Sunday, March 22, 2009

TV: The War Goes Ignored

March 19th was the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. On that day, a day that saw the death of the 4260th US service member in Iraq, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to yuck it up.


He had time to babble on like the bitterest of starlets. Everyone is Simon Cowell! (Does that make him William Hung?) He had time to waste on college basketball. He had time to tell a very unflattering story about his daughters which made them sound like ungrateful little brats. (He told the story or we wouldn't comment -- we haven't, for example, riffed on how much the youngest daughter looks like Wanda Sykes.) He laughed a lot, tried to yuck it up (insulting over 40 million Americans -- that's an editorial for this edition). But he never mentioned the Iraq War.

The sixth anniversary of the illegal war and he couldn't mention Iraq? He could go on TV, on a trashy entertainment program, and try to yuck it up. And he's the president of the United States. This is presidential behavior? We felt we were the only ones offended by that but a caller to The Diane Rehm Show (who disclosed she voted for Cynthia McKinney and not Barack) Friday raised the issue as well. And as we spoke about Iraq to various groups Friday, we would point this out and they would agree it was in poor taste and offensive.

Approximately 146,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, on the battlefield (the Pentagon's the one who determined that all of Iraq is a battlefield and that's why they issued the firing orders they did) and the sixth anniversary rolls around and the president of the United States can be found acting like a celebrity, sitting down on the couch across from Jay Leno, trying to yuck it up but he can't address the Iraq War?

It was disgusting and the only thing more disgusting was watching TV and waiting all last week for coverage.

Let's go to Pravda on the Hudson. Amy Goodman had five hours to fill last week and this apparently qualified for her entire sixth anniversary 'coverage':

And protests are underway in this country and around the world to mark the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. On Thursday, more than two dozen protesters were arrested at parallel events in San Francisco. Five of the arrested said they were Iraq veterans. Here in New York, hundreds gathered at Union Square and later outside the military recruiting station in Times Square. In Washington, D.C., a US Army veteran was arrested hanging up a sign near the White House that read, "Veterans say NO to War and Occupation." Protests are expected to continue in several major cities through the weekend.

That's all Amy could serve up (much to Leslie Cagan's pleasure -- what a treat Amy must be in the closet). Five hours to fill. And that's the garbage she offers? (We're far from the only ones Amy offended last week. For example, take a friend whose family was mentioned on air last week but apparently the Oscar winning father didn't exist because somehow he was erased from Amy's easy-breezy Blunder Girl make over).

No time for Iraq, so what did she have time for. She gave segments (not headlines) to Rachel Corrie (sixth anniversary of her death -- apparently F**K YOU Iraqis, Amy doesn't think you matter at all), she had time for another segment on Israel, one on the elections in El Salvador, 'arrest Bush in Canada!' (yeah, more nonsense, only the loons thought it was going to happen), Juan Cole talking about multiple countries (including Iraq getting only slightly more time than Saudi Arabia and a hell of a lot less than Afghanistan, Israel and Pakistan), blather about AIG (wasted time on a wasted topic -- you have to wonder if Goody intends to serve her corporate masters intentionally or if she's just that stupid), Mark Danner telling us (what we already knew), tired, saggy-assed Robert Scheer praising Barry Obama while angry about stuff the administration's doing (remember, it's never Barry's fault), Tariq Ali on Socialism (it's not coming to the US), Tariq Ali on Pakistan, and (Friday) Israel, Palistinians and Haitians.

Again, that's a big F**K YOU to Iraqis from Amy Goodman. The Queen of Beggar Media. Let's stay with Panhandle Media because, as a friend at The New York Times likes to say, "Those who can do, those who can't teach and those who can't teach or do go to Pacifica Radio." (Yes, it is a riff on a joke Woody Allen tells in Annie Hall.)

Sonali Kolhatkar worked overtime to prove that last week. Kolhatkar hosts Uprising which airs weekly for an hour Monday through Friday on KPFK (and other stations) and which has a weekend repacking/best-of. Somehow Sonali had no time for Iraq. (We'll ignore Aaron Glantz' national report which built another wall between the listener and the war as Aaron explained, yet again, that only veterans and he could understand the Iraq War. If true that Pacifica listeners can't understand it, that would be a damning judgment made of Aaron's work thus far.) Sonali's indifference would have shocked us once upon a time. But that was before we saw Sonali -- 'friend' to Afghan women -- refuse to use her program to call out Barack's proposal that the US government get cozy with the Taliban. That was before we saw her, under extreme pressure in the Bay Area, turn up last Monday on KFPA's The Morning Show where she offered a weak opposition to Barack's plan and she strongly insisted it wasn't Barack, it was the people around him. Psychic Sonali, you do grasp that your efforts to defend Barack are not only a betrayal to Afghan women, they are also highly racist -- you are saying that a bi-racial man is not able to think for himself. Sonali's the author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence and we should note that she is not part of the Propagand of Silence. (Want to grow the hell up, Sonali? It's not hard, you just say "NO!" and you say it loudly.)

