Sunday, September 17, 2006

NYT: Oppel, Wong and von Zielbauer contribute strong reports

Dozens more bodies have been discovered in Baghdad in the past two days, bringing the four-day total to at least 165 and prompting some Sunni Arab leaders to raise new questions about the recent security operation intended take back Baghdad from the insurgents, deaths squads and militias who have been waging sectarian warfare.

The above is from Richard A. Oppel Jr.'s "As Deaths Rise, Sunnis Criticize Baghdad Plan" in this morning's New York Times and, no, the 'crackdown' has not worked. Something to remember as the latest juiced up, beefed up, jazzed up version includes the equivalent of a moat.

We'll note the US government's laughable claim of the 'crackdown' from Edward Wong and Paul von Zielbauer's "Iraq Stumbling in Bid to Purge Its Rogue Police:"

Some tentative progress has been made under the new government. Death squads in police uniforms no longer kidnap and kill with absolute impunity in parts of Sunni-dominated western Baghdad, many Iraqis say. The American military estimates there was a 52 percent drop in the daily rate of execution-style killings from July to August.

The military says it. They won't show it, meaning the figures that we're all supposed to scratch our heads and say, "Huh? Figures? Where did that come from? Was I sleeping?" No, you weren't. The media was. Nancy A. Youssef noted that a body count was being kept by the US military on dead Iraqi civilians and she noted that in June. Everyone, big and small, was far too busy to follow up on it. (Two others did and we noted it here -- the Times wasn't among them.)
So you weren't sleeping, your media was.

And continues to. Where is the freedom of information request for those figures? The government refuses to release them. A body count is not national security. The press should have lept on it the second Nancy A. Youssef's article went into print. They apparently didn't. But while they slept, big and small, the truth that a body count is being kept came out and I am tired of those who couldn't cover it in real time trying to sneak it now, big and small, with a reference to figures and never noting that this only recently emerged. It's not fair to the reader or the viewer or listener. A body count is being kept. If you're noting figures now, and especially if you didn't note the exposure of the body count before, then you need to take a second to inform your audience that a body count is being kept. That's not an attack on Zielbauer or Wong, that's true of anyone reporting on it now, big or small. And the reality is they are trying to sneak it in (as Rebecca's grandmother has noted). For the first three years (three years plus) of the illegal war, the American people were told no body count was being kept. In June, it was revealed that since at least July 2005, a body count had been kept.

When we noted here that a body count was kept (long before June) it was stated that the figures probably weren't accurate. They probably aren't. Most people are aware of the lies of the shaving and inflating during Vietnam. But, then, there was no attempt to lie about a body count or to hide it from the people. Again, it is not "national security." Those figures are compiled through government monies, the people pay those monies and they have a right to those figures. Along with the tax issue, it's very true that in a democracy, people have a right to know period. It's past time that the big press (which can afford the expense) demanded that the figures be released. (Has the Times editorialized about that? Probably not because they're probably not aware that a body count is being kept.)

Wong and von Zielbauer offer the best look the Times has provided on the issue of the actual make up of the police force in Iraq. There are many things that could be put. And those who've heard Aaron Glantz's reporting on the issue will be familiar with a great deal of it. Aaron Glantz also covered the body count. Here are the only three articles we're aware of who noted it in real time: Nancy A. Youssef's"U.S.: Civilian deaths feeding insurgency" or Aaron Glantz' "Pentagon: Tell Us How Many Civilians You've Killed" or Juliana Lara Resende's "50,000 Dead, But Who's Counting?" -- if you didn't make the list, we'll assume you were sleeping.

While we're on late to the party, big and small also ignored Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing despite the fact that there was plenty of opportunites to note it. A member fowarded an item from a website. While it's good that Watada is getting attention now, it's probably a good idea to know what you're talking about as well. The thing states that Bob Watada is on a speaking tour of, wait, let's quote directly:

Watada's father, Bob Watada has started a speaking tour to drum up support for his son, speaking at 26 locations in the Pacific Northwest.

