How stupid is Kate Zernike? Pretty damn stupid.
In this morning's New York Times the hack who took her taxi out for repeated drive-bys (John Kerry was her target most recently) is back to demonstrating that writing and thought do not necessarily go hand in hand via "Iraqi Leader Embraces Terror Fight in Speech to Congress." It's a bad piece for so many reasons.
At one point, like music critics embarrassing themselves in the eighties over Madonna's decision to sit in the middle of performing "A Live To Tell," she finds symbolism in Harry Reid tying his shoe. If she spoke to Reid about the apparent 'incident' she forgot to clue her readers in. But with Zernike, we all get taken for a ride.
Here's a section that reads like Zernike dictated it while having a manicure (it doesn't read like reporting):
He was interrupted about 10 minutes into his speech by a woman wearing the trademark shade of the antiwar group CODEPINK, who chanted, "Iraqis want the troops to leave! Bring them home now!" Speaker J. Dennis Hastert halted the speech and ordered the Capitol Police to remove her.
A woman "interrupted" for ten minutes. She's removed by the Capitol Police. What was her name? A reporter might include that detail. And there's not a community member that doesn't know her name already -- it's Medea Benjamin -- but facts is hard for Zernike. The name is part of the story. Rendering Benjamin invisble may help Zernike 'fit in' (I'm told her drive bys haven't) but they don't make her a reporter.
If someone protests it's news. If Zernike was so ignorant as to not know who the woman was, she should have stopped picking nail shades and picked up the phone to make a call.
She carries water for al-Maliki as well (how low do you have to be to carry water for a puppet?):
Mr. Maliki warned against a repeat of what he characterized as the abandonment of his country by American troops during the first Persian Gulf war. "Let 1991 never be repeated," he said, "for history will be most unforgiving."
That's certainly a creative way of telling readers that foreign leader addressed Congress and took shots at the government, the armed forces and the then president George H. W. Bush. That is what happened.
al-Maliki's a funny kind of critic -- offering critiques at what the US should have done when his safe little ass wasn't in Iraq. If he doesn't think 1991 should be repeated, he might need to slice off a piece for himself of blame pie he's baked because he didn't do a thing in 1991.
Dick Durbin comes closest to making the point: "But the message has to be delivered to the Iraqis: this is their nation, and they should be willing to fight, and if necessary, die for it." In a read between the lines sort of way, you can say the exiled al-Maliki got served.
Zernike demonstrates her lack of interest in journalism throughout -- most vividly in this passage:
In his half-hour speech, the prime minister made little mention of the casualties in Iraq. Instead, he highlighted the doubling of the gross domestic product over the last three years and improvements in the lives of Iraqis. And he appealed for more financial aid for fledgling Iraqi companies, saying that much of the enormous American and foreign investment in his country had gone to pay for security companies.
Okay, he's committed to sending $35 million to Hizbollah (which might be off now judging by yesterday's remarks by Iraq's foreign minister). Where does Iraq find $35 million to donate to anyone? Forget the fact that US citiziens are footing a $300 billion bill currently on Iraq alone, he doesn't have $35 million in aid to share -- a point Zernike could have made if her only interest wasn't corpses.
For those who've missed it, the UN has highlighted the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, they've noted the vast increase in malnutrition. Charity may start at home and stays there when your kids are starving. When you're kids are starving, you don't cough up the big bucks to hand over to someone else.
So here's what happened, al-Maliki came to the Congress and gave a speech where he slammed the so-called 'cut and run' option -- despite the fact that cut-and-run is what saved his own butt. If he hadn't 'cut and run,' he'd be dead by now. So it's okay for him, it's just not okay for American women and men. He went on to criticize the US for not doing enough in his mind during 1991's invasion of Iraq, despite the fact that he wasn't in Iraq. If it mattered so damn much to him, maybe he shouldn't have been living in Iran and Syria? If fighting was so important to him, maybe he should have stayed in Iraq? Since he didn't, maybe the last thing he's entitled to is to lecture about the 1991 invasion not doing 'enough'?
And maybe it's not a good idea to hit up another country for money while you're prepared to give $35 million in aid?
Though good at posturing (and he'll posture more loudly when he's back in Iraq), he's shown no interest in addressing the problems of Iraqis (malnutrition, unemployment, electricity & potable water issues) or their issues (they want the US out). He's awful good at begging for money.
There's been so little accountability of where the money has gone from day one. A cancelled contract here and there doesn't demonstrate that there's accountability. The vast unemployment doesn't demonstrate that there's accountability. He's a puppet, he's going to speak for the people because he's not interested in them. Like so many multi-national corporations, he's interested in lining his own pockets at the expense of the US tax payer.
Arianna Huffington wrote about the impending visit a few days ago. I disagree with regards to the amensty program, but otherwise the section below is one I'm in strong agreement on (from "Maliki's Testy Visit: Is This What Our Troops Are Dying For?," The Huffington Post):
What more, Maliki wants to "maintain strong ties to Iran," has sided with Hezbollah in the current hostilities with Israel, and has pledged $35 million in aid to Lebanon (where is that money coming from?). And then we have the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament saying "I personally think whoever kills an American soldier in defense of his country would, have a statue built for him in that country. The parties that we cannot conciliate with are those who deliberately killed an Iraqi citizen."
