Archive for the ‘Washington Post’ Category
From a report by David Carr in the NY Times.For context, read the story to which this is a parenthesis:
(In one bit of irony in the aftermath of the events on Wednesday, President Obama said, “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground.” This from an administration that has aggressively sought to block reporting and in some instances criminalize it.)
And you can see here how Twitter exploded.
And do read the story at that first link. It’s an important account of events that show how we’re headed.
The reports on Israel’s Iron Dome defense system read like press releases—which, indeed, they are, for all practical purposes. And like most press releases, the truth is not to be found in them.
James Fallows has some excellent examples of the propaganda articles, and also some pushback from actual experts, who point out that the system doesn’t work all that well.
The NY Times seems to be losing interest in accuracy and truth. I would say that Glenn Kessler landed a solid blow in this column:
There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
— opening sentence of a column, “Putin Blinked,” by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, May 27, 2014
The Fact Checker does not normally assess the accuracy of claims of pundits, keeping our gaze generally on politicians and political ads. But we are going to make an exception in this case, in part because this is an interesting case brought to our attention by our old colleague Michael Dobbs, who first started The Fact Checker in 2007.
The issue is this: When new primary source documents demonstrate that a historical myth has been proved incorrect, shouldn’t people who repeat the discredited myth admit their error? An even odder element here is that the Times has previously publicized the fact that the myth was wrong, citing this very research, and yet it refuses to correct the error in Friedman’s column.
The myth in question is the supposed “eyeball to eyeball” confrontation of U.S. and Soviet ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis — an event spun at the time by the Kennedy White House as a pivotal moment that demonstrated courage and coolness under fire.
But Dobbs, in his 2008 book One Minute to Midnight, demonstrated conclusively that there was no high seas engagement. Sixteen missile-carrying Soviet ships had already been turned around on the orders of Premier Nikita Khrushchev the day before. (Here’s an English translation of the minutes of a Soviet Communist Party presidium meeting ratifying the decision.) The orders were issued early in the morning of Oct. 23, 1962.
Of course, President John F. Kennedy and his aides did not know that on the morning of Oct. 24 as they awaited a potential clash. An aircraft carrier group led by the USS Essex had orders to intercept the Kimovsk and her submarine escort. Kennedy nervously canceled the intercept, issuing an order to the Essen: “Secret. From Highest Authority. Do Not Stop And Board. Keep Under Surveillance.”
At the time, Dobbs concluded, Kimovsk was nearly 800 miles away from the Essex, not “just a few miles.” This was all eventually figured out by U.S. intelligence analysts — here are the CIA records obtained by Dobbs — but the White House failed to correct the historical record. After all, the eyeball to eyeball imagery was simply too good for political memoirs.
In the book, Dobbs printed a map showing the ship positions. . .
Continue reading. The Times doesn’t look good in this, embracing the error and denying clear evidence that Friedman’s anecdote is non-historical fiction. “Surprisingly, when Dobbs pointed out that Friedman had repeated historical fiction in his column, the Times refused to correct the mistake.” Read the whole column. The Times has some arrogance (and ignorance) problems.
Estremely good column by Eric Alternman at billmoyers.com:
In a column entitled “Bush’s toxic legacy in Iraq,” terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes about the origins of ISIS, “the brutal insurgent/terrorist group formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Bergen notes that, “One of George W. Bush’s most toxic legacies is the introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq, which is the ISIS mother ship. If this wasn’t so tragic it would be supremely ironic, because before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq axis of evil. Their claims that Saddam Hussein’s men were training members of al Qaeda how to make weapons of mass destruction seemed to be one of the most compelling rationales for the impending war.”
There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”
The Bush Administration fought to quash its conclusions during the two years that the report was in the works. Mazetti reported, “Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.” Apparently, these were dropped from the final document, though the reference to jihadists using their training for the purpose of “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies” as in say, Syria, remained.
At the beginning of 2005, Mazetti notes, another official US government body, the National Intelligence Council, “released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.”
On the one hand, it is impressive how well our intelligence agencies were able to predict the likely outcome of the Bush Administration’s foolhardy obsession with invading Iraq. On the other, it is beyond depressing how little these assessments have come to matter in the discussion and debate over US foreign policy.
As we know, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the other architects of the war did everything possible to intimidate, and when necessary, discredit those in the intelligence agencies who warned of the predictable consequences of war. Cheney and his deputies made repeated trips to Langley to challenge professional intelligence work and used pliant members of the media — including Robert Novak of The Washington Post and Judith Miller of The New York Times, among many, many others — to undermine the integrity of people like Joseph P. Wilson and Valerie Plame lest the truth about the administration’s lies come out. Rather incredibly, they even went so far as to ignore the incredibly detailed planning documents, created over a period of a year at a cost of $5 million by the State Department, that had a chance of providing Iraq with a stable postwar environment. Instead, they insisted on creating an occupation that generated nothing but chaos, mass murder and the terrorist victories of today.
