Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NYT's inability to be straightforward

How hard is it to tell the truth?

Near impossible for the New York Times when it comes to Iraq because they've lied for so long.

Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon have a report on Iraq's prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi.and how he may be the same as or different from thug and outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.  But they repeatedly come into conflict with reality only to barrel over it and hope no one notices.  Take this section which comes after they've basically rewritten and ignored key parts of 2010 (including the eight month political stalemate and the US-brokered Erbil Agreement that ended it):

There is little in Mr. Abadi’s political history to suggest that he harbors views at odds with the Dawa Party establishment. Even so, interviews with Iraqi political leaders and foreign diplomats paint a more nuanced portrait, with some holding out hope that he could break the mold of Iraq’s recent leaders.
Mr. Abadi’s rise to the cusp of becoming Iraq’s new leader is almost as improbable as that of the man he is replacing, Mr. Maliki, who said last week that he would give up power.
Mr. Maliki, like Mr. Abadi, was a lawmaker when he was chosen in 2006 to replace another man from his own Shiite Islamist Dawa Party, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Mr. Jaafari was seen as too sectarian and indecisive and not capable of uniting the country in the face of civil war.

Who saw Ibrahim as "too sectarian" -- forget "indecisive"?

The US government.  They said no to a second term for al-Jaafari following the December 2005 elections.  He was the choice of the Parliament and the US overruled that.

The paper's making a fool of itself.

Gordon knows the history, he's one of the few who's honestly covered it post 2009.  (See, The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama -- the book he co-wrote with Bernard E. Trainor.)  With the exception of one embarrassment -- which the public editor took him to task for -- Tim Arango's overall Iraq reporting would earn high marks helped out by the fact that he and he alone broke news from Iraq in recent years.

So I'm not going to pin the blame for this on them.  The paper's inability to get honest is destroying the ability of their reporters to convey the basics in even a simple piece like this one which is supposed to be a generic overview of al-Abadi.

Shashank Bengali treads similar ground at the Los Angeles Times:

Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders all have endorsed the new prime ministerial nominee, veteran Shiite lawmaker Haider Abadi, a member of Maliki's Dawa political party. But observers say that one of Abadi's greatest challenges will be to forge consensus among sects that have grown deeply wary of one another.
"There is an absence of trust, an absence of dialogue, an absence of understanding," said Hanaa Edwar, a prominent Iraqi human rights advocate. "If you don't rebuild that, it's very difficult otherwise to reform the political process."

Bengali avoids recent history.  Apparently, more important than any hope Iraqis might have or need is the hope that US readers might need to cling to.  To allow for that, all US involvement in Iraq must be erased.  So Bengali, for example, offers that Iraqis turned against Nouri -- which many did -- while refusing to note that the White House also turned on Nouri.

And with US involvement erased, so many officials get to pretend they have clean hands.

(The blood will not wash off.)

Abdulrahman al-Rashed (Al Arabiya) offers a look at the outgoing p.m. and the potentially incoming one:

The appointment Abadi as prime minister brought a wave of optimism because Maliki's departure itself a victory for the political process and for the new Iraqi system. I am confident that if Maliki had managed to impose himself as a prime minister for a third term – as he tried to fight for until the last minute - he would have ended up hanged in one of Baghdad's squares after four years. His end would have been the same as that of the dictators who preceded him. He was a horrific tyrant, and the whole world has seen how he exploited his personal forces and whatever he put his hands on to impose himself and obstruct the naming of Abadi.

Al Arabiya News notes that the Kurds are working with others on forming the next government and have called off their recent boycott:

Infuriated by Maliki’s accusations of harboring terrorists in June following the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) offensive in northern Iraq, Kurdish ministers said they were boycotting meetings of Iraq's caretaker cabinet and authorities in Baghdad and halted cargo flights to two Kurdish cities.

  • Rumors are that al-Abadi will offer up nominations for his proposed Cabinet this coming Monday.  If so, he'll be at the half-way mark of the Constitutional deadline (30 days to put together a Cabinet).

  • If he does manage to form a Cabinet (full) in 30 days, not only will he meet the deadline, it will be the first time the deadline has been met.

  • The bombings continue and press spin is they are a success -- see Wall St. Journal and the Los Angeles Times especially.  Good.  Keep spinning those lies.  They elevate public opinion and allow the crash to be much more harsh when reality does come along.  Meanwhile, on British public opinion, the editorial board of the Guardian notes:

  • A timely ComRes/ITN poll on Monday underscores the conflicted mood. By a large majority, the public recognises a moral obligation on Britain and the US to put right in Iraq what they did so wrong in 2003. Yet the public cannot agree on what this might mean. Opinion is divided over arming the Kurds and opposed to Iraqi refugees of any faith finding refuge in Britain. Only 30% say Britain “should not get involved and leave the situation to run its course”; but the opposing majority is divided between helping to defeat Isis in its entirety and trying to stop it making further gains.

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