Monday, August 21, 2006

Robin Morgan addresses war and Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi while Mother Jones offers Judith Miller jokes

When news surfaced that four GIs allegedly stalked, gang-raped and killed an Iraqi woman, the US tried to minimise this latest atrocity. Now article 32 hearings -- the military equivalent of a grand jury -- have ended at Camp Liberty, a US base in Iraq. In September, a general will rule whether the accused should be court-martialled. The defence already pleads post-traumatic stress disorder: in four months preceding the crime, 17 of the accused GIs' battalion were killed.
The victim's name was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Abeer means "fragrance of flowers". She was 14 years old. According to a statement by one of the accused, the soldiers first noticed her at a checkpoint. On March 12, after playing cards while slugging whisky, they changed into civvies and burst into Abeer's home. They killed her mother, father and five-year-old sister and "took turns" raping Abeer. Finally, according to the statement, they murdered her, drenched the bodies with kerosene, and set them on fire. Then the GIs grilled chicken wings.
The US military is now a mercenary force. In addition to hired militias and "independent contractors", we have a draft: a poverty draft. That's why the army is disproportionately comprised of ethnic minorities seeking education, healthcare, housing. But there are other perks. Teenage males, hormones surging, are taught to confuse their bodies with weapons, and relish it.

One training song (with lewd gestures) goes: "This is my rifle, this is my gun; one is for killing, one is for fun." The US air force admits showing films of violent pornography to pilots before they fly bombing raids. Feminist scholars have been exposing these phallocentric military connections for decades. When I wrote The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism, I presented evidence on how the terrorist mystique and the hero legend have the same root: the patriarchal pursuit of manhood. How can rape not be central to the propaganda that violence is erotic - a pervasive message affecting everything from US foreign policy to "camouflage chic" and glamorised gangsta styles?

The above, noted by Cindy, is from Robin Morgan's "Their Bodies as Weapons: Rapes in conflict zones result from the idea that violence is erotic, and it pervades the US military" (The Guardian of London via Common Dreams). Morgan's Fighting Words: A Toolkit for Combating the Religious Right (published by Nations Books). Abeer would have turned 15- years-old last Saturday. We'll again note Captain Alex Pickands summation in the military's Article 32 hearing on the allged actions of Paul Cortez, James Barker, Jesse Spielman and Bryan Howard: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."

Having noted Morgan's article, media using it's power, we'll now turn to the issue that has a number of members upset. Mother Jones has a blog post entitled "Who'd You Rather Read, Gary Webb or Judy Miller?" -- these are the choices? A dead man or Judith Miller?

No big surprise, because doing actual work is apparently too taxing, Monika Bauerlein has no real reason to headline "Judy Miller" for the post. Miller's mentioned once (in an op-ed quote) in the entire blog post.

Like those members e-mailing about this, I really am tired of people who can't do the work required -- tired of people who think that they're stand up comics who just need to toss out a name for that easy laugh and somehow they've provided a service. Though Miller's problematic (to put it mildly) writing hasn't appeard in the reporting of the New York Times for over a year, she's still Punching Judy for the lazy asses who seem to think that she led the war, that she led it from the Times, she led it from NPR, she led it from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and just about everything except the children's magazine Highlights.

Miller's problematic articles often included co-writers and maybe if journalists grasped that they were supposed to be journalists and not stand-up comics, they'd know the names Michael Gordon and Warren Hoge. But they give no indication that they know anything. As we've noted here many times before, Miller's outlet was the Times. Anyone that had her on as a guest or cited her reporting, did so on their own. She didn't hold a gun to their heads. Dick Cheney citing a Judith Miller story to Tim Russert didn't mean that Tim Russert had to throw in the towel. Judith Miller then (and certainly not now) was not the Holy Gospel.

People who treated her as such or advanced the story on their own need to be held accountable. Judith Miller "shorthand" may be good for comics but a supposed investigative bi-monthly has no excuse for not knowing that Michael Gordon's name ran on one of the few stories the Times' bothered to apologize for in their kinda-culpa. And since Miller wrote nothing for the Washington Post, their mea culpa (penned by Howard Kurtz) had nothing to do with her.

The reality is that a lot of people pulled a Dan Rather and decided to take their marching orders from the White House. Scapegoating Miller may be good for some cheap, easy laughs, but it doesn't change the fact that Gordon, like most of the 'reporters' pushing the war via false claims and sloppy reporting, still hold their jobs.

We're not a pro-Judith Miller site. Long before a few started to notice that her UN reporting was just as bad as her Iraq reporting had been, we'd already noted that fact in "Rudith Miller." (Long before others did. And we'll be kind and leave it at that.)

We even had new lyrics to Harold Adamson and Hoagy Carmichael song "When Loves Goes Wrong:"

It's like we said
You're better off dead
When Judy goes scoop
Nothing goes right.

The sun don't beam
The moon don't shine
The tide don't ebb and flow
A clock won't strike
A match won't light
When Judy goes scoop
Nothing goes right.

When Miller went to jail, we dropped the jokes because there was a larger issue at stake (freedom of the press -- one that some who wanted to split hairs re: Miller now seemed suddenly concerned over) but we never mistook her for a journalist worth praising nor did we mistake her for the only reporter (at the Times or outside of the newspaper) that helped lie us into war. In fact, our focus has been more on the likes of Dexter Filkins who, as we've often noted, had more to do with keeping the US in Iraq with his 'reporting.'

It's 2006, Miller's 'reporting' hasn't appeared in the paper of record for almost a year. Do all the ones tossing out her name kid themselves that they've accomplished anything that day? There's a blogger in jail right now (Josh Wolf) for refusing to reveal his sources. Miller actually attempted to visit him. What have all the ones using her for a quick joke done?

