Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Boo-hoo on Blogistand

Last night, Tavis Smiley spoke with Thomas E. Ricks, author of the New York Times best seller author of The Gamble, on PBS' Tavis Smiley.
Tavis Smiley: He ran a campaign that was based on getting out of Iraq and getting out quickly.  There are millions of Americans who voted for him precisely because of that pledge there are many of us who believe that promises made ought to be promises kept but that's another issue to your point now about it now being as easy as what he thought it was going to be.  What then will happen to those millions of Americans who will feel disenfranchised disappionted let down some maybe even lied to if he can't get out, to your point, as quickly as he promised he would?
Thomas E. Ricks: Well first of all, he's already broken a promise because he said he was going to get out one combat brigade a month over the course of many months.  Well now he's stopped that.  He's going to keep the troop levels more or less the same.  By the end of this year, he'll be down to maybe 132,000 troops -- which is where we've been in rough average for the last five years so he's planning on making his big troop withdrawals next year. Whether that happens or not, we'll see.  But he said after that, after August 2010, it will stop being a combat mission.  Well it doesn't -- the war doesn't end because one president hangs a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"  on an air craft carrier, it doesn't end because one president says the combat  is over.  Our war ends when American troops stop dying in Iraq.  
[. . .]
Tavis Smiley:  So forget what Thomas Ricks, Pulitzer Prize winning, number one New York Times best selling author has to say, I'm going to pull these troops out because I told the American people I would, I want to run for re-election and I know I can't run for relection if I'm don't -- if I'm not going to be accountable to what I said I was going to do, so I'm going to pull them out anyway.  And then what happens?
Thomas E. Ricks: I don't think that's going to happen, first of all, because Obama has also promised Iraqis he will not abandon Iraq I think he will get the troop numbers down probably close to 50,000 in 2010 but I think he's going to find it's much harder to actually get the last 50,000 troops out That Iraq is going to say "We want you to leave but not yet."  So he'll say, 'We can't abandon Iraq so we'll have to continue this mission awhile longer than I'd hoped."
Tavis Smiley noted the discussion of the  'surge' during the lead up to the 2008 general election ("and here comes Thomas Ricks saying 'the surge failed'").  Ricks acknowledged an "improved security" but pointed out "it's purpose was that larger purpose"  -- create the space for "a political breakthrough."  These are the benchmarks set by the White House, signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki and which were supposed to be achieved in 2007 . . . and then in 2008.  And . . . everyone's forgotten them. 
Everyone should forget Thomas E. Ricks as a media critic.  On Monday's Talk of the Nation (NPR), he was asked a question by a caller and completely blew it -- a question about the shameful media coverage in the lead-up to the illegal war.  Tavis asked him about that as well and the reply was laughable.  He maintains that the coverage was there.  That these issues were covered.  That it was covered in real time but  "People kind of shrugged" -- the American people shurgged.  That's a deception or a denial.  The polling showed that the public made a connection between 9-11 and Iraq -- when there was NO connection -- and that was because the White House tied them together -- sometimes directly, sometimes by linkage, sometimes by insinuation.  That public record exists and, NO, the media did not call it out.  Ricks said, "Yes, the New York Times did screw up with their Weapons of Mass Destruction coverage" -- that would be Judith Miller and Michael Gordon's work.  Predominately their work but, at the paper, there were more getting it wrong.  And then Ricks wants to insist NYT is "one city's newspaper."  The New York Times has a larger profile than the Washington Post, a larger profile and more influence, than any other newspaper in the United States.  It is a national paper and it sells more copies outside of NYC than it does in NYC.  So it is not just "one city's newspaper."  The media is largely based in NYC which is why Today, Good Morning America, et al, will always lead with, "The New York Times is reporting this morning . . ."  I don't know if it was some paper envy or what, but Ricks needs to stop down playing the paper's influence.  Judith Miller is the scapegoat for everyone.  It was Judith Miller!  As we've long noted, Miller didn't edit copy, choose the front page, print the papers and toss them to your yard each day.  We've also noted MIller didn't book herself on PBS, the Sunday chat & chews, Oprah, et al.  Judith Miller screwed up -- and then some -- but the idea that it was only her and that she's responsible requires you believe that until her downfall, Judith Miller was running everything.  She was running the New York Times, she was running NBC, ABC, CBS, HARPO Prodcutions, PBS, NPR, go down the list.  That's not reality and it's not reality for Thomas E. Ricks to claim of the New York Times' deadly coverage, that's just "one city's newspaper." Nor is accurate for him to claim that the press was reporting reality; however,  "the people didn't want to hear it, the congress didn't want to hear it."  That's deceptive and it's lying and we don't have time for that nonsense.  Thomas E. Ricks works for the Washington Post.  June 19, 2004, Howard Kurtz (Washington Post) noted the New Republic's "we feel regret, but no shame" editorial -- they never feel shame, they're incapable of it.  Kurtz noted, "News organizations that reported on the war and commentators who backed it have faced a similarly thorny dilemma since the failure to find illegal weapons in Iraq, along with the increasingly violent climate there. Were they wrong -- in which case they owe their readers an explanation -- or simply conveying what many officials and analysts believed at the time?"  He mentioned a May editorial in the Post where the paper wondered if they were wrong (the editorial board wondered) and concluded it's too soon to tell.  It's no longer too soon.  They were wrong. But most pertient to this topic and to the Washington Post was Howard Kurtz' August 12, 2004 front page story "The Post on WMDs: An Inside Story."  Walter Pincus, Karen DeYoung, Dana Priest, Leonard Downie and others share, from the reporting and the editorial side, issues that impacted the paper's poor coverage (and it was poor). 
