Media, politics and culture.
It was ten years ago tonight that the Dixie Chicks, extremely popular then and far from controversial, caused a massive stir when singer Natalie Maines declared on stage in London: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” It was a little more than a week before their fellow Texan launched a war based on lies.
Of course, hatred was quickly spewed in the Chicks’ direction by media types, political figures and country music yahoos—who never then or now get so excited when right-wing entertainers and media celebs make threats against a Democratic president.
Boycotts were immediately announced. Maines clarified two days later, “I feel the president is ignoring the opinions of many in the US and alienating the rest of the world.” But record sales and advance sales of concert tickets plunged.
Maines then issued an apology, of sorts: “As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful. I feel that whoever holds that office should be treated with the utmost respect. We are currently in Europe and witnessing a huge anti-American sentiment as a result of the perceived rush to war. While war may remain a viable option, as a mother, I just want to see every possible alternative exhausted before children and American soldiers’ lives are lost. I love my country. I am a proud American.”
Good old true American Merle Haggard weighed in:
I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.
But President Bush argued: “The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind. They can say what they want to say.… they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.… Freedom is a two-way street ….”
The Chicks then posed semi-nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with words they had been called slightly covering them, e.g., “Dixie Sluts.” But their popularity would never be the same (although they did win a bunch of Grammys in 2006). Some stations still will not play their old tunes. Meanwhile, more than 4,000 American troops and more than a 125,000 Iraqis would die in a war based on lies. See my new book, So Wrong for So Long, for much more on the war and media malpractice.
Greg Mitchell’s book So Wrong For So Long, on Bush, the media and the Iraq war, was published last week in an expanded edition for the first time as an e-book.
Yes, we all had some fun last week mocking Bob Woodward (and the Politico guys) for hyping that mythical “threat” from the White House. Last we checked, a horse head had not yet appeared at the bottom of Bob’s bed. And yes, he was basically wrong in blaming Obama for being the main villain in the sequester farce. But that was hardly his biggest failure. In fact, nothing in his career holds a candle to when he joined the credulous media brigade in accepting George W. Bush’s word on WMD in Iraq.
In other words, he agreed to “follow the dummy.”
While it’s true that Woodward may be (partly) known for his several books on George W. Bush and his handling of the Iraq war, with each one growing increasingly hostile. But he is rarely connected to the pre-invasion press cheerleading as it went down, partly because he was not a White House or Pentagon reporter back in early 2003. So I was a little surprised to find this nugget as I was going over my book So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq as it appeared as an updated e-book this week.
The day after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the UN Security Council Wednesday, TV commentators and newspaper editorials, and even many liberal pundits, declared their support for the Bush administration’s hard-line stance on Iraq. CNN’s Bill Schneider said that “no one” disputed Powell’s findings. Bob Woodward, asked by Larry King on CNN what happens if we go to war and don’t find any WMD, answered: “I think the chance of that happening is about zero. There’s just too much there.”
I also found this, much worse, when Howard Kurtz in 2004 belatedly did a review of The Washington Post’s deeply flawed prewar coverage: “[Bob] Woodward, for his part, said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if weapons were ultimately found in Iraq.” Woodward was managing editor at the Post and therefore influenced, and at times helped decide, the handling of some of its key coverage.
Woodward later admitted, “I think I dropped the ball here. I should have pushed much, much harder on the skepticism about the reality of WMD.” No kidding.
Because of the notoriety surrounding Judith Miller and The New York Times’ coverage, the Post’s almost equally poor coveage and opinion pieces drew too little attention after WMD were not discovered. The Post ran Howard Kurtz’s critical August 12, 2004, piece on the front page, something it inevitably failed to do with stories skeptical of the march to war. It should also be noted that the story was solely Kurtz’s idea, although Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. agreed to publish it.
By the Post’s own admission, in the months before the war, it ran more than 140 stories on its front page promoting the war, while contrary information “got lost,” as one Post staffer told Kurtz. So allow me to pursue a few points (see my book for much more on media misconduct in war coverage). First, two quotes (beyond the Woodward gem) from Post staffers that speak for themselves:
• “There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?”—Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks.
• “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.“—Reporter Karen DeYoung.
Next, consider the highly revealing excuses, offered by Post editors:
• Executive Editor Downie said experts who questioned the war wouldn’t go on record often enough. But his paper, and others, quoted unnamed pro-war sources willy-nilly.
