Sunday, June 15, 2014

The media rediscovers Iraq (Ava and C.I.)

Last week, rebels took control of several Iraqi cities, Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts, Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki begged the US government for drones and much more.  None of which surprised us in the least.

What did shock us was Iraq finally getting media attention in the US.


And then it was time to sit back and laugh at the gross stupidity.

So we're all on the same page, let's offer a quick recap of key events.

March 2003, the illegal war begins as the US leads an invasion of Iraq.  In December 2005, the Iraqi people voted in parliamentary elections.  The parliament votes on the prime minister.  They wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari.  The Bush White House said no, they wanted Nouri al-Maliki and imposed him on Iraq.  Throughout his first term, Nouri proved to be ineffectual.  He violated his oath of office by refusing to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, he broke his promise to Bully Boy Bush regarding the White House benchmarks.  In 2008, Barack Obama is elected president.  January 2009, Barack is sworn in.  In 2010, Iraq again holds Parliamentary elections.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya won those elections, they bested Nouri and Nouri's State of the Law.  Nouri refused to step down and brought the political process to a standstill.  For eight months, there was no government.  He was able to get away with that because he had the backing of the White House.  Barack ordered US officials to get around the voters, to get around the Iraqi Constitution and get Nouri a second term via a legal contract known as The Erbil Agreement.  This contract -- one of the most important developments -- is signed by Nouri and the heads of all the political blocs.  To get those other leaders to sign on, Nouri had to agree to concessions to them.  Nouri used the contract to get his second term, then insisted that he needed time before he could honor his promises, then his spokespeople insisted the contract was illegal, then the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr went public in the summer of 2011 calling for The Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  Nouri refused.

After that, you would see the return of street protests, a move for a no-confidence vote and so much more.

The Erbil Agreement is a turning point and a major moment.

Unless you're a gasbag in the US.

This was especially true of Real Time with Bill Maher, where trash goes to await pickup.

Did Richard Clarke declare, "Listen, we lost 4700 Americans [in Iraq].  Not 1 more. Not 1 more."?  Or did he say 4500?  We weren't up to watching that crap twice.  We believe he said 4700.  Regardless, the number he gave was incorrect.

The number of US  military personnel the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4489.

If you care about the number, you know the number.

So much wasn't known.

Bill Maher declared, regarding Barack's attempts to get a new Status Of Forces Agreement, "The president of Iraq wouldn't allow it to happen."


Jalal Talabani said "no"?

Because Jalal Talabani is the president of Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki is the prime minister -- a position he's held since 2006.  Nouri was who Maher was referring to.

How do you talk about Iraq and not know that basic fact?

You have to be a real idiot.  Bill Maher is.  So is Philip Maldari.  He guest hosted KPFA's Upfront on Wednesday and also wrongly billed Nouri al-Maliki as a president and not a prime minister.  Friday on the Washington Week Web Extra, Gwen Ifill was also wrongly calling Nouri "president."

These are not minor details.

Nouri al-Maliki being prime minister of Iraq is what is known as a fact.  When you dispense with facts, you get Real Time on HBO -- a 'political' show that plays for studio applause.

"I don't want to say I told you so," gloated Richard Clarke.

He looked like a fool and not just because we've never favored men who sport the Florence Henderson Brady Bunch flip at the back of their hair.  He looked like a fool because he didn't address or even acknowledge The Erbil Agreement.

He made no mention of Nouri's attacks on Sunnis which include threatening to sue Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, running off Iraq's Sunni vice president and attacking the home of a Sunni MP -- attacking it at dawn and killing the MP's brother in the attack.  Clarke didn't note Nouri's months long bombing of residential neighborhoods in the Sunni city of Falluja.  Clarke didn't note the attacks on protesters.

Clarke made real clear that he last paid attention to Iraq around 2005.

Equally uninformed was  Crystal Ball.  We hadn't seen her before.  We were hoping that she was smart but being an MSNBC talk show host doesn't require brains -- a point she proved on Bill Maher's program.

"And six years later," she huffed, "the president is still trying to clean up the mess that Bush left for our country and for the world."

MSNBC hucksters work hard to pretend like Barack's hands are clean.  You overturn the results of a 2010 election and your hands are clean?

What a bunch of liars.

There was more honesty from unnamed White House officials -- Jake Tapper (CNN) reported on that this week.

But on the liar list, include Katrina vanden Heuvel's name.  The Nation magazine's glory hog appeared on All Things Considered (NPR) Friday.  Like Ball, she made no sense at all.

Actually, in fairness to Crystal, Ball made more sense than Katrina.

