Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reporting official whispers

Southwest Nebraska: Whose decision was it to go into Syria? Does the commander on the ground have that kind of leeway?

Michael Abramowitz: Reporters are still gathering information about this, but this kind of thing has happened before, and the commanders on the ground have leeway to do this. We have no reason to think, as another reader asked, that President Bush ordered this.

That's from yesterday's Washington Post's Post Political Hour, a daily feature (Monday through Friday) which is a one-hour web chat with the paper's DC reporters (White House and Congressional)(11:00 a.m. EST). It's a good place to begin for this entry due to the fact that some think they have now gathered information. For example Jonathan S. Landay and Nancy A. Youssef who offer "CIA led mystery Syria raid that killed terrorist leader" (McClatchy Newspapers):

A CIA-led raid on a compound in eastern Syria killed an al Qaida in Iraq commander who oversaw the smuggling into Iraq of foreign fighters whose attacks claimed thousands of Iraqi and American lives, three U.S. officials said Monday.
The body of Badran Turki Hishan al Mazidih, an Iraqi national who used the nom de guerre Abu Ghadiya, was flown out of Syria on a U.S. helicopter at the end of the operation Sunday by CIA paramilitary officers and special forces, one U.S. official said.
"It was a successful operation," a second U.S. official told McClatchy. "The bottom line: This was a significant blow to the foreign fighter pipeline between Syria and Iraq."
A senior U.S. military officer said the raid was launched after human and technical intelligence confirmed that al Mazidih was present at the compound close to Syria's border with Iraq. "The situation finally presented itself," he said.

Is there a name in there? Is this McClatchy which prides itself on sourced reporting? McClatchy that points to its work as Knight-Ridder? It's really hard to tell as they run with whatever anyone will whisper and avoid anything that allows the reader the ability to evaluate the people making the claims.

Greg Miller and Josh Meyer's "Senior Al Qaeda member killed in U.S. raid in Syria, officials say" (Los Angeles Times) run with the whispers as well but LAT's domestic reporters don't have a reputation of having been right re: Iraq and, more importantly, note paragraphs four and five:

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the U.S. committed "criminal and terrorist aggression" by conducting a raid in which seven civilians died, including three children, a woman and a fisherman.
Two U.S. helicopters flew about five miles into Syria, he said, with one landing at a farm while the second provided cover. A villager told the Associated Press he saw at least two men taken into custody by U.S. forces and whisked away by helicopter. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he feared for his life.

Paragraphs fifteen through eighteen in McClatchy's article will note similar points. Apparently McClatchy's been studying the Judith Miller Reporting Style Book? Or was an agreement made to bury Syria's outrage in the article in exchange for being supplied with unnamed officials' whispers?

Yesterday's snapshot noted White House spokesperson Dana Perino doing yesterday's press briefing. The transcript's posted and let's note the start of it through Perino's last response on Syria:

MS. PERINO: Hi, everybody. The President is meeting with the President of Paraguay right now and they'll have pool at the bottom. And then the President will make remarks tonight in honor of Theodore Roosevelt's 150th birthday. That celebration will be in the East Room tonight. And other than that, I don't have anything to start with.

Q What is the likelihood of more raids into Syria like the one we saw this weekend?

MS. PERINO: The United States government has not commented on reports about that and I'm not able to here, either.

Q So we've talked about Pakistan, the raids into Pakistan, whether by ground or by air. And there's been some acknowledgment by U.S. officials that those are happening. We're now seeing this sort of thing spread to other countries. Can you not -- you can't shed any light on why, when, where, how, whether we're going to --

MS. PERINO: I can't comment on it at all, no.

Q Have you heard anything about whether the target was successful, that it hit the target?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment in any way on this; I'm not able to comment on that.

Q You're not even able to say that there has been some decision taken by the administration that "if you guys can't clean up your act we will clean it up for you"?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on the reports about this, no, I'm not. Anybody else?

Q Can you comment on Syria's protest?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on it at all. This could be a really short briefing. (Laughter.)

Q Has anybody from the White House spoken to anybody from Syria?

MS. PERINO: I don't know. I don't know.

Q Let me ask you this one: You have another government making claims. At some point, you either have to confirm or deny the claims they're making, no?

MS. PERINO: Jim, all I can tell you is that I am not able to comment on reports about this reported incident, and I'm not going to do so. You can come up here and try to beat it out of me, but I will not be commenting on this in any way, shape or form today. Or tomorrow --

Q What about another agency, nobody -- if it comes, it's going to come from here, and so it's not going to -- nothing is going to come out of this?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe anybody is commenting on this at all.


Q Dana, why can't you comment? Is it a reason for national security, or is it political? I mean, why --

MS. PERINO: To give you an answer to that would be commenting in some way on it, and I'm not going to do it.

Q But, I mean, Dana, you can't give us anything? I mean, this is a major issue --

MS. PERINO: Nothing.

Q This is a major issue --

MS. PERINO: I understand the reports are serious, but it's not something I'm going to comment on in any way.

Go ahead, Lambros.

Obsessing over why the White House does what it does is a futile undertaking and one that presumes that somewhere, on some level, a functioning brain is calling the shots -- a huge leap of faith. But if the story emerging re: 'terrorist' is true, it certainly is curious that the White House -- and the Bully Boy himself -- did not immediately trumpet that.

At the State Dept yesterday, Sean McCormack handled the briefing and supplied Maura Connelly as the US Charge d'Affaires who met with Syrian government on the issue but he referred all other questions to M-NF (once) and the Pentagon (twice).

On the front page of this morning's New York Times, Sam Dagher's "Fractures in Iraq City as Kurds and Baghdad Vie" is a lengthy examination of Mosul and the struggle for control:

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani.
The Kurds are resisting, underscoring yet again the depth of ethnic and sectarian divisions here and the difficulty of creating a united Iraq even when overall violence is down. Tension has risen to the point that last week American commanders held a series of emergency meetings with the Iraqi government and Kurdish officials, seeking to head off violence essentially between factions of the Iraqi government.

The plight of Iraqi Christians is buried in the article and this is from the article's ending:

Mr. Nujaifi and his brother Osama, a member of Parliament in Baghdad, blame the Kurds for instigating a campaign against the Christians in Mosul to deflect the central government's pressure.
One Kurdish leader called the accusations “ludicrous,” and the United States military said it was most likely the work of militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
But a group of Christian leaders who met with General Thomas last week in the town of Qosh, outside Mosul, blamed the struggle between the central government and Kurdistan for the plight of their people. Sweeping out both sides, they said, may be the only way to restore calm and trust.
"You have done a great job removing Saddam's regime," the Rev. Bashar Warda told the general. "Continue with removing this regime, and start over again."

Turning to the US presidential race, John McCain is the Republican presidential nominee and Sarah Palin is his running mate. Becky notes this posted by Matt Lira to McCain - Palin '08 blog:

New Web Ad: "Life Savings"

Today, McCain-Palin 2008 released its latest web ad, entitled "Life Savings." The ad features John McCain talking directly to the American people about protecting their life savings at a time of financial crisis. The American people cannot afford Barack Obama's proposed tax increases on savings that will only hurt those saving for their retirement.

Tags: None

The McCain campaign has issued comments on the attack inside Syria. They'd be better off issuing a comment on Dagher's report which they can actually use to their benefit with minimal spinning. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Sarita notes this from Team Nader:

"Why I’m Voting for Nader/Gonzalez” Video Contest


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