Saturday, October 15, 2011

The itch he can't scratch alone




Starting with small and tired. The Washington Post's Dan Zak Tweeted:
Dan Zak
MrDanZak Dan Zak
Fave complaint at small, tired Tahrir protest today: Group of high schoolers want Maliki to let them retake their exams bc they failed.
You know what's small and tired?
Journalists who think they're better than the beat than they're assigned to cover.
A reporter for the Style pages who is fortunate enough to get a break into real reporting needs to lose the snark and snide about the subjects they're covering.
The high schoolers may or my not have been amusing -- this wasn't their first appearence at the protests. They really aren't my concern. A "small tired" protest? Well aren't you just above the people protesting because their loved ones have disappeared into what passes for a legal justice system in Iraq? Aren't you above all those women crying in public for their sons, their husbands and their fathers that they haven't seen in months or years, that they don't even know if they're alive.
The Disappeared.
That's what they are but apparently journalists whose experience comes via the Style pages, lack not only reporting chops but any real sense of value or perspective or, if nothing else, the instinct to know what plays as a good story. The snark goes a long, long way towards explaining why Zak's coverage has been at, best, disappointing and, at worst, superficial to the point that actual attempts at news stories read like clip jobs.
Videos of the protest -- here, here and here -- show at least 52 adults. At least. And I'm not arguing that's all of the protesters. I'm saying there are at least 52 different adults on video and there's never an establishing wide shot of the crowd to demonstrate that that's all of those present or that there's a lot more present. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" were participating.
Let's assume it was just 52. Other than WWD and possibly In Style 'magazine,' does Dan Zak read? Does he read the Washington Post? The Post was the only print outlet to nail down what was happening with the protests in real time. (The only broadcast outlet to get it right was NPR.) Intimidation, arrests, torture. Is Dan Zak familiar with what has happened to activists taking part in the Friday protests?
He doesn't seem to be. That's a large number in the midst of war zone with a new Saddam watching over and taking retribution against those who speak out. While Dan Zak was demonstrating just what a little bitch he can be, the Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "A number of brave Iraqi women attended Tahrir square demonstrations today wearing coffins to represent the government repression and to express their challenge to the government. " And they noted, "The government forces attacked the female activist -Shahrazad- in Tahrir square today, they have beaten her up , dragged her on the street after the demonstrations ended and stole her camera, 2 mobiles and money "
But what does violence against activists matter when Dan Zak's more concerned with announcing to the world that his parents raised a little bitch. What a wonderful moment for them, for the US and for journalism. And, in fairness to Zak, whomever was foolish enough to judge him ready for actual reporting should have stepped in a long time ago and told him, "You are blowing it and your career with it." The crap he's turned out is not sufficient for hard news reporting. He deserved to be told that so he could try to make adjustments. Instead, he's just been allowed to embarrass himself with no support and guidance.
Turning to the topic of withdrawal, Al Mada reports that, while in London, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaif told the BBC that the Parliament would not grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq after the end of this year. The newspaper also notes that US officials are pressing Nouri to grant the immunity himself but Nouri continues to state immunity would have to be referred to Parliament. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reviews some of the options which might allow the US military to remain on the ground in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011: "The US government plans to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq, where it has its largest foreign embassy. This already has US military trainers attached to it, and uniformed military personnel could receive diplomatic protection. NATO, which has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013, is providing expertise in logistics and policing. Iraqi lawmakers are also discussing an extension of the NATO mission, which would allow trainers in many cases to come under their own country's legal jurisdictions for certain crimes." Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Iraqi shortly Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's first deputy Parliament Speaker, Qusay Al Suhail, expected on Thursday a surge in armed attacks as US forces are close to withdraw from the country. Suhail urged security forces to double efforts and carry out preventive operations to prevent gunmen from carrying on with their suspicious agendas." Jordan Michael Smith (Salon) weighs in on why pulling all US troops is the thing to do:
Just as withdrawing from Vietnam enabled the United States to concentrate on its only true foe in the Cold War, so leaving Iraq will permit us to focus on the anti-American terrorists that should always have been our only targets after the 9/11 attacks. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges argues in his new book, "The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda," that the terrorist organization is effectively decimated, its leadership destroyed and operational abilities devastated. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officials have made similar claims. Even if they are too sanguine, withdrawal from Iraq will aid efforts against al-Qaida. Iraq has always been at best a distraction from campaigns to defeat those who attacked America on 9/11, and the war there continues to consume precious American resources, attention and, of course, human lives. Redirecting these against bin Laden's few remaining followers is the wisest course of action. None of this is to say that leaving Iraq will be completely painless. Leaving Vietnam was not, either. Ultimately, however, keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops only delays the inevitable. Americans and Iraqis will be better off if the United States learns the most important lesson the Vietnam War teaches: Once you get into a losing venture, getting out as soon as possible is the only way to win.

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