Monday, June 22, 2009

Do journalists learn English grammar?

Do journalist learn English grammar is the question that Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy's "Laws Lag in Iraq, as Patience Wears Thin" begs. The article runs in this morning New York Times and we'll let al-Salhy off the hook (although Arabic also includes basic grammar rules). We won't let Williams, the editors or the US State Dept (which wanted this piece of garbage 'report').

It's not a report. It's propaganda meant to force passage of the theft of Iraqi oil laws. The first sentence of the article tells readers that "popular support" is under strain in Iraq -- for the Parliament -- due to corruption. That's based on what?

On the observations of the reporters? If so, they're not equipped to make that judgment nor does it belong in a report (it can go into a column or editorial on the op-ed pages). They insist "widespread confusion" reigns. Based on what?

"Based on what?" should be the cry of readers as they work through the article.

Who's making these claims? Chris Hill and the State Dept are doing a huge push thinking they have a limited window to get the theft of Iraqi oil passed. This is pressure from outside of Iraq.

You're clued in that the complaints are not Iraqi based when paragraph six finally includes a "who" to hang some of the charges on: Haider Ala Hamoudi? Who is he? A professor . . . at the University of Pittsburgh.

The trade offered from the US State Dept to Nouri al-Maliki is, "Push hard on the oil law and we'll push on changing the power structure." This article is a byproduct of the arrangement.

Why does Nouri need the power structure changed? Because despite the press portraying him as popular (and a 'winner' in the January 2009 elections in which he wasn't a contest and in which NO political party could truly claim a majority of votes), he's not. He does appear to be more popular overall in Iraq than he is in the area that he represents.

Nouri's always protected Nouri and that's why he's entered into yet another bargain with the US and why he's hoping they can help him ram through a presidential system to replace a parliamentary system. (Jalal Talabani is the president of Iraq currently. Nouri wants the sort of government the US has with himself in the position equivalent to the US presidency. What he really wants is to be the New Saddam and he's well on his way to achieving that 'honor'.)

The typists type, "The country's economy is dependent almost entirely upon oil revenue, but because there is no single law regulating the industry, there is widespread confusion about investment, production and lines of authority. . . . Without rules governing the extraction of its huge oil reserves, it has been difficult for Iraq to attract foreign investment to its petroleum industry, which accounts for 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings." They really hope the readers haven't been paying attention. There's been no problem at all with business lining up for Iraqi oil. You're not supposed to know that or know that they had an auction on oil field leases last week. (Winners will be announced June 29th and 30th.) This morning Esther Nakkazi (The East African) reports that that Genel Energy International and Heritage Oil plan to merge into Heritage Oil Plc and form "an Anglo-Turkish company that would operate in Uganda and Iraq's autonomous oil-rich region of Kurdistan". Yesterday Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) observed:

It is only now, six years after the American invasion, that the battle for the control of Iraqi oil production is moving to the centre of politics in Baghdad. On 29 and 30 June, the Iraqi government will award contracts under which international oil companies will take a central role in producing crude oil from Iraq's six super-giant oilfields over the next 20 to 25 years. By coincidence, 30 June is also the date on which the last American troops will be leaving Iraqi cities. On the very day that Iraq regains greater physical authority over its territory, it is ceding a measure of control over the oilfields on which the future of the country entirely depends.
The contracts have been heavily criticised inside Iraq as a sell-out to the big oil companies, which are desperate to get back into Iraq – oil was nationalised here in 1972, and Iraq and Iran are the only two places in the world where immense quantities of oil might still be discovered. Several of those criticising the contracts work in the Iraqi oil industry. "The service contracts will put the Iraqi economy in chains and shackle its independence for the next 20 years," said Fayad al-Nema, head of the state-owned South Oil Company, which produces 80 per cent of Iraq's crude. "They squander Iraq's reserves."

Rule of thumb for foreign countries (and Boston newspapers), when the New York Times is 'concerned' about your economy, be alarmed.

They've had over six years to be concerned and it is certainly interesting that their concern emerges as Chris Hill's shooting off his mouth about what he's going to get done and claiming that Ryan Crocker was "too friendly" with the Iraqis. It's just a coincidence, you understand, because it's not like the New York Times is now or has ever been an organ for the State Dept. Right? Right? (Wrong.)

They've got a host of columnists, they've got an editorial board, they've had over six years. They laid low as the popular sentiment turned against the illegal war in this country because no sense feeding fires by admitting the Iraq War was about a tag sale on Iraqi resources. But even so, they could have used that time to advocate for a resolution on Kirkuk. Or even that the 2005 Constitution be followed and the referendum be held as outlined and demanded in Iraq's Constitution. They didn't do that. Now the paper's farming out opinion advocacy -- or advertorials -- to their reporters and running them as news stories.

