:: The Fred Willard Fan Site ::


:: Sunday, August 31, 2003 ::

Edward Bernays Would Be Proud

BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's mendacity is becoming more and more apparent, as it is now revealed that the sole source for his "sexed up" report (the same one whom he misrepresented and attempted to coach) was in favor of the war in Iraq (via Jeff Jarvis). He had also reportedly told the Sunday Times that Blair's dossier was "factual and credible," and that it was Gilligan's reporting that most of Gilligan's reporting was "bullshit."

There's also more evidence of Gilligan attempting to set the table for his own reporting, through e-mails to opposition MP's:
New evidence has emerged of links between BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan and opposition MPs on the parliamentary committee investigating claims that the British Government "sexed up" its dossier on Iraqi weapons.

Documents released by the Hutton Inquiry show Gilligan emailed a long analysis of Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell's evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) to two Tories on the committee.

In one he said: "No huge smoking gun here but cumulatively it is quite damaging to Campbell. Inconsistencies, exaggerations, evasions and direct untruths."

That's one way to ensure a good story.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:57 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 ::

And Fox Cares about this Because?

Wesley Clark is now claiming that the White House tried to get him fired from CNN:
"The White House actually back in February apparently tried to get me knocked off CNN and they wanted to do this because they were afraid that I would raise issues with their conduct of the war," Clark told Newsradio 620 KTAR. "Apparently they called CNN. I don't have all the proof on this because they didn't call me. I've only heard rumors about it."

CNN had no immediate comment on the general's allegations. White House officials told Fox News that they are "adamant" that they "never tried to get Wesley Clark kicked off the air in any way, shape or form." Beyond that, the White House "won't respond to rumors."

I have no idea whether this is true (maybe it was a Canadian think tank that tried to get him bumped?), but why does Fox care about this?

If it is true, then CNN looks good for standing up to the White House (and Clark gets to play the martyr card), so this does nothing but increase CNN's credibility in my mind. I guess Fox is in the giving mood when it comes to giving free publicity to its competitors and detractors.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:55 AM [+] ::

Move Back, but not Out

Amitai Etzioni argues for "dialing down" U.S. presence in Iraq:
As of Tuesday, the number of U.S. casualties incurred after the end of major combat operations in Iraq exceeds those we suffered during the war. It is high time for a basic shift in approach: We must let Iraqis run most operations and openly take responsibility for them.

Once that happens, if there is not enough work, water or electricity to go around, Iraqis no longer will be able to blame us. If a water main or an oil pipeline blows up, it will be their own new government that is undermined, rather than U.S. forces and credibility.

While he does make some good points about the need to put more of an Iraqi face on the CPA (and quickly), I could not disagree more on this point.

Yes, if we allow the Iraqi's take responsiblity for security and reconstruction at this stage, they would indeed have no one to blame but themselves if things go wrong. But if Iraq goes the way of (pre-Karzai) Afghanistan, what difference will it make whose fault it was? Etzioni also claims that de-Baathification should be left to the Iraqis, and that "if they refuse, they will live with the consequences." Yeah, along with the rest of us.

Etzioni continues:
Some may say that such a policy will lead to a Taliban-like Shiite government in the country's south. We should not be scared by such predictions. As long as we make it clear that if Iraqis host terrorists we will deal with them the same way we dealt with the Taliban, then they will be most unlikely to embark on such a course.

Here, he appears to be treating Iraq's political culture -- which is in a state of flux, to say the least -- as if it were a monolithic actor. But societies don't "embark" on paths that lead to regimes like the Taliban or Khmer Rouge (which was the regime most comparable to the Taliban, in my view). They come about in a vacuum created by the failure of stable political institutions.

Etzioni is right that more Iraqi participation is essential to provide legitimacy, and thus reduce at least some of the so-called "resistance." But he's oversimplifying things when he says that if the kinds of attacks we're witnessing today continue under a "homegrown government," that "the Iraqis would run them out of town." I'm not a confident as he is in such a prospect.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:46 AM [+] ::
:: Saturday, August 23, 2003 ::

The (Complete) Truth About DU

Michael McNeill does the most thorough analysis I've seen to date.

[Via Winds of Change]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:18 PM [+] ::

Fox/Franken Suit Ruling

Fox loses its bid to stop distribution of Franken's book. Money quote:
During arguments held before his ruling, Chin asked Fox lawyer Dorie Hansworth if she really believed that the cover was confusing.

"To me, it's quite ambiguous as to what the message is," she said. "It's a deadly serious cover ... This is much too subtle to be considered a parody."

"Subtle." Yeah, that's Franken's M.O. alright.


:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:14 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, August 22, 2003 ::

Scott Ott's Arabic Lessons are Starting to Pay Off

This just has to be some kind of joke.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:09 PM [+] ::

Secular Suicide Bombers

Josh Marshall has posted the first part of his interview with author Peter Bergen. There's lots of good insight, except for one comment Bergen makes about whether the UN bombing was the work of Saddam loyalists or al Qaeda:
Then point two: The United Nations is definitely -- attacking the United Nations is definitely something that for starters was a suicide attack, probably extremely well-organized. I don't think there's a huge group of people willing to martyr themselves to bring Saddam Hussein back to power. I mean it just doesn't make sense on the face of it. You know, there might be people who are nostalgic, but not nostalgic enough to want to kill themselves … Secular socialism posits heaven here on earth, rather than in eternity.

