt to have a dialogue. He's not trying to storm the pages or airwaves. I replied both times to the effect of "I give you harder time whenever we talk than anything you'd get from Danny." Because I have no interest in being diplomatic. (Or really any patience for it right now.)

He knows the system, he's worked in it. Why won't they meet with him? When is it time? If a group has been ignored for over three years and distorted in the press, it's usually not that difficult to set up a meeting of some kind.

If anyone's mea culpa meant anything, they'd be in touch with him now. ( Why can't a dialoge be started?

As I said on the phone, I'm much harsher and less patient.

"Not time yet." The Times appears to be operating under that princple. (I didn't speak to print on the phone today, I spoke to TV.)

We've noted David DeGraw's "Take Action: Demand Better Iraq War Coverage" ( before but we'll note it again. Nothing's going to change unless you make yourself heard:

Join United For Peace And Justice, and tens of thousands of Americans in calling on U.S. media outlets to do a better job of reporting on the war in Iraq and the anti-war movement protests against it.As the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, the nationwide Peace & Justice movement is, for the first time, focusing protests on the Pro-War media slant that has made the war possible.
With public opinion shifting from support for the war to calls for immediate withdrawal, the news media has an obligation to reflect on the role it has played in building a pro-war consensus with false and deceptive reporting. Many media organizations have published "mea-culpas" admitting "mistakes" and "flawed reporting," but the problem goes deeper and is ongoing.
The coverage remains one-sided and excludes anti-war voices from citizens and anti-war groups all over the world. We need real journalism, not jingoism.
It's Time to Make the US Media Accountable!
Click on the link below to send an email to U.S. media outlets now!
Take Action: Demand Better Coverage

If that's not your thing and you have another means of being heard, by all means do so. But nothing's changed in three years regarding the mainstream media's coverage. The story the Times ran today wasn't brave or a break through. If you're one of the community members who also happens to be a member of the working press, please make the case at the office.

If you're someone who wishes you were participating in an event or a rally but can't for whatever reason, you can make this case. You can contact editors of your paper or you can contact a network outlet you consume news from. The mainstream media has not been responsive to voices against the war, even before the invasion, that's not going to change until they realize how much the ground has shifted.

Today's article was nothing new or brave. If you want more of the same, stay silent.

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