KPFA offered the factually challenged Aimee Allison chatting it up with War Hawk Tony Tarantino (part of Mommy's Pantyhose's latest group) about stop-loss on Friday's The Morning Show. Let's listen in on one exchange:

Aimee Allison: I read that 13,000 soldiers were effected over the last years.

Tommy Tarantino: Yes, yes. Absolutely. And I-I mean, I knew several of them before I went to Iraq.

You read that, Aimme? Where? In EasyTopix4Dummies? Absolutely, Tommy?

A host, a guest and neither knew a damn thing.

In April of last year, Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) reported, "In all, 58,300 soldiers have been affected by stop loss since 2002, according to the Army." Where did the uninformed 'expert' guest and the host get the 13,000 figure? Wednesday, at the Pentagon, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (again) announced he would 'minimize' the use of stop-loss (that's the backdoor draft -- you're contract is up but you're not allowed to leave). During his comments, he stated, "As of the end of January, there were 13,200 soldiers in stop-loss." He was talking, pay attention Tommy and Aimee, about the number of solders currently being stop-lossed. So to say "13,000 were effected over the years"? Dead wrong. In a real world you'd issue a correction. When approximately 60,000 soldiers are reduced to 13,000, a real media outlet issues a correction. Pacifica isn't a real media outlet.

There was a high point for The Morning Show last week. Tuesday Philip Maldari interviewed Thomas E. Ricks, author of the new bestseller The Gamble. In a wide ranging interview, the two explored the "Awakening" Councils, the success or failure of the 'surge,' Moqtada al-Sadr, the ethnic tensions and much more. (A small portion of the interview is excerpted in Tuesday's snapshot.) Maybe Aimee had to take truth and reality to the alter on Friday and sacrifice them in order for us to have had Tuesday's indepth coverage?

If so, who or what do we need to sacrifice at NBC Nightly News. Spokesmodel Brian Williams spent more time doing on air promos for Barack's Tonight Show appearance last week than he did covering Iraq. What a proud moment for NBC News!

The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric went Iraq-adjacent on Monday serving up Lara Logan interviewing (link has text and video) Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen who was on to discuss Afghanistan and reconstruction there. Thursday, Logan reported (link has text and video) on dangers still in Iraq, noting that US service members had to do rebuilding at night due to the dangers and that Iraqi soldiers do not even want to be caught on news cameras so afraid are they of potential threats to their lives. Those were strong reports and Katie Couric also did two reports on sexual assualts in the military (here and here -- both have text and video).

Over at ABC, World News Tonight was supposed to be heavy hitter. They were supposed to report on Iraq all week. They did not. (So to those upset that we asked Jim to include that in the note last week and not in our commentary, we didn't think it was going to be worth watching). Terry McCarthy had been to Iraq. You understand, he'd been there. He wasn't there now. But he'd been to Iraq with three bodyguards. And he showed his vacation footage and made stupid remarks that never passed a factcheck. Monday was annoying, Tuesday was laughable and . . . We'll get to it. But let's note that Terry claimed Baghdad's National Museum had reopened. And it did. For one day. But Terry hailed it as "restored and reopened." It is not open today and even on it's one day of being open (for dignataries and the press only), it was not restored.

Translation, Terry LIED. (Refer to the Feb.24th "The for-show, one-day opening" if you're as uninformed as Terry.) It was so awful that ABC brought Martha Raddatz on Wednesday to do actual reporting (World News Tonight videos are here, there is no text so we'll provide it):

Martha Raddatz: The improvements across Iraq are remarkable but US soldiers in the northern city of Mosul know that they are still at war.

Col Gary Volesky: Yesterday we had three VB IEDs. Keep your head in the game.

Martha Raddatz: VB IED. Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices. The car bomb, rocket attacks and fire fights have made Mosul one of the most dangerous places in Iraq and made the job of Col Gary Volesky and his 5,000 soldiers all the more difficult.

Col Gary Volesky: Is security good here or is it not so good?

Martha Raddatz: It's not that good says the shop keeper. Only 9% of Mosul residents polled say they feel "very safe" in their neighborhood. The national figure is 59% and Col Vuleski thinks he knows why.

Col Gary Volesky: The unemployment is anywhere from 60 to 80% and if the only option you have to feed your family is to go put in an IED or go throw a hand grenade, that's what you're going to do, whether you like it or not.

Martha Raddatz: Volesky has seen this before.

Col Gary Volesky: A lot of it looks really familiar.

Martha Raddatz: So has Capt Shane Aguero.

Martha Raddatz: [Speaking with Volesky and Aguero] The two of you together again?

Col Gary Volesky: Can you believe it?

Martha Raddatz: I first met Aguero and Volesky five years ago, after an ambush in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Col Gary Volesky [2004]: We're receiving fire from rooftops, second floors and then out of the alley ways.