Miller authored (and co-authored) some really bad reporting. There's no question of that. But apparently she's the sacrificial goat for everyone because not only do none of the others pushing the war with lies (in print, on TV) get held accountable for their actions, but supposedly her departure from the Times is such a huge victory for journalism that we no longer need examine anyone's reporting.

Just as Mother Jones wants to use Miller as an easy punchline without doing any work, they also want to rush you over to an op-ed and, apparently not having done their work on this either, they're full of praise for the op-ed. Nick Schou's op-ed is on the same topic as his upcoming book and, unless he does a better job in his book, there's no point in anyone getting excited. Schou seems unaware, in the op-ed, of the work of Robert Parry (prior to Webb's expose and after). From Schou's op-ed:

Meanwhile, spurred on by Webb's story, the CIA conducted an internal investigation that acknowledged in March 1998 that the agency had covered up Contra drug trafficking for more than a decade. Although the Washington Post and New York Times covered the report -- which confirmed key chunks of Webb's allegations -- the L.A. Times ignored it for four months, and largely portrayed it as disproving the "Dark Alliance" series. "We dropped the ball on that story," said Doyle McManus, the paper's Washington bureau chief, who helped supervise its response to "Dark Alliance."

What is Schou writing about? The March 1998 investigation was not covered well by either the New York Times or the Washington Post. Nor did they, in fact, "cover the report", -- they hadn't read. They did provide readers with some form of a (watered-down) summary of the report as well as denials from the CIA.

The Times "coverage" of the report was laughable (New York Times). The March 1998 investigation was mentioned, as Parry notes in Lost History, on July 17th in the paper of record: "The one-column story was stuck in the lower-left hand corner of the front page -- the most obscure spot on the page." That's Parry, page 205. He goes on to write:

Though a reversal for the Times, the newspaper of record still let the CIA put its spin on the drug scandal. The Times quoted one U.S. intelligence official as saying, "the fundamental finding of the report is that there is no information that the CIA or CIA employees ever conspired with any contra ogranizations or individuals involved with the contras for the purposes of drug trafficking." The article also continued the attacks on Gary Webb.
According to what I was hearing from sources at the time, however, Volume Two was far more damning than presented in the Times story. Even the CIA's supposed innocence was very narrowly worded, I was told. The sources reported that Hintz's investigative document contained evidence that authorization for some cocaine tracked directly into President Reagan's National Security Council.
[. . .]
Viewed in that context, the Times story looked more like a P.R. inoculation -- an attempt by the CIA to get out in front of the disclosures and neutralize any explosive impact -- rather than a hard-hitting expose of a serious crime of state.
Given the seriousness of the crimes, the Times' editorial writers also might have been expected to clamor for follow-ups and full disclosure of the evidence in Volume Two. Instead, there were no editorials, no follow-ups. Not surprisingly, there was also no self-criticsm about how the Times had gotten the story so wrong for so long. The Times made no admission of journalistic errors.

How did the Washington Post (praised in the op-ed) actually respond? Parry (page 208) notes that following the CIA's "press release on July 23, 1998" this is how: The next day, The Washington Post trumpeted the findings with the headline, "Justice Dept. IG Rebuts CIA-Crack Allegations." That's covering the report?

Now this is in July of 1998 (apparently what the op-ed is focusing on). It bears noting that at the close of 1997, the New York Times ran Tim Weiner's December 19th "C.I.A. Says It Has Found No Link Between Itself and and Crack Trade." The upcoming book may provide more depth than the op-ed did but the op-ed offers back-pats that haven't been earned.

Why are we still in Iraq? Maybe because our media can be so damn stupid. Apparently the biggest issue to Mother Jones these days is how to get in a Judith Miller joke? (That would explain the perpetual in and out of one editor after another.) It's so important that they're not required to actually provide any reason for using Miller in the headline nor are they required to vet the op-ed that they're praising. It's really not a praise worthy op-ed. Hopefully, the book will be better but the op-ed makes leaps that the public record just does not support.

Mabye we're still in Iraq because the same mental midgets that want to use Miller as an easy punchline are praising (and linking to) Michael Gordon's latest war porn that ran in the Sunday Magazine of the New York Times? Maybe instead of doing that or instead of cracking wise, they could grasp that Michael R. Gordon helped lie the nation into war as well, the same Gordon that they're now urging you to read.

It's nonsense. And it's sad that we once again have to count on Robin Morgan while the so-called investigative journalism site of Mother Jones offers cheap jokes (with little reality basis) and tosses out hosannas to a poorly written op-ed that's contradicted by the work of Robert Parry as well as by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and The Press. While they make their Judith Miller jokes (all this time after), the illegal war still drags on, people still die, and Abeer and the press treatment of her during the Article 32 hearing still remain largely unexplored. But by all means, let's serve up another round of Judith Miller chuckles, right?

Bash the bitch is just too much fun, apparently, for so-called journalists to do anything other than engage in another round of it. Why is the Iraq war still raging? Look at your supposed brave media and you have the answer.

If Judith Miller did it all herself then there's no problems needing addressing today, right? If Miller's the only bad reporter, there's no need to know other names, right? Tim Golden, Todd S. Purdum, Iver Peterson and Keith Schneider. Four names the lauded op-ed can't mention but the names of four who engaged in the smearing of Gary Webb on the pages of the New York Times. (Maybe if they were women, they'd be known well enough to be used as jokes also?) Despite the fact that many of her worst pieces bore a co-author, Miller remains the 'name' everyone tosses around. It's easy, it's lazy and it helps establish the lie that, were it not for Judith Miller, many Americans would never have been lied into war.

Maybe reporters, or ones who consider themselves such, should stick to reporting? With the exception of Greg Palast, few posses the humor they believe they do.

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