• Downie also asserted that “voices raising questions about the war were lonely ones.” This is simply rewriting history. On the eve of the invasion, polls showed that half the public wanted to delay the invasion to give the United Nations inspectors more time to do their duty, and millions had already marched in the streets. Many of the editorial pages of major US newspapers (though, crucially, not the Post’s) were expressing their own doubts about the need for war. Key intelligence experts questioned the administration’s evidence but were given little play, on or off the record, at the Post.
• Liz Spayd, assistant managing editor for news, offered another weak defense in explaining why a key article questioning the existence of WMD by thirty-two-year Post veteran Walter Pincus was finally published on Page A17. Pincus’s stories are “difficult to edit,” as she put it. Matthew Vita, then national security editor and now deputy assistant managing editor, offered another defense for the Pincus miscue: “We were dealing with an awful lot of stories, and that was one of the ones that slipped through the cracks.”
• That rationale also applied to another sad case. In the days before the war, Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung finished a piece that said CIA officials had communicated significant doubts to the administration about evidence linking Iraq to an attempted uranium purchase. The story was held until March 22, three days after the war began. “Editors blamed a flood of copy about the impending invasion,” Kurtz explained.
• Vita had a different excuse on another missed opportunity. One of the fresh revelations in the Kurtz piece was how, in October 2002, Thomas Ricks (who has covered national security issues for fifteen years) turned in a piece titled “Doubts,” indicating that Pentagon officials were worried that the risks of an invasion of Iraq were being underestimated. It was killed by Vita. He told Kurtz that a problem with the piece was that many of the quotes with names attached came from “retired guys.” But the Post (and much of the rest of the media) rarely shied away from “retired guys” who promoted the war.
• Other excuses rippled through the Kurtz piece, featuring phrases like “always easy in hindsight,” “editing difficulties,” “communication problems” and “there is limited space on Page 1.” One editor explained, “You couldn’t get beyond the veneer and hurdle of what this groupthink had already established,” even though the British press somehow managed to overcome that. Amid all the excuses, Post staffers denied that the paper was under any pressure from the White House.
• At the end of the Kurtz piece, Downie offered his ultimate defense. “People who were opposed to the war from the beginning and have been critical of the media’s coverage in the period before the war have this belief that somehow the media should have crusaded against the war,” Downie said. “They have the mistaken impression that somehow if the media’s coverage had been different, there wouldn’t have been a war.”
Two responses to that final excuse come quickly to mind.
Most of those against the war did not ask for a media “crusade” against invasion, merely that the press stick to the facts and provide a balanced assessment: in other words, that the Post do its minimum journalistic duty. If anything, the Post, and some other major news outlets, came closer to crusading for the war.
And did Downie honestly believe that nothing the media might have done could have possibly stopped the war? Especially when, as noted, public and editorial opinion on the eve of war was divided? Does he take issue with Walter Lippmann’s notion that the press plays a vital role in “manufacturing consent”? And does he really believe his must-read newspaper lacks any clout? If so, what does that say about the state of modern newspapering?
Greg Mitchell’s influential book So Wrong For So Long, on the media and the Iraq war, was published today in an expanded edition for the first time as an e-book.
You knew they had to be sensitive, even embarrassed about it, when The New York Times announced that it was dropping its popular “Green” blog at 5pm on a Friday. This is the traditional time for governmental and corporate entities to release bad news or offer massive document dumps.
The Times, back in January, had revealed that it was dropping its special reporting unit, or “pod,” on the environment, so concerns had already been aired. Still, this latest move, last Friday, drew criticism from readers, activists and media watchers.
Times managing editor Dean Baquet explains that, yes, this was a “cost-cutting” move but also claims that the inside view was that environmental coverage had become ghettoized and would benefit from being integrated with other departments. This might raise its profile and get more stories on the front page. I suppose this is the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” argument.
But many are not buying it. Andrew Revkin, who writes at the paper’s Dot. Earth blog, posted a critique there, calling Green (which drew on many fine freelance writers) “an excellent aggregator of environmental news and analysis that didn’t fit in the flow of conventional articles.”
Curtis Brainerd at the Columbia Journalism Review site slammed the move: “They’ve made a horrible decision that ensures the deterioration of the Times’s environmental coverage at a time when debates about climate change, energy, natural resources and sustainability have never been more important to public welfare, and they’ve done so while keeping their staff in the dark. Readers deserve an explanation, but I can’t think of a single one that would justify this folly.”
