Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NYT: "Waves of Violence in Baghdad Puts 3-Day Death Toll Past 100" (Kirk Semple)

We'll start with Kirk Semple's "Wave of Violence in Baghdad Puts 3-Day Death Toll Past 100" in this morning's New York Times and we'll start with that number in the headline. Semple tells us that "more than fifty" died in violence on Tuesday.

How did they get to 100? The US military told Semple (ran Monday) Sunday's fatalities: 11; military told Wong (ran Tuesday) Monday's fatalities: 14. That's 25.

What's the point of this?

Several points. The military lied. On Monday, I noted Semple's article was, within the framework of the Times, a good one. He really couldn't verify what had happened in most of the events and he noted that in his article. Then along comes Wong the next day and again we're treated to numbers reported by the media (which were accurate) and the military's number (which were way off -- again). Only there's no attempt to do as Semple did and explain the difficulties in verification.

So to a visitor who wondered why Wong was "crucified" for doing what Semple did -- he didn't do what Semple did. Semple wrote, in one of the most up front pieces the Times has done, of the difficulities their reporters face in verification. Wong short handed it and treated the numbers in a he-said/she-said kind of way as he hurried from here to there (in print).

The fact that Wong left the a murder victim and alleged rape victim nameless, Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi, already had me ticked off. And that alone is reason for "crucifixication" or whatever someone wants to dub that. But the issue with the body counts was much bigger than the visitor seems to grasp and if he's still confused, he needs to read Semple's article that ran Monday and Wong's that ran Tuesday.

There's a world of difference between the two.

Today Semple notes:

In Tuesday’s most deadly attack, two pedestrians wearing vests made of explosives blew themselves up near a restaurant outside the walls of the Green Zone, within a few hundred yards of three busy entrances, Iraqi and American officials said. Soon after the initial blasts, a hidden bomb was detonated nearby, adding to the carnage, the American military said. Some Iraqi authorities said the third explosion was caused by a car bomb.
At least 15 Iraqi civilians and an Iraqi police officer were killed in the explosions, and 4 people were wounded, according to the American military command.

Considering that there were 19 shooting deaths in Baquba some may take issue with the above. (Semple notes this: "In Baquba, north of Baghdad, the mayor of the Um Al Nawa district was assassinated by gunmen, the ministry official said. " That's it for Baquba.) But let's face it, the embedded reporters seemed to wake up to reality only when the Green Zone was almost breeched a few Fridays ago.

The US military can, and has, reduced blocks to rubble in Ramadi to begin creating a new mini-Green Zone but the reality is that the Green Zone of today isn't the Green Zone of three years ago. Just as the situation in Iraq has gotten worse in the country, it's getting worse for the Green Zone as well. The 'palace' is no longer a safe place by comparison.

So maybe a number of people will soon begin facing the reality they've denied for some time. (In print, in Dexy's case -- yes, he's quite the honesty broker outside the Times -- I don't care. He's paid to write for the Times, that's where he needs to be honest.)

Marring today's article (by Semple) is the continued reliance on SITE. We've covered the problems with SITE before and with Rita Katz (or whatever her name might be today). It may surprise those who only read one newspaper, but SITE's not the vastly quoted and depended upon site the paper of record tries to turn it into. Not even within the mainstream media. Katz herself would have a hard time doing a triple-play on the morning network shows because she's raised enough issues about herself via her false identity earlier and her comments to the foreign press. The paper would do well to move away from their continued reliance on that organization.

Semple notes the discovery of five corpses on Tuesday. (We didn't include a corpse count in the snapshot yesterday, which is why I'm noting it in this entry.) He also ups the mimimum number of deaths Sunday to thirty (they were higher than that, he notes "at least thirty") and does the same with Monday (ditto).

Which brings us to the larger issue, at the end of this month, will there be any effort to get a count from the US government?