Katrina was busy attempting to scrub clean evidence of Barack's errors.  So she too insisted this was all rooted in 2003.

But she was worse than Crystal because Katrina also insisted, "I think the crisis in Iraq demands a political solution, not a military one which will pour arms into spreading cauldron of war and risk exacerbating the crisis in Iraq and enflaming the militant extremism."


If the problem is 2003 why are you insisting Iraq needs a political solution?

We agree it needs a political solution but we've already noted where the politics went off the rails (2010).

Appearing Friday on The Takeaway (PRI), Dexter Filkins observed what Katrina refused to, "Maliki, ever since the Americans left, has begun a very sectarian project. He has taken most of the power in the country for himself, he's oppressed and done mass arrests of Sunnis across the Sunni heartland in the north and west of the country. He's basically marginalized them politically, and so that's opened up the space that these extremists are kind of moving into. In a way, Maliki may turn to the Iranians, but he's already done that -- he is Shiite sectarian to the core, and he's been that way for most of his adult life long before the Americans even got to Iraq."

Katrina's just an idiot who slept with and married a professor.  It didn't make her a smart woman.

We found it telling how Katrina, Crystal and Richard both  avoided noting the Iraqi people.  In fairness to Ball, she did sneer at Sunnis and Shi'ites and insist that they were naturally violent, "these people."  Xenophobia, if HBO couldn't send it out over the airwaves, who would?

On Thursday, Democracy Now! did their kind-of, sort-of coverage of Iraq.  They had two guests who knew the issues very well -- journalists Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) and Ned Parker (Reuters).  We'll emphasize one section of the segment.  See if you can spot the problem.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you talk about the reign of al-Maliki and the sectarianism of his government, could you elaborate on that? Because clearly al-Maliki as a Shiite leader and the majority of the population of Iraq being Shiite, the United States has continued to back his rule there despite his clampdown on any kind of dissent.

MOHAMMED AL DULAIMY: Yes, we have enough evidence, actually, videos of speeches of Mr. al-Maliki himself, showing that this man is leading the country towards a civil war. His previous press conferences accusing his partners of terrorism, sometimes forging cases against them, as they say, led the country to high tension, causing Sunnis to go into streets to protest and to show their demands. Mr. al-Maliki refused most of these demands. And to the limit, he accused them of continuing some historical event that took place 1,400 years ago, about 1,400 years ago, and he said that the killers of Imam Husayn are still living among—he meant Sunnis—among the other party, which he meant Sunnis. Mr. al-Maliki has failed to build an Iraqi military that will respect human rights. I just want to say that fanatics, Islamists, feed on such human rights breaches. It helps them to further their cause and to win more recruits. This is what has had—happening in Iraq.
And you can see the videos of how the Iraqi army dealt with demonstrators in Hawija, how they killed men carrying sticks, only iron sticks, or sometimes carrying nothing. You could see the video, the brutality of the military. Mr. al-Maliki punished no one. Mr. al-Maliki always refuses to address these issues to de-escalate the sectarian tensions in Iraq. Mr. al-Maliki always also refused to disarm some Iranian-backed trained Shia militias like al-Asa’ib. These kinds of actions caused the Sunni community to live in a turmoil. And here I think that the United States, the administration, we, all of us, should speak loudly to stop the descent of the country into that civil war, to stop pushing ordinary people towards fanatics to join their lines just to defend themselves against an army that is willing to kill them all.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed al Dulaimy, can you talk about the U.S. weapons that are

Did you catch it?

Mohammed Al Dulaimey brings up the Iraqi military killing protesters in Hawija.

And Amy Goodman's response is to ignore that.

Does she think she already covered it?

April 23, 2013, she embarrassingly noted, "In news from Iraq, at least 26 people have died following clashes between Sunni demonstrators and security forces who raided a protest camp near Kirkuk earlier today. Military sources told Reuters six troops and 20 demonstrators were killed."  Then the next day, she offered, "In Iraq, the toll from Tuesday’s clashes between government forces and Sunni protesters at a protest encampment near Kirkuk has reached at least 42 dead, mostly civilians, and more than 100 wounded. The violence was the deadliest to date in the dispute between Sunni groups and the Shiite-controlled Iraqi government."

She never got the death toll correct and she never named the location.  The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

It was a major event.

It's not one Amy Goodman's been interested in -- not when it happened, not since.

She had no follow ups when Ned Parker offered some hard truths about Barack's role in all of this.  For those who'd like to know more, they can refer to Parker's "Iraq: The Road to Chaos" (The New York Review of Books) and his "Who Lost Iraq?" (POLITICO) -- both published earlier this year.

