Monday, April 24, 2006

NYT has a hard time finding women in Iraq or noting reality on James Baker

Due to the lobbying efforts of Jim and others, I'm putting this back up. It's an excerpt from this morning's "NYT: Tavernise is lost in Iraq and Weisman just lost period" which some may have missed (the Blogger program had problems). If it's a repeat to you, it is to me as well. But once Jim began lobbying, others joined in. So here's the excerpt:

Last Nov. 13, U.S. soldiers found 173 incarcerated men, some of them emaciated and showing signs of torture, in a secret bunker in an Interior Ministry compound in central Baghdad. The soldiers immediately transferred the men to a separate detention facility to protect them from further abuse, the U.S. military reported.
Since then, there have been at least six joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers, most of them run by Iraq's Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry. Two sources involved with the inspections, one Iraqi official and one U.S. official, said abuse of prisoners was found at all the sites visited through February. U.S. military authorities confirmed that signs of severe abuse were observed at two of the detention centers.
But U.S. troops have not responded by removing all the detainees, as they did in November. Instead, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, only a handful of the most severely abused detainees at a single site were removed for medical treatment. Prisoners at two other sites were removed to alleviate overcrowding. U.S. and Iraqi authorities left the rest where they were.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Ellen Knickmeyer's "Inspectors Find More Torture at Iraqi Jails: Top General's Pledge To Protect Prisoners 'Not Being Followed'" (Washington Post).Before jumping into the New York Times, we needed a little reality. Ready to enter the world of distorted perceptions and reality? Hit the strobe lights, put on the Floyd and get ready to note Sabrina Tavernise's "Warily, Iraqis Investing Hope in New Leaders" which she may feel pleased as punch about, but no one else should. Maybe looking back on John F. Burns' hideous article from December 16, 2005, she thinks she's really 'accomplished' something? If so, correct her. Burns did a 'survey' piece as well that was supposed to be about hope for 'democracy' from the man on the street. Phrase used intentionally. Surveying Iraq (protected areas only, of course), Burns could see only men. Tavernise may feel like really proud that she was able to overhear the comment of one woman (unidentified -- it apparently wasn't important to Tavernise to find out the woman's name or her occupation -- though 'student,' 'banker,' et al are noted for the men) and include it. With eight people quoted, having one of those be a woman is hardly progress. Tavernise manages to squeeze this unidentified woman into the very last bit of her article:

A woman in a housecoat stood in her doorway just down the street. "There's a lack of everything," she said. "We want someone who will come to save the people."

Save the people from what? The occupation? The violence? We'll never know because there's no interest in women's voices from the Times. (Unless they buy a gun! Women with guns get the little boys in the Green Zone all excited and itchy -- it's the phallic implications, you understand.) Tavernise can sit a spell with all the doctors, students, et al (all male) who tell her the pleasing story that there is still a teaspoon of hope, she just can't be bothered with women. One is an improvement over Burns' report last year, yes, but do we all get how embarrasing that 'reporting' was? So is this.

Like Burns, she's obsessed with (male) soccer players as well. To read her summary/snapshot of violence (fleeting, someone doesn't want to give it to much weight), is to be left with the impression that women don't die in Iraq. Has the Times reported on any of those deaths? The women killed in their homes as the 'pacification' continued? (Women have been killed outside the homes as well, I'm referring to the large numbers currently losing lives as a result of 'pacification.') I'm not remembering any of that. Women don't matter to the Times (unless they can fondle a gun for the cameras). Here's a tip for Iraqi women that will let them get more coverage from the paper -- even if they're not willing to buy a gun and pose with it: Announce that the reason you stay home now is because your husband makes so much money and you're 'nesting' because you've 'had it all' and decided you're much happier at home. It works in America. Any half-wit willing to push that narrative can get covered by the Times. So find a 'trend story' the Times loves and pursue it as you cozy up to a reporter in the Green Zone (coverage is always amplified if you know the reporter writing the story!).

Reality-free appears to be the theme for today's paper. Note Steven R. Weisman's fawning "Diplomatic Memo" entitled "Baker, Bush Family Fixer, Will Advise President on Iraq"who is too busy trying to craft a false analogy (he says "not perfect" -- "false" is the word he's looking for) that he can't be bothered with facts. For instance, he doesn't tell you what the trip means (we'll get to that). In fact, he whitewashes what he doesn't want to dwell on by noting early on that despite never public opposing the current (illegal) war, Baker wrote in his autobio (I'm lauhging too) that he opposed the ouster of Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. Weisman wants readers to feel that Baker's now a credible voice because of that. Just a bystander who got tagged by Bully Boy and is now going to Iraq to do a patriotic duty.

