Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ignoring domestic outlets

Despite reports that Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebellious clergyman who returned to Iraq this week after four years in Iran, has adopted a “moderate stance,” his speech at a mosque in Najaf on Saturday proved quite otherwise. He is, still, militantly anti-American, and he’s served notice on Prime Minister Maliki’s government that any deal with the United States to extend the American troop deployment in Iraq past the end of 2011 is out of the question.
Here, collected from a wide variety of news accounts, are a series of direct quotes from Sadr’s speech, delivered to thousands of enraptured religious Shiites who treated his return to Iraq like the return of the so-called Hidden Imam. (In fact, like many of his co-religionists of the extreme or fundamentalist persuasion, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Sadr appears to believe that he’s paving the way for the imminent return of the Imam, who is said to have vanished mysteriously thirteen centuries ago. Sadr’s followers plastered Najaf with posters proclaiming Sadr to be “The Preparer,” i.e., one who prepares the return of the Imam.)

The above is from Robert Dreyfuss' "Muqtada al-Sadr's Fiery Call: 'US Out of Iraq'" (The Nation) and the first thing we should note is that you weaken a brave stand when the media you call out is another's country. It's really easy to do that. Sometimes it is necessary to do so. Sometimes a foreign outlet is the only one who gets it wrong. But when your own country has an outlet - -not Fox News -- that can't get it right and you're reduced to calling out a MidEast publication? It makes you look silly at best and cowardly at worst.

Saturday's "Moqtada al-Sadr advocates violence in speech" opened with:

Roy Gutman and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) state that "Muqtqada al Sadr called on his followers Saturday to abandon the use of violence" -- but he did no such thing. If Isaac Newton were a modern-day reporter can you imagine the trouble the whole earth would be in right now. You get Nouri stating that the SOFA stands UNLESS Parliament pushes for a new agreement. Sam Dagher and Kelly McEvers run with that claiming that Nouri said the SOFA stands and leaving out the "unless." Moqtada al-Sadr calls on Iraqis not to attack one another but to instead focus their anger and violence on Americans and Gutman and Hammoudi are calling that a cry "to abandon the use of violence". Again, what kind of world would we be living in today if Isaac Newton were a modern-day reporter?

We didn't hide it, we didn't bury it. We didn't troll through the foreign press until we discovered a UAE newspaper that, as Americans, we were comfortable calling out. The overly praised -- as we've noted -- McClatchy Newspaper offered a ridiculous and embarrasing report (to put it kindly). And we called it out. Dreyfuss doesn't have the guts to do that? If so, I really don't know that he's got much use beyond serving as a the Golden Book Reader for Nation magazines readers who would otherwise never hear of the Iraq War.

It's really easy to call out a newspaper in the UAE. There's probably no flack for it. Won't have any angry e-mails. But unless you're living there, it's not brave. McClatchy Newspapers is a US outfit. It headlined and opened with the false claim that Moqtada al-Sadr was walking away from violence. That was not what his speech said. And Dreyfuss does a strong job noting what the speech did actually say.

But offering it as a 'corrective' to the UAE's The National is really embarrassing. If readers of The Nation saw an article making the false assertion, they most likely saw McClatchy Newspapers not The National.

I was asked to note the above by a friend with the magazine. Without reading it, I said fine, they'd get a link but I might criticize the piece. And I have. I really wish I could start the day being an idiot cheerleading, jumping up and down with the pom-poms and yelling, "Look what an amazing thing The Nation did!" But they didn't do anything amazing. There is no safer thing a columnist can do than call out another country, another country's leader, another country's press. And in the food chain, Roy Gutman floats a lot higher up than a free lance writer (Nizar Latif).

McClatchy is no longer the only US outlet to present the Moqtada Man Of Peace lie. There are others, national outlets. (Yesterday, Ava and I are were discussing doing a piece on that at Third -- meaning, we're now talking about broadcast outlets -- which reach an even larger audience than does a newspaper.) There was no need to troll through the foreign press for examples unless you were just nervous about calling out your own country's press.

(There were also many domestic outlets which got it right. A sample list -- not a list in full -- would note the reporting of Anthony Shadid, Aaron C. Davis, Ned Parker and Jane Arraf. That's US outlets only. Of the foreign outlets, I'd argue the strongest work was done by Michael Jansen.)

The big news of the day is oil. Oil production, the British sending a carrier to protect the oil in the Gulf (Iraq) from pirates, the vast sums of money BP is making off Iraqi oil, oil, oil, oil. Which brings up a phone call from a friend who felt I was too tough on Charles Sennott in yesterday's snapshot. I wasn't too tough and deleted four paragraphs from the snapshot before it went up. Those four would have taken it to the too tough area. Charles condemned himself with his remarks. He went on television (Aljazeera) as a member of the press and pontificated about how the attacks on Iraqi Christians -- a wave of attacks that have been going on for months now -- shouldn't just be reported because you had to consider what right-wingers would do with them. That's not a news outlet's concern. A news outlet's concern is in conveying the news. But since oil is in the news, we will note that in 2008 (in a Boston Globe online chat), Charles Sennott showed more honesty than many of his peers:

778_gg Once and for all: Was the Iraq war just an oil grab for the US?

Charles_Sennott I don't think it was "just an oil grab."

Charles_Sennott But I think it is delusional to think that long term security for the US oil supply was not a factor in invading the country. The plans to invade, as we now know through investigative reporting and memos that have come out from the Bush administration, indicate the plan to invade was being considered before 9-11. And we know that no weapons of mass destruction have been found. And in a recent report we learned that Al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq before 9-11. So we as journalists have to continue to push hard for answers to these questions. Why did we invade? Why was our intel so poor -- or manipulated -- in the run up to the war? This reporter believes we should push harder for answers.

And we'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "In support of 173 men detained without end..." (World Can't Wait):

Protests are planned around the country Tuesday to mark the beginning of the tenth year of the US detention center at Guantánamo, from which, it appears, some men will never leave.

A detainee who had been there for 9 years, Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, was forcibly removed to Algeria last week, in spite of ongoing legal efforts to prevent his return. Psychologist Jeff Kaye explains the outrage in Obama’s “Stealth Transfer” Of Guantanamo Prisoner; Algerian Forcibly Repatriated:

The Obama administration has shown a blatant disregard for international treaties and basic human in its second forcible deportation from Guantánamo of an Algerian national in the last six months. On January 6, the administration secretly and forcibly repatriated 48-year-old Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed to Algeria, which he reportedly fled in the 1990s, trying to escape threats from Islamic extremists. In a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the deportation, CCR noted that “Mr. Mohammed has long been cleared of any connection with terrorism...”

9 years since Rumsfeld announced "the worst of the worst" would be locked away, there are 173 men still behind Guantánamo's walls, including 90 set for release, most of whom even the Bush regime admitted had done nothing criminal.

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