Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 4, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, is Peter Maas doing Psyops on the American public from the pages of The New Yorker, the real costs of war, the ongoing violence, and more.
Opening with this bit of perspective from from Richard Cohen's "A stranger's wars" in today's Washington Post:
Little wars tend to metastasize. They are nourished by chaos. Government employees in Nevada direct drones to kill insurgents in Afghanistan. The repercussions can be felt years later. We kill coldly, for reasons of policy - omitting, for reasons of taste, that line from Mafia movies: Nothing personal. But revenge comes back hot and furious. It's personal, and we no longer remember why.
The Great Afghanistan Reassessment has come and gone and, outside of certain circles, no one much paid attention. In this respect, the United States has become like Rome or the British Empire, able to fight nonessential wars with a professional military in places like Iraq. Ultimately, this will drain us financially and, in a sense, spiritually as well. "War is too important to be left to the generals," the wise saying goes. Too horrible, too.
War was a radio topic today, specifically one form of warfare.  US drone attacks took place in a variety of countries including Iraq under Bully Boy Bush but, as Anthony Fest (New KPFA Morning Show) noted today, they have increased under Barack Obama.  Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan and CODEPINK's Toby Blome took part in a discussion with today's hosts Anthony Fest and Adrienne Lauby (the program is now one hour, has a rotating set of hosts and airs from 8:00 am to 9:00 am PST -- those who start listening five to eight minutes late miss out on Aileen Alfandary's daily snit fit passed off as news -- see Ruth's entry from last night).  Excerpt:
Anthony Fest: Let's start with you, Toby.  Now remote controlled, pilotless war planes are a relatively new weapon but bombers and tanks and artillery have been killing people for decades.  Is there something especially insidious about drones?
Toby Blome:  Well there's many things that are insidious and distrubing to us.  One is that the drones which are actually designed to drop missiles, which is a percentage of the total drones, are controlled from thousands of miles away.  Often times, as far away as the desert of Nevada.  And the pilot -- they call them "pilots," but they never leave the ground.  They're behind computer terminals and the distance between the people being killed and the people doing the killing is very disturbing to many of us.
Anthony Fest: And, Cindy, do you have anything to add?
Cindy Sheehan: Well, of course, because we're against drones doesn't mean that we're for hand-to-hand combat or dropping bombs from airplanes.  But the thing is also about, especially the drone bombings in Pakistan, is that, many times, they're being controlled by the CIA which is also collaborating many times with the government or the military of Pakistan which is leading to the total destabilization of that country that is a nuclear power and, you know, it's about the-the total division between what is happening in reality when somebody sits in a bunker thousands of miles away, it dehumanizes that person.  And I've heard from -- [about] the person who is dropping the bombs, controlling the drones, dropping the bombs -- I've heard from chaplain's on Air Force Bases that the pilots are having some really, you know, they're having difficulty with dropping bombs on people during the day and going at home at night and trying to lead a normal life. So also we can attach drone bombings specifically to Obama because this is January 4th and there's already been four drone attacks in Pakistan.  There was a 118 last year.  In five years of the program during the Bush administration, there were a total of 52.  So this is something that we can highlight that is increasingly worse than under the Bush administration.  And they're being used to as these proxy weaopns in a war against Pakistan that hasn't been declared yet.  So we have extreme difficulty with this type of warfare.
Anthony Fest: And, Toby, when did CODEPINK begin this campaign against drone warfare?
Toby Blome: Well we got involved -- We kind of followed in the footsteps of Kathy Kelly and the Voices for the Creative Nonviolence.  She and some others in Nevada organized one of the first protests at Creech Air Force Base.  Creech Air Force Base is an hour north of Las Vegas and that was in 2009 -- April -- when 14 peace activists were arrested by crossing into the base on Creech and we followed in July [2009] to bring some more resistance to drone warfare.  And we've now had four trips down to Creech Air Force Base from the Bay Area.  We're now beginning protests at Beale Air Force Base where they control the global hoc  -- one of the key reconnaissance drones.  That it's controlled from the United States.
Adrienne Lauby: So I think one of the reasons people started to use drones, the military, is the idea that then it's safe for the operator.  And, of course, it reminds me of video games.  So don't you see these operators -- I guess my assumption is the operator's sitting there playing a video game and pretty divorced from the actual consequences.  Now, Cindy, I'd like to know more what it's really like for them?
Cindy Sheehan: For the people who are operating it?
Adrienne Lauby: That's right.