And when 'things are being said,' New York Times, it's important to attach a subject to those claims. You can lie. You don't have to tell the truth (which would be "Chris Hill"), but grammar dictates that if you're 'reporting' on whispers, you provide a subject.

If you're not getting how the same paper that sold the illegal war is still attempting to manage you, Saturday saw the worst violence (in terms of the death toll) in Iraq this year, so violent that you have to drop back to February 2008 to find a single incident with as many deaths. That huge, immense violence (the truck bombing in Kirkuk) that resulted in at least 80 deaths and over 200 injured led the paper of record to contribute an approximately 981-word story. Iraqi oil? Today's story is approximately 1128-words. (Check my math.) The worst violence of the year, the worst violence in 16 months, receives less attention than unsourced whispers.

This is a Judith Miller and Michael Gordon article and your first clue is that instead of saying "unnamed US officials say . . ." -- the reporters today just leave that phrase out which is how you end up with one sentence after another in the paper's 'report' lacking a subject.

On the June pull-out, Aamer Madhani (USA Today) includes a few truths deep in a report:

Reed and his soldiers won't be going too far away -- the security agreement reached last winter with the Iraqi government stipulates only that U.S. combat troops leave cities, towns and villages by the June 30 deadline.
That means that, in Baqouba as elsewhere, most American troops will shift to military bases outside the city limits, where they'll still be available for combat operations if needed by their Iraqi counterparts. An unspecified number of troops will also stay behind in cities to advise and train Iraqi forces.
The total number of U.S. troops in Iraq is not set to decline significantly until this fall, when a gradual drawdown will begin until all combat troops are out by Aug. 31, 2010, according to the withdrawal plan announced by President Obama in February.

But there won't be the pull-out 'guaranteed' in the Status Of Forces Agreement. Baghdad's sprawling US bases (and embassy) will see no pull-out, to offer but one example.

The Iraq War has not ended and will not be ending this year or next. Scott Rochat (Longmont Times-Call) reports that the Colorado National Guard, 3rd Battalion, 157th Field Artillery are finished with training at Fort Hood (Texas) and will be shipping off for Ramadi.

May 27th the Department of Defense issued the following release, "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cmdr. Duane G. Wolfe, 54, of Port Hueneme, Calif., died May 25 from injuries suffered as a result of an improvised explosive device attack on his convoy southeast of Fallujah. Wolfe was assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division in Iraq. For further information, please contact Naval Base Ventura County public affairs at (805) 989-9234." This morning Rich Connell reports on Wolfe in "Navy Reserve Cmdr. Duane G. Wolfe, 54, Los Osos, is killed in roadside blast" (Los Angeles Times):

At 54, he was a Navy Reserve commander who had spent decades in the Seabees, the service's storied construction battalions. Off duty, he worked the last 24 years at Vandenberg Air Force Base, most recently as the civilian deputy commander of the 30th Space Wing Mission Support Group.
Wolfe and his wife of 34 years, Cindi, who have three children in their 20s, considered the Iraq deployment carefully. He could have retired, but he thought that he needed to go.
"He said they could really benefit from all his years of training," his wife said. "There was a need for that construction and engineering background."
And having joined the Navy at 17, after graduating from Hueneme High School, she said, he had always retained "a real sense of what it was like to be that new enlisted guy, starting out your career. I said, 'You make the call.' "

Sunday the DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Chancellor A. Keesling, 25, of Indianapolis, Ind., died June 19 in Baghdad, Iraq of a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 961st Engineer Company, Sharonville, Ohio. The circumstances surrounding this incident are under investigation. For more information media may contact the U.S. Army Reserve Command public affairs office at 404-464-8500 / 9471 / 9251." AP notes, "Since February 2003, 102 Indiana military personnel have died after being sent to the Mideast for the war in Iraq."

Bonnie reminds Isaiah's illustration of Sandra Bullock went up last night and joins in the chorus of praise for Sandra's performance in the number one film over the weekend, The Proposal.
And from Third's "Summer reads," we'll note: "Tuesday MASTER OF WAR: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War by Suzanne Simons is published. You can read an excerpt from the hardcover book here. The book is based upon Simons' interviews with Prince and various Blackwater employees, research Simons did in Afghanistan and the Middle East, government contacts, employees' families and much more."

Abdul Rahman Dhaher, Mohammed Abbas and Sophie Hares (Reuters) report
that bombings in Iraq today have already claimed at least 21 lives.

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