Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Hate The War

Mike Shuster gets called out for factually incorrect reporting in today's snapshot. An angry visitor e-mails the public account and insists, "You complain about the lack of coverage and when NPR reports you just rip them apart."

NPR didn't report. Reporting is fact based. Shuster maintains in his 'report' that Kirkuk has never held an election for the governor. The day before he filed that report, Reuters, Alsumaria, AP and many, many others were reporting on the fact that a new governor had just been elected in . . . Kirkuk. How do you miss that?

I noted that Kirkuk is an issue that people see bias in. I noted that I've been criticized and that it's made me very careful about how I handle the issue. Back in 2004 and 2005, I was less so. I assumed a position stated once was known. It wasn't. So I have repeatedly stated -- over and over -- that, as an American, it is not my job or my country's job to determine who gets Kirkuk. That is a matter to be resolved in Iraq without foreign command. The 2005 Constitution ended the matter. Unless or until the a Constitutional amendment repeals Article 140, how the issue is to be resolved is a matter of accepted law and that law must be used.

For some stupid reason, the United Nations is doing rule of law workshops in Iraq currently while at the same time insisting that a deal can be reached on Kirkuk by bringing the parties together and bargaining. There's nothing to bargain about. The law is very clear. Kirkuk is to be decided by the steps outlined in Article 140 of Iraq's Constitution. To disregard that is to disregard the law.

Though Kirkuk is not one of the main issues at this site, it is the issue we get the most e-mail on. To this day. Outside of Iraq, everyone thinks they know who should have Kirkuk, apparently. And everyone thinks they know how it should be decided. None of them cite the law, for some strange reason (maybe they all work for UNAMI?). Of that group, I am repeatedly accused (to this day) of favoring one side or the other. (I will freely admit that Turkmen and other minorities in Kirkuk are short changed by me and that's because I know, ahead of time, when we address the issue here, I better be clear on the Arab issue and on the Kurdish issue or expect waves and waves of e-mails.)

Though Shuster arrived in Iraq only a little while ago, he is a seasoned reporter and had a few thoughts on Iraq over the course of the war. It should not come as a surprise to him that, when he reports on Kirkuk, his reporting will be weighed. It should be.

His report was factually incorrect in numerous ways including his refusal to note that Kirkuk had just elected a governor and including the the protest in a city he mentioned (Hawija), took place in a city in the province of Kirkuk and that the protest included loud calls for Article 140 to be eliminated -- meaning that the protest was anti-Kurdish.

I think, due to the scope of his story, that once including the Kurds claim that al Qaeda in Iraq was seeking to disrupt Kirkuk in February, he was required to note that the Iraqi army boasted at the start of February (I believe this was February 9th but do your own research) that they had captured 2 al Qaeda in Iraq operatives in Hawija. The report suggests that Kurds are lying. As I noted in the snapshot, they may be or they may not be. I tend to be skeptical of all the claims that al Qaeda in Iraq is to blame for every moment of violence. But if you're going to include that claim of deception on the parts of Kurds (I believe the report takes that point of view and does not just quote others claiming the Kurds are lying), you need to note that the Iraqi military -- not the peshmerga -- announced they captured al Qaeda in Iraq operatives in Hawija.

It is very one-sided.

I do want more coverage of Iraq. But I don't want factually incorrect coverage. In terms of this site, we can survive just on the Arab media. That's already been demonstrated as the world press ran to Egypt, then to Japan and then to Libya. Every time a friend (in the press) says, "You're going to have to expand your focus," I say we're not and, thus far, that's been the case. We're not dependent upon whether or not, for example, the New York Times files a report from Iraq that week.

Even if that wasn't the case, I would never endorse coverage that is misleading.

The e-mailer writes, "You really live to rip apart the MSM." Really? I live to do that?

A reporter was killed Tuesday in Tikrit. In that day's snapshot, it was noted. I bit my tongue on one aspect. The next morning, when I clearly should have raised an issue, I put it off again telling myself I just didn't have the energy required to be the bitch I needed to be that morning.

So let me raise it now and grasp how much I do sit on.

A reporter died. Sabah al-Bazi (also spelled "al-Bazee") was among the many killed in Tikrit.

We quoted his colleagues. We did not quote his bosses.

There's a reason.

Were we to quote any of his employers, it would have been Al-Arabiya. They're an Iraqi outlet.

In 2004, a paper (US) covered Iraq. They no longer do so. Shortly after this site started, an Iraqi stringer e-mailed this site. He was very offended by a number of things in terms of his employment. (He's not the only stringer to have e-mailed. Many of the New York Times' stringers have e-mailed over the years and they are among the reasons that we loudly called out John F. Burns and Dexter Filkins.) He had every right to be. I was appalled to read how much he was being paid. That was not a human wage and I confronted friends on the paper's editorial board about that. He and other stringers saw a bump in pay. They should have.

But when you read the New York Times and others rushing to quote, for example, Reuters management, your first question should have been how much was al-Bazi being paid?

Do you really think it's normal for someone to work for CNN and Reuters? While also working for an Iraqi TV station? Only the TV station has an excuse. Reuters and CNN have a lot of money to spare. It's a shame neither felt the need to add him on staff. It's even sadder that, to survive, he was forced to work full time for a TV station and free lance for two Western outlets who clearly did not pay him market value.

With few exceptions, most Western reporters don't go out and see with their own eyes when 'reporting' on Iraq. Dexter has admitted that himself -- never in print, but in numerous public appearances. They are dependent upon the stringers. The stringers risk their lives. It's a shame that even though many Western outlets would have had no Iraqi coverage from 2006 on without stringers, the true value of the stringer is not appreciated as evidenced by the low pay.

We quoted al-Bazi's collegues. I purposely ignored comments by management. I also think it's appalling the way the death was covered in the Western media outside of CNN. But I bit my tongue and, believe it or not, I do that more often than not.

For example, I would love to never have to critique a report from the New York Times again. I've done that repeatedly. Life moves on, I'd like to with it. But when, as happened this week, six women who are killed are accused of being prostitutes in the official paper, the paper of record for the US, and they are accused of this by malicious and unverified gossip, I'm going to weigh in.

If you're happy with Mike Shuster's reporting from Iraq, I would argue you haven't paid attention to it or you don't know enough about Iraq to grasp how often he has abused or ignored facts. And if NPR would do their own job, such as airing corrections to his reports or Alicia Shepherd weighing in, I wouldn't have to point out the problems. The fact that the problems are getting on the air is not about me being a bitch (though I won't deny or apologize or fret over that term), it's about the problems at NPR. If a governor is elected in a province and a day later Shuster's reporting that the province has never elected a governor, NPR has a serious problem. Shuster's only part of it. The more serious problem is where in the NPR matrix did the person who should have caught Shuster's error fall asleep on the job and allow it to air.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last week, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4441. Tonight it is [PDF format warning] 4444. That number should include a US soldier who was home and receiving medical attention from wounds in Iraq but passed away this month. Another digit may have been added due to the fact that, for some unexplained reason, this month it fell back from 4442 to 4441. Those two would take it to 4443.

The e-mail address for this site is