Cindy Sheehan: You know, like I said, the only reports I have are really from some chaplains who are saying that the people are being conflicted about it. But the thing is we know from war, from the beginning of time, that the men and women who have been asked to pay the highest prices, whether killing other people, being injured, they're the ones who come back with -- also wounded mentally and emotionally.  So the people who are sitting in the bunker thousands of miles away controlling them aren't free from any kind of effects.  But I get this all the time. People will e-mail me and say, "Cindy, you know maybe if they had been using drones in Iraq on April 4, 2004 in Baghdad, your son might be alive."  Well you know that's true but as as much as I love my son and miss him, and am so, you know, angry about these wars, there are innocent people that are involved. And these drones, they just announced a new one yesterday called the Gorgon Stare, it's going to have multiple cameras. But these drones that they're using now for intelligence have a very narrow -- what they call a "straw vision" -- that just shows a narrow area.  But when you drop a Hellfire Missile on an area, that Hellfire Missile does not distinguish between innocent civilians and so-called militants.  And another thing with these so-called militants, they have not been tried in a court of law for whatever and we know that the prisons like Abu Ghraib and Bagram are filled with people who were sold to the US for a bounty based on faulty intelligence. And these wars are so-called based on faulty intelligence.  So we don't know if the intelligence that the people who are pressing the buttons are getting are anywhere near complete or if they're just acting out a vendetta by somebody in the Pakistani military or the CIA or the US government.  So these programs are basically executing people who haven't had their say in a court of law.
Anthony Fest: Do we know who actually gives the final orders to fire those missiles? Is it an Air Force Officer there or is it CIA?
Cindy Sheehan: I think it's a combination of military and intelligence but we know that 72 hours after Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he gave the order for his first drone strike that killed about three dozen people.  So I think it's a combination of, you know, the military working with the CIA working with -- not just the government of Pakistan but the government of Afghanistan -- but it could be just executing political rivals or political enemies.
I have no idea the chain-of-command on drone attacks.  northsunm32 (All Voices) covered them briefly in May, an Afghanistan one that even NATO admitted was wrong, and stated that NATO commanders were judged to be at fault, "Letters of reprimand were sent to four senior and two junior officers in Afghanistan." Also in May of last year, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) covered the topic and noted the Los Angeles Times report that the CIA in Pakistan had been given the power -- by Barack -- to conduct "indiscriminate drone missile strikes" and
"Only a combatant --a lawful combatant --may carry out the use of killing with combat drones," Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor from the University of Notre Dame law school, testified at the April 28 hearing held by the National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"The CIA and civilian contractors have no right to do so," she continued. "They do not wear uniforms, and they are not in the chain of command. And most importantly, they are not trained in the law of armed conflict."
David Glazier, a professor from Loyola law school in Los Angeles, California, concurred with this opinion, stating that CIA personnel are "clearly not lawful combatants, [and] if you are not a privileged combatant, you simply don't have immunity from domestic law for participating in hostilities."
He went on to warn that "any CIA personnel who participate in this armed conflict run the risk of being prosecuted under the national laws of the places where [the combat actions] take place." CIA operatives involved in the drone program, he said, could be found guilty of war crimes.
The Defense Dept's Deployment Health Clinical Center notes, "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.  Many people with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when they are exposed to events or objects reminiscent of the trauma. People with PTSD also experience emotional numbness and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and irritability or outbursts of anger. Feelings of intense guilt are also comon. Physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal distress, immune system problems, dizziness, chest pain, or discomfort in other parts of the body are common in people with PTSD."  Lark Turner (Daily Northwestern) reports on Iraq War veteran Cpl Justin Owen who was buried last Thursday.  The 24-year-old veteran's Christmas Day death has been ruled a suicide and his father, Tom Owen, believes his son suffered from PTSD.  Along with his father, his survivors include his mother Rebecca Owen and brothers Nicholas and Thomas Owen. Nick Castele (North By Northwestern) notes that he was a graduate stuent who "graduated cum laude from Marquette University's Diederich College of Communication" and that the family has started a memorial scholarship in Justin's name (details at link and also in this Alex Katz article).  Greenwood Today reports on Iraq War veteran Staff Sgt Matthew Scruggs who is a student at Lander University and attempting to treat his PTSD via prescription drugs and sessions at the VA.  He speaks of how the PTSD added stress to his marriage and how his and Ashley Scruggs' religious faith helped there.  Also helping may be that his support network includes his father who also served in the Iraq War (Sgt 1st Class Frederick Scruggs) and he has a brother, a sister and a brother-in-law in the military as well.
Ann J. Curley (CNN) notes a new study published in the JAMA Archives of General Psychiatry which advocates for PTSD screening and found an increase likelihood of longer-term health problems among those veterans suffering from PTSD.  Todd Neale (MedPage Today) adds, "Post traumatic stress disorder -- but not a history of concussion -- strongly predicted postconcussive symptoms and poorer psychosocial outcomes in soldiers returning from a long deployment to Iraq, researchers found."  Randy Dotinga (HealthDay) explains, "Melissa A. Polusny, of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System and the University of Minnesota Medical School, and colleagues surveyed 953 National Guard soldiers who were deployed to combat. They answered questions in Iraq a month before returning home and then a year later. [. . .] The survey found that 7.6 percent of the soldiers were considered to probably have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in the first survey.  A year later, the number had risen to 18.2 percent."
