Saturday, August 14, 2004
British journalist released in less than 24 hours
The Scotsman reports,
James Brandon, 23, was released after a few tense hours of negotiation with aides to militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The cleric had demanded Brandon be spared death and freed.
Brandon was taken to al-Sadr’s local office where he held an impromptu news conference. He thanked the kidnappers and al-Sadr’s aides for working for his release. The London resident declined to discuss circumstances of his release.
"I’m OK, I’m recovering," Brandon said. "I’ve been released thanks to (al-Sadr’s) Mahdi Army, because they intervened and negotiated with the kidnappers."
I noted in the original post the unusual Shia make-up of the group of abductors. It is probably because of this that Sadr was so effective in securing Brandon's release. In any case, it's a coup for Sadr in the propaganda wars.
And what has the U.S. been up to?
US planes bombed targets in the city of Fallujah for the second day, killing six Iraqis including two children, hospital officials said.Fallujah is effectively in the hands of the Sunnis; U.S. forces don't enter there. So the Allawi government is permitting the U.S. to bomb one of its "own" cities?
"I advise the dictatorial, agent government to resign ... the whole Iraqi people demands the resignation of the government ... they replaced Saddam (Hussein) with a government worse than him.
"I will not leave this holy city," the spokesman quoted Sadr as telling supporters who chanted "no, no to America". "We will remain here defending the holy shrines till victory or martyrdom."
Cole also notes large demonstrations in the major cities of Iraq.
Mass protests against the US assault on the sacred Shi'ite Muslim city of Najaf broke out in five Iraqi cities yesterday, with some demonstrators calling for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to step down.
In one of the biggest protests, enraged Iraqis in the southern town of Diwaniya swarmed over the local office of his political party, ripping down signs and throwing rocks.
The military offensive by US and Iraqi forces against militiamen of radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has inflamed passions among Shi'ites.
With the installation of the puppet government of Allawi, the parallels between the situation in Iraq and Vietnam have increased rather than diminished. This is so obvious that the media are studiously ignoring it.
Related post: British journalist taken hostage
Friday, August 13, 2004
British journalist taken hostage
James Brandon, a 23-year-old British journalist working for The Scotsman and Sunday Telegraph, was kidnapped from his hotel in Basra. The group has demanded the withdrawal of American forces from Najaf within 24 hours.
This is unusual:
Kidnappers in Iraq have seized scores of hostages in recent months threatening to kill them in an effort to drive out coalition forces and companies supporting them.
Most of those kidnappers have been Sunni insurgents, but the militants who seized Mr Brandon were almost certainly Shias angry at the battles in Najaf.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair is on vacation from his vacation. In a Bush-like response,
Downing Street refused to say immediately whether the Prime Minister - who was today taking a break from his Italian holiday to attend the opening of the Olympic Games in Athens - would return to the country to oversee the handling of the crisis from London.
Muqtada al-Sadr has called for the hostage's release.
A new high for oil
Oil traded at over $46/barrel today, an historic high, despite this week's announcement by Saudi Arabia that it was significantly expanding production.
Traders were said to be worried about Russia's Yukos, the upcoming election in Venezuela—which may be manipulated by the Bush administration, by the way—and of course Iraq, always.
The Bush administration has obviously contributed to the causes of rising oil prices and should be given the appropriate credit.
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 17
—Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to Franklin Roosevelt (1944)
This is the final paragraph of Wallace's article. I suspect he would be rather alarmed to learn how far fascism has progressed over the past 60 years.
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 1
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-b(1)
Today I’m posting the second segment of William Karel's documentary CIA: Secret Wars (CIA: Guerres secrètes)—the portion that deals with the Clinton years.
Note: The unidentified speakers were identified in previous posts.
CIA: Secret Wars, Part III-b(1)
"One war begets another"
[The Clinton years]
To say that Clinton and the CIA did not get off to a good start would seem to be an understatement. It was more of a non-start. And reading the transcript, I almost felt sorry for poor Woolsey, who seems to have been thoroughly ignored by Clinton and held in contempt by his subordinates.
VOICEOVER: In January 1993, Bill Clinton was installed in the Oval Office. He won the election against George Bush, who would not have a second mandate.
