Monday, July 24, 2006

NYT: Gordo does advocacy journalism again

The New York Times offers Michael R. Gordon, war pornographer and his "Wary Iraqis Are Recruited as Policemen" which, from the title, might suggest it's a look at Iraqis or even a look at recruiting Iraqis to be police officers. No, no. We're dealing with the war pornographer so expect him to veer off completely from point to point about Iraq's police to what he really wants to write about which is war strategy. Such as in this paragraph:

The military history in this region, however, is complex. American forces have been stretched thin across the vast province. To mass enough troops to storm Falluja in 2004, American commanders were forced to make do with fewer troops elsewhere.

Storm? Try slaughter. But the message -- and Gordon's said it directly, written it directly and is now implying it in piece after piece of advocacy journalism that the Times isn't supposed to be behind but when it backs up US policies, they all throw 'balance' to the wind -- is MORE AMERICAN TROOPS NOW! That's the only song Gordo knows. It's a dirty little song but we wouldn't expect anything less from the war pornographer.

Should the Times readers expect better reporting?

They sure should. Where in Gordon's article is anything about the previous qualifications (we're talking the period of the occupation, not going into the Saddam reign or ancient history) for police officers as opposed to the new policy that has been implemented?

It's not there. Readers of the Times have no information on that -- in an article supposedly about police recruiting. Education standards, of some sort, have been created and there's also a call for former police officers from the Saddam reign. Neither of which makes it into Gordo's ranting.

He likes to see a difference between himself and his former (pre-war) co-writer Judith Miller. There actually is a difference. Miller can (and has) acknowledged that the claims (reported as facts) that were used to get the US into an illegal war are false. Gordo can't do that. He won't do that.

That's a "policy decision" he's stated drawing a difference (where there is none) between commenting on that and his own advocacy of strategy (is he a reporter or a general?) . It's also a rational statement one that Miller (gone from the paper) can make (as can most) but one that Gordo (still at the paper) can't.

Gordo would probably argue that his advocacy is 'perspective.' It's not. You don't offer perspective when you haven't covered the basic story and Gordo's not covered it today. He probably can't cover it relying repeatedly on US forces to feed him his quotes.

You want to write about the Iraqi police force? Talk to the Iraqi police force. Not to one that the (American) military provides you with (that guy was shopped around to other news outlets and they took a pass -- no surprise that Gordo snaps him up). He's hardly 'typical' because the 'typical' Iraqi police officer doesn't have the luxury of running to the Green Zone (an area the man was not in charge of patrolling) and hiding out there for months. (He left when his back pay was suspended, Gordo tells you.)

If he'd talked to actual Iraqi police officers, who knows what he would have found out? Maybe he would have learned about the pay situtation (which is laughable -- not the monthly payment, the fact that the money doesn't always arrive), maybe he'd find out how some supplement their pay or non-existant pay by selling uniforms to the underground, maybe he would have found out that some are Iraqi police officers while on their shift but something else when the shift ends.

Gordo knows nothing. Because he doesn't care about any of it. He only cares about 'military strategy' and getting more troops on the ground. Which, he can kid himself, is mere 'strategy' but it's also policy. What he's turning out is adovacy journalism and if he wasn't a 'star' reporter (with poor book sales), he might have to answer for it.

Or if, in all the bash-the-bitch games so many critics played re: the Times pre-invasion coverage, they'd taken a moment to go after the ones who shared credit on Judith Miller's stories, he might have something to answer for.

But it was so much easier and so sexist to just blame Miller. The Times has no fact checking department. The editors are responsible for that. While it may be too much to expect some critics to be aware of that, I really don't think it was too much to expect that when slamming Miller (rightly) for articles bearing her name they take a moment to read the byline and see that there's an "and" in there.

Gordo got a pass. He lives on a pass, he writes on a pass. He does not, however, report.

Zach notes something he wishes we included in the editorial at The Third Estate Sunday Review yesterday. It would have fit in, we just weren't aware of it, apologies. From Brent Budowsky's "Stain of Guantanamo" (Consortium News):

When I was a young law student I presented a paper about the role of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson in the Nuremberg trials. My mentor and professor was the late Joe Borkin, who wrote The Crime and Punishment Of I.G. Farben and was intimately involved in the post-war prosecution of German companies that aided Hitler.
We Americans have begun -- and fallen short in -- one of the most important debates in our history.
From the moment that Dan Rather and Mary Mapes broke the story of Abu Ghraib on "60 Minutes" [II*] and Sy Hersh wrote his comprehensive story, the American President, the American Congress and the American people should have demanded full investigation of the total range of detainee issues and authoritatively applied the rule of law, across the board.
To this day, we have not met that obligation.
Guantanamo remains in business and even after a historic Supreme Court decision that outlawed some of the worst procedures, the President maneuvers to salvage his disastrous mistake at Guantanamo, while Congress now maneuvers to delay a resolution until election day grows closer which in my experience is danger for truth, justice and the American way.
Trust me; the partisan Republicans prepare the ground to accuse advocates of the rule of law of being "soft on terrorists"; trust me, the consultariat class of Democrats will include some who will advise Democratic leaders to hedge their bets and shirk their duty, as they often do.
Trust me, the Rovian mentality will be to use illegal detention policy as a wedge issue with the hope of maintaining control of Congress and appointing yet another Justice Alito, which will legalize what is currently illegal by votes of 5-4. No doubt, the man in the running for the worst Attorney General in the history of America, alongside the likes of John Mitchell, has probably prepared a contingency opinion restating his legally defamatory view that the Geneva Convention is some quant irrelevant relic made obsolete by the politics of war fever.

I've added "II" because Mapes worked for 60 Minutes II -- she didn't work for 60 Minutes. They were two different programs with two different staffs and friends with 60 Minutes take that very seriously. (Abu Ghraib aired on 60 Minutes II -- the now cancelled program won awards for that reporting.)

Martha notes Thomas E. Ricks' "'It Looked Weird and Felt Wrong'" (Washington Post):

From its first days in Iraq in April 2003, the Army's 4th Infantry Division made an impression on soldiers from other units -- the wrong one.
"We slowly drove past 4th Infantry guys looking mean and ugly," recalled Sgt. Kayla Williams, then a military intelligence specialist in the 101st Airborne. "They stood on top of their trucks, their weapons pointed directly at civilians. . . . What could these locals possibly have done? Why was this intimidation necessary? No one explained anything, but it looked weird and felt wrong."

[. . .]
The unit's tactics were no accident, given its commanding general, according to his critics. "Odierno, he hammered everyone," said Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., a retired Army general who was at Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led occupation agency.
But that criticism hasn't hurt Odierno's subsequent career. When he returned to the United States in mid-2004, Odierno was promoted to be the military assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He recently took command over III Corps at Fort Hood, Tex., and is scheduled at the end of this year to return to Iraq to become the No. 2 U.S. commander there, overseeing the day-to-day operations of U.S. forces.

The e-mail address for this site is