Now, there's information just now that the FBI is saying that the explosive materials involved indicate some sort of military Iraqi [connection], which is interesting. So maybe there is some alliance between these former military people and the jihadists. But I think that -- I've never heard of a suicide operation mounted by people who don't believe in heaven.

TPM: Right, right.

"Don't believe in heaven?" Whoa. I knew the Ba'athists were secular, but I didn't know they were godless Leninists. I can't believe Marshall would just let that one go.

Now, I think Bergen is right that this was more likely the work of true jihadists, but his logic here is a stretch, to say the least. I don't think we can categorically reject the possibility that it could have been committed by adherents to Saddam's secular socialism. To suggest that you have to be a hardcore fundamentalist to resort to blowing yourself up sounds more like Peter Bergen the reporter rather than Peter Bergen the Terrorism Expert. There is certainly a precedent for secular organizations resorting to the more death-cult forms of terrorism. Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is one example that comes screaming to mind. ICT notes:
Unlike the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad—the groups usually associated with mass-casualty attacks against Israel—the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade was at first thought of as a secular, nationalist group, rather than an Islamic one. Thus it came as something of a surprise when the group began carrying out suicide bombings. On hindsight, however, this appears as a natural step. Islamic motifs had been part of the “al-Aqsa” conflict from the beginning—the very name of the conflict was derived from the notion that Israel had plans to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque. Religious motifs have been used extensively by Arafat in his diatribes against “Israeli occupation of Muslim holy places.” Thus, having made Islam-vs.-Judaism a central tenet of the war, it was natural for Fatah to alter its own character to suit the rhetoric that had launched the conflict and kept it going.

Clearly, Saddam has resorted to similar rhetoric recently, evoking jihad and calling on his countrymen to rise up against the infidel invaders. And there were suicide attacks by Saddam's forces during OIF.

More importantly, we're not talking about simple "nostalgia" here. I think Rumsfeld is right when he refers to the more dedicated fedayeen as "dead-enders" -- Saddam loyalists have a lot to answer for, and I don't think it's inconceivable that many of them would rather die trying to restore the regime than face the consequences of their actions in support of it.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 2:35 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 21, 2003 ::

Hey, Martyrdom Takes Time

Tacitus marks a milestone:
Pursuant to this post, let me note that today is the one-month anniversary of the unlamented passing of the brothers Husseini. Let us also note Steve Gilliard's lamentation on that day:
They're going to be spun as heroes throughout the Arab world....You can bet within the month, drawings of their last gunfight will be all over walls throughout the Gulf.

Needless, to say, nothing of the sort has happened. Petty of me, I know, but I did promise to revisit this one.


:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:46 PM [+] ::

More on BBC Propagandizing

The Instalanche over my last post has prompted a number of people to send other BBC vignettes, many of which I hadn't read. Blog Irish noted in June BBC correspondent Nik Gowing's ranting about the U.S. (and Israel) targeting journalists:
"The trouble is, those in power, those in government, are seeing this lightweight, go anywhere, much cheaper technology as a real challenge to their capacity to be governments. This has now become a massively dangerous business. In simple terms they are trying to shut us up during conflicts or emergencies.

"He said journalists had been killed in Iraq, the West Bank and in Afghanistan by governments. He said these were not isolated accidents. 'This new capacity to do our business is both empowering and deadly, literally.

"He said the so-called 'robohack' technology was able to prove 'when those in power are either lying or being dishonest'. He said that was why 'lethal force' was being used against people who were trying to 'bear witness on behalf of their viewers'".

He, of course, cited Jenin as an example of the this technology being used to Speak Truth to Power.

On the Andrew Gilligan front, I find this revelation to be among the very worst of his alleged ethical transgressions:
Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter at the heart of the David Kelly affair, tried to draw the weapons inspector into admitting publically there was disquiet over the Iraq intelligence dossier, it emerged today.
The journalist sent an email to a Liberal Democrat press officer suggesting questions that could be put to Dr Kelly by the foreign affairs select committee.

In the email dated July 14, Gillligan described Dr Kelly as "an extremely interesting witness".

"Above all he should be asked what kind of threat Iraq was in September 2002 and, if he was able to answer frankly, it should be devastating," Gilligan wrote.

I can't imagine the kind of shitstorm that would ensue if a member of the American "lapdog" press fed information to a Congressional Committee for use in one of its hearings. This is even worse than trying to put words into the mouth of a source, and should be getting a lot more play.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:09 PM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 ::

Carrying Water for the Beeb

Kevin Drum takes issue with Josh Chafetz' cover story on the BBC in the Weekly Standard:
The problem is that whenever I check up on a charge of BBC bias — such as declining to call the invasion of Iraq "liberation" — I'm usually struck not by the blatant bias on display, but rather by just how subtle and trivial the alleged bias is.

True, taken alone, a few scare quotes do not make one guilty of anti-American bias. But the selective use of them does.

I don't have a problem with the media calling our forces "occupiers" instead of "liberators," but it would be nice if they applied this standard in a non-ideological manner. They don't:
Seventy-year-old Park Jong-lin did not fight to repel communism like the others.

In fact, he did the opposite - he served in the North Korean army fighting against the imperialist American aggressors and their South Korean accomplices.