It's not quite reality, is it? Baker's going to Iraq to talk to leaders and the reason for that is to get their parlilment active and on board with passing those laws that will allow contracts to be signed allowing foreign investment. This is a trade visit and nothing more. Once upon a time, the paper could be a little more honest about that. With regards to Baker, they never have been.

Weisman, while offering up Baker's bonafides, forgets to note Baker's earlier attempts at profiting from the current (illegal) war. From Naomi Klein's "James Baker's Double Life: A Special Investigation" (The Nation):

When President Bush appointed former Secretary of State James Baker III as his envoy on Iraq's debt on December 5, 2003, he called Baker's job "a noble mission." At the time, there was widespread concern about whether Baker's extensive business dealings in the Middle East would compromise that mission, which is to meet with heads of state and persuade them to forgive the debts owed to them by Iraq. Of particular concern was his relationship with merchant bank and defense contractor the Carlyle Group, where Baker is senior counselor and an equity partner with an estimated $180 million stake.
Until now, there has been no concrete evidence that Baker's loyalties are split, or that his power as Special Presidential Envoy--an unpaid position--has been used to benefit any of his corporate clients or employers. But according to documents obtained by The Nation, that is precisely what has happened. Carlyle has sought to secure an extraordinary $1 billion investment from the Kuwaiti government, with Baker's influence as debt envoy being used as a crucial lever.
The secret deal involves a complex transaction to transfer ownership of as much as $57 billion in unpaid Iraqi debts. The debts, now owed to the government of Kuwait, would be assigned to a foundation created and controlled by a consortium in which the key players are the Carlyle Group, the Albright Group (headed by another former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright) and several other well-connected firms. Under the deal, the government of Kuwait would also give the consortium $2 billion up front to invest in a private equity fund devised by the consortium, with half of it going to Carlyle.

The Times doesn't want to be bothered with that. They want to present it as James of Baker gets involved in Iraq (sticks his nose in their business) for the first time since the illegal invasion as they note, in passing and in the final paragraph, that Baker had some sort of involvement in a debt relief scam (they don't call it a scam). It minimizes what actually happened and no one who has followed the story would mistake it for truth but truth and print have a strange relationship at the paper. We noted last week (I believe it was Friday) that someone at the Iraqi oil ministry had announced to the press that the laws don't need to be passed for contracts on 'foriegn investment' to be signed. Someone was getting real nervous, real scared. Could the 'emerging markets' be lost? There are only thirty days to create the government, so many economic factors at risk! Send in the Baker! That's what the visit is about.

More can be found on Baker's earlier role in Klein's "Carlyle Covers Up" (The Nation):

Less than twenty-four hours after The Nation disclosed that former Secretary of State James Baker and the Carlyle Group were involved in a secret deal to profit from Iraq's debt to Kuwait, NBC was reporting that the deal was "dead." At The Nation, we started to get calls congratulating us on costing the Carlyle Group $1 billion, the sum the company would have received in an investment from the government of Kuwait in exchange for helping to extract $27 billion of unpaid debts from Iraq.
We were flattered (sort of), until we realized that Carlyle had just pulled off a major public relations coup. When the story broke, the notoriously secretive merchant bank needed to find a way to avoid a full-blown political scandal. It chose a bold tactic: In the face of overwhelming evidence of a glaring conflict of interest between Baker's stake in Carlyle and his post as George W. Bush's special envoy on Iraq's debt, Carlyle simply denied everything. The company issued a statement saying that it does not want to be involved in the Kuwait deal "in any way, shape or form and will not invest any money raised by the Consortium's efforts" and, furthermore, that "Carlyle was never a member of the Consortium." A spokesperson told the Financial Times that Carlyle had pulled out as soon as James Baker was appointed debt envoy, because his new political post made Carlyle's involvement "unsuitable." Mysteriously, there was no paper trail--just Carlyle's word that it had informed its business partners "orally."
You have to hand it to them: It was gutsy. In the leaked business proposal from the consortium to the Kuwaiti government--submitted almost two months after Baker's appointment--the Carlyle Group is named no fewer than forty-seven times; it is listed first among the companies involved in the consortium; and its partner James Baker is mentioned by name at least eleven times. In interviews, other consortium members, including Madeleine Albright's consulting firm, the Albright Group, confirmed that Carlyle was still involved, as did the office of the Prime Minister of Kuwait. Shahameen Sheikh, the consortium's CEO, told me that when Baker was named envoy in December, Carlyle was "very clear with us that they wanted to restrict their role to fund managers," but she said the firm was very much still a part of the deal.

NBC may have been interested in the story, the paper of record wasn't. Democracy Now! was and you listen, watch and/or read (transcripts) of the report here. Remember to listen, watch or read (transcripts) of Democracy Now! today.