Seeking an explanation, Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s super-active public editor, talked to Baquet and the former Green editor (who has been re-assigned to the Culture desk), then offered her usual frank assessment:
I’m not convinced that The Times’s environmental coverage will be as strong without the team and the blog. Something real has been lost on a topic of huge and growing importance.
Especially given The Times’s declared interest in attracting international readers and younger readers, I hope that Times editors—very soon—will look for new ways to show readers that environmental news hasn’t been abandoned, but in fact is of utmost importance. So far, in 2013, they are not sending that message.
Just can’t muster up that old righteous fury on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War? Read Greg Mitchell’s list of sixteen media outrages on Iraq.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the US attack on Iraq we may face more media coverage of that tragic conflict that we’ve seen in the past two or three years combined. How much of it will focus on the media misconduct that helped make the war possible (and then continue for so long)? We will see, and I’ll be charting it all here.
For now, let’s re-live some of the good, the bad and the ugly in war coverage from the run-up to the invasion through the five years of controversy that followed. In updating the new edition (and first e-book version) of my book, published this month, So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits—and the President—Failed on Iraq, I was continually surprised to come across once-prominent names, quotes and incidents that had faded, even for me. Here is a list of sixteen of those nearly forgotten episodes, in roughly chronological order.
1) In late March 2003, the day before the US invasion, Bill O’Reilly said, “If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it’s clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation; I will not trust the Bush administration again, all right?”
2) After the fall of Baghdad in April, Joe Scarborough, on MSNBC, said, “I’m waiting to hear the words ‘I was wrong’ from some of the world’s most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types.”
3) The same day, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews declared, “We’re all neocons now.”
4) Thomas Friedman, who had called this a “legitimate war of choice,” now wrote at The New York Times, “As far as I am concerned, we do not need to find any weapons of mass destruction to justify this war…. Mr. Bush doesn’t owe the world any explanation for missing chemical weapons.”
5) Phil Donahue suddenly lost his show at MSNBC, he later claimed, because he did not wave the flag enough. A leaked NBC memo confirmed Donahue’s suspicion, noting that the host “presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war…. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
6) President Bush’s “comedy” routine during the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner on March 24, 2004—nearly one year into the war—included a bit about the still-missing WMD. While a slide show of the president searching the White House was projected on the wall behind him, he joked, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere…. Nope, no weapons over there… Maybe under here?” Most of the crowd roared, and there was little criticism in the media in following days. David Corn, then Washington editor of The Nation, was one of the few attendees to criticize the routine. Corn wondered if they would have laughed if Ronald Reagan had, following the truck bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut, which killed 241, said at a similar dinner, “Guess we forgot to put in a stoplight.”
7) When The New York Times carried its belated editors’ note on May 26, 2004, admitting some errors in its WMD coverage, it appeared on page A10 and Judith Miller’s name was nowhere to be found. The note is often described today as an “apology,” but it was no such thing. On the day it ran, Executive Editor Bill Keller (who once called himself a “liberal hawk” on Iraq) termed criticism of the Times’s coverage “overwrought” and said that the main reason it even published the note was because the controversy had become a “distraction.”
8) The first mainstream editor/columnist to call for a US pullout was the unlikely Allen H. Neuharth, founder of USA Today, who is certainly not known for expressing antiwar or liberal views. His May 2004 column drew wide reader protest but “the old fighting infantryman” (as the former soldier billed himself) stuck to his guns and penned a few more columns in that vein in the years that followed.
9) It’s often said that The Washington Post issued an apology for its coverage of the ramp-up to the war. But the criticism of its prewar coverage came not in an editors’ statement but in an article by the paper’s media critic, Howard Kurtz. Post editors offered several defenses for the coverage, and top editor Len Downie argued that it didn’t make much difference anyway, because tougher coverage would not have stopped the war.
10) Stephen Colbert’s riotous routine at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April 2006 is remembered for the in-his-face mockery of President Bush—but he also spanked the press, perhaps one reason his mainstream reviews were mixed at best. Addressing the correspondents directly, Colbert said, “Let’s review the rules. The president makes decisions; he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell-check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know—fiction.”
11) Fox News’s John Gibson ripped Neil Young after the rocker released his excellent protest album Living With War. Gibson demanded that Young go see the new United 93 movie and even offered to buy his ticket. Young, it was soon pointed out, had actually written one of the first 9/11 songs,”Let’s Roll,” about, you guessed it, Flight 93.