Paul Purpura (Times-Picayune) reports an estimated 115 members of Louisiana's National Guard will be deploying to Iraq and a send-off ceremony took place yesterday in Baton Rouge. Rebeka Allen (Advocate) adds that Capt John Carmouche got married last March right before he deployed to Iraq and got back in December only to now prepare for Capt Tonya Carmouche (his wife) to deploy as part of the estimated 115 Army National Guard members headed to Iraq.  Hatzel Vela (ABC 15) reports 36 members of the Arizona's National Guard are heading to Fort Hood, Texas tomorrow "for two months of training" before deploying to Iraq.  The Iraq War has not ended.
Press TV notes, "Six mortar shells were fired on Monday at the US base north of Hillah, the capital of Babil province, Aswat al-Iraq news agency quoted a police source in the al-Mahawil district." Al Jazeerah notes Aswat al-Iraq also reported a US military vehicle was hit by explosives "in west of Diwaniya" yesterday and that "American forces cordon off the whole region, preventing vehicles coming from Najaf to enter the province for hours." This follows the death of 2 US soldiers on Sunday.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Tarmiya
Since October 31st, there has been a fresh wave of violence targeting Iraqi Christians.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (Washington Post) observes, "As my colleague at the Center for American Progress, Brian Katulis, and I wrote recently , today 'global religious identities are substituting for national identities, especially in weak or failing states.' In these kinds of states such as Nigeria, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and unfortunately, too many other places around the world, 'religious identity more and more substitutes for national identity as the government loses the people's trust...' and more traditional political identities erode."  Mark Seddon (Big Think) notes:
In isolated villages and monasteries in northern Iraq, and in churches in Baghdad, Irbil and Mosul, it is still possible to hear Assyrian Christians talking and praying in ancient Aramaic, which is said to be the language of Christ. Fewer in number now, the Assyrians are the direct descendents of the empires of Assyria and Babylonia, their 2000 year history making them the original inhabitants of Mesopotamia. The Church of the East, currently presided over by Archbishop Gewargis Sliwa in Baghdad is the World's oldest Christian church.
And their other treasures at risk in Iraq as well.  Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "The damage done to the ruins of ancient Babylon is visible from a small hilltop near the Tower of Babel, whose biblical importance is hard to envision from what is left today." Myers reports that "archaeoligist and preservationists" have begun working frantically trying to save and perserve the ruins of Babylon and Mesopotamia.  The work is, at least, in part, funded by a $2 million grant from the State Dept. Third Age notes, "Although the foundation of the ancient city is being eaten away by salt water and erosion, and the area is being encroached by development, Jeff Allen, a conservationist working with the World Monuments Fund says there is still hope for the city to be reinstated to its former glory. "  Myers, Stephen Farrell and Shiho Fukada offer a report here that includes a video tour of some of the ruins. UPI notes, "The aim of these efforts is to prepare the site and other ruins for what Iraqi officials hope will someday be a flood of scientists, scholars and tourists that could contribute to Iraq's economic revival."
Yesterday the Washington Post published a visual graph that noted, starting in 2004, $3.8 billion has been put into CERP funds [Commander's Emergency Response Program] and they list $480 million as "Unaccounted-for funds." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported from Baghdad on various failed projects CERP funds had gone to such as a park and lake in Baghdad, "But today the Baghdad park is nearly waterless, more than two years after a U.S. military inauguration ceremony that included a marching band and water-scooter rides. Much of the compound is in ruins, swing sets have become piles of twisted steel, and the personal watercraft's engines have been gutted for spare parts." The article then segues into an exploration of criticism of how the money was spent. Or there's the $250,000 of US tax payer money that went to stage a concert in Baghdad's Sadr City -- a concert which never took place. Londono covered it from Iraq.  That's where he's stationed.  There's nothing wrong with his reporting on those projects.  But the article really needed more on Congressional critiques which could have been done by pairing Londono up with either Karen DeYoung or Walter Pincus.  The issue is not just the wasted money.  Barack's asking for 1.3 million this year to go to CERP funds.  Is the program worthwhile?  Congress has repeatedly questioned it as have those appearing before Congress.  The funds are not accountable and they have not been accountable.  Even today, there is a large amount which can be spent and requires no real supporting evidence that the money went there other than the most basic release.
CERP was an issue during the September 10th House Armed Services Committee hearing (and also see this entry by Mike). This is from the exchange between Committe Chair Ike Skelton and DoD's Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric S. Edelman:

