Thursday, July 14, 2011

The lies of the New York Times, the lies of Jezebel

The newspaper that did more to sell the lies of the illegal war than any other paper is back at it again with an editorial today entitled "Drawdown in Iraq." First, congrats to them, it is "drawdown." Those of us who have watched with dismay over the KFC-ing of "counter-insurgency" and other terms -- in use for decades -- can take heart in the fact that NYT does know how to spell "drawdown" correctly even if so many others do not. And let's give them all the (faint) praise they deserve because they have earned so very little.

They start out with a lie: "President Obama is fulfilling his promise to wind down the Iraq war." It's Iraq War, assholes, it's lasted damn long enough, it can be capital "W" in "War." So Barry's fulfilling his promise, is he? Which one is that? All troops out in 16 months starting from the moment he's sworn in?

Uh, no. Not that one.

Pressing the Iraqi government or 'government' to extend the US military's stay on the ground under the US Defense Dept's oversight is "fulfilling his promise to wind down the Iraq War"? Having plan-b where you switch contractors and military over to the State Dept and keep them in Iraq that (under the Strategic Framework Agreement) is "fulfiling his pormise to wind down the Iraq War"?

Working towards both without ever addressing either with the American people is fulfilling a promise?

Also, don't they teach logic and grammar at NYT Editorial Writing School? If he's fulfilling "his promise" then he would not be following "a 2008 agreement between Washington and Baghdad." He's not following that agreement, in fact, but were he to follow it, that's the agreement George W. Bush's administration hammered out. If he's following that, then "President Obama is fulfilling Bush's promise to wind down the Iraq War."

The editorial insists, "The war, which should never have been launched, has already cost more than 4,450 American lives and . . ."

Okay, two things there, let's grab the numbers first.

The Iraq War is ongoing. AP does their own count. AP is the only US news outlet which does. That is shameful. But if you're too damn lazy -- like the New York Times is -- to keep your own count, then you use an established count. That's not ICC. That's site's a joke and has been since before Barack was sworn in. Their count would go up . . . and then down. With no explanation for why it dropped. Did someone come back to life? When they listed names of the fallen each month (you're dropping back to 2007 now) and made it clickable so you could read the death announcement from DoD, they were worth highlighting. Now they're an unreliable count and they dabble in Iraq as they focus on Afghanistan.

But that doesn't mean there's not a count out there. Besides AP. The government does a count and why news outlets have refused to use that count, I have no idea. But week after week, someone's e-mailing me to tell me "you're wrong" about the count. Uh, it's clickable and it takes you to the Defense Dept count so if it's wrong, it's the Defense Dept that's wrong. They do not include anyone in their count until after they (DoD) have released the name of the fallen publicly in an announcement. Here's a screen snap (and note that Afghanistan is included in the count beyond the screen snap -- our focus is Iraq so that's what I'm including in the screen snap below).

the fallen

"More than 4,450 American lives" have been lost says the lazy NYT. All they had to do was click here. 4475 is "more" than 4,450, yes. It's what you call a fact and an editorial, opinion writing, is supposed to utilize facts. Their failure to do so is appalling. Repeating, DoD is keeping a count and it is a public count. Why the Pentagon's numbers are not being used as these outlets rush to tell you "ICC says X died" is beyond me. It's not as though NYT and the others practice any skepticism when it comes to government pronouncements. (With one exception, NYT's Tim Arango actually isn't afraid to differ with the State Dept in print. Good for him on that.) Why would you write "more than 4,450" when one call to the Pentagon or one click online could give the actual number?

Because you're lazy and you really don't care how many have died. If you gave a damn now about how many had died, you would have included the actual figure. If you gave a damn back then how many WOULD die, you wouldn't have used the newspaper to sell the Iraq War.

Now let's back it up to right before the numbers, "The war, which should never have been launched, [. . .]" It should not have been launched. When does the paper intend to take accountability?

They were happy to scapegoat Judith Miller after she became too toxic. But, as we've pointed out here many times, Judith Miller didn't edit her own copy, Judith Miller didn't determine where her articles ran or if they ran, Judith Miller didn't print the papers and deliver them to your home. To act as though she was controlling the entire operation is a lie. It's also a lie to call her a liar if you mean that she knowingly printed false things. Miller went to Iraq, for those who've forgotten, and basically commandeered a squadron to look for WMD. She was convinced she was going to find WMD and get her big scoop. That didn't happen. WMD didn't exist. Miller was foolish, she was a stenographer, not a reporter, and she was many, many other things. But she didn't lie, she was just stupid. Her stupidity allowed the Iraq War -- as did the stupidity and/or lies of others (at the paper and beyond).

When the tide turned on Miller (and the Bush administration), the Times (Bill Keller) sensed the changing dynamic and Miller was cut loose. Maureen Dowd had some caustic remarks in a column. I don't begrudge Dowd that column. As one of the few consistent voices against the impending war, Dowd had every right to write that column. But that was her column. Meaning, when Keller did the minimum required with the brief mea culpa, he swore, in print, that the paper would continue to explore what went wrong with their Iraq coverage? That never happened. And he's on his way out now so unless it happens in the next six weeks, it's not happening.

Chris Hedges reviewed that bad cinematic glorification to the bad paper recently and had this to note at Truth Dig:

The documentary touches on, although without much background information, Judith Miller, the reporter turned stenographer for the Bush White House in the buildup to the Iraq War, and Jason Blair, the habitual liar who falsified and plagiarized stories. Miller and Blair—and I was working for the paper when each of these scandals occurred—were not, as the film implies, rogue reporters who beguiled their way into a trusting newsroom. They embodied the most serious institutional failures. A more sophisticated filmmaker like Fred Wiseman, who had asked the Times management several times if he could film a documentary in the newsroom and was turned down, would have known what to do with this material. Miller and Blair were given free rein by senior management because they exhibited the amorality that is prized by the management. They served only their own careers and those editors who could make those careers advance. They were grotesque prototypes, to be sure, but they exemplified the subservience to authority and abject careerism that poisons the institution.
Blair and Miller, whose behavior was reprehensible, were fired. But they were also scapegoats. They, and many at the paper, have no real moral compass. They know the rules imposed by the paper’s stylebook. They know what constitutes a “balanced” story. They know what the institution demands. They work hard. They have ingested the byzantine quirks and traditions of the paper. But they cannot finally make independent moral choices. The entire paper -- I speak as someone who was there at the time -- enthusiastically served as a propaganda machine for the impending invasion of Iraq. It was not only Miller.
The film should have looked more carefully at the colorless editor of the paper, Bill Keller, who will step down in September. Keller, who had been given a column as a consolation prize when he was first passed over as editor for the hapless Howell Raines, served, as faithfully as Miller, la causa. He was a vocal cheerleader for the war in Iraq. In one column he called for the firing of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell because Powell wanted U.N. approval for an invasion. He wrote glowingly about Paul Wolfowitz. And once he was in charge of the paper he placed Sam Tanenhaus, a conservative admirer of William F. Buckley, in charge of the Book Review section and the Week in Review.

Having refused to examine -- as promised -- further the paper's role in selling the Iraq War, the editorial board has a lot of gall to think they can get away with "The war, which should never have been launched . . ." That's a bit like your mugger hopping a high horse about how appalling the rate of street crime is.

After congratulating Barack for (Bush's) promise he's not keeping, the editorial then wants to explain that it's fine and dandy to continue the Iraq War and occupation because "there are legitimate reasons to keep a small military force there" -- says the paper that sold the illegal war and never took accountability for that (throwing Judith Miller to the wolves was not the paper taking accountability for its own actions). The editorial board likes the "promise" not being fulfilled because of various reasons including that continuing the war "would also send a big message to Iraq and all of its neighbors that Washington is not ceding the region to Iran." Iran is far from innocent in what is taking place in Iraq but the paper has this delusional fear of Iran that's never made a great deal of sense. And while it's true that Iran has huge influence in Iraq, it's not true that it does in the region. In fact, most of the neighbors don't care for Iran and you'd think a paper that had access to so many State Dept cables via WikiLeaks would be aware of that.

But anyone aware wouldn't write the following: "Experts say most Iraqi factions want the Americans to remain a while longer. No Iraqi politicians have been willing to say that publicly. Their fractious political system indulges foot-dragging well beyond the 11th hour." No Iraqi politicans have been willing to say that publicly?

The stupidity hurts. It hurts. I can provide a list of them. Does the editorial board really think that three hours goofing off while streaming Rizzoli & Isles counts as research? A number of Iraqi politicians -- and not just Kurds -- have advocated for the continued presence and done so publicly. It hasn't been in the pages of the New York Times but so little ever is. Were I the person writing that editorial, I would've have definitely asked someone to research that dubious claim before I pronounced my copy done.

In the last six weeks, 18 US soldiers have died in the Iraq War. 17 of those are combat deaths. One is unclear. The family was originally told that it was a combat death (the fallen died in a house sweep) but that was changed to "under investigation." The paper's not been interested in that story at all. But the editorial board is interested in writing this crap: "President Obama has concluded the American combat role in Iraq and is beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan." Really? Concluded the combat role in Iraq?

Then why did 17 US soldiers in the last six weeks? Those are combat deaths, classified as such by the Pentagon.

It's amazing and galling that to continue the Iraq War (they still want it, they still crave it), the paper will insist Nouri needs to act! But when he's attacking the LGBT community, the paper's silent. When Iraqi Christians are being targeted and slaughtered, the paper's silent. When the Jewish population has been reduced to less than 10 in the whole country, the paper can't say a damn word. As women's rights were trounced and destroyed, the paper remained silent. But now, they want Nouri to act.