Friday, on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), McClatchy's Nancy A. Youssef made an embarrassment of herself.  She couldn't even get right what the White House had declared on Thursday.  She insisted all options were on the table despite the fact that, as she later noted, US troops on the ground had already been declared not to be an option.

Doing a far better job on that broadcast was Foreign Policy's Yochi Dreazen.

Yochi Dreazen:  There's no question that Prime Minister Maliki sees himself as a Shiite first and a sort of Iraqi second. He's a nationalist. It's not fair to say that he's just a tool of the Iranians, but he is someone who sees himself as a Shiite, believes Shiites have been repressed brutally, which they have been, and operates accordingly. So his forces arrest journalists, they arrest Parliamentarians. They've tried to arrest the Vice President of Iraq. They've tried to arrest Sunni ministers in their own cabinet, many of them then fled into Kurdistan.  He's done mass arrests of Sunni males. He's done mass killings. Nothing, obviously, remotely on the scale of Saddam Hussein, but there have been credible reports of Sunni civilians being killed in very significant numbers. You know, a dozen here, a dozen there. The dynamic, if we think back to what turned, when we think of the surge, the surge of troops followed the turning of Sunni tribes in Anbar against Al Qaida. That was the signal moment of this whole war. You had that dynamic. You had Sunni tribes friendly, in some degree, to the US. Friendly, in some small degree to Baghdad.  Under Maliki, that disappeared. He alienated those tribes completely. Now, those tribes think option one, we can take up arms and try to fight this new Al Qaida group and again, on behalf of a government we don't trust and a leader we don't like. Or we try to hunker down and let them do what they do and hope that they don't come after us. So, they're making a rational choice, given that they were abandoned by Maliki right after we left. 

Some did do solid work.  On Pacifica Radio's Letters and Politics Wednesday, Mitch Jeserich took the conversation much deeper when he turned the discussion by noting, "I have heard from other Iraqis that there are -- and I think you've alluded to this -- serious grievances people in this area have with the federal government -- or the central government "  And Mitch's guest Zaid Al-Ali acted as a tonic for Crystal Ball's Shi'ite and Sunni xenophobic stereotypes.  Holly Williams (CBS Evening News -- link is text and video) also filed a strong report and noted refugees including the Governor of Nineveh Province Atheel al-Nujaifi (brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi -- last week, Mosul property belonging to their father and to Osama was blown up).  Arwa Damon (CNN) reported on the Mosul refugees and what made them flee -- fear of being bombed by Nouri's forces.

Some did contribute like Mitch and Holly and Arwa.  Equally true, while Nancy Youssef was making little sense on NPR, Andrea Mitchell was pointing out, on Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC), "He [Barack] says he's only ruled out ground troops."

Furthermore, unlike Richard Clarke and other gasbags and hosts, she was able to talk about Nouri al-Maliki.

Andrea Mitchell:  So far we have spent years trying to get Maliki to be more  democratic, not be oppressive and exclusionary to the Sunnis.  We've basically driven these Sunnis into the arms of the radicals.  So what make us think that with American help, American airstrikes, more military equipment from the US that he'll change at all.

Senator John McCain:  Well he has to or he has to be changed.  One of the two.  It is an unacceptable situation

Praise also has to go to one analyst who repeatedly showed up  last week:  Brookings Institute's Ken Pollack.  His finest moment may have been when he appeared Friday afternoon on MSNBC's The Cycle.

Abby Huntsman:  You even warned the Obama administration years ago that this was coming.  Did they not listen or did they not take you seriously?

Kenneth Pollack: The administration had a different narrative about Iraq, they had a different view about what was going to happen there. And myself and numerous other people were basing our warnings on not just Iraq itself but lots of other civil wars like this over the course of history and what we've seen happen there.  And I think if you look at what was happening there, it was pretty obvious that this was the course that things wanted to go to but the administration wanted to think about Iraq in a as the narrative that they stuck to.  But I think you're right, Abby, that we've got to concentrate on moving forward, on dealing with the situation that we have.  You know, we'll leave it to the historians to sort out, you know, who shot John and under what circumstances. 

Luke Russert: Ken, Luke Russert here in Washington, and one thing I found fascinating from talking to my sources on the Hill, is the degree to which this is Sunni versus Shia and how Sunnis are so just fed up with al-Maliki.  You're not actually seeing remnants of Sadam's old army joining forces with the ISIS.  How much of a problem is that for the US moving forward because this is a very organized, militant group that had military training and knows the country inside and out.

