The Times are pretty much embarrasing on both coasts this morning and it's difficult to tell which should be blushing more?
Tina Susman for the Los Angeles Times and Paul von Zielbauer for the New York Times might havve almost had one solid report between them. As it is? PvZ probably has the better of the two.
John Negroponte (former killer for the United States in Latin America and currently the Deputy Secretary of State) is in the Green Zone and holding press conferences. PvZ appears to swallow whole everything served up to him. Which is how he jots down that Negroponte thinks the "oil sharing" bill should be passed (the bill that would allow Iraqis the 'right' to share over 70% of their oil profits with foreign companies -- aka the theft of Iraqi oil). That's something, PvZ reports, that Negroponte thinks can and should be done. That would be a national law. But on the issue of Kirkuk, pay attention because PvZ appears asleep, becoming part of the Kurdish region or not (Kirkuk is oil rich), Negroponte says, "Clearly it's not going to be possible between now and the end of this year to mount a referendum." The theft of Iraqi oil has huge opposition in Iraq from the Iraqi people, it is opposed by the unions and it is opposed by a healthy chunk of Iraqi parliamentarians. By contrast, with Kirkuk, you're speaking of a regional issue. One's do-able accoring to Negroponte, and another isn't. And no eye brows raise over that statement.
So Tina Susman would seem to come out ahead. Unlike PvZ, she does note we've all heard this song before ("The comments were reminiscent of those heard repeatedly in the spring and summer as pressure mounted on Iraq's parliament to pass legislation considered crucial to national reconciliation. Also familiar was the political discord in parliament."). Bringing in professional spinner Lt. Gen Raymond T. Odierno's appearence on CNN doesn't destroy Susman's article but it is there where she starts to falter:
Odierno also said the U.S. military had made headway Sunday on one major issue: persuading Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government to move more quickly to bring volunteer security workers onto Iraqi government payrolls. The volunteers are known as "concerned local citizens" and are a result of U.S. military efforts to recruit civilians, many of them former insurgents, to work alongside American and Iraqi troops.
Odierno grabs credit for anything (deserved or not) and spins with no evidence or facts, that's a given of his public history (most infamously over the summer). But is Susman, who can note perspective in other passages, unaware that the US military is really not supposed to be "persuading" any leader -- puppet or not -- of a country? There are many reasons Ryan Crocker is in Baghdad, for instance. But that and all the repeated points in the last weeks that the US military cannot do diplomatic duties and the State Department needs to make a "diplomatic surge" appear to have sailed past not only Odierno but Susman as well.
Then there's the issue of the violence. PvZ does a better job of it in less space. And he doesn't use the false term so popular on PBS' Washington Week but so far from reality. Neither conveys that at least 78 deaths were reported over the weekend.
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