Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Conyers On Newsweek

Earlier today, Congressman John Conyers wrote a letter to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan about the latest "attempt to intimidate the press corps so that they will be afraid to do their jobs."

Conyers is especially upset that the "Downing Street Memo" has received little to no comment from the White House (nor has it gotten enough play in the MSM I'd like to add) while a retraction based solely on an official's retraction is being crucified by the Bush Administration (and their partners in the Media and blogosphere).

The letter can be read in full at Conyers' Daily Kos Diary and at The Raw Story. Here are some choice excerpts:

"I write to express my profound disappointment and outrage about comments you made about a matter involving Newsweek magazine, which smacks of political exploitation of the deaths of innocent and a shameless attempt to intimidate reporters from critically investigating your Administration's actions. Your comments are contradicted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stand in stark contrast with your actions involving the "Downing Street Memo." I urge you and your counterpart at the Pentagon to immediately retract the comments made yesterday, and - at long last - provide a full accounting of the Administration's actions in the lead up to the Iraq war."

"...there is - of course - a sad irony in this White House claiming that someone else's errors or misjudgments led to the loss of innocent lives. Over 1,600 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives in the Iraq war, a war which your Administration justified by falsely claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. To date, your Administration has consistently blocked Congressional inquiries into whether such claims were the result of intentional manipulation of intelligence or, as you assert, a mere "failure.""

"Moreover, your loquacious response to this matter stands in stark contrast to your response to a recently released classified memo comprising the minutes of a July 22 meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his cabinet which calls into question the credibility of assertions made by your Administration in its drive to war. Among other things the memo indicates that Administration officials were working to ensure that "the intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy," implying that intelligence was deliberately manipulated to prop up the case for war. The memo also indicates, contrary to contemporaneous statements to the American people and the Congress that the President had already "made up his mind to take military action." When asked about this memo, you claimed that you "don't know about the specific memo" - two and one half weeks after its release and ten days after receiving a letter detailing its contents from 89 Members of Congress (which has still not been answered)."

"...the public deserves to know what precisely the White House is asserting with respect to the mistreatment of the Koran by interrogators: are such reports categorically false or are they, in the words of one publication, "manifold?" For example, a May1st New York Times report indicated that a Koran was thrown into a pile and stepped on at the Guantanamo detention facility and "[a] former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." The incident where a Koran was allegedly thrown in a toilet was also recounted by a former detainee in a March 26, 2003 article in the Washington Post, and corroborated by another detainee in a August 4, 2003 report by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The question is: are you categorically denying that the mistreatment of the Koran occurred, or are you simply denying the Newsweek report is accurate on hyper technical grounds?"

"Mr. McClellan, the American people have grown tired of the venomous partisanship and lack of candor on the part of this Administration. When taken to task for wrongdoing, a pattern has emerged of this Administration viciously attacking its accusers. The cornerstone of our democracy is an open and accountable government, and the American people deserve answers - not distractions -- today."

Thanks again, Congressman Conyers.

The following comments are taken from a transcript of comments uttered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers after a hearing of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission:

GEN. MYERS: "I think what we make of it is that, despite our review of the situation, we can't find anything to substantiate the allegations that appeared in Newsweek magazine. And we've looked at, I think, something like -- reviewed 25,000 documents, and there's no indication that anything like that happened. other than what I mentioned in the press conference the other day, one last week, where I think more -- now more than one detainee tore pages out of the Koran and put it in the toilet in protest, to stop up the toilet. But we've not found where -- any wrongdoing on the part of U.S. service members."

SEC. RUMSFELD: "Just to step back for a second, I think it was Mark Twain who said that something that's not true can speed around the world three or four times in a matter of seconds, while truth is still trying to put their boots on. And people have said, my goodness, why does it take so long for someone to come back and with -- have the actual facts? Well, it takes a long time to be truthful, to be responsible. It takes a long time to review 25,000 documents, which is what they've had to do."

SEC. RUMSFELD: "And the only other thing I'd say about it is, people lost their lives. People are dead. And that's unfortunate. And people need to be very careful about what they say, and just as people need to be careful abut what they do."

Well, I'd like to say that Gen. Myers is a liar and that he should be forced to resign his commission. There have been a number of references to desecration of the Koran in numberous articles and interviews with detainees and their lawyers the last few years. That qualifies as evidence. So, Myers is lying when he says they "can't find anything." While the evidence is hearsay unless there is more proof it clearly contradicts Myer's position.

But maybe I shouldn't say that.

Rumsfeld said, "And people need to be very careful about what they say, and just as people need to be careful abut what they do."

Or what?

Finally, Susan Hu of the Booman Tribune has yet another wonderful diary up at Daily Kos which includes some quotes from lawyers representing detainees who have made claims about desecration of the Koran: "These Are Dark Times: Newsweek & the Koran".

It's depressing how little it seems to matter what we prove and disprove on the left side of the blogosphere.

We only get to preach to the choir. No one in the media listens to our side. And very few Democratic officials listen either.


We need to organize.

The right side is killing us.

They are more together than we are. They have more pull.

Left-leaning bloggers need to support the big stories on our blogs. We need to get on point and link to each other.

Our egos get in the way too much.

This Newsweek story should be on every blog. From large to little. That's the only way we can fight back.

If you go to Michelle Malkin's blog you will see that her stories attacking Newsweek have gotten multiple trackbacks from right-wing bloggers. One has 29 trackbacks, another one has 28, a few others at least 15 apiece.

I've never seen Atrios get over 20 trackbacks to one of his articles. Trackbacks are an important weapon.

Daily Kos and Democratic Underground, two of our largest Websites don't have a very effective system to measure trackbacks. The other major problem with Dkos and Dem. Undeground is that the stories disappear after a day or so and are replaced with new ones. Both Websites should at least keep the best diaries of the week on their front page.

The need to push important stories should overcome the need to post multiple times in one day.

Our bloggers and our blog readers lose focus. We need to stick with stories and continue to push them until they break. That's what the right does.

If we organized...perhaps we could break through.

We should have meetings and press conferences. Anyone on the left side of the blogosphere should be allowed to attend and participate. We could do it by open invitation. Don't you think a blogger press conference held in different cities once a week or month would attract some media attention? But to make something like that work it would have to be inclusive and not based solely on the number of hits each blogger gets.

If only a big blogger would get behind such a move. If only...


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