Ike Skelton: The department's understanding of the allowed usage of CERP funds seems to have undergone a rather dramatic change since Congress first authorized it. The intent of the program was originally to meet urgent humanitarian needs in Iraq through small projects undertaken under the initative of brigade and battalion commanders. Am I correct?

Edelman: Yes, sir.

Ike Skelton: Thank you. The answer was "yes." Last year the Department of Defense has used millions of CERP dollars to build hotels for foreign visitors, spent $900,000 on a mural at the Baghdad International Airport and, as I understand this second piece of art, that CERP funds were used for. I'm not sure that the American tax payer would appreciate that knowing full well that Iraq has a lot of money in the bank from oil revenues and it is my understanding that Iraq has announced that they're going to build the world's largest ferris wheel. And if they have money to build the world's largest ferris wheel why are we funding murals and hotels with money that should be used by the local battallion commander. This falls in the purview of plans and policy ambassador.

Edelman: No, no, it's absolutely right and I'll shae the stage here -- I'll share the stage quite willing with uh, with Admiral Winnefeld with whom I've actually been involved in discussions with for some weeks about how we provide some additional guidance to the field and some additional requirements to make sure that CERP is appropriately spent.

Edelman then tries to stall and Skelton cuts him off with, "Remember you're talking to the American taxpayer." Edelman then replies that it is a fair question. He says CERP is important because it's flexible. It's important because they're just throwing around, if you ask me. They're playing big spender on our dime.

Skelton: The issue raises two serious questions of course. Number one is they have a lot of money of their own. And number two the choice of the type of projects that are being paid for. I would like to ask Mr. Secretary if our committee could receive a list of expenditures of $100,000 or more within the last year. Could you do that for us at your convience please?

Edelman: We'll work with our colleagues in the controller's office and - and . . . to try and get you --

Skelton: That would be very helpful.

