Sunday, June 12, 2005

Editorial: Mainstream press, do your damn job

MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal.
This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

The above is from Michael Smith's article in today's Sunday Times of London ("Ministers were told of need for Gulf war 'excuse.'") Yes, Michael Smith again. Yes, The Sunday Times of London, again. And yes, thanks to BuzzFlash for making it the big story on their website this morning.

Last week, we said it was time to connect the dots. Forget connecting them, there are so many now that it's a pointalism work of art that says "We were lied into war!" That comes as no surprise to many of us who were against the invastion/occupation from the start.

But is the clampdown on these revelations from our media not just deriving from a need to kiss Bully Boy ass, but also from the fact that the mainstream media was complicit by acting like cheerleaders instead of reporters?

We have no idea. But we know that wishing the revelations coming out of England wouldn't reach American eyes and ears is a futile desire.

The people are ahead of the domestic press on this issue. Unless the mainstream press desires to become completely superfluous it better begin to do it's job.

In case anyone's forgotten, the role of the press is to inform the public.

Oh that might not be as fun as fluffing for the Bully Boy. It might not provide the "access" that results in so many false claims (but don't it feel good to have Dick Cheney name-check you on Meet the Press!). It might mean, shudder, that the administration might say some mean things about you.

Well those are the breaks. You're in a profession you elected to go into, a profession that is supposed to demand accountability from those in power.

Want to be trusted, do your damn job.

As it stands, you've become the person who denies your spouses drinking problem while the whole neighborhood's whispering about it. Sure we nod to your face and act like we believe you, but as soon as you walk off, we shake our heads and wonder "Who does s/he think s/he's fooling?"

It's become the elephant in the room.

And the press better start addressing it because it's an important topic and, at least right now, we have internet freedoms that China doesn't. We can read papers from outside the US. We can find out what's being reported away from the clamp down.

There is no excuse for a New York Times D.C. editor to claim that the Downing Street Memo may not be verifiable or any other nonsense. Forget that no verification was ever needed for the witch hunt of the Clintons, any second year journalism student knows you report something you're not sure of as, "Others are saying . . ."

We know you're familiar with that method. You use it all the time when you cite unnamed officials. Here you can cite The Sunday Times of London. "The Sunday Times of London is reporting . . ."

There's no excuse for the clamp down. It's making the press look like something worse than cheerleaders. It's making them look like liars with their heads stuck in the sand (or up the Bully Boy's butt).

William Greider titled a book Who Will Tell the People. We know The New York Times is at least familiar with the title because they used it in an editorial not all that long ago. So we ask the mainstream press, who will tell the people?

This isn't esoteric information. It's not arcane. And obviously, the clampdown hasn't prevented Americans from learning about it. You can fluff it all you want (and you have) but the word is getting out. Word will continue to travel. With or without you (to cite a U2 song). But if it continues to travel inspite of you, despite you, you better find something better than "arm chair media critics" and "circle jerk" to slam the new information sources because it's the "arm chair media critics" and the "circle jerk"ers, Bill Keller, that have been doing the job that mainstream press is supposed to do.

A month later, you can finally kind-of, sort-of address the Downing Street Memo that The Sunday Times published May 1, 2005. When will you address it fully? And when will you inform your readers and viewers of other revelations?

When will you address Michael Smith's "RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war?" From the opening of that article:

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.
The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.
The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make "regime change" in Iraq legal.

And do you have plans to explore Charles J. Hanley's Associated Press article entitled
"Bolton Said to Orchestrate Unlawful Firing?" If you missed it, here's an excerpt:

John R. Bolton flew to Europe in 2002 to confront the head of a global arms-control agency and demand he resign, then orchestrated the firing of the unwilling diplomat in a move a U.N. tribunal has since judged unlawful, according to officials involved. A former Bolton deputy says the U.S. undersecretary of state felt Jose Bustani "had to go," particularly because the Brazilian was trying to send chemical weapons inspectors to Baghdad. That might have helped defuse the crisis over alleged Iraqi weapons and undermined a U.S. rationale for war.

Your silence has been embarrassing. Your continued silence will render you useless. With you or without you, the word is getting out. To the print press, we ask what happens when your readers realize that you've been playing clamp down? Don't they pay for your paper because they expect to learn what's happening in the world around them? To the electronic press, we ask what happens when your viewers find out that all the chatter about Michael Jackson and other dubious topics have filled the airwaves while real news, news that matters, has been ignored. Ava and C.I. caught The Chris Matthews Show while they were writing their review.
Chris Matthews had time to address the very important, we're sure, topics of Hugh Grant and John Kerry's college grades. While we're sure there were plenty of chuckles from some viewers, you think they'll be laughing when they realize what you've been sitting on?

We don't think so. We think if the press wants the public's trust, the press needs to do its job.
That's not been happening. You can whine about the mean old bloggers all you want, but you're trashing your own image far worse than any blogging "arm chair media critic" in the midst of a "circle jerk" could. (To use some of Bill Keller's favorite phrases.)

Do your job. Report. Do what you were trained to do.

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