Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Schizo NY Times on Iraq

On May 26, 2004, The New York Times shined the "bright light of hindsight" on its coverage of the neocon invasion of Iraq, and sort-of apologized for its own accessorial role: "But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge." But they didn't fault any of their writers or staff by name. They saw no need to mention even the infamous Chalabi embedder - Judith Miller.

Instead of looking back, isn't it about time that the boys (and girls) at The Times stood up to the present challenge?

An editorial in today's paper (Saturday, August 21, 2004) entitled "The Road to Confrontation in Najaf" (along with the front page story alluded to within it) stands in high contrast to the majority of the previous articles posted about the stand-off in Najaf (most were written by the gung-ho John F. Burns), which unfailingly put the blame on Moktada al-Sadr and his followers.

"What is clear is that this potentially decisive showdown began when and where it did because of serious lapses in the American military command structure in Iraq. As The Times reported earlier this week, the confrontation began when a newly arrived Marine Expeditionary Unit in Najaf started skirmishing with Moktada al-Sadr's Shiite militia without its officers first clearing that decision with top American commanders in Baghdad or with Iraqi political leaders...Although the Allawi government has supported the notion that a showdown with Mr. Sadr was necessary, it probably would not have chosen to fight it out at the world's most revered Shiite shrine, or to take a stand during the week that Iraqis convened in Baghdad to choose a new interim assembly."

Only yesterday, in a front pager (Friday, August 20, 2004 "Iraq Chief Gives 'Final Warning" To Rebel Cleric"), John F. Burns wrote that "before the attacks on Thursday night, American troops and Sadr militiamen had traded volleys of gunfire in the Old City," and that "senior officials of the American-led military alliance [said] the decision on whether to storm the Najaf shrine was one for Dr. Allawi, not for the United States."

Perhaps Mr. Burns has been unable to perceive the flashlight beam of hindsight. According to him, both sides "traded volleys." Mr. Burns, and his editors (if he has any at The Times), failed to mention the now-qualified fact that it was the Marines that decided among themselves to take the initiative. And it's kind of ridiculous for J.F.B. to allow unnamed officials to assert that Dr. Allawi has assumed control of our forces (ain't it funny how Republicans fear UN control but not the control of "independent" Iraq).

But there is no correction in today's paper for Mr. Burns. There is no mention of him in today's critical editorial. And there aren't even any new "stories" carrying his byline that reflect the change of view.

The Timeshas been even worse in its business articles that address the constantly rising costs of oil. Today (Saturday, August 21, 2004) Jad Mouawad's article "Oil Price Comes Close to $50 But Then It Stages a Retreat" contains a paragraph that "explains" why the "oil markets have been on edge in recent weeks: "In Russia, it was pressure from the government against Yukos, the country's largest oil company; in Venezuela, it was a contested referendum on whether to oust President Hugo Chávez; in the Gulf of Mexico, it was the passage of Hurricane Charley, forcing the temporary closing of oil installations; and in Iraq, it was Moktada al-Sadr and his followers, who refer to themselves as the Mahdi Army."

Mr. Mouawad doesn't have the excuse of being in a war zone (like Mr. Burns), but his information is controversial, seems questionable, and is insufficiently qualified to stand unchallenged. It's bad enough that he neglects to mention the role the Marines have played in the current crisis in Najaf, but he also exempts the occupation itself as a reason for the escalating oil prices. Obviously, the continued presence of the "Coalition" in Iraq - especially after the so-called "handover" - plays more than a minor role in keeping the markets "on edge."

Instead of repeatedly calling on George Bush and John Kerry to admit they were wrong regarding the invasion of Iraq based on faulty intelligence and lack of imagination, The Times should get its stories straight on how it really stands.

If you ask me, they're nothing but a bunch of schizos.


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