Drum also rehashes the PFC Lynch "news management" scandal:
Josh, for example, provides several examples of anti-war bias, but only a couple of them really hit home. The others are just garden variety mistakes, which are common in war reporting, or things that, far from showing bias, actually seem more true than false. Jessica Lynch's rescuers, it's true, didn't fire blanks, but on the other hand it really was "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived." Even the British military liason thought so.

Actually, the Simon Wren comments Drum cites take the U.S. military's media operations to task for mismanagement, not for manipulating the truth:
Wren yesterday described the Lynch incident as "hugely overblown" and symptomatic of a bigger problem. "The Americans never got out there and explained what was going on in the war," he said. "All they needed to be was open and honest. They were too vague, too scared of engaging with the media." He said US journalists "did not put them under pressure".

Wren's criticisms were indeed valid. CENTCOM public affairs, under the recently departed White House staffer Jim Wilkinson, gave out more communication points than hard facts. This led to a lot of speculation by reporters about how the war was going, and did little to give context to the "soda straw" view of the embeds. But how does one get from "too scared of engaging with the media" to "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived?"

Drum's standard here is pure hypocrisy: when the BBC falsely reports that Lynch's rescuers fired blanks, he chalks it up to "garden variety mistakes, common in war reporting." But when the military allows information to be leaked about the circumstances surrounding Lynch's capture, and that information turns out to be false, it's a major disinformation campaign. Never mind that the false information was caveated with a "we really haven't evaluated this report yet" disclaimer, or that an Army doctor corrected the record two days later, or that everything else BGEN Brooks said about the raid turned out to have been completely accurate. It's simply inconceivable to Drum -- or, more importantly to the BBC's reporters -- that the pentagon simply made a mistake, and actually believed that their intel could have been accurate at the time.

Ditto for the other "lies" the pentagon told about the war. They said they took Um Qasr and Basra. Then it turned out they hadn't completely solidified those vitories. That's war, asshole. Information from the field is almost always sketchy, and often turns out to be wrong. If you want to give the BBC the benefit of the doubt that they believed their own copy, why can't you allow the same possibility for military spokespeople working under the same wartime uncertainties?

Drum also minimizes the misinformation in John Kampfner's infamous piece, and would have you believe that the use of blanks was the only factual error in his version of events. But this minor error was merely the tip of the iceberg. Kampfner claimed that U.S. Special Forces "knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital." He also referred to the erroneous reports about PFC Lynch having been shot and stabbed as "the official pentagon version" of her capture, long after an Army doctor addressed reporters to correct the false reports about her injuries. He also accused the military of claiming that there had been a firefight within the hospital during the Lynch rescue. They claimed nothing of the sort.

In fact, the very premise of his "documentary" -- that the U.S. needed to manufacture a story like the Lynch rescue, because the war was going so badly at the time -- is utterly fraudulent. Pretty ironic, ins't it? The BBC drums the "quagmire" angle mercilessly, despite the fact that the war was going far better for the U.S. than anyone knew at the time. Then when the U.S. military offers a good-news story about a POW being rescued by SOF, the purveyors of such a story are treated like Joseph Goebbels himself.

Drum continues:
And Andrew Gilligan, when he reported that he didn't see any American tanks in central Baghdad on April 5, was quite correct to say that the army had a habit of making "premature announcements" about such things. In fact, this particular story, which was played up in newspapers around the country, was premature. All that happened that day was a single lightning thrust that lasted a couple of hours, and it was several more days before Baghdad was entered in force.

Yes, the U.S. incursion into Baghdad on April 5 was just a brief thrust. And that's exactly what CENTCOM briefers told the press on April 5:
Q: Jonathan Marcus, BBC. General, could you give us some characterization of the events in southwestern Baghdad earlier today? And could I ask that -- they've been using a lot of precision-guided munitions. Some of the statements from press officers here today have been very vague -- talk about downtown Baghdad, U.S. forces in the center of the city.

We have people who are in the center of the city, and they clearly haven't been actually in the center. So could I ask for a little bit greater precision from some of the statements, but also some indication from you as to what has been going on?

GEN. RENUART: Well, I think the very first clarity of what was going on was riding in one of those tanks in the Second Brigade Combat Team, and it was one of the embedded reporters. So you probably can't see a better up-to-date report than what you saw there.

But I will try to put some context to what you saw. This was an operation conducted by two task forces of the Third Infantry Division. They, in fact, had been south of the city and conducted a raid through the city, proceeding north to the Tigris River and then continuing out to the west in the direction of the airport.

As to why your colleagues were not able to see that from the center of the city, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty comfortable that in some parts of downtown London you can't see what's going on in other parts of downtown London. So I can't give you any better answer than that.

I'm pretty comfortable I know where those guys were, and I'm pretty comfortable the reporters gave you an accurate picture of the scenes on the road.

It was, I think, a clear statement of the ability of the coalition forces to move into Baghdad at times and places of their choosing and to establish their presence really wherever they need to in the city. And those kinds of operations, I believe, will continue.

Drum doesn't cite a single newspaper that "played up" this event as if we had actually taken Baghdad on that day, and certainly the military never made such a claim. Most of the coverage I've read characterized the raid quite accurately at the time, and they did so without making false claims about the U.S. making "premature announcements." Nice try, Kevin.

