Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Other Items

Rachel notes Dexter Filkins has a byline in the New York Times, shared with Robert F. Worth (Edward Wong is reduced to an end credit). From their "Monitors in Iraq Review Votes Where 'Yes' Ballots Hit 90%:"

Iraqi election officials said Monday that they were investigating "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces, where as many as 99 percent of the voters were reported to have cast ballots in favor of Iraq's new constitution. The investigation raised the possibility that the results of the referendum could be called into question.

Dexter Filkins, reporting from the Green Zone, notes that the allegations of ballot stuffing couldn't be verified and tosses out the suggestion that there was no obvious reason for alleged ballot stuffing:

It is difficult to imagine why any Shiite or Kurdish political leaders would resort to fraud. Together the two groups make up about 80 percent of Iraq's population.

Apparently Filkins thought he was writing an op-ed. That's his statement (and Worth's according to the byline). I didn't know we were asking them their opinions? (But hey, it's not like they can give us first hand observations.)

For the uninformed Filkins (information is apparently in short supply in the Green Zone), here's one obvious reason, you stuff not to win in areas you assume to win, you stuff in those areas to give the impression of many voters (raising the total) thereby making the election appear "legitimate" since the total number rises.

Filkins has apparently not heard of Seymour Hersh's "GET OUT THE VOTE: Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq’s election?" (apparently they don't get The New Yorker in the Green Zone). Possibly before venturing to offer his opinion, not labeled as such, he might want to bone up on the subject.

We'll also note "The allegations could not be verified" of polling places having small turnouts. That's because you can only see so much from the Green Zone (or with a military escort, or, for that matter, with an alleged security team hired by the paper).

But they've used "stringers" and assumed, in print, the pose of "We're all over the place and not just hanging out drinking Kool Aid in the Green Zone."

Also note this:

How many people in the US will actually understand what is happening in Iraq regarding this referendum vote? Most likely not many when we consider the ongoing machinations occurring in US mainstream media outlets. One of my friends in Baghdad who is working by gathering information for one of these sources wrote me recently, "By the way, I asked them to omit my name as a contributor to their articles because the journalists they have writing them are not accurately reporting the views of Iraqis on the ground."

That's from Dahr Jamail's latest "'Elections' and other Deceptions in Iraq" (Iraq Dispatches):

Just before Saturday's so-called constitutional referendum vote in occupied Iraq, one of my close friends in Baghdad wrote me, "I would like to point out that we are three days away from the referendum, yet very large sectors of Iraqi people couldn't receive part of the five million copies [of the constitution] from the UN, ie- they will not know what the constitution contains. Subsequently, they will vote accordingto their backgrounds or religious or political preferences. Many people who will vote yes do not know why they will vote yes...what kind of vote is this?"
The vote had many similarities to the farce which took place on January 30-aside from a repeat of the draconian measures to provide security and quite a large dose of propaganda; we once again have what already appears to be rampant election fraud.
Figures provided by several governorates have required Iraq's independent electoral commission (IEC) to order (under heavy Sunni political pressure) "re-examination, comparison and verification because they [voter turnout figures] are relatively high compared with international averages for elections" of this kind; according to a statement made by the IEC on Monday.
This occurred rather inconveniently after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's nearly instantaneous belief that the constitution "has probably been passed."
I have little doubt that the constitution will still be passed, despite what the IEC referred to in findings showing "that figures from most provinces were too high," referencing voter turnout. Not surprisingly, a source close to the commission stated, "The problems are not in Sunni Arab zones," as reported by Al-Jazeera.
Huge discrepancies are already reported in the Nineveh governorate,which includes Mosul, showing that while sources close to the IEC were quoted saying that 55% of the voters there voted against the constitution, Abd al-Razaq al-Jiburi, the secretary general of the Iraqi Independent Front said, "I have been informed by an employee of the electoral high commission in Mosul that the voting for the constitution has been 'no.'"

Cindy e-mails wondering if she beat Lloyd (by about three hours, sorry, Lloyd) in noting Matthew Rothschild's latest entitled "Praising Sunnis, then bombing them" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Bush is claiming a great success from the vote on Saturday in Iraq, calling it "a very positive day for the Iraqis and, as well, for world peace."
He went of his way to praise the Sunni turnout.
But now he's bombing the Sunnis.
Just a day after the polls closed, "U.S. warplanes and helicopters bombed two villages" near Ramadi, AP reported. While the Pentagon said it killed 70 insurgents, "witnesses said at least 39 were civilians," according to AP.
With actions like these, Bush will only impel more Sunnis to join the insurgency, more Sunnis to sign up for suicide bombing missions.
The constitution itself, despite the last minute tinkering, essentially aces out the Sunnis, who have little reason to cooperate. Now the brutal tactics of the U.S. military make such more improbable than ever.
Bush can try all he wants to label everyone opposed to the U.S. occupation and the new Iraqi constitution as a terrorist or an Al Qaeda member. But his actions have alienated most of the Sunni population, which is not affiliated with Al Qaeda but has its own religious, ethnic, and historical reasons for opposing the occupation and the new government.