12) Surprise: David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Oliver North all came out against the “surge” in 2007 after it was announced by President Bush. George Will wrote a column titled, “Surge, or Power Failure?” And, after the botched hanging of Saddam, Charles Krauthammer declared, “We should not be surging American troops in defense of such a government.”
13) On March 27, 2007, John McCain, referring to the supposed calm settling on Baghdad, said, “General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed Humvee.” This turned out to be pure bunk, but McCain quickly visited Iraq to try to prove his overall point. There, the Arizona senator went from the ridiculous to the maligned, touring a Baghdad market and claiming all was safe—while troops surrounded him and helicopters twirled overhead. Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.) likened the scene to “a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime.”
14) When Valerie Plame Wilson finally testified before Congress in March 2007, much of the media coverage focused on her appearance. Mary Ann Akers wrote a piece for the Washington Post titled “Hearing Room Chic,” noting that Plame wore “a fetching jacket and pants” and should be played by Katie Holmes in the movie version of her story because they both favor Armani.
15) The New York Times, which had editorialized against the invasion, did not call for a change in course or the beginning of a withdrawal from Iraq until July 8, 2007.
16) On Meet the Press in July 2007, David Brooks declared that 10,000 Iraqis a month would perish if the United States pulled out. Bob Woodward, also on the show, challenged him on this, asking for his source. Brooks admitted, “I just picked that 10,000 out of the air.”
Greg Mitchell’s new edition of So Wrong for So Long includes a preface by Bruce Springsteen, a new introduction and a lengthy afterword with updates right up to Bradley Manning’s hearing last week.
Last week, we had some fun with Bob Woodward’s ludicrous lie about a mythical threat from the White House warning him that he might find a horse’s head in his bed one morning (or something) if he kept getting the current budget and sequester debate wrong. But the issue of press malfeasnance on this subject is deadly serious. We’ve explored various angles on this in the past, but an incident this weekend perfectly reveals how the game has been played.
Last night, you could practically hear Paul Krugman cackling as he observed in a blog post at the New York Times site that, once again, he had been proven right and a certain critic wrong. But in this case, the wayward critic was not the usual know-nothing pundit or GOP congressman but the estimable Ezra Klein. Actually, Krugman was hailing Klein—for “manning up” and admitting he had been wrong in his latest Washington Post column.
Before we get to that, consider Krugman’s wider point:
Meanwhile, it’s not just Republicans who refuse to accept it when Obama gives them what they want; the same applies, with even less justification, to centrist pundits. As people like Greg Sargent point out time and again, the centrist ideal—deficit reduction via a mix of revenue increases and benefits cuts—is what Obama is already offering; in fact, his proposals have been to the right of Bowles-Simpson. Yet the centrist pundits keep demanding that Obama offer what he has already offered, and condemn both sides equally (or even place most of the blame on Obama) for the failure to reach a deal. Again, informing them of their error wouldn’t help; their whole shtick is about blaming both sides, and they will always invent some reason why Obama just isn’t doing it right.
What sparked this commentary? Klein had written that the failure to reach a compromise on a budget deal was mainly (or at least partly) caused by a tragic “failure to communicate.” Some Republicans in Congress simply did now know about key Obama concessions, such as agreeing to cave on “chained” cost-of-living entitlement increases. If they were more aware of that, who knows, they might be willing to accept the very good deal being offered by the White House.
However, Jonathan Chait at The New Republic quickly informed Klein that he was probably all wet. Klein was giving the GOPers the benefit of a doubt in suggesting some of them were simply ignorant rather willfully misguided (if you can call that something to be proud of). The Republicans, he said, would not accept anything coming from the White House and would keep moving the goal posts—which Bob Woodward claimed was what Obama was doing—rather than budge one inch on any tax increase.
That’s not exactly an original claim, so how did Chait prove it—enough to inspire Klein to admit he was wrong? Chait reproduced a chain of tweets from Saturday involving the longtime GOP strategist and campaign manager Mike Murphy, who is known as something of a “moderate” in the current far-right party. It’s too much to reproduce here, so go to Chait’s column or Klein’s response, but basically, even the somewhat sensible Murphy displays in “real time” that GOP moving-the-goal-posts scenario.
