Wednesday, October 05, 2011

They bungled the SOFA coverage as well

"Did you ever want to cry?," the Mamas and the Papas wondered on the 1967 classic Deliver. How about right now?

How about reading the nonsense from the New York Times? Specifically this awful article by Tim Arango and Michael S. Schmidt.

Where to begin?

They're covering what we spent 16 paragraphs on in yesterday's snapshot.

And they're doing an awful job of it.

Trainers have been agreed to (yes); however, then they add this, "but they declared that any remaining troops should not be granted immunity from Iraqi law." Really? Because that's not what the statement Jalal Talabani issued said.

It said, the political blocs had agreed they wouldn't grant immunity.

Not "should not."

Last night and this morning I spoke with three friends at the State Dept and two with the White House. State Dept is more cautious and their view is summarized as 'the deal is on track' -- keeping US forces on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011. The White House? All five were asked to give me one word describing the results of the meet-up. State Dept's varied. The two at the White House? "Promising." That was both of their one word choice.

I expect more than a headline crawl from the New York Times. Maybe that's my mistake?

Please note, though Tim Arango was not in Iraq or in charge of the coverage then, they also bungled the SOFA coverage. They were so wrong on the SOFA. They've never apologized for that. They've never even acknowledged that they were wrong.

But having been so grossly wrong then, you'd think they'd be a little more careful today.

They're not.

Why is you get the feeling that the SOFA and the Strategic Framework Agreement are foreign documents, unknowns, to Arango and Schmidt?

The last five paragraphs show promise but a friend with the State Dept was laughing (with me) on the phone as we read over them this morning. They have no damn clue what they're describing. It's as though they're reporting is strung together guesses from 25,000 Pyramid. (Yes, it has been years since I've watched that show. Try the seventies. I'm sure the dollar amount in the title got much higher before the show got axed.)

And the paragraph right before that produced the most howls.

But at least the five paragraphs attempt to go somewhere.

All the other paragraphs add up to little more than a CNN crawl that's been repeatedly teased out, like a bad 50s beehive.

They can't tell you what happened. They have to get creative.

It's a disaster.

Let's assume for a moment that they're correct and that there will be no immunity for US troops, that that was the decision of the meet-up.

Okay, so I assume the paper's reporters covering the State Dept and White House will be leading the questioning at today's State Dept briefing and whatever Jay Carney pulls together on the road today for the White House? I assume that these reporters will be demanding to know how the US military can stay in Iraq without immunity? And that, in addition, Michael R. Gordon will be leading that questioning at the Pentagon's briefing today?

Because that belief is what the paper sells its readers today. So if that's what the paper believes, then surely it will have its best and brightest all over DC today demanding answers. Right?

As 2008 was winding down, members of the administration serving in the Senate were very clear what would happen if the SOFA wasn't passed or a UN mandate wasn't quickly put in place. They were very clear because without either of those, the US military had no immunity.

If you can read Arabic, you should read this article by Al Sabaah whose wording is clear that the meet-up decided they would not grant immunity. (If you're not grasping my point: There's a world of difference between the political blocs saying THEY won't grant immunity and the political blocs stating NO immunity will be granted by anyone. Nouri al-Maliki should have the power to grant immunity in his role as commander in chief as evidenced by the fact that he was granted the right to decide if trainers were needed based upon that role and as evidenced by the Strategic Framework Agreement.)

Not only does the paper fail with their report today, they FAIL to inform why the meet-up was necessary. To read the New York Times solely is to be unaware of Political Stalemate II. Not only have they ignored the NGOs' criticism of this stalemate, they've covered for Nouri by refusing to address the outrage over the non-implementation of the Erbil Agreement. To read the New York Times for Iraq coverage and nothing else is to never know that the Kurds and Iraqiya are on one side and Nouri the other. As an excuse, stupidity only goes so far.

By the way, the State Dept has a legal opinion on contractors and immunity. Before the paper next muses on the topic, they might try asking someone at State to review that opinion with them. Just a thought.

It's cute the way the paper's interested in immunity today. Half-assed, at least. Al Mada reports that Parliament's backing Sabah al-Saadi and not lifting immunity from the MP. See, they skipped that story as well. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, remember?, swore out an arrest warrant on al-Saadi because the MP is a critic of Nouri's and because of a private conversation al-Saadi had in which he told another person that Nouri would face the same ending that Saddam Hussein did. Nouri can't arrest al-Saadi as long as he has immunity -- which all MPs do -- so he's attempted to get Parliament to lift the immunity. Nouri's attorney has stated that if it's not lifted, they'll just wait (years) until Parliament's term ends and then arrest him. It's interesting how that's just not big news to the paper of record.

Yesterday's snapshot
covered the House House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing in which the Committee heard testimony from the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Commission's records locked up for decades and only a thin volume released as a report, you might think, if only to review how the Commission spent tax payer dollars, the press would be covering the hearing. Charles Keyes (CNN) covers the hearing here. He may be the only one who did. (I saw Joshy Micah's site. That's not a report of the hearing. But the writer did utilize prepared opening statements to pretend to cover the hearing.)

Reuters notes violence sweeps Iraq today with a Taji roadside bombing injuring four pilgrims, the mayor of Tuz Khurmato being shot dead, a Baghdad grenade attack left two Iraqi soldiers injured, another Baghdad attack left two police officers with bullet wounds, a Baquba attack claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with three more injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Baquba boming claimed 1 life and left six more people injured, the corpse of 1 Sahwa was discovered in Qaiyara, and a Taza bombing injured one person.

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