As Ike Skelton noted, there were two issues: The tracking and the fact that Iraq had a lot of money on its own.  Why were US tax payers footing the bill to begin with? Let's drop back to the Commission on Wartime Contracting's first public hearing (February 1, 2009 snapshot), when the DoD Deputy Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble weighed in on CERP:

CERP funds are appropriated through the DoD and allocated through each major command's sector of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Up to $500,000 can be allocated to individual CERP projects, and CERP beneficiaries often receive payments in cash. We have also identified occasions where soldiers with limited contracting experience were responsible for administering CERP funds. In some instances, there appeared to be scant, if any, oversight of the manner in which funds were expended. Complicating matters further is the fact that payment of bribes and gratuities to government officials is a common business practice in some Southwest Asia nations. Taken in combination, these factors result in an environment conducive to bribery and corruption.

Sharon Grigsby (Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Dallas Morning News) weighed in on the Post's story at her paper's blog concluding, "It's important that Congress thoroughly vet these changes to assure -- before writing this latest $1.3 billion check -- that this is money worth spending. The abuses cited in this story referenced above raise serious questions." Moving from US to Iraqi money, the Voice of Russia reports, "Corruption caused about $1 billion in harm to the Iraqi economy in 2010. This was announced on Monday by the television channel Al-Sharqiya citing the head of the Iraqi Commission on Combating Corruption, Rahim Ala." RIA Novosti adds, "A total of 709 high-ranking state officials, including nine ministers and 75 department chiefs were convicted of corruption last year." Lastly on money, Nake M. Kamrany and Megan Sieffert (Huffington Post)attempt to provide a dollar estimate for the Iraq War damages: "In several studies, estimates of Iraq war damages sustained by the United States have ranged around $1-$3 trillion. In this current study, measure of war damages sustained by the people and country of Iraq is estimated at $394.4 billion. This figure consists of 66,081 individuals who lost their lives. The present value of their work life earnings and pain and suffering of their heirs amounted to $14.2 billion. Moreover 176,382 individuals sustained injuries ranging from 100% disability to 25% disability incurring monetary damages for medical care and loss of earnings in the amount of $6.0 billion. The war caused 1.9 million individual Iraqi's to emigrate outside of Iraq leaving the war behind including their jobs and property sustaining $30.8 billion of damages. Another 2.65 million Iraqis migrated internally from violent regions to less violent regions in Iraq who sustained damages of $33.9 billion. The economy of Iraq lost 27 years of economic progress. The decline in lost Iraqi GDP caused by the war is estimated at $309.5 billion."

