Thursday, April 26, 2007

Iraq and its coverage

(Update:) To mark what certainly seems to be a losing situation, despite all those criticisms of Harry Reid, longtime Iraqi blogger Riverbend has what has to be the last word:
I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.
On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave.
...There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming.

In Foreign Affairs, Al Qaeda Strikes Back, by Bruce Riedel:
By rushing into Iraq instead of finishing off the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Washington has unwittingly helped its enemies: al Qaeda has more bases, more partners, and more followers today than it did on the eve of 9/11. Now the group is working to set up networks in the Middle East and Africa -- and may even try to lure the United States into a war with Iran.

Andrew Sullivan has some interesting posts on his changing thinking on the war here and here. From the latter:
So we should leave. Soon. Let the Shia and tribal leaders and the Kurds confront al Qaeda. It's about time they did. And they have as good a reason as we do and far better knowledge of the enemy and the terrain. Until they own this war against Islamist terror, it won't be won. And by continuing to stay, we postpone the day when they have to fight for their own country and their own religion - and win the war we cannot win for them.

In the first post, Sullivan quotes CNN's Michael Ware:
... at the end of the day, if America wants to win in Iraq, it would need to surge the whole country. But it can't.

So who's still in denial? The New York Times and the Washington Post, maybe? See Huffington Post and Digby, asking why the Times has barely mentioned Bill Moyers' PBS documentary Buying the War. From the program summary:
"Buying the War" examines the press coverage in the lead-up to the war as evidence of a paradigm shift in the role of journalists in democracy and asks, four years after the invasion, what's changed? "More and more the media become, I think, common carriers of administration statements and critics of the administration," says THE WASHINGTON POST's Walter Pincus. "We've sort of given up being independent on our own."

Depth Reporting's Mark Schaver has a telling excerpt.

And the Post? Think Progress reports on David Broder’s Continuing Embarrassment.
And more, Glenn Greenwald at Salon on the Tillman and Lynch cases and how the papers accepted the military's stories.
Greenwald is on a roll lately, with great columns on David Halberstam and an interview with Charlie Savage. Savage's great reporting on this administration's skirting of the law is an anomaly, though. Note one of Greenwald's Halberstam postings, David Halberstam on today's American press, in which he concludes:
...the predominant criticism of our media is not based on a desire that they act more like partisans than journalists. It is based on the fact that they do not act like journalists at all.

Among the many, many eulogies to David Halberstam on the Web this week, one says a lot about this topic: The New York Times' Dexter Filkins contrasts Halberstam's groundbreaking Vietnam coverage to that of American reporters in Iraq (Filkins is one of them): A Skeptical Vietnam Voice Still Echoes in the Fog of Iraq.
“I just never thought it was going to work at all,” Mr. Halberstam said of Iraq during a public appearance in New York in January. “I thought that in both Vietnam and Iraq, we were going against history. My view — and I think it was because of Vietnam — was that the forces against us were going to be hostile, that we would not be viewed as liberators. We were going to punch our fist into the largest hornets’ nest in the world.”

Links to many other Halberstam tributes on Poynter and Romenesko.

One more note on the Moyers website: you can find a transcript of the program here, along with an interactive timeline that leads to actual copies of the reporting commented on. (Like the great dissenting coverage from Knight-Ridder, like this Warren Stroebel piece from September 2001: Experts say Iraq, Hussein not likely tied to terrorist attacks.)

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