Monday, April 09, 2007

NYT: 'Nothing to worry about, think of something else!'

So let's talk Paul von Zielbauer's free floating article (no dateline for one thing, exists in an unnamed land found far, far from the real world) entitled "Army Is Cracking Down on Deserters." Further down the first column, von Zeilbauer gives a definition of "deserter" and though it's little help to anyone in this community, it should be shared with little Tommy Zeller Junior who wrongly and falsely called Ehren Watada a "deserter" in an online piece that the paper refused to correct despite numerous complaints. Little Junior was writing at the Times blog and, if nothing else, his crappy little piece exposed the fact that the Times' blog may claim to include comments; however, it really doesn't. Those trying to leave a comment found out only some type of comments were allowed. You could trash Watada, you could certainly praise Little Junior (something that real life offers little chances of) but you could not point out that Little Junior was wrong -- even something as simple as: "Ehren Watada does not meet the legal definition of a deserter" (Portland) would wait in vain for the comment to ever appear. Now the paper could have excused the lack of correction with "We allow comments!" But, of course, they didn't. A factual inaccuracy in an article could not be pointed out.

So possibly the definition would help Little Junior. von Zeilbauer may not grasp it but the definition really doesn't matter. Here it is:

Soldiers considered absent without leave, or AWOL, which presumes they plan to return, are classified as deserters and dropped from a unit's roll after 30 days.

Though Watada wasn't (and couldn't be) charged with desertion (he reported to his assigned task every day at Fort Lewis and still does), Agustin Aguayo was charged with desertion. Aguayo turned himself and turned himself in less than 30 days after he self-checked out. It's a rule of thumb, it's not binding (the definition).

Who else is helped with the crap?

Ignorance is helped and if the paper couldn't do their part to disinform and misinform readers they never would have gotten the bail out that saved them all those years ago.

This article is the perfect example of why they were saved (imagine what kind of a world it would have been -- it certainly would have prevented the official record including the lies that Hiroshima was anything to be proud of). What's happened is that the US military has been forced to admit that there numbers of desertions were wrong. NPR caught them out, von Zeilbaur wrote the story for the Times. (We noted von Zeilbauer's story here). The US military was undercounting.

While the big story was the number of self-check outs, the US military clamped down on reality by 'miscounting' (undercounting) and would have continued to use that official (mis)figure to silence the discussion. (With the Times, you don't need a figure to silence discussion, you just need to yell "BOO!" or threaten litigation.) So while Ann Wright, Jeffry House, Kyle Snyder or anyone paying even the least bit of attention could have told you the official numbers were wrong and that the number of self-checks outs was immense and climbing, the US military kept trotting out the same (mis)figure and everyone fell into line accepting their marching orders (this includes many in little media as well). It was like the split yesterday in Edward Wong's two articles -- in the hard news he had to rely on what the US military officially said, in the lighter section he could discuss what he had seen with his own eyes and, for those who have forgotten, the latter fits the definition of real reporting.

So the military got caught out and had to issue the correction. That means that, as von Zielbauer writes, explaining that desertions are at "more than 1 percent of the active-duty force," that they are "in a sustained upswing again after ebbing in 2003, the first year of the Iraq war."

Little bits of reality make into the sham of reporting. Tiny, little morsels. Some careful readers may even question von Zielbauer's reporting that prosecution of deserters has been on the rise due to the fact that desertion was higher. That might read about that and wonder, "Well if the US military only discovered, after NPR pointed it out, that their rates were wrong and if they had repeatedly down played the number with one flack even calling them 'insignificant,' how would the US military have known the numbers had risen?" Shhh, you're not supposed to notice that, von Zielbauer certainly doesn't.

The US military issued false data and reality is that those involved in compiling the data knew it was false (as did many issuing public statements).

So now the truth is out and the reality that the long ignored story of self-check outs has been one of the biggest stories (largely unreported) of last year, the year before . . . What's the Times to do? What they were saved to do: manage the public opinion.

Yes, self-check outs are happening in a significant number but, von Zielbauer rushes to reassure, this is not about any opposition to the war. Why, he offers an example of a doctor explaining that a soldier in Alaska chopped off his own thumb to avoid deploying. For the record, maiming yourself does allow you to avoid service, but it's not classified as desertion. It wasn't in Vietnam when you could shoot yourself in order to return to the US.

So why include that idiotic example in the story? To sell the LIE that they want to serve in Iraq, they really, really want to serve in Iraq but they've got mental problems. The ax chopped thumb appears in paragraph four, early enough to set the impression that, were it not for mental issues, they would be hopping on carriers and deploying like crazy!