Krugman (above left) summarizes it this way: the “Twitter exchange lets Klein watch that process in real time, as a top Republican consultant, confronted with evidence that Obama has already conceded what he said was all that was needed, keeps adding more demands.”
Klein’s reassessment: The Murphy “series of missives on the subject today offered an unusually clear view of where the GOP actually is in the budget debate, and why there was really no alternative to the sequester. There’s no deal even if Obama agrees to major Republican demands on entitlements. There’s no deal because Republicans don’t want to make a deal that includes taxes, no matter what they get in return for it.”
And Krugman makes an interesting final point on new forms of “investigative” journalism: “Anyway, props to Ezra—and is the use of Twitter exchanges to document political hypocrisy a new frontier in reporting?”
Bradley Manning might never have jump-started WikiLeaks if he had gotten ahold of The New York Times. Greg Mitchell covers the media matters raised by Manning’s testimony.
There is much to be said about Bradley Manning’s remarkable day in court yesterday—he pleaded guilty to numerous charges for passing material to WikiLeaks and offered a lengthy and revealing statement about it all—but since I concentrate on the media here, let’s stick to that angle for now. Yesterday I provided commentary and numerous links on this and other angles here.
In his statement, Manning provided for the first time a blow-by-blow on how and why he came to contact WikiLeaks in early 2010 in a process that led to the passing of an infamous video and millions of documents to them. It turns out that he first contacted The New York Times and The Washington Post and planned to reach out to Politico (that is, if everyone there was not over at Bob Woodward’s house) but was turned back by bad weather.
Manning said that he had called the Times’s public editor and left a message on his news tips line, briefly explaining what he had in mind. That post, ironically, was then filled by Clark Hoyt, who had directed the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) office in DC that earned so much (belated) glory for their very rare, tough coverage of the bogus Bush claims of Iraq WMD. Manning never got a call back. Hoyt told Calderone yesterday that he had no recollection of such a call.
Manning did manage to get through to an unnamed reporter at The Washington Post, who seemed to brush him off, although it’s possible his description of what he wanted to leak might have sounded jumbled and hard to judge.
Failing in these efforts, he then learned about the WikiLeaks submission process and—the rest is history.
Jeff Jarvis, among others, has raised the question of what would have happened if the Times had returned his call? Would it, too, have regarded him as just another sketchy and unworthy source—or, why not, asked him to send along his treasure trove? If he did pass on the bombshell material, how would the Times have responded? If it went ahead and published, wouldn’t it have been in the legal spotlight and taken the brunt of criticism and harsh charges?
For now, let me recommend that you consult Manning’s full statement, which includes so many interesting details and revelations barely mentioned in the mainstream accounts today. For background, there’s my recent book with Kevin Gosztola.
But here’s an excerpt on a particularly critical and interesting topic—Manning’s viewing of the “Collateral Murder” video of that US helicopter gunship attack on Iraqi civilians, his reaction (sparking a whole chain of events), and the role of David Finkel of The Washington Post who had somehow, as an embedded reporter, gotten access to the video earlier and wrote a less-than-fully-damning account of what had transpired.
The video depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other war porn type videos depicting combat. However, the recording of audio comments by the aerial weapons team crew and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me. As Showman and a few other analysts and officers in the T-SCIF commented on the video and debated whether the crew violated the rules of engagement or ROE in the second engagement, I shied away from this debate, instead conducting some research on the event. I wanted to learn what happened and whether there was any background to the events of the day that the event occurred, 12 July 2007.
Using Google I searched for the event by its date by its general location. I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement. Another story explained that Reuters had requested for a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Reuters wanted to view the video in order to understand what had happened and to improve their safety practices in combat zones. A spokesperson for Reuters was quoted saying that the video might help avoid the reoccurrence of the tragedy and believed there was a compelling need for the immediate release of the video.
Despite the submission of the FOIA request, the news account explained that CENTCOM replied to Reuters stating that they could not give a time frame for considering a FOIA request and that the video might no longer exist. Another story I found written a year later said that even though Reuters was still pursuing their request. They still did not receive a formal response or written determination in accordance with FOIA. The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq or MNF-I would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good samaritans.’ The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.
The dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote “dead bastards” unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. in the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew— as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.
Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote ‘Well, it’s there fault for bringing their kid’s into a battle’ unquote.
The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team verbalizes enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over a body— or one of the bodies. As I continued my research, I found an article discussing the book, The Good Soldiers, written by Washington Post writer David Finkel.
