Saturday, August 08, 2009

Leila Fadel, McClatchy's Judith Miller

The reality in this capital of gray and brown, war and poverty always prevailed, however. On my last day in Iraq, as on my first day in Iraq, I didn't see what the United States and its allies had accomplished.
I couldn't see much evidence of the billions of American taxpayers' dollars that have gone to rebuild a nation ravaged for more than three decades by war, sanctions and more war.
I couldn't understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed. I didn't see a budding democracy in an Iraqi government that was more like Saddam Hussein's every day. I didn't see a land long divided by sect, ethnicity, tribe and class beginning to grow into a united nation.
For a few months, I had hope that things might work out. That was when the violence diminished and life started to return to the capital. State television aired "Baghdad at Night" from neighborhoods that had never been the most dangerous but nonetheless were coming to life again.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "A reporter's farewell to Iraq" and it popped up at at McClatchy's site days ago. We weren't interested. If it's Sahwa, Lay-Lay knows what she's talking about, even if she might distort. But otherwise, we're not really interested. The link goes to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the McClatchy property Leila hails from. I had a busy week and a McClatchy friend and I were playing phone tag for two and a half days. We finally spoke this morning and it was about Lay-Lay.

See, reality wasn't good enough for Leila and she began to lie repeatedly in print. At the time, in real time, she was called out here and she was called out to friends with McClatchy. Many of whom defended her (many, not all). Some agreed she was way too close to the story and had no objectivity. Over two-thirds agreed that she was willfully misinterpreting the Status Of Forces Agreement and that's really where she got lost as a reporter. From that day, from the moment the SOFA was rammed through, Lay-Lay was an idiot. She never grasped what it actually said only what she wanted it to. And she entered this dream fugue state where reality floated by her and she missed most of it.

Her last paragraph above? The McClatchy friend I was on the phone with this morning wanted it quoted. He pointed it out as a confession to everything we were calling out here in real time. (In real time, he disgareed with my take on Leila, he was calling to say not only was it correct but to note the brief confession in Fadel's writing.)

"For a few months, I had hope that things might work out."

That's putting it mildly and that attidue, that 'hope' really colored what was supposed to be objective reporting and it colored the way all the reporting coming out of Iraq for McClatchy was presented. It was a really embarrassing period for the news outlet.

And it really needs to be noted how damaging what Leila Fadel did was.

Barack wanted to expand the Afghanistan War (and continue the Iraq War). He came into office promising that. The networks were tired of Iraq. Yes, they sold the illegal war but they'd rather cover dead celebrities and faux controversies and anything else that's cheap to produce. They were looking for a way to get out of Iraq and incoming president Barack Obama offered them that as he made Afghanistan his emphasis and they were able to withdraw their reporters and claim that was due to the fact that the Iraq War was winding down (approximately 130,000 troops on the ground currently, more than was on the ground at the start of 2007, and this is winding down?) and Afghanistan was the place to be. They really didn't 'do' Afghanistan but it was a nice cover story for them to play cheap and pull out of Iraq.

They could only do that if people were willing to lie. Only if liars were willing to pretend all was well in Iraq.

And there was no bigger liar than Leila Fadel.

In her position, she oversaw all of the Iraq coverage coming out of Iraq for McClatchy. That's what she wrote, that's what others wrote, that's online, that's in print.

She was the face of McClatchy for Iraq.

And when Leila decided that her hopes and dreams were more important than reality on the ground, Iraq coverage was over.

Lay-lay wanted to pimp the SOFA and Barry and everlasting Waves of Operation Happy Talk. And coming from McClatchy, with its over-inflated reputation for telling the truth on Iraq, her 'reporting' was the most damaging. At that stage of the Iraq War, the last weeks of November through February, she was the Judith Miller.

Had McClatchy been leading the charge about what was really taking place in Iraq instead of pimping Lelia's hopes passed off as reality, there might have been more pressure on the networks.

But when Our Modern Day Judith Miller used her position and McClatchy's image to proclaim 'turned corner,' she allowed the press to walk away from Iraq without even sneaking, without regret because, 'Even McClatchy says things are better.'

'Even McClatchy.'

The phrase meant something once.

It's a real damn shame the online world lost interest in Iraq because here we were calling out the faux 'reporting' Leila was contributing at the end -- none of which holds up. We were calling it out and we were calling her out. And the damage she did is tremendous.

But it's one more story that's not officially told because everyone had somewhere else to be. In the end, that is the home front story of the Iraq War: "Everyone had somewhere else to be."

Again, I saw this column days ago and was ignoring it. When we called out Leila in real time, it didn't matter. It got some nasty e-mails, nastier than anything McClatchy friends were saying to me when I'd raise the issue of Leila's loose grip on the facts and 'reporting' that read like a dream journal. I read the nonsense and wasn't even going to comment. But for a friend at McClatchy who disagreed in real time but now sees (and agrees) with the points being made back then, we'll note it and we'll note that Leila really disgraced the news outlet.

And for the record, except for Sahwa, we're not noting Leila Fadel on the topic of Iraq again unless she's making a full confession about what she did. Or unless she's offering an apology for all the damage she caused.

The following community sites updated last night:

Cedric's Big Mix
Not only is he not important, he's not potent!
7 hours ago

The Daily Jot
7 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
california and gordo
8 hours ago

In California
8 hours ago

Ruth's Report
NPR covers Iraq . . . via AP
8 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
John Hughes films
8 hours ago

Ann's Mega Dub
8 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
Evelyn Sanchez loves Barry more than immigrants
8 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
Sick of KPFA's racism and especially Krish Welch
9 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
9 hours ago

Trina's Kitchen
Zesty Potatoes in the Kitchen
9 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
Iraq and the media
9 hours ago

The e-mail address for this site is [Note, typos on this fixed. Or ones that visitors e-mailed on by the time I had the second entry up. That's all I'm fixing, find another one, live with it. As I note in the second entry, typos are not the end of the world. As always, the mirror site contains the original version of this entry -- for any who need to compare.]

mcclatchy newspapers
leila fadel

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends