Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nordland provides some realities, Stars and Stripes is censored

On the front page of today's New York Times, Rod Nordland's "Spate of Attacks Tests Iraqi City and U.S. Pullout" begins. It's an article that could be endlessly mined and is packed with details and information. No, there's no real pull-out and Nordland knows that, he's the reporter who broke the news that leaving Baghdad wasn't really leaving. We'll note this section that should have opened the report:

Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Youssef, the Anbar Province police commander, arranged a street-level tour of Karma for a reporter with The New York Times last week. But the walk was cut short after just three blocks, and took place only after the general ordered dozens of Provincial Security Force troops to clear the streets and rooftops first.
During the tour, an old woman in a large, shapeless gown approached the general suddenly, and he started. "I thought she was a suicide bomber at first," he recalled later, laughing. The woman wanted only to shower the troops with fistfuls of wrapped candy, an Iraqi custom.

So to walk around, it was necessary for the Iraqi military to do their own variation of 'clear and hold' ahead of time and, even after that, a woman approaching the Major General was enough to send him into a panic. But let's all pretend Iraq's safe. Re-read the two paragraphs and grasp how much they're telling about the actual state of Iraq, the actual movement of journalists and the anxiety levels of those to take charge.

Mike Tharp offers a look at those to take charge in "Kirkuk: a place that should be seen--and heard" (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) when he accompanies US Col David Paschal to visit with an Iraqi:

The Iraqi army major, a Kurd, didn't know what hit him. Col. David Paschal, the 6'6" commander of the 10th Mountain Division based in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk last year, had taken off the diplomatic gloves. As tea and soft drinks were served by fawning subordinates, the major almost preened in his easy chair. The top-ranked American soldier in the area had come to visit HIM.
After a few minutes of pleasantries--the Arabic translated by Paschal's female Lebanese interpreter--the officer from Chicago leaned forward in his seat. Rawboned hands as big as those of former Bulls defensive ace Jerry Sloan clasped themselves together, as if trying to avoid making fists.
His usual command voice grew even louder. He demanded to know why 200 Sunni Arab inductees had been turned away the previous week by the major. The major started to explain about not enough trucks and lack of bunks and...
"Bull! I know why," the colonel thundered. "Because they were Sunni! We can't have that here. We need every soldier we can get."
With that the colonel jumped out of his chair and, followed by his interpreter and junior officers, stalked out of the office. The tea and Cokes remained untouched. Paschal waved off the major's offer of a ride back to his vehicle. "He's a pretty boy," he muttered as the group marched a half-mile in 110-degree heat.

Remember the propaganda the Times ran Monday? If you missed it, it's flooded Voice of America, Radio Europe and the other US propaganda outlets. One of the talking points was Iraq's oil industry is falling down, falling down, falling down as a result of the theft-of-Iraqi-oil law not yet being passed. This is the opening of Carola Hoyos' "Iraq: Enthusiasm doesn’t guarantee a good party" (Financial Times of London):

There is clearly much enthusiasm about Iraq's impending oil contract bidding round. After all, it marks the first time since nationalisation that international oil companies will be able to return to Iraq's massive oil reserves. For Iraq, boosting the production of its oil -- or at least making sure it does not decline -- is the single most important thing the country can do to ensure its financial future. And so far, Iraq's national oil company has shown that it can't do it by itself.

Violence continues in Iraq today with Reuters reporting a Mosul grenade attack which left seven people injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured three people, a Mosul car bombing which left one Iraqi soldier injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left one more injured, another police officer was shot dead in Mosul and a woman's corpse was discovered in Mosul ("gunshot wounds to her head").

Yesterday's snapshot
noted the efforts of the US military to prevent Stars and Stripes reporter Heath Druzin from reporting (those efforts are censorship). This is from Joe Strupp's "UPDATED: Reporter Barred from Iraq Embed -- MRE Blasts Move -- Sends Protest Letter to Gates, Petraeus" (Editor & Publisher):

The president of the Military Reporters and Editors group has blasted the move in an email to E&P.
"Asserting that Stars and Stripes 'refused to highlight' good news in Iraq that the U.S. military wanted to emphasize, Army officials have barred a Stripes reporter from embedding with a unit of the 1st Cavalry Division that is attempting to secure the violent city of Mosul," the report says.
It adds that Stripes reporter Heath Druzin, who covered operations of the division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in February and March, would not be permitted to rejoin the unit for another reporting tour. It also adds that military officials cited a March 8 story Druzin wrote that stated many Iraqi residents of Mosul would like the American soldiers to leave and return security tasks to Iraqi forces.

New West Boise's Jill Kuraitis has worked with Druzin and she offers, "In my opinion, it's a serious matter when the delivery of accurate and timely news is denied to the American people who always deserve the truth in accordance with our founding principles. We are funding the war with our tax dollars, which makes us even more deserving of the information. Druzin is a professional trained to do exactly what he is doing, and his efforts to be accurate should not be impeded, nor his priorities manipulated." UPI adds:

[Stars and Stripes editorial director Terry] Leonard said he rejected alternatives of embedding Druzin with another unit or allowing a different reporter to embed with the 3rd Brigade, saying the military doesn't have the right deflect coverage away from Mosul or choose which Stars and Stripes reporters will be allowed to cover its operations, the newspaper said.
Although the Stars and Stripes receives some federal funding through the Pentagon to offset costs of distributing the newspaper to U.S. troops in war zones, Leonard said the newspaper's reporting is not subject to Pentagon authority.

We've noted the passing of Father Tim Vakoc twice this week (here and here) and we'll note this from Stars and Stripes' "Army chaplain wounded in Iraq dies:"

Father Tim, as many people knew him, was an Army chaplain on May 29, 2004, when the blast cost him an eye and severely damaged his brain as he was returning from celebrating Mass with troops near Mosul.
"A man of peace, he chose to endure the horror of war in order to bring the peace of Christ to America’s fighting men and women," Archbishop John Nienstedt said in a statement.
Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Donald L. Rutherford, the deputy chief of chaplains in the U.S. Army, recruited Vakoc in 1995 and later worked with him while both were assigned to posts in Germany.
Vakoc "was always out there with the troops," Rutherford said. As a chaplain, "you can’t sit in an ivory tower, and Tim certainly didn’t do that."

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