Meanwhile Press TV notes, "Six mortar shells were fired on Monday at the US base north of Hillah, the capital of Babil province, Aswat al-Iraq news agency quoted a police source in the al-Mahawil district." Al Jazeerah notes Aswat al-Iraq also reported a US military vehicle was hit by explosives "in west of Diwaniya" yesterday and that "American forces cordon off the whole region, preventing vehicles coming from Najaf to enter the province for hours." This follows the death of 2 US soldiers on Sunday.  And this is beginning to feel a lot like the lead-up to the British getting forced into Basra only and then forced out of there.  But no one pays attention to that because who even pays attention to Iraq (and how many even remember the British fleeing their base and, within 24 hours, it being torn apart by rebels?).
When Iraq does get attention it tends to be retro.  This morning Max Brantley (Arkansas Times) recommended: "Try Peter Mass' reconstruction in the New Yorker of the most famous image of the war in Iraq -- the toppling of a massive statue of Saddam Hussein after troops rolled into Baghdad."  US forces assisted Iraqi exiles -- flown in that weekend -- with taking down Saddam Hussein's statue.  It was staged and it was always known to be staged by press present.  They narrowed the focus of the square for all photos and video to make it appear that a huge crowd was present when, in fact, it was just a few people (US service members and the exiles).  Peter Maas really can't state that -- or won't.  But he paints a picture of a number of reporters willing to lie to themselves (John F. Burns among them). As usual Glenn Greenwald finds the article earth shattering.  I find it revisionary.  Let's drop back to NPR's The Bryant Park Project April 9, 2008 (and it has text and audio):
Rachel Martin: Five years ago today, Baghdad fell to the invading forces led by the United States. For many people, the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square crystallized the end of his rule, and it's an image that's been broadcast many times in the last five years, over and over. You'll probably see it again today as people remember this grim anniversary. But next time you watch it, bear this in mind.
Nearly four years ago, a Los Angeles Times writer revealed that according to a study of the invasion published by the U.S. Army, the statue toppling was not necessarily the spontaneous event that it appeared to be. David Zucchino is the national correspondent for the LA Times. He first reported that story back in 2004 and he's on the line with us now. Hey, David. Thanks for being with us.
Mr. DAVID ZUCCHINO: (Journalist, Los Angeles Times) Good morning.
MARTIN: Good morning. So David, you were in Baghdad on this day five years ago, but not in Firdos Square. When and how did you hear about that big Saddam Hussein statue falling?
Mr. ZUCCHINO: Well, actually, even though I was in Baghdad that day, I was across the river about a mile or two away and had no idea that was going on, and in fact, the Army troops I was with also had no idea, and I didn't find out about it until several weeks later when I got back to the U.S.
MARTIN: When you found out about it, what was the narrative attached to it?
Mr. ZUCCHINO: My impression was that there was a spontaneous rally by Iraqis and they jumped on the statue and basically pulled it down. I knew there was some U.S. soldiers or Marines in the area, but I was not clear on exactly what their role was, whether they were just providing security or were taking part. It was fairly nebulous.
MARTIN: So you dug up more specifics that cast light on those circumstances surrounding the toppling of the statue. Explain what you found out.
Mr. ZUCCHINO: This was part of a five-hundred-and-some page review, or report, by the Army on the entire invasion, what went wrong and what went right. It was sort of an After Action Report, and this was just sort of a one or two page sideline, almost a footnote.
They had interviewed an Army psychological operations' team leader and he described how a Marine colonel - the Marines were in charge of that area and had just come in, and this Marine colonel had been looking for a target of opportunity, and seized on that statue.
And according to this interview with the psy-ops commander, there were Iraqis milling around the statue, and in fact, had been beating it with sledgehammers and apparently thinking about trying to bring it down, but it was a huge statue and they had no way to do that. So the Marines came up with the idea of bringing in a big recovery vehicle, like a wrecker, and trying to bring it down that way.
Again, the usual TV activists are writing lengthy pieces (I'm not referring to Brantley who just wrote a paragraph) on Maas' bad article.  It's ten pages.  The New Yorker's long been doing photos -- and were doing it before Tina Brown turned the magazine upside down.  Many websites long ago -- and I believe In These Times as well in its print edition -- showed the narrowed version of the photos versus what we'll call "widescreen" option which proved how tiny the turnout was.  The New Yorker offers ten long pages with no photos.  Maas offers ten long pages where he's never aware of the Psyops report.  All these years later.  After it was reported on in the Los Angeles Times.  After it was covered by NPR and others.  All this time later.  Maas shows up to talk about scared little journalists like John F. Burns.  Was Burnsie really scared or is this itself a Psyops that's supposed to make us feel sorry for Burnsie and think, "He's not a liar, he was just scared."  He was there.  He lied.  Reality.
The TV activists -- they play them on Democracy Now and other programs -- are all glooming on and praising Maas' bad article.  In reality, most have ignored the biggest lie about Iraq that was amplified by the media last week.  The lie continues to be amplified.
Sam Dagher is no longer a journalist so it's good that he ends his career at the Murdoch-owned Wall St. Journal and not at the New York Times or the Christian Science Monitor which earlier employed him. He lied last week. Lying is manufacturing a quote, 'improving' a quote. Novelists can do that. Reporters can't. Manufacturing includes taking a statement, leaving out the middle, to imply that someone said something that they didn't. What Dagher did ranks up there with Judith Miller and, unless and until someone demonstrates that she did worse than stenography, Dagher topped her.

At Third on Sunday, we did "Editorial: Surrendering The Narrative" in which we noted how much damage is being done on the issue of Iraq because Beggar Media is no longer interested in the topic -- except when it's time for their "Send Money! We work hard and we're not corporate media! Send us money! It's really easy! Just put it on your credit card and before you know it, you'll have forked over a few hundred a year for us lazy bums who can't get off our ass and get a real job!"