In Mr. Finkel book, he writes about the aerial weapons team attack. As, I read an online excerpt in Google Books, I followed Mr. Finkel’s account of the event belonging to the video. I quickly realize that Mr. Finkel was quoting, I feel in verbatim, the audio communications of the aerial weapons team crew.
It is clear to me that Mr. Finkel obtained access and a copy of the video during his tenue as an embedded journalist. I was aghast at Mr. Finkel’s portrayal of the incident. Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as ‘payback’ for an earlier attack that lead to the death of a soldier. Mr. Finkel ends his account by discussing how a soldier finds an individual still alive from the attack. He writes that the soldier finds him and sees him gesture with his two forefingers together, a common method in the Middle East to communicate that they are friendly. However, instead of assisting him, the soldier makes an obscene gesture extending his middle finger.
The individual apparently dies shortly thereafter. Reading this, I can only think of how this person was simply trying to help others, and then he quickly finds he needs help as well. To make matter worse, in the last moments of his life, he continues to express his friendly gesture— only to find himself receiving this well known gesture of unfriendliness. For me it’s all a big mess, and I am left wondering what these things mean, and how it all fits together. It burdens me emotionally.
I saved a copy of the video on my workstation. I searched for and found the rules of engagement, the rules of engagement annexes, and a flow chart from the 2007 time period— as well as an unclassified Rules of Engagement smart card from 2006. On 15 February 2010 I burned these documents onto a CD-RW, the same time I burned the 10 Reykjavik 13 cable onto a CD-RW. At the time, I placed the video and rules for engagement information onto my personal laptop in my CHU. I planned to keep this information there until I redeployed in Summer 2010. I planned on providing this to the Reuters office in London to assist them in preventing events such as this in the future.
However, after the WLO published 10 Reykjavik 13 I altered my plans. I decided to provide the video and the rules of engagement to them so that Reuters would have this information before I re-deployed from Iraq. On about 21 February 2010, I described above, I used the WLO submission form and uploaded the documents. The WLO released the video on 5 April 2010. After the release, I was concern about the impact of the video and how it would been received by the general public. I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public, who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled— if not more troubled that me by what they saw.
At this time, I began seeing reports claiming that the Department of Defense an CENTCOM could not confirm the authenticity of the video. Additionally, one of my supervisors, Captain Casey Fulton, stated her belief that the video was not authentic. In her response, I decided to ensure that the authenticity of the video would not be questioned in the future. On 25 February 2010, I emailed Captain Fulton, a link to the video that was on our ‘T’ drive, and a copy of the video published by WLO that was collected by the open source center, so she could compare them herself.
Also check out “From Legend to Laughingstock,” Greg Mitchell’s post on Woodwardgate.
Famed Washington Post reporter and author Bob Woodward has been the target of much praise from the right and scorn from the left this week, after writing an article for the newspaper fully blaming Obama for coming up with the idea of the sequester—and being most to blame for the current mess by not showing “leadership” in solving it.
Responding to the pushback from the White House and many in the media on basic facts and his analysis, Woodward summoned DC lap dogs from Politico, Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, to his home to show them an e-mail from an unnamed top Obama official issuing what he called a “threat” to him (of the “or else” variety), which his visitors appeared to swallow whole. Woodward also warned that the president was becoming positively “Nixonian.”
Published at the Politico site, this obsequious report (the writers also backed Woodward’s view on Obama as bad guy in the sequester debate) drew wide mockery on the web last night, even from some on the right. The “threat” appeared no different from someone’s simply warning another that they might be embarrassed if they continue with their current line of action or thinking. This was it in its entirety: “I think you will regret staking out that claim.”
The White House quickly pointed out what most readers had already concluded: Woodward was completely hyping the alleged threat—sort of like Bush did with Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons. He had even said much the same thing in a hasty CNN appearnace.
Now the White House has released the full text of the e-mails exchanged by the official, IDed as Gene Sperling, and Woodward—and they should bring (but probably won’t) full shame to Woodward, Vandehei and Allen.
Politico has released the full e-mails and they give lie to Woodward’s claim of feeling “threatened,” as you’ll see in Woodward’s reply and Sperling calling him “a friend.” Now we learn that Vandehei and Allen deliberately left out the key “as a friend” lead-in to the alleged “threat.” Sperling also wrote, “my bad,” and closed with: “My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.” Some threat!