Susan e-mails to note the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's editorial (via Commmon Dreams) entitled "Presidential Chat: Staging Democracy:"

There so many nice images a presidential chat with the troops can convey: support for the country's fighting men and women; a regular-guy president; the commander in chief, his troops and the nation as a whole jutting their jaws with determination as they carry on the noble cause of democratizing the world, one constitution at a time.
With the inadvertent release of a dress rehearsal for troops before their talk Thursday with President Bush, the White House showed its true self. This is an administration that cares less about the truth than controlling the public's perceptions.
It was bad business as usual when the administration carefully staged, rehearsed and even gave breathing instructions for what was supposedly "just a conversation" between President Bush and troops in a live video conference. The White House and the Pentagon tried to spin the staging as normal preparation. But, as Fox News reported, even some senior Pentagon officials were privately angry.

Lloyd was, however, first out of the gate on Ruth Conniff's "False Alarms" (Ruth Conniff's Online Column, The Progressive):

So then the President gave his "major speech" on--what else?-- terrorism. Why not? "You're all going to die" worked well enough in the last election. But maybe not forever. There may be such a thing as terror fatigue. People become resentful when they're repeatedly subjected to scare tactics. Remember the boy who cried wolf? I think his name was George.

Zach notes Robert Parry's "When Journalists Join the Cover-ups" (Consortium News):

As embarrassing as the Judith Miller case is for the New York Times, the fiasco underscores a more troubling development that strikes near the heart of American democracy -- the press corps' gradual retreat from the principle of skepticism on national security issues to career-boosting "patriotism."
Miller -- and many other prominent Washington journalists over the past quarter century -- largely built their careers by positioning themselves as defenders of supposed American interests. Instead of tough reporting about national security operations, these reporters often became conduits for government spin and propaganda.
In that sense, Miller's prominence at the Times -- where she had wide latitude to report and publish whatever she wanted -- was a marker for how the "patriotic" journalists had overwhelmed the competing "skeptical" journalists, who saw their duty as bringing a critical eye to all government information, including national security claims. [For more on that broader history, see
Secrecy & Privilege or Lost History or Part II of this series.]
For her part -- both in the credulous reporting about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and protection of a White House source who sought to discredit a whistleblower about a key WMD lie -- Miller has come to personify the notion that American journalists should tailor their reporting to what is "good for the country" as defined by government officials.
Indeed, at this point in her career, the 57-year-old Miller seems to have trouble distinguishing between being a journalist and being part of the government team. Note, for instance, two of her comments about her grand jury testimony on the White House outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, who was the wife of the WMD whistleblower, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Presumably to give some deniability to one of her anti-Wilson sources -- Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby -- Miller said she told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald "that Mr. Libby might have thought I still had security clearance, given my special embedded status in Iraq," where she had traveled with a military unit in a fruitless search for WMD.
In other words, Miller was saying that Libby might be forgiven for disclosing the identity of a covert CIA officer to a journalist because he might have thought Miller had government authorization to hear such secrets.
But the notion that a reporter would accept a security clearance -- which is a legally binding commitment to give the government authority over what information can be released -- is anathema to anyone who believes in a free and independent press.
It is one thing for "embedded" journalists to accept the necessity of military censorship over tactical details in exchange for access to the battlefield. It is altogether different for a journalist to have a "security clearance."
For some journalistic purists, this statement was the most shocking element of
Miller’s lengthy account of her testimony as published in the Times.

We have one more Parry to catch up on and will do that later today.

Erika e-mails to note that Barbara Ehrenreich has an op-ed at the Times and Erika wonders if The Third Estate Sunday Review plans to review Ehrenreich's latest book (Bait & Switch)? Actually, it was supposed to be done on Sunday. One of the many features lost as the focus went elsewhere. (And that's not "blaming." I was probably the one arguing strongest that the CD piece needed to be done since people had spent their money purchasing two CDs that week and since one had required everyone going out Saturday and getting it at the last minute.)

Rod doesn't know the topics for today's Democracy Now! but if you missed yesterday, Ehrenreich was a guest discussing the Times and discussing her new book.

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