Friday, February 18, 2005

So much fishwrap


I miss Howell Raines. Even if he deserves his less than flattering reputation as an egomaniacal
SOB, when he was the editor of The New York Times the paper had more edge, more verve
and more news. Today is just one more example of how the truly grotesque story of
sanctioned -- or at the least winked at -- torture by US troops no longer qualifies as big news
in the big elite media.

It's obscene -- you know, the torture and the lack of coverage.

My Boston Globe did offer the story an itty-bitty toehold of Page 1. It went like this:

WASHINGTON -- A former Iraqi detainee told Army investigators that a US soldier forced him to sign a statement that he had not been abused even though American interrogators in September 2004 had dislocated his arms, beaten his leg with a bat, crushed his nose, and put an unloaded gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, according to newly released internal military documents.

In addition, a sergeant at a military camp in southern Afghanistan told an Army investigator in July 2004 that his unit erased a series of digital photographs showing guards beating detainees and aiming guns at hooded prisoners. The sergeant said the pictures were deleted after photos from the Abu Ghraib prison appeared in the media, out of the unit's fear that the pictures could spark a second wave of the scandal.

The disclosures provide the first evidence that both in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of war, soldiers involved in alleged abuse incidents may have sought to suppress evidence of their actions ....

And where did The New York Times play this story, released to the news media by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is pulling these documents from the government piece by piece through Freedom of Information Act requests? In the lower right hand corner of Page A8, where people always look for major news. (see my blog, "The headlines you probably missed," on Feb. 6).

Howell, where are you?


When Eason Jordan resigned last week as head of CNN's news, the debate centered exclusively on whether the right wing blogs had done him in for a mistake from which he quickly backpeddled. It seems that Jordan, fresh from a visit to Iraq, told those an off-the-record World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that journalists in Iraq were being hunted.

David Gergen, who has served presidents on both sides of the aisle, had this to say on PBS:
"He left a very clear impression that journalists on both sides were being targeted, that Iraqi insurgents were targeting American journalists and in a limited number of cases he thought ... he left the impression there had been targeting by American troops of journalists, perhaps al-Jazeera or others."

Now Jordan is gone. He ostensibly resigned not to embarrass CNN, which says it applied no pressure. But in all that's been written about whether his words warranted his resignation, no one has touched on a much more fundamental point: Are American troops targeting foreign
news reporters or aren't they? I'm not rumor-mongering here. I'd just like to know. It is well
known that an American tank blew away part of a Baghdad hotel in the final days of the war,
killing at least one journalist who worked there. It was a hotel, writes Anne Garrels of NPR in her book "Naked in Baghdad," that was well-known for housing journalists. And over all, according to a recent PBS "Frontline" magazine segment, nearly three dozen Iraqi journalists have died during the fighting, many from American bullets.

One would think the top news executive of a major news organization wouldn't float the idea of Americans targeting journalists with no evidence. If he did, he deserved to resign (or be fired). But if there's evidence, let's hear it. The implications would be horrific. Some retired military brass have decried the torture at Abu Ghraib for pragmatic reasons: If we torture people than people will torture our troops. The same goes for targeting journalists. If we shoot at journalists our enemies will start picking off our reporters. And only the craziest journalists will attempt to cover wars. Or is that what this administration wants?


My favorite paragraph from a journalism column this week comes from Mike Carlton in an article titled "The Empire of Vulgarity" published in the Sydney Morning Herald

"George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of teiumphalism unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor in 1804. The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon ... Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal."

What say? I don't think he likes our president.


Not to be smug and say, "I told you so." But I did.

On Jan. 8, when I wrote about Armstrong Williams' fattened bank account for writing government propaganda in the guise of journalism, I warned that there would be more.
Now Frank Rich of The New York Times once again has come to the rescue. He writes that Jeff Gannon, the presidential press conference interloper whose real name is James D. Guckert, whose employer is a Republican mouthpiece web site, and whose real income reportedly is as an "X-rated, $200-per-hour escort," is actually the sixth fraudulent propagandist-posing-as-journalist to show up "on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally."

Pleeeaase. Will some major new organization with the funds to sustain this file a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to sort out what journalistic "consultants" remain on the Bush Administration payrolls. Just how riddled is American journalism with these fraudulent propagandists? And where is Bill O'Reilly when you need a good even-handed expose?


Blogger Patti said...

Dahr Jamail,of the Iraq Dispatches blog, was also discussing the military targeting of journalists today on NPR's weekday. Well at least bloggers, and NPR, are addressing this grim situation.

Enjoyed your "cyberness" article in the CS monitor.

February 18, 2005 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger Jerry Lanson said...

Tx Patti. I'm planning to do some reporting and explore this further myself.

February 19, 2005 at 4:10 AM  

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