What a Sunday of surprises in our two leading newspapers.
A column by Nick Kristof at The New York Times did the impossible—almost letting George W. Bush off the hook on the current crumbling of Iraq because, you know, so many are to blame. There’s Maliki, of course, but he also cites John McCain and others blaming Obama—and with classic “balance,” states that “some on the left” somehow find “fault” with Bush. As if they’re the only one in the US who blame Bush for setting all in motion with his invasion.
And factually, I suppose, it should be “everyone of the left.”
Then there’s this from Kristof: “The Democratic narrative is that President Bush started the cascade of dominoes. The problem with that logic is that Obama administration officials were boasting just a couple of years ago about how peaceful and successful Iraq had become because of their fine work.” Again: It’s just “the Democratic narrative,” not an objective fact, that Bush “started the cascade of dominoes.”
Just the latest Kristof embarrassment. And let’s not forget that he strongly urged Obama to bomb Syria last year—which would have aided the ISIS rebels.
On the other hand, in the same edition (even the same section), the Times handed over op-ed space to Chelsea Manning, and here you go. It’s mainly on journalists and the “embed” (or “in bed”) program, with claims that reporters play along with the military for access. (See my updated book on Manning.) Much of all this should hardly be news to most but still… from her “Fog Machine of War”:
Among the many daily reports I received via email while working in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 was an internal public affairs briefing that listed recently published news articles about the American mission in Iraq. One of my regular tasks was to provide, for the public affairs summary read by the command in eastern Baghdad, a single-sentence description of each issue covered, complementing our analysis with local intelligence.
The more I made these daily comparisons between the news back in the States and the military and diplomatic reports available to me as an analyst, the more aware I became of the disparity. In contrast to the solid, nuanced briefings we created on the ground, the news available to the public was flooded with foggy speculation and simplifications.
Meanwhile, over at The Washington Post, there was quite an account, with full details on the frantic attempts by the US to seize or trick or snatch Edward Snowden after he released his NSA bombshell, hoping he’d do something stupid—like get on a plane to Bolivia or some such (and they famously did divert one flight).
As it crossed Austria, the aircraft made a sudden U-turn and landed in Vienna, where authorities searched the cabin—with Morales’s permission, officials said—but saw no sign of Snowden.
The initial, official explanation that Morales was merely making a refueling stop quickly yielded to recriminations and embarrassment.
Austrian officials said they were skeptical of the plan from the outset and noted that Morales’s plane had taken off from a different airport in Moscow than where Snowden was held. “Unless the Russians had carted him across the city,” one official said, it was unlikely he was on board.
Even if Snowden had been a passenger, officials said, it is unclear how he could have been removed from a Bolivian air force jet whose cabin would ordinarily be regarded as that country’s sovereign domain—especially in Austria, a country that considers itself diplomatically neutral.
“We would have looked foolish if Snowden had been on that plane sitting there grinning,” said a senior Austrian official. “There would have been nothing we could have done.”
And finally, a great John Oliver segment last night ripping Washington Redskins team owner ("Chief Running Without Moral Compass") over failure to change team name.
Read Next: Bob Dreyfuss on how Iraq's crisis got started—and how it didn't.