On yesterday's broadcast of Tavis Smiley, Thomas E. Ricks declared, "I think the media actually did a pretty good job in asking the right questions [Tavis is shocked and asks, "You-you-do?"] Yes.  The problem is nobody wanted to listen, nobody -- we wrote all the stories about all of these problems that might lead -- might be the consequence of Iraq.  People kind of shrugged, 'So what it's going to happen'."
People did that, did they?  The American people?
For Thomas E. Ricks to attempt to rewrite history and to claim that the fault lies with the American people who just didn't want to hear the truth is beyond INSANE.  In fact, let's quote a reporter for the Post explaining to Howard Kurtz how the paper handled (sold) the illegal war: "The paper was not front-paging stuff.  Administration assertions were on the front page.  Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday.  There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?"
A reporter for the paper told Howard Kurtz that the attidue among the editors was it didn't matter because "we're going to war."  Thomas E. Ricks told Tavis the people had that attitude.  The problem with these two conflicting tales is that Thomas E. Ricks gave both of them. 
The reporter quoted by Kurtz above is Thomas E. Ricks and he wants to show up five years after that article ran and say it was the people's fault?  But he wanted to say, in 2004, the problem was the articles questioning the adminstration were being buried while the adminstration's claims were front paged.  You can't have it both ways.  I don't know how that played out to most people but I let his opinion expressed Monday pass without comment (we didn't even note it).  But we're not going to let him alter the facts. 
He may very well NOW feel that the media did a great job.  But he's not going to now take the problems he pinned on editors and turn around and pin them on the American people.  That's not going to play, it's not going to fly.  It needs to stop.  Yes, memory is a tricky thing.  And five years may seem a stretch but we will not be silent while he not only rewrites history but also changes his own remarks made for public consumption.  And I don't know how you go on TV and contradict a front page article your paper ran, one that you were quoted in.  I just don't get how that happens.  If your memory is that faulty, maybe you should leave media criticism to Howard?
By the way, Tavis Smiley tonight features Tavis interviewing US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.  So Thomas E. Ricks is demonstrating that media criticisim is something he should leave to others.  While he has one weakness, does Crazy Ass Cockburn have a strength?  Patrick Cockburn shows up today suddenly interested in Iraq -- it's a 24-hour bug, it will pass quickly.  How does someone claim to be a reporter -- not a columnist -- and get away with including the following in a news story: "Taken together, the bombings show that al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which almost certainly carried them out . . ."  What?  There is no proof for who carried them out.  No reporter -- no real reporter -- would put their name to such garbage.  Crazy Ass Cockburn needs an editor and he needs to reaquaint himself with journalism.  Yesterday's snapshot included: "Hazim al-Nuaimi, a political analyst, tells Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami (Reuters), 'These attacks raise questions about political power struggles' and he questions the rush by some to blame al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (which is only one of many groups resisting the US occupation)."  Today Alissa J. Rubin and Marc Santori note of yesterday and Sunday's bombings, "Iraqi military leaders emphasized that it was too early to draw any firm conclusions but noted similiarties in the attacks in which more than 60 people were killed since Sunday." So with the two most recent bombings that led to massive deaths, even the Iraqi military is just noting similiarities -- they're not even stating who it is is.  "Some," Rubin and Santori inform, "Iraqi military officials" believe it may be al Qaeda in Mespotamia with the assistance from former Baathist.  That Baathist group is apparently now using the name Al Auda ("the Return").  But those are just possibilities.  Patrick Cockburn knows, just knows, what really went down.  If he worked for a real paper with a real editorial staff, Crazy Ass Cockburn would have never gotten the following into print: "The Iraqi government is unlikely to ask any US troops to stay on after the agreed withdrawal date at the end of 2011, the US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has confirmed."  When did Odierno confirm that?  Not to Cockburn (I asked, M-NF states Odierno's given Cockburn no private interview).  Now Martha Raddatz (ABC News) got an exclusive interview with OdiernoMonday's snapshot noted her exclusive interview and this is the section that Cockburn twists around to put forward his lie:

