Thursday, January 03, 2013

4 years but finally a little criticism



Obama and his allies like to deride lefties as a group of softheads who don't understand that negotiation is essential to government. But they don't like to deal with a more stinging left-wing critique: Negotiation is a part of democracy and Barack Obama, whatever his many, many talents, is not very good at it.




At the right-wing National Review, Victor Davis Hanson notes that Bully Boy Bush left office at the start of 2009 with an approval rating of 34% but it's now up to 46%.  He calls out the way Bush was demonized and notes how Barack Obama can do the same thing or more and get away with it.  That is correct.  But he wants to 'explain' how people were wrong about Bush on the Iraq War.  He backs up his opinions with facts and makes a solid argument from the right.  That's what he's supposed to do.  He hasn't done anything 'wrong.'  And this is how the right hopes to win the argument and has had some success in the past.
There are a ton of reasons to continue focusing on Iraq here in the US.  But if people only care about themselves then maybe now some on the left who've argued it doesn't matter (including two friends with The Nation magazine) will wake up?  We've gone over what could happen repeatedly in the last years.  We did so at length August 20, 2010 in "The war continues (and watch for the revisionary tactics."
If you're old enough, you saw it with Vietnam.  That illegal war ended with the government called out for its actions.  And some people -- a lot in fact -- just moved on.  The weakest of the left moved on because it wasn't 'polite' to talk about it or it wasn't 'nice' or 'can't we all just get along' and other nonsense.  Others talked about things because they didn't care about Vietnam, the Vietnamese or the US service members.  And, after all, they had a peanut farmer from Georgia to elect, right?  And bit by bit, year by year, all these lies about Vietnam took root.  The press turned the people against it!  The US could have won if the military's hands hadn't been tied!  All this nonsense that, back when the public was paying attention in the early to mid-seventies, would have been rejected outright by the majority of Americans.
Jane Fonda explains in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."
And if you silence yourself while your opponent digs in on the topic, a large number of Americans -- including people too young to remember what actually happened -- here nothing but the revisionary arguments.  Jane's correct, the right-wing always went back to Vietnam. They're at fork in the road probably because, do they continue to emphasize Vietnam as much as they have, or do they move on to Iraq.  Victor Davis Hanson's ready to move on to Iraq.  He's not the only one on the right.
And on the left we have silence. 
And that is why revisionary tactics work.  It's not because revisions are stronger than facts.  It's because one side gives up.  And the left -- check The ProgressiveThe Nation, etc.* -- has long ago given up on even pretending to care about Iraq -- about the Iraq War, about the Iraqis, about the US service members.  [*But not In These Times -- they've continued to feature Iraq about every six months.  Give them credit for that.]
I'm sure they'll work really hard at electing some center-right Democrats to Congress in the 2014 elections.  I'm sure that will be the focus of their efforts.  But if they'd focus on things that really matter, it would force the candidates to be stronger.  We'd have a better informed and educated electorate and the candidates would have to rise to that to get votes.  These periodicals (and toss in the Pacifica Radio shows as well) love to whine about how Democrats used to stand for something and how they've been watered down and watered down.  Yet these same outlets do an awful job of informing about real issues because they instead focus on electing Democrats and the occassional cause celebre.   When that's what you do, you automatically cede ground to the other side. 
Another reason to pay attention is because Iraq was a defining moment.  And a number of people have exposed themselves as utter frauds.  For example, many years ago a number of us who are feminists applauded Jill Abramson and Jane Mayer for their work that culminated with the book Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.  But maybe we were too kind in our praise.  In America, we are likely to treat someone simply doing the job they're supposed to be doing as if they're a hero.  Time has proven that Jane Mayer is an attack dog for the Democratic Party and not actually a journalist.  (A journalist doesn't stop doing expose pieces because a Democrat is in the White House.)  And Jill?   The current Executive Editor of the New York Times appeared at the Commonwealth Club December 6th and, wouldn't you know it, she wanted to talk Iraq.
Jill Abramson:  If there's any one thing I could change it would be, as Washington bureau chief, not all of the reporters who were covering the WMD issues and Iraq were part of the Washington bureau.  And I just wish -- You know -- I  -- many of those stories didn't come through me but certainly I was aware of them.  And, you know, I wish that I had been paying more attention because the Times really did brandish on the front page some very questionable stories that were based on, you know, Iraqi defectors who had an interest in promoting the toppling of Saddam Hussein, who were going around to various reporters including reporters at the Times, peddling the story of this ramped up WMD program which, of course, didn't exist.  That is number one.  I wish I had paid more attention.  And journalism isn't a game that you play with 20/20 hindsight vision unfortunately. I'm sure that many people at the BBC wish -- you know -- 'Gee I wish, you know, I had been paying more attention to the documentary and what not.'  So, number one, I wish I was paying more attention to the totality of the coverage and some of the stories that were faulty including the one about the tubes that suggested -- When the Times published that story on the front page and was kind of a welcome sign for Dick Cheney and Condi Rice to go on the Sunday show -- shows -- to talk about mushroom clouds that, of course, were a fantasy.  And there, I think -- and I've done a lot of thinking about this -- I wish that I had been more tuned in to the reporters in Washington, a few in the Times bureau, but especially Knight-Ridder which had -- at the time -- a very, very good Washington bureau and their major sources on this were skeptics within the CIA -- CIA analysts who were like, 'Be careful with this WMD evidence.' They were very skeptical about it.
What a load of crap.  Let me start first by saying, Jill, I don't think you can be a witness in a perjury trial and then perjure yourself.  Jill was Scooter Libby's witness against Judith Miller, for those who don't know.  Judith Miller wrote some very bad articles for the New York Times (and co-wrote some as well) in the lead up to the war.  We've called her out repeatedly.  We've also noted it was bad reporting and not lying as evidenced by her actions after the start of the war when she basically took over a US military squad and had them looking for WMD that she desparately wanted to find.  She based her career on that WMD.  There was none. 
Judith Miller stayed in jail until her source on Valerie Plame (she never wrote about Plame) gave her permission to name him.  Plame-Gate was when the Bush administration outed a CIA agent to get back at former Ambassdor Joe Wilson for his column in the New York Times about how there was no yellow cake in Niger (in response to Bully Boy Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein had recently sought uranium there).  Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent and she was married to Joe Wilson.  She was outed by Scooter Libby (Dick Cheney's chief of staff) as the administration sought to get back at Joe Wilson.
Once Judith Miller came forward about her source, that's when Jill enters the picture and Jill presented herself on the witness stand as completely involved and an expert on 'bad' Judith Miller.  Because of Miller's lousy reporting on Iraq, some will cheer that.  But let's grasp that what Jill was doing was providing cover for Scooter Libby.   That's what she did in her testimony.
Yet after the courtroom performance on Scooter Libby's behalf, where Jill was an expert on what was taking place and who was writing what and who was talking to whom, Jill now wants to play like she wasn't involved?
She also wants to ignore that James Risen took stories, skeptical stories, to her and she shot them down repeatedly.  Risen's even spoken publicly about some of this.  Jill knows he has and she wants to lie to everyone all these years later?  For example, from Joe Hagan's "The United States of America vs. Bill Keller" (New York magazine, September 10, 2006):
In addition, Risen harbored lingering resentment of Abramson over the paper's WMD coverage.  When she was Washington bureau chief under [Howell] Raines, Risen has claimed to at least two people, he offered her reporting that cast doubt on the Bush administration's evidence about Iraq's WMD program.  At the time, Miller's reporting was how the Times, as an extension of Raines, saw the subject.  And Abramson felt powerless to fight Raines over this and other things.  When Risen press his case, she finally told him to "get with the program," these people say.
It only gets worse.
She wishes she had followed the other coverage, she says, because if she'd followed Knight-Ridder, she might have been skeptical too.  First, it's rather pissy of her not to have named the reporters or noted that it's now McClatchy.  The three primary reporters on Iraq in the lead up to the war were Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and Margaret Talev.   Second, she needed to see other people being skeptical of government officials?  Journalists are supposed to be skeptical.  It's a basic of journalism. 
And when you have a source with an aim (let alone grudge), you are supposed to be very skeptical of their claims.  That's why, for example, when a whistleblower comes forward, an employer will always try to make it seem like a case of sour grapes because if they can make the employee look like they've got an axe to grind, it will make the press take the employee less seriously. 
What I'm talking about here, Jill Abramson knows all that.  She's not stupid.  She gave a for-show performance.  She never mentioned the Iraqis that died or the Americans that died.  She gave a little performance taking as little accountability as she thought she could get away with.
She makes a lot of excuses for herself but she doesn't appear to have learned a damn thing.  In September 2008, she got praise for 'taking responsibility' on Iraq.  She didn't.  It was an aside in a book review.  She's still not taking accountability.  People are dead, people are wounded and her, "I wish I had been more skeptical"?  It just doesn't cut it.
You should pay attention if only to see who, like Jill, changes their story.  Again, it's not just her fault.  It's the fault of people like me, my fault absolutely, for treating her work in the 90s as something wonderful.  She did her job.  Nothing more, nothing less.  She didn't earn the praise.  And then people rushed to praise her in 2008 for her aside in the book review (I didn't praise her for that -- at least I had enough sense then to know better).  So now she thinks she can offer this simplistic revisionary nonsense and get more praise.  And she's probably right because most people don't pay attention.
ICYMI - Attacks are down, but #Iraq is still in a 'low-level war':  @AFP
That's Prashant Rao with AFP.  "Low-level war" is another reason you'd think the world would be paying attention to what's going on in Iraq.
Iraq Body Count reports 272 people were killed from violence in Iraq for the month of December and they count 4,557 deaths from violence in Iraq for 2012.  In a report entitled "Iraqi  deaths from violence in 2012," Iraq Body Count explains:

