Saturday, July 22, 2006

NYT: Gordo swears he'll talk dirty one day (we believe him), von Zielbauer . . .

A5 is the page for Iraq in this morning's New York Times. And what to make of it?

Paul von Zielbauer contributes "Lawyers for Accused G.I. Say Confession Was Forced" does contain the Cole Porter refrain "American military officials regret . . ." -- a minor sentence in a long press release. Miss Otis was far more believable. (See yesterday's snapshot if you're lost.) There's no attempt to make sense of the events in or near Baquba.

"The American forces . . . attacked a number of armed men after they refused orders to leave, the officer said." There's just no excuse for that sentence. The press release, which the Times had, makes very clear that the call to leave was issued to people in the homes. It preceeds the "Miss Otis regrets" line, if the Times needs help finding it.

On the plus side, unlike the AP yesterday, the Times gets the number correct: six dead, not five. The issue of 23 wounded, however, doesn't rate a mention.

What else doesn't rate a mention? Anthony W. Yribe. The "Accused G.I." of the headline iis James P. Baker whose confession wasn't taped, apparently, and supposedly wrote, line for line, a confession that was dictated to him by investigators. In what? Abeer Qassim Hamza murder and alleged rape as well as the murder of three of her family members. You know the Times isn't mentioning the fourteen-year-old girl by name. They've done everything they could to avoid mentioning her name in print. There's also no mention that federal prosecutors want Steven D. Green's (the first charged in the incident) court date pushed back to November because of the August 6th scheduled start of proceedings in Iraq for the other five charged. (Yribe is charged with dereliction of duty for failure to report the incident to his superiors. He's not mentioned in von Zeielbauer's article. Federal prosecutors argue that they can't try the case against Green, who was discharged from the army prior to being charged, in the United States at the same time that the case against the other five is going on in Baghdad due to the fact that they'll need many of the same witnesses.)

Then there's Michael R. Gordon the war pornographer who does a little mutual stroking with "Gen. John P. Abizaid." Gordo loves a man in uniform. Their encounter is entitled "More Troops to Be Deployed In Baghdad, General Says" and you know that went over like whispered sweet nothings to Gordo. Look for the HBO bio pic on Gordo to be entitled If These Foxholes Could Talk. When not getting weak in the knees and over the prospect of more troops, Gordo doesn't have much to offer. You picture him, after the encounter, bored and flipping through old, dog eared copies of Soldier of Fortune for a quick rush. Hard to blame the Incredible Mr. Limpid for failure to launch -- there's nothing in the article that he didn't cover earlier.

Lastly, Paul von Zielbauer's back for "In Baghdad, a Courtroom for U.S. Troops" (listeners of The KPFA Evening News heard the details in this story Wednesday -- not a complaint, just noting it for those who prefer audio). This is about the Article 32 hearing (that finished taking testimony on Wednesday) against Nathan B. Lynn and Milton Ortiz. What's strange is that von Zeilbaure appears to confuse the charges against Lynn and Ortiz (the Feb. 15th incident where an Iraqi male was killed and a gun was later allegedly planted after the killing to make it appear that he was an 'insurgent') with another charge against Ortiz for a separate incident. As the AP reported earlier this week: "Ortiz also faces one count of assault and one count of communicating a threat for a separate incident on March 8, when he allegedly put an unloaded weapon against the head of an Iraqi man and threatened to send him to prison, the military said." Lynn's not charged in that incident. Someone may argue it's clear that only Ortiz was charged in the March 8th incident but it's not, not when von Zielbauer writes:

. . . Specialist Nathan B. Lynn and Sgt. Milton Ortiz Jr. sat quietly in a miliatry hearing known as an ARticle 32 accused of crimes against two Iraqi citizens.

Specialist Lynn and Sergeant Ortiz, of the National Guard's B. Company, First Battalion, 109th Infantry, were charged in connection with two episodes, on Feb. 15 and March 8, near Ramadi . . .

Whether that's a space issue (if it's a lack of space, War Pornography Gordon's Me Talk Dirty One Day could have been ditched) or whether von Zielbauer doesn't know the actual details is open to debate. But the way the article's constructed, readers may be left with the impression that Lynn was accused of involvement in both incidents which is not the case.

von Zeilbauer does tell you that the the charges against Lynn (for the Feb. 15 episode, the only one in which he was charged) are in doubt -- "Colonel McClory . . . recommended that both charges against Specialist Lynn be dropped" while the recommendation for Ortiz is "that he receive a nonjudicial punishment instead of proceeding to a court-martial".

I don't know where we go with that? Do we go to the update? Or do we note the ridiculous and apparent coverup?