Drum calls Chafetz' examples "remarkably thin," but fails to even address the most egregious among them:
On March 26 (less than a week into the fighting), Paul Adams, the BBC's own defense correspondent in Qatar, fired off a memo to his bosses: "I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering 'significant casualties.' This is simply NOT TRUE." He went on to ask, "Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving 'small victories at a very high price?' The truth is exactly the opposite. The gains are huge and costs still relatively low. This is real warfare, however one-sided, and losses are to be expected."

What was that about "garden variety mistakes?"

There are other examples Chafetz doesn't even mention, such as the Dowdification of a Tony Blair quote, making him sound like a power-hungry despot. Nonetheless, Drum thinks we're unfairly criticizing the BBC just because they don't take government statements and spin completely unsalted.

But he fails to distinguish between truly critical thinking (emphasis on the thinking) and simply looking for an angle that contradicts what those government flacks told you -- or, in the case of Kampfner, what you wrongly believe the government to have told you -- and triumphantly announcing that you've exposed yet another Bush Lie. That's the real probelm I have with the BBC. They casually accuse others of lying while adhering to a very loose standard of accuracy in their own right.

I should say the same for Kevin Drum. Most of his own attempts at debunking Chafetz simply fall flat.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:07 PM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 ::

They've Attacked the UN ... How Can We Rationalize This?

For weeks, we've read stale, circa 1972 plotlines news reports about the U.S. Squandering Good Will™ and Sowing the Seeds of Resentment™ in Iraq.

I even heard a suggestion on NPR yesterday that acts of sabotage against Iraqi infrastructure weren't really being committed by jihadis or Batthist bitter-enders, but by "the people," who are irate over the, uh, slow pace of rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure.

Now that they have attacked the UN, they might just have to consider the possibility that the culprits are simply evil bastards who need to be hunted down like animals ...


Tim Blair notes the anti-American spin being put on this attack by the British media. One thing that has really annoyed me is this comment by UN spokesman Salim Lone, being run by CNN every 20 minutes or so:
But I grieve most of all for the people of Iraq, because [Sergio Vieira de Mello] was the man who could really have helped bring about an end to occupation, an end to the trauma the people of Iraq have suffered for so long, to lead the reconstruction effort.

Viera de Mello's service was truly admirable, and this is a loss that we should all mourn. But you think this might be overstating his importance just a bit? And it's disheartening that even as U.S. forces are providing medical assistance to injured UN employees and securing the area, Lone couldn't resist a dig at the American "occupation," as if its a hindrance to the reconstruction effort.

UPDATE: And on the other end of the spectrum:
I heard this on the news this morning and had almost popped the cork off of a bottle of sparkly when I heard that it was the U.N. HQ in Baghdad.

Oh well, it's a start, I suppose.

Misha can try to rationalize or justify this all he wants, but I'm with Jurjen and Andrew on this. Yes, I have problems with the UN, but Vieira de Mello ran their East Timor mission, for fuck's sake. Comments like these are pathetic.

UPDATE II: To get a sense of just how asinine Misha's remarks are, read Richard Holbrooke's eulogy of Vieira de Mello:
Until Sergio Vieira de Mello's death in Baghdad yesterday, almost no Americans had heard of him. Yet for several decades this remarkable United Nations career official had been advancing many of America's long-term policy interests while loyally serving the United Nations.

He saw nothing incompatible in this.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:37 PM [+] ::

Coolest. Blog Name. Ever

And he makes some good points as well.
[Via Jarvis]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:43 PM [+] ::

You Be the Judge

Justin "Compelling evidence" Huggler on the shooting of Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana:
Mr Dana's colleagues said the tank was 30 metres from him when it opened fire. Television cameras do not look like RPG launchers: at such close range it should have been impossible to confuse the two.

Impossible, eh? You be the judge.

And notice how even after Jenin, Huggler remains so confident in his own judgement that he doesn't feel the need to source such a definitive pronouncement. Ass.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:26 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, August 18, 2003 ::

People Are the Worst

This weekend's blog activity was almost foul enough to cause an unapologetic misanthrope like me to call it quits.

First, we have an East Coast/West Coast feud over what appeared to me to be pretty harmless satire. I certainly thought it was funny, and don't see what the big deal is.

Then, we have some gutless worm call Child Protective Services over comments left on a blog in another flamewar. I guess that's what it takes to top getting a blogger fired from her job over a blog feud.

I admit, I can be downright brutal toward people I don't like, but this is just beyond me.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:40 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, August 14, 2003 ::

Does Fox Have a Case?

Eric Alterman -- and one of his professor friends -- seems to think so:
“Eric, U.S. trademark law is so kooky since Clinton sold that office to the highest bidders that Fox might just prevail in protecting common terms like “fair and balanced.” However, the mark was issued USTPO registration # 2213427 and it’s registered for “entertainment services in the nature of production and distribution of television news programs.”
So Franken has a narrow defense.

Pretty weak argument if you ask me. All this really says is that yes, Virginia, Fox News can get a trademark license for a common phrase like "fair and balanced." It says nothing about whether Franken's use of it constitutes either infringement or dilution. Alterman also points to the example of the title of one of his own books, for which he had to get permission from Bruce Springsteen. How this applies to Franken's situation is anyone's guess.

Franken is clearly mocking Fox by using their slogan in his own title. Was Alterman also attempting to mock Springsteen by using the title of one of his songs for his book? I haven't read the book and don't exactly know enough about Alterman to be his biographer, but from what I understand, this is highly unlikely. It seems more likely that he was trying to bank on the public's familiarity with that title to get his own point across, and associate his own ideas with it.

