Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mark Morford's stupidy on Iraq and the media

For years Mark Morford (San Francisco Chronicle) has been seen as the worst columnist in America, someone habitually dishonest who, were he to catch a political opponents standing in the rain, would quickly pen a column on how he saw them crying in public. Today Morford serves up a column that demonstrates he may not be a natural born liar.

Today's column, entitled "America out of Iraq now! Oh wait" suggests that Morford's problem hasn't been lying -- or hasn't only been lying -- but that it's also been stupidity. In fact, Morford flaunts so much stupidity today that if he had just a tiny fraction of self-awareness, he'd tender his resignation and tiptoe around the public square in the future.

The Iraq War is over (it's not), Morford wants to tell you. And as disturbing as his false claim is (you really don't expect such centrist b.s. from San Fran columnists), more disturbing is his whining and explaining. Whining? He claims he didn't know about the drawdown until he checked his inbox. Explaining, he got the news in an e-mail 'from' Barack Obama. Morford goes on to whine that only Great Britain's Guardian newspaper treated it as major news. He then whines that maybe the New York Times covered it but, it was under the fold. Morford read the Guardian article online. Is he so stupid that he's unaware of that?

(Maybe he is.)

But other than that, Morford insists, there's been no coverage.

A columnist who allegedly covers current events and politics really needs to follow the news. In fact, if he or she can't, that should be grounds for dismissal.

Morford's revealed that he's stupid and uninformed. He obviously doesn't listen to NPR which has repeatedly covered the story. All Things Considered has offered some strong reporting, Morning Edition has as well (with Steve Inskeep being surprisingly strong on the facts), PRI's The Takeaway (which is also partnered with the New York Times -- among others) devoted a segment to it on each day's broadcast last week, the NPR hourly news covered the topic repeatedly. Diane Rehm, on her show last Friday, made it the opening topic of the international hour and Thom Shanker did an excellent job of sketching out US goals and facts. TV? All three of the broadcast networks (commercial) evening news programs covered the story. NBC had Richard Engel in Baghdad. Richard Engel covered it for MSNBC live. In fact a full night's programming on MSNBC was devoted to the topic (and wasn't Rachel Maddow in Iraq for that?). He also apparently missed every one of the Sunday chat & chews (cable and broadcast and PBS) for the last two Sundays. Noncommercial TV?

The NewsHour, PBS's daily hour long news broadcast, covered it repeatedly with Margaret Warner in Baghdad. (Warner is still in Baghdad and taking questions for and at the program's website.)

In terms of newspapers, Leila Fadel's provided strong coverage for the Washington Post, Jane Arraf for the Christian Science Monitor, Liz Sly for the Los Angeles Times, Sam Dagher for the Wall St. Journal and Anthony Shadid for the New York Times. Jane Arraf and Anthony Shadid have regularly appeared on public broadcasting programs in the last two weeks discussing the details of the drawdown and the realities of Iraq -- and have both done a strong job.

A columnist who writes of politics and current affairs yet confesses he doesn't read newspapers (including his own which has reprinted many articles on the drawdown from other outlets), doesn't listen to public radio, doesn't watch the broadcast (commercial network) news, doesn't watch cable news, doesn't watch public television news, is a columnist who is not just underinformed, he's dangerously stupid.

While it's good to know that Morford's many bad columns may not have been the result of intentional lying, stupidity only acts as an out-the-door excuse. Sadly, no retirement has been announced and we'll apparently continue to suffer through his fact-lite musings which require more time to type than to actually think through.

Sunday Sgt Brandon Maggart died while serving in Iraq -- this despite the end of 'combat missions' (don't try to explain it to Morford, his brain can't handle it). He was 24-years-old and on his second tour of Iraq. Matt Misterek (News Tribune) reports, "According to unit records, Maggart enlisted in the Army in June 2006 and reported to Fort Bliss, Texas, for basic training. At Fort Bliss, he also went through advanced training as a crew member in the Avenger, a defense system consisting of a Stinger missile-equipped turret mounted on a Humvee or other vehicle. Maggart was assigned to Fort Lewis in November 2006. He is survived by his wife of four years, Teresa Cooper; son, Blake; and parents, Teddy and Beth Maggart, according to the Kirksville Daily Express newspaper in north-central Missouri."

The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

Eric Ruder (Socialist Worker) provides the antidote to the uninformed Mark Morford:

Asked by a CNN reporter if the withdrawal of combat troops meant the end of combat involving U.S. troops, Gen. Ray Odierno flatly answered, "No." He continued:

What it means is our units that were organized to conduct combat operations have left...We now have units left behind that are organized to do advise-train-assist. But they certainly have the ability to protect themselves and if necessary to conduct combat operations if it was required.

Odierno, like Cordesman, also acknowledged that U.S. troops may well remain in Iraq until 2020.

And in addition to soldiers wearing U.S. military uniforms, there are tens of thousands of private contractors in Iraq. The Obama administration is launching an "unprecedented" civilian operation, backed up by "a small army of contractors," according to the New York Times:

With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.

So Barack Obama hasn't ended the war on Iraq. Now more than seven years old, it's already gone on longer than the Second World War. It has cost $1 trillion. And since the "end of combat operations," one more U.S. soldier has been killed already, bringing the official death toll among American forces to 4,416. Of course, the loss of human life on the Iraqi side is incalculably higher at more than 1 million.

But the Obama administration still aims to accomplish in Iraq--with different strategies and tactics--what the bungling Bush administration failed to.

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oh boy it never ends