Let's go to the update. Martha notes Josh White's "Killing by Guardsman in Iraq Called Appropriate" (Washington Post):

Army Lt. Col. John W. McClory found that Spec. Nathan B. Lynn, 21, of South Williamsport, Pa., did nothing wrong in shooting Gani Ahmad Zaben in the post-curfew darkness outside a group of homes on Feb. 15. McClory ruled that Lynn thought the man was armed with an AK-47 and believed he was a threat.
[. . .]
Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who commands Multinational Corps-Iraq, is expected to make a final decision in the case this weekend, and Lynn's military defense attorney said he has "high expectations" that Chiarelli will follow the recommendation.
The military ROE in Iraq are central to most homicide cases against U.S. troops and are at the heart of a major investigation into the killings of two dozen civilians in a group of homes in Haditha. Lawyers representing several Marines in that case -- which has so far yielded no charges -- have said they plan to argue that their clients were following the ROE when they thought they were under attack.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that four Army soldiers charged with killing three detainees they captured in raids near Samarra told investigators their ROE were to kill "all military-age males." They said commanders authorized the rules for a special mission and initially cleared them of wrongdoing, according to the AP.

Is following orders (I'm assuming the statements that orders were given to that effect) an excuse? It looks like it will be one incident after another. And that's apparently all that the military's concerned with. Right or wrong, the responsiblity to reject an order that may be illegal, none of that will come into play.

People will walk with maybe a slap on the wrist and nothing more. Who does the hard time? Who does the military go after? As Gerry Condon notes "Support for War Resisters Grows:"

In 2004, Sergeant Kevin Benderman, a 10-year Army veteran, returned from the horrible violence of the Iraq War and declared himself a conscientious objector. The Army violated many of its own procedures, denied him CO status, and ordered him back to Iraq. But Benderman refused to return to war. Last July, he was given a general court-martial, usually reserved for high crimes. He was convicted of "missing movement" and was sentenced to 15 months in prison and a dishonorable discharge. He is currently in his second year of confinement at the stockade in Fort Lewis, Washington.
After Benderman's court martial, his commander, Army Captain Gary Rowley, had some telling words: "If [the rest of the Army] saw this and found it works using smoke and mirrors to get by, we'll have other soldiers saying, 'Well, I'm a conscientious objector.' . . . They need to know there are consequences for not doing their duty." Captain Rowley also posted photos on base bulletin boards of Benderman being led off to prison, in order to intimidate his fellow soldiers from even thinking about conscientious objector status.

The above is from (pdf format) the July edition of The Objector. [Which is put out by The Objector (CCCO).]

So who gets punished? Think about Ehren Watada facing a potential seven years in prison for refusing to deploy in the illegal war. And leave the notion of 'military justice,' and focus on the Times. Gail Collins floated mea culpa (addressed in "And the war drags on . . ." last Sunday) is meaningless. It's bad enough that the reporting for the paper has never felt the need to mention the name "Ehren Watada" (the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq -- or the first we know of -- with no thanks to the Times), but if Collins' own mea culpa meant anything, maybe she should have been asked why her paper's never covered Watada?

Is Collins not aware it's news? Does she think that it wouldn't have a reaction of any kind on the editorial and opinion pages? Or is it a case of yet another clampdown because God forbid we let the American people know that the besides the enlisted who have left for Canada and the ones who've stayed in this country and refused to deploy (such as Benderman and Camilo Mejia), the refusal spread to the ranks of commissioned officers?

The lack of interest from the reporting side of the paper is shameful. But Collins deals in opinion. That's her responsibility. Does she think Ehren Watada doesn't provoke opinions? Does she think the topic doesn't allow for a debate? If so, why? And are the rumors true that she's nixed any mention of Watada by the paper's regular columnist as well as turned down op-eds submitted on the topic from outside the paper?

Three years after the illegal invasion, she wants to (finally) acknowledge that she got it wrong. Well, not exactly, she wants (and we covered this Sunday) to say she should have listened to some skeptical voices on the editorial board. That wasn't her big mistake. Her big mistake was accepting an assertion by the US administration as fact. (Even when, in real time, there were more than enough indications that the lies were lies.) If she can't tell the difference between fact and opinion, that may go a long way towards explaining why the Times had to establish a correction policy for the op-ed pages.

Previously, Collins' biggest ridicule came from a heavily circulated e-mail she wrote where she argued that she didn't feel the need, just because Maureen Dowd (the paper's sole female columnist on the op-ed pages) was on vacation, to offer a woman the spot. Collins, a "first", didn't see any need for a woman to be represented on the pages she was in charge of. She felt it was perfectly natural for the paper to offer a replacement male when the op-ed page regulars were already all male except for Dowd. The ridicule may have resulted in some questioning on her part (or she may have just wanted to avoid further embarrasment) since, later, women were brought in to sub for vacationing regulars.

But if she wants her mea culpa to be taken seriously, this may be time for some more questioning on her part because she's yet to demonstrate that she grasps what was wrong with the paper's editorials. It wasn't that they decided to believe the administration's bogus WMD claims. It was that they presented the claims as factual. There was no vetting process. The administration made the claims and the paper accepted them. That is what she needs to apologize for. Until she does that, there's no indication that she grasps the journalistic mistakes made and, therefore, no indication that the same mistakes won't be repeated.

The silence on Watada is laughable. The paper seems to think (shades of the Downing Street Memos?) that as long as they don't mention it or seriously address it, it just doesn't exist. Though a newspaper technically, the Times survived hard times by becoming an "opinion shaper." When Collins decided to present claims as facts, she was carrying on the long tradition of the paper. She wasn't, however, being much of a journalist.

The e-mail address for this site is