Now von Zielbauer does his own Little Judy Magic, noting that "there are no current studies to show how combat stress affects desertion rates" but that doesn't prevent him from writing an article that repeatedly presenting that as the case for a 30 plus paragraph article (I believe it's 36 paragraphs, check my math).

Imagine if the truth were told, imagine if Times readers woke up to read that the US military's problem was service members refusing to serve? It's much easier to portray it as a mental problem. Probably the hope was they could even scare off a few from self-checking out because they didn't want to be seen as having mental problems? (It certainly works when the US military offers "help" to returning service members, gathering them all together and announcing that for any of the wackos, psych help is available, "Show of hands for the crazies that need it?")

Desertions are on the rise and prosecutions of them are on the rise. Since the article notes that, you might assume that publicly known people would be given a chance to explain why they checked out? Ha ha ha ha. You really don't know how the Timid works. Look in vain for Ryan Johnson, Brandon Hughey, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson (whom Cox News Service managed to speak with last night but that's the difference between reporting and managing opinion) . . .

Can't scare them off self-checking out by arguing they must have mental problems? von Zielbauer has a back up:

. . . desertions rise and the Army tends to lower enlistment standards, recruiting more people with questionable backgrounds who are far more likely to desert.

You mean like Stephen D. Green? The one who is said to be the ringleader of the gang rape and murder of fourteen-year-old Abeer, the murder of her five-year-old sister and the murder of both parents? He was recruited out of jail. That didn't happen last year, of course. And he didn't desert. He was drummed out. (Paul Cortez and James Barker have both confessed to their role in the War Crimes. They both fingered Green as the ringleader. Green maintains his innocence.)

Then there's Darrell Anderson who did self-check out. He was awarded a Purple Heart. Does he fit the myth von Zielbauer's attempting to pass off? Does Ricky Clousing? Does Joshua Key? No.

There's no question that the military lowered their standards and did so some time ago. (In the face of pressure, John Kerry caved on this in October of last year.) This has been reported since 2003 (USA Today, Washington Post, . . .)

Never having made a solid attempt to profile war resisters, the Times doesn't understand what's going on (and doesn't want to, the Dancing Monkey dances when and where it's told). Ehren Watada got one article (a real one, not Little Junior's attempt to stroke his own manhood -- keeping looking for it, Little Junior, it's bound to be there somewhere) and Ricky Clousing got one article. Darrell Anderson was a "news brief" (written by AP) which puts him far ahead of Kyle Snyder or anyone else.

So having ingored the story really isn't a liability, it's a bonus when you now want to cover it up with lies.

We'll note this for the shocked who don't know that the standards have been lowered, over and over, throughout the illegal war. From von Zielbauer:

. . . the Army National Guard last week authorized 34 states and Guam to enlist the lowest-ranking group of eligible recruits, those who scored between 16 and 30 on the armed services aptitude test. Federal law bars recruits who scored lower than 16 from enlisting.

von Zielbauer finds "James" and "Ronnie" and the question should be asked how? Like the idiot doctor (who is with the Navy -- heaven forbid a disinterested party get quoted or interviewed) spouting nonsense, James and Ronnie were farmed out to the paper. They self-checked out and they've turned themselves in and await court-martialing. As Suzanne Swift can tell you, excuse me, as Sara Rich (Swift's mother) can tell you, because Swift is forbidden to speak to the press -- forbidden by the US military, the military only lets out what it wants to. James and Ronnie, two unknown until now, tell the pleasing tale of "I want to serve, I'm just mentally f**ked up."
Whether they tell that tale out of fear, due to being instructed to do so (they do face a court-martial) or because it's genuine, many more have told and are telling a different story.

PTSD is a very serious problem that many vets are facing and will face. There's no concern for that by the US military or the White House (note whom the Bully Boy visited for his Walter Reed photo op). It's generally considered that those exposed to explosions later suffer from PTSD in larger numbers than others who serve.

It is not generally considered that PTSD drives people out who really, really want to fight the illegal war. But von Zielbauer presents it as such. And since so few outlets (example: print version of The Nation) have bothered to explore the increase in self-check outs (petitions, they can cover) the Times can offer the pretty, little fairy tale that self-check outs are due to PTSD and have nothing to do with feelings about the illegal war.

Once upon a time, von Zielbauer tells readers, and they all smile and doze off to happy thoughts that the military is not in rebellion against Bully Boy's illegal war. And no one lives happily ever after off that lie.