When it's time to extend the illegal war, the editorial board suddenly wants action from Nouri.

Why didn't they ever get accountable for selling the Iraq War?

Because they have yet to stop selling it.

Turning now to the sewer that is Jezebel. Rebecca's done a great job of documenting (see "jezebel likes beating up on rape victims" and "fan mail from jezebel") how they will allow a woman who states she was raped (I believe Jamie Leigh Jones) to be called a liar repeatedly in comments but they won't allow comments defending Jamie Leigh to go up. That's because Jezebel's not a feminist site.

They're a Gawker site which is like two steps below public toilet. They're not known for feminism. Their big issue -- before Jessica Coen joined them, in fact -- has always been "body image." Not in terms of eating disorders, but in terms of "I don't want to be called fat!" and "I hate skinny girls!" That's really what it boils down to at Jezebel where they wallow in the superficial. Anyone who thinks Jezebel addresses body issues is kidding themselves. They've obsessed over how Tina Fey is just like them and then whined over how she isn't. And throughout they've ignored (except for one brief subthread on lesbians) the way 30 Rock has embraced homophobia. (Tracy Morgan's outrageous remarks are explicit versions of what 30 Rock's been getting away with for some time. And although the show's most proud of sneaking "s**t" on air -- in a background whisper -- maybe they should be most proud of what was on Randy's face in the gays-as-nymphos episode. It wasn't glitter, kids, that he got while having fun in the public bathroom. The portrayal of gay men and the use of "gay" as a joke has been offensive for several seasons now. But Jezebel won't worry about the message 30 Rock is sending unless and until a skinny actress joins the cast and then stand back and watch them rage.

Fortunately, there are feminists online. And we'll highlight some who have weighed in on the case this week. Minneapolitan Mademoiselle observed:

Victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault is pervasive in this culture and it's simply unacceptable. The way that the criminal justice system handles sexual assault cases is just as terrible - using the victim's past or present behavior to justify what happened to them or lessen their credibility, not charge a case because they want to prop up their stellar conviction rate, so often believing a perp instead of a victim because our system is set up to value their 'freedom' more than a victim's safety, peace of mind, life goals, educational opportunities, mental and physical health and even life. I get it - we want to protect people's rights. But what about my (and many other people's) right to live in a safe, secure community free of the threat of sexual violence?

Something that we've seen a lot of lately that's worth mentioning: when a victim's past is brought up to try to make them appear less credible. Especially when we can't do the same with perpetrators. Yea, the victim in the DSK case may have lied in the past but guess what? DSK has a history of treating women like crap, and we can't mention that in a court room. And again with Jamie Leigh Jones in her civil case. It seems more like the victim is the one on trial - for their past/present behavior, for not acting like a 'real' rape victim, for - GASP! - behaving like other human beings by having fun, having (consensual) sex, and maybe, just maybe lying once in a while (cause Lord knows all those defense attorneys and defendants NEVER lie and never pressure/coerce/threaten victims/witnesses).

Melissa (Shakesville) notes
, "I don't believe there's anything I can say that I haven't already said a thousand times before. This is the rape culture in action. I'm so sorry, Jamie Leigh." Miss Cherry Pi (Political Flavors) weighs in as well:

Last week, a jury found that Jones was not raped. It’s not surprising. Few rape cases end in a conviction even in a criminal trial. I had thought that the damage done to her pectoral capsule, genitals and anus would be enough to convince anyone that she had not had consensual sex, but it’s unclear what the jury was allowed to hear, and KBR has done a good job of muddying the water. One of the most powerful corporations in the world used popular narratives about women being liars to avoid liability. Considering the number of American soldiers they have killed through negligence, the fact that they gave our troops dirty water to drink, and the allegations that they participate in human trafficking, it is a deep and cruel irony for KBR to question the credibility of anyone.

I was thinking about replying to a jerk who keeps e-mailing in tonight's entry but I'll do it here because it fits. A man has e-mailed 17 times since Saturday to inform me that Jamie Leigh Jones wasn't raped (was he there?) and that I'm only defending her because "no one would believe you about being raped either." I said sexually molested, not raped. And, you're wrong, no surprise there, many of you blustering idiots who think you know everything usually are wrong. I was under 10-years-old. I was kidnapped from my school by a crazy my grandfather had just fired and taken out of the city to a motel. Unlike Jamie Leigh and so many others, I didn't suffer from the inability of society to face facts. I was the 'perfect' victim. Under age, not even in puberty, kidnapped, etc. I was never doubted. You could argue because of that, I feel an obligation to those who are doubted -- and maybe I do and maybe I don't -- but you can't argue that I wasn't believed (I was believed) and that's why I support Jamie Leigh. I support Jamie Leigh because I find her and her story to be believable.

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