Ken Pollack:  Luke, you put your finger on the critical thing that's going on here, alright.  We can't think of this as just being ISIS -- a group of Iraqis and Syrians out of Syria who've invaded Iraq and it has nothing to do with Iraqi politics.  It's all Iraqi politics. First, as I said, ISIS has a very heavy Iraqi component and, as you said, they are now joining  up with all of these Sunni militias inside of Iraq and that is the force that together is advancing on Baghdad.  And what it speaks to is the complete alienation of Iraq's Sunni community as a result of Maliki's treatment of them over the last two, three, four years.  And it's why  if we're going to deal with the problem, if we're actually solve the situation, pull Iraq out of this civil war, it can't be about military operations, it can't be just about bombing stuff because the fundamental problem is political and we're going to have to deal with that and that's even harder than the military one.  [. . .]  The bottom line here is somebody has got to convince Maliki to change his ways.  He's got to change his way of doing things or else has got to  help the Iraqis bring about a new political leadership that will bring the Sunnis back in [to the government, to the process],  that will deal with the problems in the Iraqi military, that will curb the powers of the prime minister so that all Iraqi ethnic groups aren't frightened of another prime minister like Maliki.  And at the end of the day, I think the military component -- the most useful piece of it is, the Iraqis, in particular, the Shia, are desperate for it so that becomes the leverage we have And I think that the President actually put it the right way.  That, if they want our military support, the price for it is that they're going to have to reform their politics.  Because if they don't reform their politics, there's no point in giving them that military system because the problems are not going to abate. 

Another who deserved praise was Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) who appeared on The Reid Report (MSNBC) on Friday and explained to host Joy-Ann Reid that drone strikes were not an answer for reasons including that Nouri's 'intelligence' is questionable and he might feed info that would lead to strikes on his political rivals.  Janine Davidson also provided some common sense regarding drone strikes when she appeared Friday on The NewsHour (PBS).  And even Mark Shields seemed to grasp Davidson's points when he offered 'analysis' on The NewsHour.

But we noticed something else on the drones.

Remember how, in 2002 and 2003, if you were for war on Iraq, it was really easy for you to get on radio and TV.  In fact, your opinion dominated the public airwaves.

We saw something similar going on with drones.

Take NPR's Here and Now -- the show that replaced listener favorite Talk of the Nation.

They did feature Iraq War veteran US House Rep. Doug Collins opposing the use of drone strikes in Iraq.  But they also featured former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey supporting drone strikes in Iraq.  And they also featured former US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad supporting drone strikes in Iraq. And they also featured ABC News producer Mazin al-Mubarak calling for drone strikes in Iraq.

That was all on one show.  One person opposed to strikes and three in favor.

(Actually interested in balance and discussion?  The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN did a segment featuring one voice for and one voice against drone strikes and bombings.)

It's not as though there weren't plenty of voices saying air strikes and bombing would not help.  In fact, those people were in the majority -- despite being shut out by the media.

Many shared the sentiment of Senator Carl Levin who is the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, "It’s important to keep in mind that a major source of Iraq’s problems has been the refusal of the Maliki government, despite persistent U.S. encouragement, to reach out to its Sunni citizens to forge a unified and inclusive Iraq. No action on our part can resolve that disunity. It’s unclear how air strikes on our part can succeed unless the Iraqi army is willing to fight, and that’s uncertain given the fact that several Iraqi army divisions have melted away. While all options should be considered, the problem in Iraq has not been so much a lack of direct U.S. military involvement, but a lack of reconciliation on the part of Iraqi leaders."

He didn't make that statement on TV or radio.

He made it in a press release.

He made that statement in a press release which received little attention from the press.  Time and again, those calling for destruction and war could get air time while others were shut out of the conversation.

And this was supposed to pass for a balanced discussion?

It was pre-Iraq War media all over again, selling violence by stacking the deck.

And if you didn't get how the whorish media never took accountability for their role in selling the illegal war to begin with, you only had to catch up with Gwen Ifill on Washington Week (PBS).  Her opening remark was the kind of unrivaled lie that repeatedly popped up when the Iraq War was first being sold.  There was Gwen this week declaring, "Iraq flashback.  A crumbling nation looks to the US for help."


When did Iraq appeal to the US government to be attacked?

We're not remembering that moment or that request -- mainly because they never happened.

Nancy Youssef took her lies to Washington Week and our favorite moment with her was when she declared, "Yes, frankly in the sense that ISIS --  the -uh -- the,  uhm -- which --"

Seeing a War Hawk fumble and stammer filled our hearts with joy and gladness.