Prosecutions of desertions are on the rise, news only to those who count on the Times (or The Nation) to keep them informed. While speaking out in the US last winter, Kyle Snyder discovered first hand the realities. The military is not waiting for someone to be nabbed in a traffic stop. They are actively pursuing those who self-check out. They launched their manhunt of Snyder while he was speaking out in California. They've got a real desire to screw with him which is why, and neither the Times nor The Nation told you about this, the US military gave gave orders (maybe they tossed in a please?) in February, the day before Snyder's wedding, to Canadian police to pick Snyder up and arrest him. They did, handcuffed in his boxers and hauled him off to jail. Now it ended there only because US war resister Ryan Johnson (he and his wife Jen share a place with Snyder and Maleah Friesen -- Snyder's wife) went into action alerting what had just happened. Calls from MPs and others resulted in Snyder being released.

That wasn't a single incident (and those trying to "help" need to know their facts and stop underplaying it). There's Joshua Key. Winnie Ng, who provided housing to Joshua, Brandi and their children early on when they moved to Canada, was visited by three men last month looking for Joshua Key. The men stated they were Canadian police. The police denied that any of their officers had visited Ng. Ng offered that she thought they were US military. Ng's reward for sharing? Some wanted to question her accuracy or even character. At the end of last week, in a WOOPSIE!, the Canadian police confirmed that one of their officers had visited Ng with two members of the US military. (Read The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Editorial: Shameful.")
Ng told the truth. (No surprise.) The ever shifting story of the Canadian police (which journalists usually use to determine reliability of a source) is now that only the officer identified himself as such and that the two US military officers were not presented as Canadian police. Of course that's how it happened.

Of course. Ng has one police officer at her door and he says "I am with . . ." and she's not going to ask who the other two men are? Of course she would. She didn't and only because she was told they were all Canadian police.

You cannot be deported from Canada because you've checked out of the US military. But what would have happened to Snyder if he hadn't been freed after a few hours (due to pressure from the MPs)? Would he have been escorted across the border? What's the real deal with the pursuit of Key?

The claim is that the US military wants to discuss his book The Deserter's Tale (worth reading) with him. That's a funny little claim (see The Third Estate Sunday Review's "The Stateside Army Book Club"). Forget that Jeffry House, Key's attorney, contacted the US military after the visit to Ng and the US military has not bothered to return his calls. The fact of the matter is Key is attempting to be granted asylum in Canada. His lawyer is public record. If they needed to speak to him, they didn't need to go house to house, they didn't need to come to Canada. All they needed to do was pick up the phone and call his attorney of public record. Instead, they showed up at the last known address (to them) looking for Key.

Snyder is and Key may very well be part of the crackdown that von Zeilbauer mentions but doesn't explore.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Dahr Jamail participated in the recent conference media conference in Doha. (Danny Schechter did as well and has written about it at his News Dissector.) Nora Barrows-Friedman was also at the conference and reports were filed on that last week on Flashpoints (Barrows-Friedman co-hosts Flashpoints). I was on the road last week and only listened to Wednesday's program today (I'm told Thursday's also features Dahr). Dahr spoke of his start in Iraq, how he would find stories of abuse (and how Abu Ghraib was well known in 2003 for anyone speaking to Iraqis) and try to interest big media into reporting them. They all passed. (And are we surprised.) On the Wednesday show, you'll also hear Danny and Seymour Hersh (among others). I'm told Dahr's on Thursdays as well but I haven't had time to listen yet. Kate also noted Dahr Jamail's "Freedom Fight Against 'Freedom Champions'" (IPS) (as did Lynda) on the conference:

The al-Jazeera television network could be emerging as a freedom champion against U.S. pressures on the channel, leading media figures say.
"I support al-Jazeera because al-Jazeera has done more to propagate democracy in the Middle East region than anybody else, certainly more than the American government has done," media specialist Hugh Miles told IPS. "It's strange to me that people refer to al- Jazeera as a 'terrorist network' because that couldn't be further from the truth."
Miles spoke to IPS at the third annual al-Jazeera forum at Doha in Qatar Mar. 31 to Apr. 2. The forum highlighted the successful recent expansion of the network while also addressing difficulties that reporters face in the Middle East hot spots.
Miles, author of 'Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World' and an award- winning freelance journalist said former U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld had got it wrong on al-Jazeera.
"Al-Jazeera has been called a 'terrorist network' or 'the voice of (Osama) bin Laden', but this just demonstrates deep ignorance of its history and the channel," Miles said.
The 10-year-old al-Jazeera network weathered a U.S. military attack on its Baghdad office during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in April 2003. It faced accusations from Rumsfeld that it promoted terrorism by airing beheadings and other attacks.
Al-Jazeera editors say that the channel has never aired a beheading, nor does it support terrorism.
Other leading voices at the forum spoke in support of the channel, that has been under frequent attack of all kinds. The forum, titled 'Media and the Middle East: Going Beyond the Headlines' brought journalists, international media leaders and scholars from around the world to discuss critical issues facing the media, with a focus on in-depth journalism.

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