2012 marks the first year since 2009 where the death toll for the year has increased (up from 4,136 in 2011), but 2012 itself has been marked by contrasts. While it seems December will be the least violent month in the last two years, June was the most violent in three years, so the improvements in the second half of the year are from that higher level of violence. It is premature to predict whether the record low levels of violence in the last quarter of the year will be sustained. Overall, 2012 has been more consistent with an entrenched conflict than with any transformation in the security situation for Iraqis in the first year since the formal withdrawal of US troops.
In sum the latest evidence suggests that the country remains in a state of low-level war little changed since early 2009, with a "background" level of everyday armed violence punctuated by occasional larger-scale attacks designed to kill many people at once.

Iraq Body Count also notes that March 2013 will mark ten years since the start of the Iraq War and that they "will provide an overview of the known death toll covering the invasion and the first full decade of its aftermath."

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"
"Nouri blames others for his actions"
"2012 sees increase in violent deaths in Iraq"
"Time to fight back"
"The 'roadmap' for the 'fiscal cliff'"
"Hillary is released from hospital"
"Nuland smears the protesters (C.I.)"
"They better not have lied"
"The disappointing Ani DiFranco"
"Chris Hedges, are you a sexist?"
"Ridiculous Netflix"
"A loser named Medea Benjamin"
"Current TV and Iraq"
"Not very fiscal"

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