Parody has been treated as a sacred right in intellectual property law, and neither Alterman or Vaidhyanathan address whether Franken's use of "fair and balanced" constitutes parody. The standard set in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose clearly supports Franken. A more recent case involving trademarks specifically (as opposed to copyrights) was Bally Total Fitness v. Faber, in which the respondent used "Bally sucks" as the domain name for his Web site. In its ruling, the Court noted "no reasonably prudent Internet user would believe that a site emblazoned with "Bally Sucks' would be sponsored by or affiliated with Bally."

I think the same can be said for a book entitled "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," but I suppose Fox's assertion that the average reader might think Franken's book is affiliated with the network says something about them.

[Via Henry Hanks]

UPDATE: According to Drudge, this was all at the insistence of Bill O'Reilly, who said this was a matter of "honor and support." O'Reilly weighed in on the suit personally in his "Talking Points Memo" segment last night:
The main point here is that trying to hurt a business or a person because you disagree with what they say is simply unacceptable in America. And that message has been sent by FOX. There's a principle in play. Vigorous debate is embraced by us, but smear campaigns will be confronted. It is simply a joke for The New York Times to editorialize that fabricated personal attacks are acceptable under the banner of satire.

I wonder if The Times thought that Donald Sagretti was funny when he manufactured dirt to hurt Richard Nixon's political opponents. I guess The Times editorial board would be yucking it up if their pictures appeared on a book cover accompanied by the word "liar." Satire, my butt.

There's no question that many of the attacks launched against FOX personnel are designed to injury and demean. It's unfortunate, but in this country, if you're successful or famous, many courts will allow defamation, slander and liable to go unpunished.

Of course, Fox's complaint doesn't accuse Franken of defamation, but it does contain numerous ad hominem attacks against Franken (none of which appear to be slanderous). Their suit accuses Franken of wrongfully appropriating their intellectual property, and ironically, O'Reilly's little tirade here provides some valuable ammunition for the author's inevitable claim of fair use. Nice work, jackass!

But getting back to the merits of O'Reilly claiming "defamation," the complete contents of Franken's arguments are not yet available. It should be noted that the one example he has publicized thus far -- that O'Reilly falsely claimed to have won a Peabody Award for his "Inside Edition" tabloid show (the show won a Polk some time after O'Reilly had left the show) and then went on to lie further by savaging those who made this claim -- is completely accurate. In fact, in their storied exchange on C-SPAN's Book TV in May, O'Reilly more or less admitted to this, but retorted, "Is that all you got?"

But O'Reilly's contention that "trying to hurt a business or a person because you disagree with what they say is simply unacceptable in America" is particularly galling, considering the air time he has devoted to doing just that.

[Via Brian Carnell]
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:56 AM [+] ::

Maybe with a Different Messenger ...

The Washington Times reports on John Poindexter's resignation letter, in which he laments how recent DARPA initiatives were "misrepresented and misunderstood":
"I regret that we have not been able to ... reassure the public that we do not intend to spy on them," the retired admiral said in a letter dated Tuesday. "I think I have done all that I can do under the circumstances."
He advised his boss, Anthony Tether, that he would leave the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Aug. 29, almost 20 months after Mr. Tether lured him from private industry back to government service to pursue his ideas for improving antiterrorism efforts.
"In the highly charged political environment of Washington, positions on highly complex issues are taken and debated using glib phrases, 'sound bites,' and symbols," Adm. Poindexter wrote.

Well, yeah. And there's also a little thing called playing to type. Certainly, having someone with Poindexter's history of murky, illegal government dealings as the face of the agency didn't help put people at ease. Neither one of these initiatives were treated fairly by the media, and a lot of the negative coverage was inevitable. But one has to wonder if DARPA would have fared better in explaining them without Poindexter being associated with them.

Did the Bush administration really think Poindexter could "reassure the public" of anything?
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:02 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 ::

Maureen ... Dowd ... Is ... Right

That was like passing a bowling ball, but I'm afraid I'm with Roger L. Simon on this one. "Establishment" blogs -- or one's that have a commercial or political interest (apart from simply espousing one's heartfelt beliefs) -- do suck.

As I commented on Jeff Jarvis' post on Bill Maher's -- speaking of wokka-wokka -- blog (or the little on-line focus group where he tests one-liners before his next HBO special that he calls a blog), what's next, a Guthy-Renker blog?
:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:13 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::

More Fun with Volfovitz Interview Transcripts

You may have heard this latest meme by the anti-war Left ... er, Right ... whatever: on the Laura Ingraham show, Paul Wolfowitz has finally admitted that Saddam Hussein was not involved in the September 11 attacks. Never mind that he had never alleged that the Iraqis were involved.

Recently retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, the new darling of the isolationist crowd, recounts is thusly in her piece at Lew Rockwell's site (where else?):
Earlier this week, I heard a hint of the discovery in what Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said to Laura Ingraham on national radio. In response to her question, "And when did you start to think that perhaps Iraq had something to do with it [9-11]?" Wolfowitz says disarmingly "I’m not sure even now that I would say Iraq had something to do with it." Laura herself should have flipped out, and expressed the kind of insightful incredulity she is known for, given that she was a major purveyor of neo-conservative talking points pushing for war in Iraq all last year.