From the “threatened” Woodward reply to Sperling: “You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this.”
Dan Froomkin calls the whole affair in a tweet: “Bob Woodward’s Mad Hatter tea party with Allen and Vandehei…. All of them puffed up and delusional.” A writer at The Atlantic Wire observed: “We hope Woodward never gets an e-mail in ALL CAPS.” As Dick Cheney might put it, we are simply hearing the cries of old-line DC journos in the “death throes” of their game.
As for Woodward charging that Obama was becoming Nixonian. I guess except for ordering multiple break-ins, paying hush money, suggesting that a think-tank’s office get firebombed, destroying evidence and more.
Meanwhile, we are waiting for Bob to call a press conference and declare either (1) “I am not a kook” or (2) “You won’t have Woodward to kick around anymore” or maybe (3) “Follow the dummy.” Or, à la The Godfather, he’s petrified that he will wake up tomorrow and find in his bed a horse’s…ass.
Greg Mitchell, a former editor of Editor & Publisher, has written more than a dozen books, including seveal on influential US political campaigns.
Politico reporters whine about lack of access to the president, but when they got access to Bush they asked trivial questions, Greg Mitchell writes.
One day after the disgraceful actions of the publisher of a small newspaper in rural Murphy, North Carolina, the Cherokee Scout, wrote one of the most embarrassing “note to readers” ever in genuflecting to local gun owners, the editor of the paper has resigned.
The publisher, David Brown, just last week had apologized to readers and sought their forgiveness—even though some of them had apparently threatened his life and the life of the editor who dared put in a public records request to the local sheriff. The note even told everyone how wonderful they all were, and even apologized to the sheriff.
As publisher of your local newspaper, I want to apologize to everyone we unintentionally upset with our public records request for a list of those who have or have applied for a concealed carry permit. We had no idea the reaction it would cause.
Jim Romenesko, the longtime media blogger, covered it (about a week after it appeared) under the headline: “Most Incredible Newspaper Apology Ever.” He have said “Most Embarrassing” or “Most Craven” or what not.
The editor, Robert Horne, 43, had not even planned to publish the names of the local gun permit holders in Muprhy County that he had requested—as happened with the recent controversy surrounding my own local paper, The Journal News, in New York—but simply to tally their numbers. The Journal News eventually scrubbed its site of the names but the Cherokee never intended to even post them.
Now the other shoe has dropped—and the editor has been forced (we presume) to resign—though Horne tells Jim Romenesko that he chose to go (and is even moving out of the state, no wonder). You can catch up with the whole hideous story here.
Brown had originally stuck to his guns, so to speak, after the sheriff rebuffed his initial attempt to get the records. The dispute went public when the sheriff posted notes about it on his Facebook page. Brown then hit the threats from “near-hysterical residents as a result of the sheriff’s actions.” But then he caved, and now Horne, who had worked at the paper for seven years, is gone.
A related newspaper/sheriff story here: "Now an Asheville city councilman, Bothwell says intimidation and threats were common during his reporting on the sheriff. Vans with dark windows would park outside the houses of newspaper staffers at night. Two deputies had told Bothwell off the record the sheriff said he was going to “take care” of him. He took to wearing somewhat of a disguise when reporting in the field, and borrowing a friend’s car."
[See Updates at end of post.]
Last week, you may have read, film director Michael Moore revealed a disturbing incident at the Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, as it’s commonly known: The Palestinian co-director of the great Oscar-nominated documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, had been detained for quite awhile, seemingly racially profiled by agents who could not believe Emad Burnat and his wife and son (all Muslims) were in town for the Oscar show.
Moore tried to help him get released, after Burnat texted him that they were being threatened with deportation. Moore wrote about it via Twitter and at his web site.
Yesterday, increasingly popular Buzzfeed published a report by Tessa Stuart suggesting that the whole affair was nothing but a “publicity stunt” for the movie and that the director was held for just twenty-five minutes in a very SOP. A source called Moore’s account of the episode “baloney.” This was based mainly, or exclusively, on just one unnamed source in the Homeland Security apparatus. She said she had tried and failed to reach Moore.
Last night, Moore fired back on Twitter: “Tessa Stuart of Buzzfeed has lied about the Palestinian filmmaker detained at LAX and I can prove it. Tessa, I’ll give u an hr to correct.” And: “Feel bad for you, being snookered by Homeland Security. Re-read your story and look for the clue of how u got used.
