Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Times disgrace themselves -- New York and LA

How high is your disgust level this morning? I think the Los Angeles Times has topped the New York Times this morning in a how-low-can-you-go instance. Writing of the slaughter on Haifa Street, Alexandra Zavis finds 'local color.' Well color Zavis some new sort of Flannery O'Connor. Now for most reporters yesterday, 'local color' meant talking about the statue and how Saddam Hussein was rumored to have killed his cousin and brother-in-law, Adnan Khairallah (whom the statue was of), because he threatened to become more popular than Saddam. (I didn't realize it was that hard to do. But it certainly casts Hussein as the evil queen in a Snow White like narrative.) Not everyone needed local color and, let's be honest, most just look the other way. Or they act as though the slaughter was over when the US military said it was (it wasn't, we've noted that in snapshots) and only sprung up again yesterday.

Only one reporter that I'm aware of wants to adress the continued slaughter today, Richard Mauer with "U.S. and Iraqi troops storm Baghdad neighborhood again" (McClatchy Newspapers):

A Sunni organization called the Haifa Street operation "genocide", and Sunni residents of the neighborhood said the attack capped a terrifying two-week siege by mostly Shiite Iraqi government forces that stayed behind when American troops withdrew after the first offensive.
A man who gave his name as Omar Abu Khatab, a 24-year-old day laborer, pleaded for help when a reporter reached him by phone.
"We have many people wounded and badly injured and we have also people killed. We want someone to help us bury them, but we cannot get any help," he said. "We don't have any food or water. Until now, 16 days under this curfew and we cannot go out."
[. . .]
Residents of the Sunni neighborhood and Sunni leaders said that with the Iraqi government largely controlled by the majority Shiites and security forces infiltrated by Shiite militia members, Iraqi Army snipers had kept them pinned down from rooftop positions for two weeks.
A man who called himself Abu Ali but declined to give his full name said the trouble began shortly after the Jan. 9 assault.
"The Americans left; only the Iraqi forces stayed in Haifa," he said. "There were snipers on the buildings, Iraqi Army snipers. It kept people home because they shot two people that tried to go out to the street. They burned four buildings. They closed the area, which left the families with no food - we had to share with others what we had."

So what happens in the LA Times? "Local color" translates as "sniper alley" in Zavis' inexpert hands -- or expert hands if the goal was to cover up reality. "Sniper alley"? Who named it that because it wasn't the residents, it wasn't the people living there. I doubt seriously it was even Iraqi forces. It was an American, it was military and Zavis was pressed into service.

For those who missed it in the snapshot, there were 37 reported wounded, including children and women, who required three ambulances to transport them to a hospital. Zavis can't talk about that. Zavis can't offer anything but what the US military says and then can't even credit where it's coming from.

Haifa Street residential. In the US, it would be classified as a "mixed neighborhood" -- meaning commercial areas in with the residential. No one's really doing business there, not since the slaughter first started. It's a residential area. A residential street has been targeted and attacked nonstop. But it's so much easier to trot out new nicknames, newly minted by the US military.

That's really shameful and shouldn't be called journalism.

In the Times of New York, Damien Cave and James Glanz embarrass themselves with "In a New Joint U.S.-Iraqi Patrol, the Americans Go First." No journalists were present . . . unless they were embedded with the military. If Glanz and Cave were embedded, that needs to be noted within the article, in fact, noted early on. If they're reconstructing, that needs to be noted. They don't embarrass themselves with 'local color' like "sniper alley." But they need to note whether they were embedded or relying on the reports of others.

When you consider what's been done to journalists in Iraq, how many journalists have died in Iraq, the last paragraph of Cave and Glanz' report begs its own damn story:

One Iraqi soldier in the alley pointed his rifle at an American reporter and pulled the trigger. There was only a click, the weapon had no ammunition. The soldier laughed at his joke.

"The solider" needs to be tossed into jail. That's not cute, it's not funny. It is in keeping with Nouri al-Maliki's hostility towards the press. But if the US thinks they've done anything amazing training wise, they haven't done ONE DAMN THING. The incident demonstrates it. And it's not funny, and it's not cute. It's disgusting. If US 'traines' couldn't even get across that you don't play with weapons by aiming them at innocents then this illegal war has produced even worse than most give it credit for.

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james glanz