Hmm. She linked to the transcript of the interview, and refers to Laura Ingraham personally (twice) in this passage, and gives a clear impression that she listened to the interview itself, rather than simply read about it in some propaganda screed.

But according to the defenselink trasncript to which she links, Ingraham wasn't even there. Nancy Collins was apparently guest-hosting. Is the "freedom loving" Lt. Col. telling a little fib here?

The rest of her polemic is pretty stale and unimaginative: comparisons to Vietnam, 16 words, blah, blah, blah. Only her glaring error about the Ingraham interview -- if it was indeed an error -- is noteworthy.

It may seem a minor point, (she did not go as far as serial liar Jason Leopold in flagrantly misrepresenting Wolfowitz' statements to the show) but this kind of sloppiness -- or patent dishonesty -- is worth mentioning in Kwiatkowksi's case, considering how much mileage she's gotten from her firsthand account of how the Neocon Cabal™ had bastardized intelligence to serve their policy goals.

Given her own biases, and the doctrinaire and downright hysterical polemics she's written since her retirement, I'm not sure she's the person I'd nominate to protect the integrity of those processes. And lying doesn't help matters either.

UPDATE: I e-mailed Kwiatkowski, and sure enough, she hadn't actually listened to the Laura Ingraham Show interview as her piece suggests, but read the transcript. Not very closely, apparently.

In any event, I asked her about the presumption that this "confession" by Volfovitz was at all contrary to what he'd said in the past -- or, more bluntly, when had the Deputy SECDEF ever claimed that Iraq was behind the September 11 attacks?

The administration had made the attacks a central part of their argument for overthrowing Saddam. But that argument, as I understood it, was simply that attacks of that magnitude have changed the rules governing the use of force and preemption. Whether one accepted this was, and is, primarily a value judgement, but it is unfair to suggest that it wasn't a sincere, clear-cut argument.

It is true, as Kwiatkowski notes, that an alarming number of Americans believe that Iraq was "involved in" 9/11. But as Stefan Sharkansky once pointed out, most of these people believe that some of the hijackers themselves were Iraqis. Clearly, the administration never suggested that any of the hijackers themselves were Iraqis, so it's unfair to blame this level of ignorance on them.

She first directed me to the transcript of the now-infamous interview with Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus, interestingly enough. When I asked how any of WOlfowitz' statements in that interview could be construed as saying Iraq was behind 9/11, she promptly directed me to yet another link, this one to a Jim Lobe piece that purports to detail how the administration misled the public into believing that Saddam was somehow involved in 9/11.

Lobe cites Bob Woodward's account about Rumsfeld wanting to invade Iraq immediately after the attacks, and a few appearances by James Woolsey on the day of and day after, suggesting that it was "not impossible" that Hussein's government could have been involved. Interestingly, Lobe also points to a letter published in the Washington Times and signed by Bill Kristol and a few other PNAC luminaries. But that letter, in addition to calling for the U.S. to cut off relations with Arafat's Palestinian Authority, actually said:
It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

I'm not sure how this could be construed as trying to mislead the public into believing that Iraq was behind the attacks. Finally, Lobe quotes Gen. Wesley Clark's appearance on "Meet The Press" in June of this year, in which he alleged that unnamed White House officials pressured him after the attacks to say that the attacks were "linked" to Saddam.

Well, not exactly. After Paul Krugman picked up on this quote, Clark felt it necessary to correct the record:
I received a call from a Middle East think tank outside the country, asking me to link 9/11 to Saddam Hussein. No one from the White House asked me to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11. Subsequently, I learned that there was much discussion inside the administration in the days immediately after Sept. 11 trying to use 9/11 to go after Saddam Hussein.

I had to read this a couple of times, but it does make sense. There is a difference between saying that our dealings with Saddam have to be viewed in the context of the September 11 attacks and claiming that he was behind them. Some people still can't grasp that.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:49 PM [+] ::

Bias in the Eye of the Beholder III

MRC is at it again:
A few hours before President Bush traveled to Arizona and to Denver, where he announced his pick to run the EPA, Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson, on his first day back from vacation, demanded at the top of Monday’s ABC broadcast: "President Bush enjoys another month-long vacation. Shouldn't he be hard at work in the White House?”

Here's Gibson's entire quote, teasing a GMA piece on presidential vacations on yesterday's broadcast (via Lexis-Nexis):
This morning Arnold Schwarzenegger's millions. Surprising details about the giant fortune that could become one mammoth campaign war chest. Plus the family of Saddam Hussein's most well-known advisor, Tariq Aziz, takes us inside Baghdad's final days, an ABC News exclusive. And President Bush enjoys another month-long vacation. Shouldn't he be hard at work in the White House? I don't see anything wrong with vacations. I just took one. Good morning, America. I'm Charles Gibson.[emphasis mine]

The actual GMA piece opened with the obligatory Letterman jokes about the length of the president's vacation, then compares it to the time off taken by the average American (8 days) and notes that his 4-week vacation "comes closer to what Australians and Europeans are used to." And ...


It sends a sense of calm to the rest of the country that the President feels that things are okay in the country right now. That it's not a crisis atmosphere. Things are under control enough that the President can actually get away and take a real vacation like the rest of the country.


(Off Camera) You could argue this still isn't a real vacation. President Bush today alone will put in 13 hours on the road. And Diane, he doesn't hold the record for the longest Presidential vacation or for the least touristy spot to get away to. That record held by Calvin Coolidge, who spent an entire summer once in North Dakota. Diane?