Nancy A. Youssef and Aaron Glantz remain two of the few who have bothered to note the news that the despite the oft bandied around claim, the US government is doing body counts. Youssef confirmed that with a general who went on the record for her. Glantz confirmed it with what I'm remembering as a press briefing where it was noted. No one's following up on their reporting.

The US government figures are going to be lower. Anyone who lived through Vietnam is fully aware of that but for those who missed that period you need only look to the coverage in the Times (which Semple put in perspective and Wong just tossed out) to see that will happen. The point isn't those numbers are more reliable. They're not.

The point is a number is being kept, despite the lies otherwise.

When did they start keeping that number? What is it currently? What was it when the Bully Boy used the numbers from that organization that, as Dahr Jamail has pointed out, should pack it in because it's doing more harm than good at this point?

Those are serious questions. We're not seeing them addressed.

Martha notes Joshua Partlow and Saad al-Izzi's "From Baghdad Mosque, a Call to Arms" (Washington Post):

According to witnesses and a Washington Post special correspondent, carloads of men in tracksuits, suspected by residents to be members of the powerful Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army, pulled up outside the Malouki mosque and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the house of worship. During the firefight, a bullet pierced the shoulder of a mosque guard. Cars were gutted and burned. Residents said they did not know how many people died.
Gunfire clattered through the hot evening air; children bawled at the sound. In one home, a wife locked the front door and pleaded with her husband not to leave the house. A former army officer barked orders to neighbors who assembled to mount a defense: You go up to the rooftops. You guard the street corners.
Saleh Muhammed, an Amiriyah resident, told a Post special correspondent that he dialed 130 into his cellphone, Baghdad's emergency number. "The Mahdi Army has attacked Amiriyah," he told the Interior Ministry dispatcher.
"The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you," said the dispatcher at the ministry, which is controlled by a Shiite party and operates closely with militias. "They are people doing their duty. And how could you know that they are the Mahdi Army? Is it written on their foreheads?" He hung up the phone.
Violence around Iraq claimed the lives of at least 50 people on Tuesday, as politicians across the country's political spectrum said months of sectarian killing had turned into civil war.

Brady notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "David Brooks--Just Another Joe Lieberman Fan" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

David Brooks had a laughable column in Sunday's New York Times.
"What's happening to Lieberman can only be described as a liberal inquisition," Brooks proclaims. What Brooks characterizes as an "inquisition" -- an effort, as he puts it, "to expel Joe Lieberman from modern liberalism"-- is simply a spirited effort to elect a Senator who better represents the values of Connecticut's citizens. That's not ideological purity . It's about organized people holding accountable a legislator who has acted as an unflinching supporter of this disastrous war.
Brooks--who likes to play populist--can't hide his contempt for the ordinary citizen-voters of Connecticut. Apparently, he's forgotten what elections are about. He derides "fundamentalists of both parties who believe that politics should be about party discipline, passion, purity, orthodoxy or clear choices." What's wrong about a politics that gives voters "clear choices"? As Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson put it, "Now, maybe I've had this backward all my life, but I thought that elections were held to enable voters to choose between candidates espousing different points of view on the most important issues." What's wrong with bringing some passion back into our politics, which has been dominated for too long by inside-the-beltway, well-paid consultants and pollsters.

As members should remember, Brady said here in January 2005 that he would not vote for Lieberman under any circumstances. That's noted because there's a visitor with a question about the 'plot' against Lieberman. There's no plot on our part, he's a really bad senator. If there's a 'plot' eslewhere, you'll need to ask elsewhere. In terms of KvH, The Nation's Nov. 2004 editorial laid down the same marker that Brady is using so there's no 'plot' on the part of The Nation either. These markers were laid down and he chose to ignore him. If there are elements that are 'plotting' to bring down Lieberman, he -- though two writers at The Guardian will never believe that because they've been moist in the boxers for Lieberman for years now -- brought it on himself. The winds of change were in the air and noted. He has only himself to blame. On our end, we serve the community and we're anti-war. No 'plot' was needed to turn agaisnt Lieberman.

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