Monday, September 10, 2007

Official talk drowns out CNN news that White House figures on violence are wrong

On the eve of crucial testimony on Capitol Hill about the war in Iraq, the White House and its allies are feuding with congressional Democrats over the credibility and independence of one of today's star witnesses, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces there.
Over the past several days, key Democrats have sought to blunt the impact of Petraeus's testimony, which will likely cite military progress in Iraq, by raising doubts that the Petraeus assessment would truly be independent of the White House. While praising the general personally as an honorable soldier, Democrats suggested that his testimony ought to be discounted.

The above, noted by Martha, is from Michael Abromowitz' "Congress, White House Battle Over Iraq Assessment" (Washington Post). It's all the press can talk about, Steven Lee Myers and Megan Thee offer "Military Seen as Best Able to Guide War" in the New York Times. CNN thinks it's stumbled onto some real news with "Congress expected to grill general on violence data:"

Congress is expected this week to pick apart U.S. military data suggesting attacks and civilian casualties in Baghdad have sharply decreased in recent months.

And they are off to the gas baggery -- bearing the only actual news they had. We'll get back to it.

So this is news that Congress (translates as "Democrats") may have some very difficult questions for Petraeus? This is a new development and not just the gossip sheet for officials?
Let's drop back to the August 10th snapshot about a Joe Biden appearance:

Appearing yesterday on PBS' The Charlie Rose Show, Biden discussed the upcoming September 'progress' reports to Congress and noted that there has been no military progress in Iraq though he understood why Gen. David Petraeus would attempt to finesse that bit of reality. Biden then went on to offer his take on the administration's political attempts (which have failed, as Biden noted) in Iraq and identified Dick Cheney as the one blocking progress.

If you caught the show, you know where I'm headed. If you didn't, it is available online. (Video format.) Biden noted that he would have very difficult questions for Petraeus. Now Dick Dubin maks some pleasing statements but is also prone to caving. Biden has problems (the inability to stop talking when he's made his point or asked his questions) but, for the most part, if he says he's going to do something he generally follows through better than many serving with him. So if Biden declares publicly in early August that Petraeus will face difficult questions, Petraeus will most likely face difficult questions in September.

Because some visitor will arrive late to the party and freak out, I need to note that's not an endorsement of Biden for president.

Now let's to get to the actual news CNN had but buried (one of the many reasons those who came up through TV journalism now struggle to meet CNN's mandate of "content" online):

The U.S. military data obtained by CNN indicates that 165 Iraqis were murdered in Baghdad last month, a slight increase from the previous two months. However, the number represents a significant decrease since the Baghdad security plan began earlier this year.
It is not clear how the U.S. military obtained the number, but CNN statistics -- compiled from numbers released by the Iraqi Interior Ministry -- suggest 428 Iraqis were murdered in Baghdad in August, their bodies dumped in the streets. In July, 612 Iraqis were murdered, according to the Interior Ministry.

That's a key bit of information. It also echoes McClatchy Newspapers' own findings. It also rejects the spin we'll be hearing today. CNN probably should have led with it or made it "web content" all by itself.

Today, Amy Goodman interviews Jimmy Carter on Democracy Now!, don't forget.

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