One of the many horrific results was the decision to support Nouri al-Maliki as a potential leader of the nation. Maliki’s sectarian attacks on Sunni Muslims on behalf of his Shiite allies are the immediate cause of the current murderous situation. And his placement in that job, as Fareed Zakaria aptly notes, “was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called ‘the worst war plan in American history’ — the administration needed to find local allies.”
One could go on and on (and on and on and on) about the awful judgment — the arrogance, the corruption, the ideological obsession and the purposeful ignorance — by the Bush Administration that led to the current catastrophe. As Ezra Klein recently noted, “All this cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives.” And this is to say nothing of the destruction of our civil liberties and poisoning of our political discourse at home and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died, the millions of refugees created, the hatred inspired in the world toward the United States.
But to focus exclusively on the administration begs an obvious question. How did they get away with it? Where were the watchdogs of the press?
Much has been written on this topic. No one denies that the truth was available at the time. Not all of it, of course, but enough to know that certain catastrophe lay down the road the administration chose to travel at 100 miles per hour. Top journalists, like those who ran the Times and The Washington Post, chose to ignore the reporting they read in their own papers.
As the Post itself later reported, its veteran intelligence reporter Walter Pincus authored a compelling story that undermined the Bush administration’s claim to have proof that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. It only made the paper at all because Bob Woodward, who was researching a book, talked his editors into it. And even then, it ran on page A17, where it was immediately forgotten.
As former Post Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks later explained, “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?” The New York Times ran similarly regretful stories and its editors noted to its readers that the paper had been “perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.” (Bill Moyers’ documentary special “Buying the War: How Big Media Failed Us” tells the story, and in conjunction with that Moyers report, you can find an Interactive Timeline as well as post-March 2003 coverage of Iraq.)
Many in the mainstream media came clean, relatively speaking, about . . .
I wonder what Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, thinks of that column and—more to the point—what he thinks he should think.
The Wife and I have been binge-watching The Wire, and last night finished Season Three, in which Bunny Colvin, a major in the Baltimore Police Department, in effect legalized drugs (unbeknownst to his superiors). Pressure to bring down the crime statistics, with a strong push to massage the data, downgrading felonies so that the statistics look better, he decides to report the actual truth.
In the Police Department meeting of all departments, he is strongly criticized because his statistics went up as a result and he is threatened with reduction in rank if the statistics do not go down. So he finds three vacant lots, which are relatively remote from residences, businesses, and schools, and has his men force the street dealers to get off the street corners and deal in those three areas only. If they do that, the police will ignore them.
The results: with a concentration of addicts in three specific areas, public-health people set up needle exchanges, condom distribution, and clinics to treat illnesses. The crime rate goes down 14%, an unheard-of drop—so much that his bosses believe that he must be fiddling the data. But he’s not. And he also gets a stack of favorable letters from residents who like having their street corners back, and feel safer on the streets now that the drug dealers are gone.
Of course, the drugs are being used, but then they were being used before. The only change that use is now limited to three spots, and thus can be monitored. (The “free zones” are overseen by police who allow no weapons or violence, so the sites simply become drug sales and use, with the rest of the district now free of drug dealers.)
Needless to say, the Department of Justice and the Federal government immediately take a very aggressive attitude, threatening to shut off half-a-billion dollars of Federal money that Baltimore receives in various ways, if the city does not end the “free zones” and return drug trafficking to the streets. The anger at the change is evident and completely ignores the good outcomes. The focus is totally on the illegality of drug sales. (You can see the same sort of anger and pressure directed at, e.g., Uruguay, which legalized the sale of marijuana. That has outraged the US, which is bringing to bear all the pressure that it can, given that two US states have done the same.)
It’s a very good season—though best seen following Seasons One and Two: the story builds.
I was thinking of this with regard to the incredibly strong condemnation visited on Edward Snowden by Obama and the Right. For an example with an astonishing amount of venom and hostility, read Ruth Marcus’s column in the Washington Post: she has really nothing good to say at all about how Snowden has shown us what our government is doing. “Ad hominem” is insufficient for the viciousness of her rhetoric. And how is she able to completely ignore what Snowden has revealed. It’s very much like the way officialdom in the Hamsterdam incident are able to completely ignore what Colvin’s experiment revealed: that what we are doing is enormously less effective than an alternative approach. At least the NY Times recognizes what is going on beyond Snowden breaking his nondisclosure agreement.
And again: Snowden took no “oath”; he signed a nondisclosure agreement—a contract. Legal penalties do apply, but Obama has ramped this up beyond all reason, as we’ve seen with how Obama has treated other whistleblowers: with a level of persecution that reveals an inordinate desire for vengeance—mainly, I suppose, to send a message. And Snowden got the message.
BTW, the NY Times Public Editor has an interesting comment on that editorial.