Not quite the hatchet job MRC makes it out to be.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:52 PM [+] ::

"I'm Spartacus"

I simply couldn't help but jump on this bandwagon.

UPDATE: Franken doesn't appear to be worried about the Fox lawsuit:
"As far as the personal attacks go, when I read 'intoxicated or deranged' and 'shrill and unstable' in their complaint, I thought for a moment I was a Fox commentator.

"And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word 'funny.' So when Fox calls me 'unfunny,' they're violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit," he said.


And Lying Liars has reached #3 on the Amazon best seller list. Not too shabby for a book that doesn't hit the street until Sept. 22.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:52 PM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 10, 2003 ::

A Curious Standard of Proof

David Bernstein has a good post on the Protocols brouhaha at Berkeley. While the university's Arabic instructor, Abbas Kadhim, may not be guilty of "espousing" the racist forgery as authentic, he is at the very least guilty of the worst kind of postmodernist spinelessness. It is one thing to simply report "Iraqi conventional wisdom," but quite another to lend credence to it because they haven't admitted they were wrong.

Like Bernstein, I have to wonder if Kadhim would apply these rules of evidence to the Holocaust.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:42 PM [+] ::

Bias in the Eye of the Beholder, Part II

Matt Yglesias illustrates the parallax effect in assessing media bias by linking to a couple of columns by MRC president and Rick Sutcliffe lookalike Brent Bozell.

In the first, Bozell excoriates the Washington Post for calling Howard Dean a "fiscal conservative" (which he certainly is), and the second -- a frothing, hysterical homophobic rant -- should disqualify him as a judge of balance and fairness in reporting in anyone's mind. The MRC's drivel reminds me of a caller to a radio call-in show in Greensboro, North Carolina -- where I was attending grad school in the early 90's. This was during Food Lion v. ABC case, in which a local grocery conglomerate wanted nothing more than to be able to serve its customers repackaged meat past its expiration date, without being hounded by the likes of Sam Donaldson.

Anyhoo, this one call haranguing the liberal media stuck out in my mind, because the host actually had the presence of mind to ask the caller what she considered to be an objective source of news. "Pat Robertson's CBN News," she answered.

I've noted the problems with MRC's analysis a number of times in the past. Of course, FAIR is no better. For an organization that supposedly champions "accuracy," their site is woefully short on reporting instances of factual errors in the mainstream media. Like MRC, their true mission seems to be getting the media to be more biased (and don't get me started on Reed Irvine's organization, whose mission seems to be to get the mainstream media to lend credence to boffo conspiracy theories on TWA 800 and the Vince Foster suicide).

Normon Solomon's latest "Media Beat," entitled "To Err is Human, to Truly Correct Divine," is a case in point. In it, Solomon pines for newspapers to run corrections on "errors of omission," and gives a few hypothetical examples:
* For the 958th consecutive week, the Daily Bugle published a Business section each day without ever including a Labor section in the paper. This tacit identification with the interests of capital over the interests of working people is inconsistent with the values of independent journalism. The editors regret this chronic error.

* The Daily Bugle published a wire-service story yesterday that flatly reported: “The events of 9/11 changed everything in America.” But Sept. 11 did not really change everything. For instance, widespread hunger among low-income people has persisted in this country. To take another example, 9/11 did not change the society’s basic financial structures, which continue to widen already-huge economic gaps between rich and poor. It is inaccurate and irresponsible journalism to report that “9/11 changed everything.” The Daily Bugle regrets that it has gotten caught up in this media myth.

If you haven't vomited yet, his next "correction" should do the trick:
* A news report in the Daily Bugle on Thursday stated that Secretary of State Colin Powell is “a moderate.” This assessment should have been attributed rather than being presented as an objective fact. The lengthy article did not mention Powell’s record of strong efforts for the contra war in Nicaragua, the invasion of Panama, two massive assaults on Iraq and other wars waged by the Pentagon: a record some would contend hardly merits characterization as “moderate.”

Go have a breath mint. I'll still be here.

Solomon also recently took the media's slavishly pro-Israeli coverage -- including the LA Times and NPR in this group -- to task for using the term "security fence" without the requisite scare quotes to describe the barrier being erected by Sharon's government. Interestingly, he doesn't say what term he would have preferred. "Apartheid Wall," perhaps?

The argument of a constant, universal bias in the U.S. media (as opposed to European news outlets, which clearly do prmote an agenda) misses the mark. I tend to agree with Al Franken's assessment of the U.S. news media, during his smack down with Bill O'Reilly. The media is a lot of things, he said -- sensationalistic, superficial, ephemeral, and downright sloppy at times. But it is not really biased. In some cases -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example -- the media's facile reporting has the ultimate affect of slanting its coverage. When they report on intifada casualties, they routinely report only numbers, without delving into the circumstances of each engagement. Hence, the Palestinians look like the victims, because the violence that they have wrought has taken a larger toll on their side than the enemy.

Bias is not really what bothers me about the news business. I don't really care that much whether reporters allow their personal biases to infect their stories. I'm a big boy, and can separate fact from spin. What really bothers me is when they get their facts wrong, and their arrogant response to those who point out their errors to them.