RADDATZ: And you believe we will be completely out of here by 2011?  


ODIERNO: We will. We have signed an agreement that says we will be and I think we're on track to do that.  


RADDATZ: But that could change? If the Iraqis want it to change?


ODIERNO: It's their decision. It's a decision that they have to make. But I don't see them making that decision right now.


RADDATZ: But would you still say it's conditions-based, until then?


ODIERNO: No, I think it's based on an Iraqi assessment. Again, if we stayed ... Again, our plan is to be out of here by December, 2011. That's the agreement we signed and we will meet those requirements. What, if the government of Iraq asks us, if they ask us to stay, want to renegotiate, then we'll go through renegotiation and we'll decide at that time what that means.  


RADDATZ: I guess I look at other places and I look at Bosnia where we were for ten years and they weren't even shooting at each other then, and in terms of stability, being out by 2011 seems pretty rapid.  


ODIERNO: Well, again, I think that's a judgment that will have to be made later on.

Crazy Ass Cockburn claims Odierno has confirmed an extension as unlikely.  He did no such thing.  He did not that 'right now' he doesn't seem them asking the US to stay (which may not be a hunch, he may be speaking factually -- as in, 'No one has asked us to stay right now') but he ends that section noting it's "a judgment that will have to be made later on."  He's not confirmed anything but Crazy Ass Cockburn's been lying for some time now.  (And thankfully The Cat's Blog and Media Lens have also called him out.  Everyone else is uncomfortably looking away from his very public meltdown.)   Odierno is not the only one speaking that way.  US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told NPR's Robert Siegel (All Things Considered) yesterday and Siegel brought up comments Gates made Feb. 27th (and has been making since, such as two Sundays ago on NBC's Meet the Press):
Robert Siegel: Later that day, you said, we should be prepared to have some modest sized presence for training and helping them with their new equipment providing perhaps intelligence support and so on.  Do you believe that all US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and are you and the president on the same page here?
US Secretary of State Robert Gates:  Oh we're certainly on the same page.  The fact is is that if there are no -- if there is no new agreement with the Iraqis, there will be zero US troops in Iraq after at least 2011.  What I was alluding to is that I think it is at least possible that the Iraqis in 2011 will come and say, 'We need some logistical support, we need some intelligence support.   Can you provide us some very limited help.'  I don't know whether that will happen.  That's pure speculation on my part but the president's statement is absolutely clear and it conforms to our current committments and that is, according to the agreements we've signed, we will have everybody out of Iraq at the end of 2011.  And unless something changes that's exactly what will happen.

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