Cpt Shane Aguero: I realized I was obviously wounded -- calf, foot, thigh. I was bleeding a lot.

Martha Raddatz: Before the night was over, 8 of Volesky's soldiers were dead, sixty wounded. Today Volesky and Aguero are on their third deployment to Iraq. Aguero has been to Afghanistan twice as well.

Martha Raddatz [to Aguero]: Tell me how many significant events you've missed at home? Christmases . . .

Cpt Shane Aguero: (laughing) Well pretty much all of them for the last four years -- almost five.

Martha Raddatz: And five years later, Volesky is saying goodbye to his soldiers again.

Col Gary Volesky [Speaking at a memorial service]: She's no longer with us. Mission complete.

Martha Raddatz: 22-year-old Private 1st Class Jessica Y. Sarandrea was struck by a rocket on March 3rd.

Col Gary Volesky: It doesn't matter how many memorial services you go to, there as bad as the first one I ever sat in.

Martha Raddatz: But the death of Volesky's battalion commander Garnet [R.] Derby last month was as bad as it gets.

Col Gary Volesky: He was the first real personal friend I'd lost in combat, his family's right across the street from me. I mean, uh, you know, his son and Alex play on the same soccer team.

Martha Raddatz: At such moments, Gary Volesky tries to remember what's been achieved here.

Col Gary Volesky: What is relevant to me is tomorrow I'll have one less day than I did today to make a difference.

Martha Raddatz: Volesky and his soldiers are determined for all the hardship to build on that progress. Martha Raddatz, ABC News, Mosul.

That was ABC's finest moment all last week and the only moment that really covered Iraq. [For ABC News' worst moment, see Wally's "THIS JUST IN! ABC NEWS TAPS OUT!" and Cedric's "PaulTap taps out" and, note, Jake Tapper's not the problem. ABC using him on stories like 'bromances' is. Once upon a time, ABC thought Geraldo could get physical with John Travolta. ABC News may have forgotten but we remember how that story ends.] As for Terry McCarthy? He ended up taking a lame report to Nightline (the one bumped for Raddatz' report).

That sorry ass report was actually good for Nightline because it allowed them to tear away from the 'pressing' news of bottle feeding apes and cock-knocking celebs and Ripley's Believe It Or Not citizens. Yes, folks, once upon a time Ted Koppel hosted this show.

When Ted hosted it, Nightline refused to ignore the Iraq War. Many can (and we would) put some of the media blame on the illegal war at Ted's doorstep but we can say with certainty that if Ted still was still the Nightline anchor, the Iraq War would have been addressed all last week. Bill Moyers is not Ted Koppel. Bill Moyers was never Ted. He was at CBS for how many years and has so very little to show for it. Bill's not a journalist. But as he lumbers through his twilight years, he'd like to be seen as such. No chance at all of that happening when the Iraq War hits the six year mark and he can't be bothered with even noting it. Nothing. Zilch. Moyers didn't offer a damn thing. What an embarrassment.

Charlie Rose did. He served up Condi Rice. Rice showed up Wednesday (video here) to insist that she and Bully Boy Bush didn't mislead the American people, that they never, ever drew a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. As Condi herself might word it, "No one could have guessed that six years later Condi would be an even bigger liar. No one could have guessed." (Those in need of a refresher on the false linkage by Condi and Bully Boy Bush can click here.) PBS' The NewsHour offered a lengthy roundtable moderated by Ray Suarez on the topic of Iraq(link has text and audio).

That was pretty much it.

We can't figure out whether the message was life is an ever moving dance led by Anita Ekberg in a flowing black dress ("Bravo, bravo, Frankie!") or just a non-stop conga. But life certainly, according to public affairs and news programming last week, isn't an ongoing war or stopping for a minute to truly acknowledge its existence.

It wasn't always this way. In fact, drop back to a year ago, March 21, 2008:

Five years ago this week, President Bush invaded Iraq because, we were told, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was plotting with Al Quaeda terrorists to attack America. We were told the war would be quick and tidy -- and that grateful Iraqis would welcome their liberators with flowers in the streets.
Well, now the war is into its sixth year. We're spending over ten billion dollars a month, with the long-range cost reckoned in trillions. For Iraqis and for American soldiers and their families, the human toll is even harder to calculate -- numbers alone don't do it: 4,000 soldiers dead, nearly 30,000 wounded.

Have the dead come back to life? Have the wounds been magically erased? Has the financial cost of the illegal war dropped? The answer to all three questions is no. So maybe it's time America joined Trina in asking, "Was it all just opposition to GWB?"

Was it? It certainly seems that way to judge by the coverage. The excerpt above, from March 21, 2008? That's Bill Moyers speaking at the start of that week's Journal, speaking at the start of what would be an hour long broadcast on the topic of the Iraq War. What changed? The fiancial costs didn't go down or cease. The dying didn't stop. The illegal war drags on -- despite the lack of coverage.
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