In fact, I wish reporters were less concerned with the appearance of "balanced coverage," and more concerned with accuracy. There are times when these two values are at loggerheads -- i.e., when one side is telling the truth and the other is lying through its teeth -- and I would rather a reporter point out when someone is lying, rather than assign the reader/viewer a research project by leaving it up to him to decide who's telling the truth.

Brent Cunningham's CJR piece on objectivity illustrates this point further, and offers a damning indictment against the "We Report, You Decide (even though we didn't give you enough information to make a worthwhile decision)" ethos that permeates most journalism today, not just Fox News (Tim Russert seems to be one of the few exceptions).

So, I take whining about bias with a grain of salt, whether the accusations come from the left or right. And if I want real media watchdogging, I go to Spinsanity.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 1:48 PM [+] ::
:: Friday, August 08, 2003 ::

I Suppose This is also the Pentagon's Fault

An interesting correction in yesterday's New York Times:
An article on Sunday about attacks on the American military in Iraq over the previous two days, attributed to military officials, included an erroneous account that quoted Pfc. Jose Belen of the First Armored Division. Private Belen, who is not a spokesman for the division, said that a homemade bomb exploded under a convoy on Saturday morning on the outskirts of Baghdad and killed two American soldiers and their interpreter. The American military's central command, which releases information on all American casualties in Iraq, said before the article was published that it could not confirm Private Belen's account. Later it said that no such attack had taken place and that no American soldiers were killed on Saturday.

Repeated efforts by The Times to reach Private Belen this week have been unsuccessful. The Times should not have attributed the account to "military officials," and should have reported that the command had not verified the attack.

Matthew Hoy sees this as evidence of "another Jayson Blair" on the NYT payroll. I disagree. This closely mirrors the erroneous story about PFC Lynch's capture by the Washington Post and seems to be the way reporters do business nowadays. Like that Vernon Loeb/Susan Schmidt story, the reporter found his own unofficial source -- this Private Belen -- and decided to run with the information despite a lack of confirmation from public affairs channels.

In the Lynch case, this SNAFU was blamed squarely on the military -- because they don't have a 100% leak-proof bureaucracy (and some still maintain, without a shred of evidence, that the information in the Lynch story was approved by the highest levels), they are responsible for any information that falls into the hands of reporters. The storyline in the Lynch affair continues to be that the Pentagon allowed these false stories to spread, even though they refused to confirm them, and issued official statements to the contrary after the fact. Much more convenient than assigning any responsibility to the reporters who write their stories based on shaky information. But at least Loeb and Schmidt reported honestly that there was no official confirmation of their information about Lynch's capture and injuries. The author of the NYT story (Robert F. Worth) apparently felt no obligation to do so, even though he did receive similar warnings from CENTCOM public affairs. Instead, he chose to let his readers believe that Belen was such an official spokesman.

I'm afraid this is an inevitable function of the 24-hour news cycle. There was a time when reporters like Vernon Loeb would have held on to their juicy nuggets until they got confirmation one way or another. Now, because it's more important to be first than to be right. Who's fault is that? I suppose you could blame Matt Drudge, the media as a whole, or it instant-gratification obsessed consumers. Just don't blame the Pentagon Propaganda Machine™.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 11:13 AM [+] ::

Leading from the Rear

Kenneth Cain on the U.S.'s minimalist role in the Liberian peacekeeping force:
Of course, the responsibility is not America's alone. It is incumbent upon the United Nations to be vigilant and uncompromising in disciplining and reporting on the misconduct of regional peacekeepers. In the 90's, for example, the United Nations resorted to quiet diplomatic démarches, which were consistently useless. The United Nations needs to go public with its oversight, reporting on the actions of the soldiers sent to Liberia in a transparent and vigorous manner. It should place greater emphasis on fighting corruption and deal-making over diamonds. And it should undertake to acknowledge and fully detail the horrifying extent to which rape has been used as a weapon during the last 14 years.

Washington hailed as an achievement the arrival of a seven-member American military team in Monrovia on Wednesday. To those familiar with Liberia's civil war, it is a failure. More than 2,000 marines are on ships just off the Liberian coast. In a short time, they could be working with African troops to put an end to a military and humanitarian crisis that is getting worse by the day. Holding American soldiers back in deference to a regional force that has been demonstrably brutal and misguided is a grave mistake. And it's certainly no cause for celebration.

It's ironic that an administration which -- quite rightly -- would never follow the lead of the French or Germans, or put its faith in the UN's corrupt institutions -- is content with playing a supporting role behind the Nigerian army, of all things. Talk about ass-backwards multilateralism.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 10:12 AM [+] ::
:: Sunday, August 03, 2003 ::

I Feel Petty ... Oh So Petty ...

As usual, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee can't find anything important to talk about:
The 2003 hurricane season is here, and that means a whole new list of names such as Larry, Sam and Wanda ready to make tropical-storm history.

Although Spanish and French names are included in this year’s lineup, among them Juan and Claudette, which struck Texas last week, popular African American names, like Keisha, Jamal and Deshawn, are nowhere to be found.

Some black lawmakers don’t seem to mind, but Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) does. “All racial groups should be represented,” said Lee.

Of course, had there been a Hurricane Peabo without her having complained about a lack of diversity, Lee would have been among the first to throw an unholy shit fit.

[Via Jackie D. and Volokhs]

:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:36 PM [+] ::
:: Saturday, August 02, 2003 ::

Nuke Minnesota

This opens some very old wounds for me. Cheating pinko bastards.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 7:29 PM [+] ::

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