In that editorial, we noted that the Portland Press Herald's editorial board (Portland, Maine) needs to learn to read especially when it's an issue that's several days old. However, we were far kinder than we would have normally been because it was the holidays. Meaning we grasped how a story that popped up last week -- a badly reported story -- could fly over their heads several days later (when lies were then obvious) due to the fact that the Sunday editorial was most likely written on Thursday as people rushed to take New Year's Eve off.

The holidays are over. Everyone is supposed to have rolled up their sleeves and gotten back to work. There's no excuse for Kelly McEvers repeating lies on NPR this morning. Here (audio not yet available online) for her Morning Edition report. McEvers MISINFORMS listeners:

But in an interview Maliki granted The Wall Street Journal last week, he said the existing agreement is "sealed" — and subject to neither extension nor alteration. Still, he did seem to leave open the possibility of a new agreement.


That's Sam Dagher's bad reporting entitled "Iraq Wants the U.S. Out." He dominated Tuesday's foreign news cycle with his scoop that went poop when his paper was so thrilled to finally be getting mentions on cable for 'reporting' that they released the transcript of his interview with Nouri. As noted in Wednesday's "One pimps, the other fluffs," Dagher's article opens:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ruled out the presence of any U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, saying his new government and the country's security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq's security, sovereignty and unity.
Mr. Maliki spoke with The Wall Street Journal in a two-hour interview, his first since Iraq ended nine months of stalemate and seated a new government after an inconclusive election, allowing Mr. Maliki to begin a second term as premier.
A majority of Iraqis -- and some Iraqi and U.S. officials -- have assumed the U.S. troop presence would eventually be extended, especially after the long government limbo. But Mr. Maliki was eager to draw a line in his most definitive remarks on the subject. "The last American soldier will leave Iraq" as agreed, he said, speaking at his office in a leafy section of Baghdad's protected Green Zone. "This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed."

And if you hang around until paragraph thirteen of his bad writing (such a Rudith Miller), you learn that Sam Dagher's gotten 'creative' with his lede. But only when you read the transcript do you learn that he altered the quote in the last paragraph, the one that he built his entire article around. Here's what Nouri actually stated and we'll put what Dagher quoted in italics:

The last American soldier will leave Iraq. Secondly this agreement is sealed and at the time we designated it as sealed and not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country, that's another matter. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration, it is sealed, it expires on Dec. 31

This is so remedial. What Dagher was bad reporting in the extreme. By leaving out Nouri's "Secondly" statement, he's completely altered what Nouri was stating in what can best be termed tabloid journalism. There is no excuse for Kelly McEvers to be repeating -- today -- the following:

But in an interview Maliki granted The Wall Street Journal last week, he said the existing agreement is "sealed" — and subject to neither extension nor alteration. Still, he did seem to leave open the possibility of a new agreement.


He said it was subject to neither extension nor alteration? Yes, that is what Sam Dagher reported. It is not, however, what Nouri said. There is no excuse for it, NPR needs to run a correction. And not where Alicia Shephard gets cutesy and pretends like she doesn't know Henry Norr is a journalist (fired from the San Francisco Chronicle for participating in an anti-war event in April 2003 -- the paper maintains he was fired for using a sick day to attend the event, Noor maintains he was fired for political reasons -- none of this, or the fact that Norr is a journalist, is noted in Shephard's recent 'Me and this Henry Norr exchanged e-mails' column).

Did Nouri -- as McEvers maintains -- state that the "existing agreement is 'sealed' -- and subject to neither extension nor alteration"? Only if, like Dagher, you ignore the "Secondly" where Nouri states "except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country, that's another matter." That's a pretty big exception and including it in the story indicates there is NO story which is why Sam Dagher left it out.

NPR is not Murdoch-owned and is supposed to follow stringent journalistic guidelines. McEver's is not an opinator, she is employed by NPR to report and to report only. Her reporting this morning does not stand. NPR needs to issue a correction.