That's a piece online with a dateline of September 16th (yesterday). The member, Melanie, wondered when Bob Watada announced he was going on another speaking tour? He hasn't. The link in the excerpt above takes you to a San Francisco Chronicle article from August. That's an August 26th article by Charles Burress (we noted it in the August 28th snapshot) Bob Watada concluded his speaking tour. He is not on a speaking tour currently. (He is speaking to the press. He's not currently traveling great distances from his own home.) Carolyn Ho, Ehren Watada's mother, has been doing some public speaking in the past week and we noted that in the snapshot on the 11th. While it's good that Ehren Watada is getting more attention this month, it is wrong to say Bob Watada has started a speaking tour. He hasn't started one. He's completed one. Some time ago. (While he was on it, Philip Maldari interviewed him for KPFA's The Morning Show -- see the August 23rd snapshot.)

I'm not trying to jump down anyone's throat. I'm glad that someone online is noting Watada. I'm glad that Edward Wong and Paul von Zielbauer noted the body count in some form (and did a strong job, for the paper, of covering the Iraqi police). But while everything else has gotten the attention for weeks and weeks now, events have continued in Iraq and related to Iraq.

It didn't help when a program tried to sneak in coverage of Watada's Article 23 hearing five days after the testimony finished with a "and now on a story we've been following." No, you weren't following it. What you did was ignore it and then confuse a lot of people with your headline report. A journalist for indymedia ended up writing a story about a verdict being reached later that week because, in your attempt to sneak past the reality that you hadn't covered it and, in sneaking, you left the impression that there was a new development and a finding had been decided. Members of this community e-mailed asking if it were true and would it be noted later that evening (when the sneak-job occurred)? No, it wouldn't be noted because nothing had happened then.

So someone at indymedia proper ended up writing about something that hadn't happened. Now someone online writes about a speaking tour that's over. It's because media, big and small, failed on Iraq with very few exceptions. (We've noted them here.)

The online piece goes up and Melanie, who knows the speaking tour is over and attended one event of it, starts to doubt what she knows because someone's saying a speaking tour is starting. Bob Watada may very well start on another but the one they're referring to at that website concluded some time ago.

Wong and von Zeilbaur? They do a better job than the Times has done thus far but it's past time to inform readers, clearly, that a body count is being kept and has been kept for over a year, that the military will not release the figures.

I have no problem believing that the writer at a website thought Bob Watada was on a speaking tour. I have a real problem believing that Wong and von Zielbauer hearing someone referring to figures, someone in the US military, and don't stop to think, "Wait? The military's keeping figures?"

With the online writer, the reality is that Watada hasn't been covered by media, big and small (the Times did do an article on him and it was pretty solid article) and that's how people get embarrassed. The writer is obviously trying to raise attention to Watada (applause for that) but media has failed, big and small, and that's why a writer who probably cares about this story is unaware that the speaking tour concluded some time ago.

[Note: Originally the website with the Watada report was named. We never named the indymedia site that had their mistake. I've attempted to pull the name of the site from this entry. If you see the site mentioned in this entry please e-mail one of the two private e-mails -- I'll be checking them throughout the morning -- and I'll delete anything I've missed. Mistakes can be made and I'm not attempting to embarrass a site or a writer at that site. The mistake happened because media, big and small, failed. The writer cared enough to to write about Watada and for that reason alone, I'm not naming the writer or the site. Due to the fact that another website, the one Mike calls "Lotta Links" directed Melanie to that report with a headline that Watada's father was starting a speaking tour, this may be grabbed at The Third Estate Sunday Review in terms of "Lotta Links." I have no control over that. But even if that happens, the writer who cared enough to write about Watada and the site that posted the writer's article won't be mentioned. For information on Watada, visit Courage to Resist and]

Switching topics for a moment, Susan highlights Molly Ivins' "Remembering Ann Richards" (Truth Dig):