Her hair 'braid,' which left her looking like a hostess at IHOP, made us chuckle but the fat rolls and dimples on her upper arms made us recoil and wonder why people don't try to dress appropriately when appearing on TV?  For any wondering, the men wore suits and Gwen went with a long sleeve jacket and pearls.

For those who wince at our comments, (a) we've noted before that TV is a visual medium and (b) when we're talking about Nance who referred to the military in male terms throughout the web extra ("these guys") as if women didn't serve?  We have no sympathy for her or her stupidity in wardrobe and hair choices.

We also had no sympathy for her belief that we were all as stupid as she is.

Thursday and Friday, Barack spoke about Iraq.  Nouri must, Barack said, show inclusion, the political process must bring in the elements Nouri has run off (Sunnis).  The US will provide assistance then, Barack declared.  Here's how he put it on Friday:

I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.
So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. 
So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies. 

That may sound good to you (or not) but does it make sense?

The USS George H.W. Bush was deployed to the waters just outside southern Iraq on Saturday.  Missiles and fighter jets can be launched from this ship.

What has Nouri done thus far to indicate that he's working on the political issue?

Not one damn thing.

But he's already gotten a US navy carrier docked outside of Iraq.

Would have been nice if the media could have addressed the points Barack made in terms of how does Nouri demonstrate a willingness?  And how long should Barack give Nouri to demonstrate a willingness?

CBS News' Vinita Nair attempted to get to that Saturday on This Morning but her 'expert' (Juan Zarate) sidestepped the question.

Otherwise, there was no effort to pursue that, just a rush to resell a war.

And without a markdown in price or rebate or refund, the news media decided the way to go was in alarming the American public.

They weren't sure that terrorism would work, apparently, so they went for the bank accounts.

What was happening in Iraq, the media repeatedly argued, was going to cost Americans money and this was used to gin up outrage and calls for action.

US House Rep. Adam Smith appeared on Newsroom (CNN) Thursday and was discussing national security implications and how he would need proof of a threat to support drone strikes when host Carol Costello cut him off to insist her agreement because the price of oil could go up.  After she finished her rant, Smith replied he was speaking of national security issues like terrorism.

But it was too late.  Costello had already made clear where she stands: Start the bombing the minute she pays a few pennies more at the pump.

What Costello didn't grasp, CNN did.  They pulled the video off the web.

There were many more examples -- on radio and TV.  We'll note a few more. Street Signs (CNBC) featured T. Boone Pickens Friday proclaiming that the price of oil per barrel could increase by fifty to one-hundred dollars as a result of the crisis in Iraq. The Friday news wrap on The NewsHour found Judy Woodruff intoning, "Oil prices edged up again today, on worries the escalating insurgency in Iraq could disrupt oil exports."  On The Cycle (MSNBC) Friday, Susan Ochs was fretting over the price of oil.  ABC News Radio insisted, "U.S. motorists will likely feel the repercussions of the crisis in Iraq if it keeps spinning out of control."  Again, that's a sampling.

They could sell alarm and fear over oil prices, they were less interested in the Iraqi refugees and, naturally, less interested in the truth.

Among the casualties last week as Democratic operatives spun wildly?

Those who had taken brave stands.

Thursday on CNN's Crossfire, viewers were subjected to Stephanie Cutter's lying as she insisted Republicans had caused the Iraq War.

Just Republicans, Cutter?

As a former aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, Cutter damn well knows that Kennedy's stance against the Iraq War was not the prevailing stance for Democrats in Congress.

She insults the memory of Ted Kennedy and a great moment for him -- a legacy moment --  when she attempts to deceive viewers into believing that opposition to the illegal war was the position of Congressional Democrats.

Like events out of Iraq last week, Cutter's lies didn't surprise us one bit.


1) We noted Washington Week, The NewsHour, Andrea Mitchell Reports, All Things Considered, The Reid Report, The Cycle, Upfront, Letters from Washington, The Lead with Jake Tapper, Democracy Now!, Here and Now, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Diane Rehm Show, etc.  Some got links, some didn't.  Why?  If your show was inclusive to all, you got noted.  Inclusive to all means grasping some Americans -- due to web platforms, or streaming issues, or hearing issues -- are not going to benefit from video only.  Do you also provide a transcript?  If you didn't, whine to someone else. We wish Jake Tapper would provide transcripts (and maybe he does on his transcript page) but Jake got links because Jake did actual reporting and because Jake may be one of the last reporters and hosts who really does try to be fair.

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