Stuart posted Moore’s tweets at the end of her story but that was it.
Moore, after getting no correction, then tweeted: “Time’s up. Buzzfeed today tried to raise doubts that Oscar nominee, Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat wasn’t really detained at LAX on Tues…. Buzzfeed quotes a ‘source’ at LAX who said that Burnat was simply asked to produce his ticket to the Oscars and when he ‘couldn’t’ he was…moved ‘to a secondary inspection area where he (Burnat) found his ticket’ to the Oscars & was then ‘immediately allowed’ into the US…
“Well, there’s just one little problem with this story—and if Buzzfeed had bothered to ask any of the 6,000 Academy members… You see, Buzzfeed, there was no way for Emad Burnat to show Customs an Oscar ticket on Tuesday because there were no Oscar tickets on Tues!…. So that’s just an outright lie. Completely fabricated and easy to disprove with 1 call to the Academy. But why do that?…
“When the intent of your ‘story’ was to cast doubt on this Palestinian who was being threatened with deportation last Tuesday night at LAX…”
Stuart replied to Moore on Twitter: “Please help me tell both sides. I’ve called and emailed the director, called 2 of your agents, emailed & tweeted to you for comment.” Later she added at the bottom of her story: “Having now received Moore’s response to the story via Twitter, the accuracy of the TSA’s account seems to hinge on the characterization of the document being searched for as a ‘ticket.’ BuzzFeed has now asked our TSA source to clarify and will update the story as soon as that we receive more information.”
But nothing more appeared from Buzzfeed last night or so far this morning.
Moore commented further: “Buzzfeed went w/this story b4 finding out the facts or talking 2 me. ‘We tried to’ is lame and shoddy. I was on a plane all day fr LA to NY. …One lousy unnamed source at Homeland Security (apparently unnamed because, um, the Oscars are a national security threat?) fed BF some BS….As 4 the Palestinians, I guess its always open season 2 F w/them. At the airport or the internet, make sure 2 humiliate them @ every chance…P.S. An Academy official just emailed me: ‘Absolutely no one had physical possession of an Oscar ticket on Tuesday.’ Not Clooney, not Burnat.”
UPDATE, 10:20 am: Buzzfeed just added this “correction”: “An earlier version of this article referred in its deck and first sentence to ‘source’ at LAX; in fact, as the body of the story made clear, the criticism of Moore’s account came from a single airport official.” They also took “publicity stunt” out of its headline but left “baloney” in the deck.
In other Oscar news, Rick Perlstein disputes the contention that this year’s awards ceremony was really all that political.
Ben Affleck presents the Academy Award for best documentary to the director of Searching for Sugar Man. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni.)
There is criticism and outrage emanating from some quarters today over the allegedly soft Searching for Sugar Man’s topping four fine and very important “poltiical” films to capture the Oscar last night for best feature documentary. Indeed, the other four were equally great, and I had endorsed 5 Broken Cameras for the prize. Other films, such as The Queen of Versalles, deserved a nomination.
But Sugar Man, in its own way, was richly political. Most may be familiar only with the detective story and pop culture aspects: filmmaker hunts for musician who disappeared decades earlier, somehow finds him, he makes a partial comeback. It sounds like nothing but an uplifting tale for Boomers.
But it’s much more than that. You have a working-class Mexican-American artist (son of immigrants) struggling to help his daughters survive. He gets screwed out of royalties and continues to labor at hard jobs in inner-city Detroit. By all accounts, he is a fine man and generous and eager to assist those less fortunate—even after he gains some money when the movie comes out and his old recordings start selling again he gives much of it away and continues to live in humble surroundings with his “people.”
None of this should be surprising if you knew his music. Many of his early, long-forgotten songs, with titles like “Inner City Blues,” had a polticial edge (see another example below, with the title “RIch Folks Hoax”). As the film reveals, he even ran for city council as a left candidate.
Also highlighted in the film: During the years when he was rumored to be dead, several of his songs became anthems for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, where he was most popular. Even iconic hero Steve Biko was said to be a Rodriquez fan. Political enough for you?
Yes, I was rooting for the two films critical of Israel’s occupation and settlement policies, or the films that took on the AIDs crisis and violence against women in the military. But Sugar Man very much promises and delivers its own lessons rewards. It’s out on DVD now.
In the run-up to the Oscars, the media was arguing over Zero Dark Thirty as usual, Greg Mitchell writes.