Saturday, June 10, 2006

NYT: Were five civilians killed by American forces -- a real reporter would want to know

The New York Times this morning?

Good Lord.

First reaction was a panic when I saw a story that I thought I'd have to address but fortunately the byline exempted me from that article. (Members, check the paper and you'll know what I'm talking about.) Dexter Filkins is on the front page trying to really lay on the drama about . . .

Wait, let's quote from yesterday:

Who knows but today's spin is that al-Zarqawi lived through the bombing and died on the stretcher. That's the spin and it's all over. No one, apparently, can write of it without noting it.

Without noting it? Dexy attempts to build a full blown story out of it with "U.S. Says Zarqawi Survived Briefly After Airstrike." In the second paragraph, Dexy pens a sentence that we'll point out: "But one of the raids, in a village not far from the spot where Mr. Zarqawi was killed, appeared to cause a number of civilian deaths."

That's the sort of information that a real reporter opens with. But Dexy doesn't know how to be a real reporter. Without rewriting him, just editing out words, let's present an actual news account:

[A raid], in a village not far from the spot where Mr. Zarqawi was killed, appeared to cause a number of civilian deaths.
[. . .]
[. . .] General Caldwell said [t]he soldiers arrested 25 people and killed one [. . .].
That account was disputed in a village north of Baghdad, where Iraqis said American commandos killed five civilians in a Friday morning raid.
In Ghalibiya, near the scene of Mr. Zarqawi's death, a local Iraqi interviewed by telephone said American commandos dressed in black had raided the hamlet around 4 a.m. The Iraqi, a farmer named Mustafa Muhammad, said a group of local Iraqis, standing guard to protect their predominantly Sunni village from Shiite death squads, fired their guns into the air.
"They thought the Americans were a death squad, dressed in black," Mr. Muhammad said.
The American commandos threw a hand grenade in response, he said, killing five villagers.
"The people were saying that the Americans were looking for Zarqawi loyalists," he said.
Mr. Muhammad said a group of American soldiers wearing regular Army uniforms came to Ghalibiya later in the day to apologize. They promised to provide compensation for the dead Iraqis, he said.

By lopping off a few words and leading with the event, you have an actual news story. Sadly, Dexy can't provide it. After the second paragraph sentence noting that Iraqi civilians may have died, it's a long, long time before Dexy picks up the thread. How long? The statement from the general? It's in paragraph 22 (check my math). The above is built out of the second paragraph, paragraph 22, 23, 24 25, 26 , 27 and 28. The story, again check my math, is 37 paragraphs long.
What do we have the rest of the time? The sort of nonsense he made his (bad) name with and (wrongly) won an award for.

But Dexy proves today that he could be a reporter if someone would take him by the hand and walk him through real slow.

Question? What's the compensation for a human life? That's not a spiritual or philosophical question, I'm just curious how much money the American government is paying out. (I'm too tired for spiritual or philosophical this morning.) David S. Cloud's "Compensation Payments Rising, Especially by Marines" informs:

Almost half of the more than $19 million in compensation that the American military allocated last year to compensate for killing or injuring Iraqis and damaging property came from Marine-led units in Anbar Province, Defense Department records show.
The $9.5 million in "condolence payments" by the Marines reflects the persistent fighting against insurgents in violent Anbar, but it also provides a reminder of the heavy toll that the conflict has taken on civilians, mostly from insurgents but also from American units.
The figures, contained in a detailed Defense Department report provided recently to Congress, do not include $38,000 paid to relatives of 15 Iraqis killed by marines at Haditha in November, because those deaths occurred after the end of the 2005 fiscal year on Sept. 30. That case, in which 24 Iraqi civilians were killed, is under investigation.

$38,000 for 15 people? (Why did the Times make me count and do math this morning?) It comes to around $2,500 a person. That's the dollar amount we've placed on the life of an Iraqi. I have a friend who breeds dog and you couldn't buy one from for that amount.

Ron has a joke today (or possibly earlier this week) that Tina e-mailed about asking what it meant? I didn't honestly get it until I read Adam Nagourney's article. I get it. Worse yet, we get it. So in the city only the foolish want to visit (Las Vegas), where dreams die quickly, Adam Nagourney finds his natural resting place. It's almost poetic.

Let's deal with Nagourney. What a fool. How out of it can he be. He teases a mention of Maureen Dowd. Considering that the paper has only ONE female columnist, the only thing his attempt at a blind item (he outs her after two sentences) reveals is that he's so far removed from reality that he's failed to note the continued sexist policies at his own paper. Not once but twice in since 2003, the paper's had to fill a national column spot -- William Safire and Bill Keller.
In both cases, they went with men (David Brooks and John Tierney). Just as the paper reserves one and only one slot for a male of color, they reserve one and only one slot for a woman. There's a great deal of talk about how it was the best person for the job but women weren't seriously considered. Unless Dowd leaves, they won't. When she does they'll get the spot Anna used to occupy that . . . go on back down the chain.

Opening up a golf club, the paper could fight for that. Opening up the Times opinion slate, not a chance in hell. Considering that the Times trades in the written word, so presumably places a high value upon it, it's really insulting that they think a woman can be a golfer, she just can't write. It was the equivalent of the sexually segregated Augusta protesting the Times for their lack of women writing national columns. (Hurt feelings will cause some to snipe, "We have one!" Yes, you do. You've had one for decades. It was progress once upon a time, now it's just embarrasing.)

If Dowd and Bob Herbert were good "company men," they'd arrange it so they left at the same time. That way the paper could consolidate the two slots and free up one to offer the opinions of another White Male. Because goodness knows, they just don't get enough space. (That was sarcasm.)

On Nagourney's article? Dowd's the only woman present that he notes. Apparently the attitude of the paper seeps into all coverage. Mark Warner's the "guy" of some attending. That's cool with Nagourney, Warner's his "guy" too.

When Lieberman was taken out in 2003 and became the (deserved) punching bag, there were a lot of fears for the DLC, fortunately Warner comes along and no one talks about it. Lot of silence going on. Don't expect it to be reported. No reporters are apparently in Vegas.

There's Nagourney (a DLC flack) and there are people who hopefully are just columnists because reporters don't mingle like that with the subjects they cover. ("Come to my reception!") Nor do reporters, real ones, work for campaigns. But you can't cut off the head of Cokie without a million more sprouting quickly from the neck. Fortunately, according to Nagourney, a training is offered in tele-punditry. (Unfortunately, photogenics can't be taught, you're either born with it or you're not. Ask Adam Nagourney what happens when you're not blessed.)

Mark Warner? Isn't the objection to Hillary from those who don't give a damn about abortion (all the ones cheering on the Democratic Party these days, basically) that she's a war hawk? Hillary should have (as we've noted here before) grasped that no matter how "manly" she tries to be, some man will always come along to get the applause. Just as one Cokie's been traded out, we're seeing Warner pushed for his stay-the-course nonsense.

Well we all lived through the nonsense of Simon Rosenberg "man of the people" and we all survived. Rosenberg might have been a little miffed that he didn't become the head of the DNC but surely all those telecom monies made up for it?

Check out:

"THIS JUST IN! IRAQ PRIME MINISTER NOURI AL-MALIKI FLIES JETS!" (Wally with another Bully Boy Press exclusive)
"Violence continues in Iraq" (Mike with news of a study group on Iraq)
"did you get the memo?" (Rebecca on why she's not joining the fight to "save" NPR/PBS)
"Meandering" (Elaine noting a number of things)

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