She was so generous with her responses to other people. If you told Ann Richards something really funny, she wouldn't just smile or laugh, she would stop and break up completely. She taught us all so much--she was a great campfire cook. Her wit was a constant delight. One night on the river on a canoe trip, while we all listened to the next rapid, which sounded like certain death, Ann drawled, "It sounds like every whore in El Paso just flushed her john."
She knew how to deal with teenage egos: Instead of pointing out to a kid who was pouring charcoal lighter on a live fire that he was idiot, Ann said, "Honey, if you keep doing that, the fire is going to climb right back up to that can in your hand and explode and give you horrible injuries, and it will just ruin my entire weekend."
She knew what it was like to have four young children and to be so tired you cried while folding the laundry. She knew and valued Wise Women like Virginia Whitten and Helen Hadley.
At a long-ago political do at Scholz Garten in Austin, everybody who was anybody was there meetin’ and greetin’ at a furious pace. A group of us got the tired feet and went to lean our butts against a table at the back wall of the bar. Perched like birds in a row were Bob Bullock, then state comptroller; moi; Charles Miles, the head of Bullock’s personnel department; and Ms. Ann Richards. Bullock, 20 years in Texas politics, knew every sorry, no good sumbitch in the entire state. Some old racist judge from East Texas came up to him: "Bob, my boy, how are you?"
Bullock said, "Judge, I’d like you to meet my friends: This is Molly Ivins with the Texas Observer."
The judge peered up at me and said, “How yew, little lady?”
Bullock, "And this is Charles Miles, the head of my personnel department." Miles, who is black, stuck out his hand, and the judge got an expression on his face as though he had just stepped into a fresh cowpie. He reached out and touched Charlie's palm with one finger, while turning eagerly to the pretty, blond, blue-eyed Ann Richards. "And who is this lovely lady?"
Ann beamed and replied, "I am Mrs. Miles."
One of the most moving memories I have of Ann is her sitting in a circle with a group of prisoners. Ann and Bullock had started a rehab program in prisons, the single most effective thing that can be done to cut recidivism (George W. Bush later destroyed the program). The governor of Texas looked at the cons and said, "My name is Ann, and I am an alcoholic."
She devoted untold hours to helping other alcoholics, and anyone who ever heard her speak at an AA convention knows how close laughter and tears can be.
I have known two politicians who completely reformed the bureaucracies they were elected to head. Bob Bullock did it by kicking ass at the comptroller's until hell wouldn't have it. Fear was his MO. Ann Richards did it by working hard to gain the trust of the employees and then listening to what they told her. No one knows what’s wrong with a bureaucracy better than the bureaucrats who work in it.

Cindy notes Tom Hayden's "Withdraw from Iraq Or Carve It Up?" (Huffington Post via Common Dreams):

Let me be clear. The time may come when the Sunnis agree to a hypothetical US offer for a cease-fire in exchange for an autonomous ethnic enclave represented by nationalists including Baathists and secured by its own armed forces. But now without a longer war on two levels, against the US occupiers and their Shiite and Kurdish allies. There is no light at the end of this tunnel so far. This means American troops will be killed and wounded for purposes that are less and less understood by their families, friends and the American people.
If the withdrawal of American troops is contingent on Iraqis accepting partition, this would give new oxygen to the dying Ameican presence. The current Congressional debate would shift away from bringing the troops home and turn toward the imperial game of how to arrange the ethnic chess board. No one has proposed combining a deadline for US troop withdrawals/redeployment with a plan for achieving partition.
What is the alternative? The best strategy is for the US to declare a plan to withdraw and simultaneously transfer authorization for security and economic reconstruction to the United Nations.

I have some thoughts on the above but that's on the list for things at The Third Estate Sunday Review and we've not gotten to it yet. So I'll wait and if we don't get to it, I'll note my thoughts this evening in "And the war drags on . . ." (I'm not in disagreement and suggest everyone read the column.) The plan for this morning? Post this, post Isaiah. Ruth will go up before "And the war drags on . . ." (I'll post it when I start working on the "And the war drags on . . ." entry.) We're not done at The Third Estate Sunday Review. (Ava and I haven't even written a word of our TV review.) A number of pieces are finished but there are three group things and also the TV thing to go. There won't be highlights, per Jim. We're too far behind. We're hoping for some new visuals this week. Whether that happens or not, we'll know in a bit. I think that covers everything in terms of FYI.

The e-mail address for this site is (There's no unifying theme this week, if people are wondering -- there's a roundtable, press commentary and I forget what else.)