So this is what over 2,500 American have died for, what over 18,500 Americans have been wounded for, what the American people have spent over $320 billion helping create: a government that makes nice with Iran, backs Hezbollah, and some of whose members think the killers of American soldiers deserve a statue? We can't bring back those lives, heal those wounds, or recoup that money, but we can say enough is enough.
In Fiasco, his damning new book about the Bush administration's tragic bungling of Iraq, Thomas Ricks quotes a colonel assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority unforgettably describing his team's mission as "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck." Just how many more Americans have to die in the vain attempt to turn feathers into a duck? Especially a duck that wants to waddle side by side with Hezbollah and Iran.
Where is that $35 million coming from? It's a valid questions as he shows up to ask for more money. (He's a bit like a man at a large get together boasting "I've got it!" as he grabs for the check and then whispers to the woman next to him that he's going to need her to "help" him out on it.) Another valid question is why was it okay for him to leave Iraq for his own safety (when he went into exile) but it's not okay for US troops? Another valid question is exactly when will he represent the people of Iraq? The ones who are dying, the ones who are starving, the ones who want the US gone? He's not a voice for anyone but the greedy -- proving that despite Tony Snow's denials, he is Bully Boy's puppet.
Martha notes Jonathan Weisman's "Iraqi Prime Minister Presses for More Aid: Protests Cast Shadow on Capitol Hill Speech" (Washington Post):
A day after securing a pledge from President Bush to bolster U.S. troop presence in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked Congress yesterday for more reconstruction aid, acknowledging that most of the billions already allocated were swallowed by security costs. And he warned the United States not to abandon Iraq, as it did after the Persian Gulf War when the United States stood aside as a Shiite rebellion was crushed by Saddam Hussein.
"Most of the billions already allocated were swallowed by security costs"? Then where is the $35 million coming from that he's eager to offer as aid? That's a bit like skipping your rent and car payment so you can look the big spender. It's not his money. And it's not his blood.
I was against the illegal war before it started but I'm amazed that the War Hawks and cheerleaders have yet to howl over what took place yesterday. A heavily protected puppet (while the rest of the country has no such protection) came begging for more money, came begging for more lives and apparently that's going to play with that crowd. It's okay that while demanding more lives, he took a swipe at one of their heroes (George H.W. Bush), it's okay that he likened the failure to march on Baghdad to 'cut and run' (while he himself had 'cut and run').
The Puppet paraded into Congress and showed no concern over the US lives, demonstrated no concern for the lives of Iraqis but took time to lecture and beg for more money.
Congress needs to stop funding the illegal war and al-Maliki needs to learn a little bit of the lives of the average Iraqi -- possibly, over two decades out of the country left him out of touch with reality? Hiding in the Green Zone doesn't bring him any close.
(For the record, Weisman -- a reporter as opposed to a hack like Zernike -- does manage to name Medea Benjamin in his article today.)
For reality about Iraq, Mia notes this from Patrick Cockburn's "Beware Iraqi Leaders Bearing Good News" (CounterPunch):
Iraqi leaders are not what they seem. They live in the Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave guarded by US troops, in the heart of Baghdad. Many never leave it except for extensive foreign travel. Eighteen months ago an Iraqi magazine claimed to have discovered that at one point the entire cabinet was out of the country at the same time.
The government remains reliant on the US. One former minister told me: "There is a culture of dependency. Part of the time the Americans treat us as a colony, part of the time as an independent country."
Mr al-Maliki only became Prime Minister because the US and Britain were determined to get rid of his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Mr al-Maliki is inexperienced, personally isolated without his own kitchen cabinet, guarded by American guards and heavily reliant on shadowy US advisers.
The quasi-colonial nature of the Iraqi government may not be obvious to outsiders who see that it has been democratically elected. But its independence has always been a mirage.
For instance, its own intelligence organization should be essential to a government fighting for its life against a violent insurgency. At first sight, Iraq might appear to have one under Major-General Mohammed al-Shahwani, but it has no budget because it is funded directly by the CIA, to the tune of $200-300m (£110-160m) a year and, not surprisingly, it is to the CIA that it first reports. Not surprisingly, Iraqis will need a lot of convincing that Mr al-Maliki is not one more American pawn.
In theory he should be in charge of a substantial army force. The number of trained Iraqi soldiers and police has grown from 169,000 in June 2005 to 264,000 this June. But the extra 105,000 armed men have not only made no difference to security in Iraq but that security has markedly deteriorated over the past year. The reason is that the armed forces put their allegiance to their own communities - Kurd, Sunni or Shia - well before their loyalty to the state. Shia do not believe they will be defended from a pogrom by a Sunni units and the Sunni feel the same way about Shia units.
This is why the militias are growing in strength. Everybody wants an armed militia from their own community to defend their neighborhoods. In any case the largest political parties making up the present Iraqi government - the Kurds and the two biggest Shia religious parties - all have their private armies which they are not going to see dissolved.
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