BILL CLINTON (Clinton’s first inaugural address): My fellow Americans, I want to build a bridge to the 21st century that makes sure we are still the nation with the world's strongest defense; that our foreign policy still advances the values of our American community in the community of nations.
VOICEOVER: Bill Clinton was going to express very quickly his disinterest in the intelligence services. The list of failures and mistakes in assessment by the CIA—from the Bay of Pigs to the coming to power in Iran of Khomeini and the fundamentalists, from the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets to the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq, or from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of the Soviet Union—had tarnished the agency’s image. Clinton, who began to find the list a little long, dismissed all the CIA advisors assigned to the White House.
ROBERT BAER: When Clinton was elected, the CIA immediately sent two of its people in charge to bring him up-to-date on our latest operations in the four corners of the world. Clinton dismissed them. He told them, "Get lost. I’m not interested.” He refused to see them. That was regrettable, but the worst of it was that this was learned very quickly at the CIA. The man for whom we were going to have to work, the President, detested what we were doing and refused even to read our reports.
VOICEOVER: From his arrival at the White House, Bill Clinton chose a perfect unknown, James Woolsey, to take charge of the CIA.
JAMES WOOLSEY (speech):16 There are some things that we are going to have to do differently.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I never had the slightest connection with the CIA or espionnage before joining Clinton at the beginning of his presidency. The President summoned me, but we hardly spoke about the role of the CIA. He preferred to chat and compare our young years in Arkansas and Oklahoma where we had both grown up.
DUANE CLARRIDGE: 17 Clinton had a horror of the secret services. He had grown up in the Sixties, a time when everybody enjoyed knocking the intelligence services. That undoubtedly left him with a kind of aversion to everything that touched on matters of spying or of security.
RICHARD HOLM:18 He never really understood what we were doing and in what way we could be useful to him.
ROBERT MALLEY:19 Other Presidents were fascinated by the underground world that the secret services and covert operations represented. In my opinion several factors may explain the reasons for President Clinton’s disinterest. In the first place, the Cold War had just ended and the kind of secret operations that his predecessors adored no longer had a rationale. And then the CIA and the secret services really needed to adapt themselves to this new situation.
RICHARD HOLM: These decisions and above all the lack of interest, of support, that he showed contributed toward weakening us and are the source of the problems that awaited us. That’s for sure.
CHARLES COGAN:20 If the director of the CIA can never meet with the President, he can no longer do anything, since the CIA is dependent on the White House.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I was seen twice in two years. So by the fall of 1994, when that little Cessna plane crashed on the White House lawn, the joke that was making the Clinton team die laughing was the following: “Well, it has to be Woolsey still trying to get a meeting with the President.” Well, that joke didn’t really make me laugh at the time, but after a while I realized that it described rather well how I was living. The President had no desire to listen to me, and anything that touched on the secret services didn’t interest him.
JIM HOAGLAND: Clinton never met with Woolsey, or almost never. He listened neither to his advice nor to that of the CIA. That didn’t interest him, he was interested in something else.
JOSEPH TRENTO:21 Clinton wanted to know the gossip, to know for example who the French president was sleeping with.
RICHARD HOLM: He was more interested in extramarital affairs than with what we were doing.
ROBERT BAER: Monica Lewinski saw Clinton more often than Woolsey.
JOSEPH TRENTO: Because Woolsey was always mistaken, his intelligence always wrong, Clinton stopped reading the secret reports of the CIA. He would say to him, “The New York Times is better informed than you. Ask Woolsey what he thinks about it.” [The transcript does not make clear who "you" is, to whom Clinton was speaking.]
JAMES WOOLSEY: I don’t think that I failed. I just had a hard time establishing a normal working relationship with the President. If he had wanted to, he would have had the opportunity to do so any number of times. I spent my time asking for a meeting; I planned to be straightforward. I was a little naive.
ROBERT STEELE:22 Above all Woolsey lacked authority. He had neither the personality nor the necessary strength of character and still less the perception of our work that would have permitted him to go see Clinton and say to him, “Listen, some dramatic events are appearing on the horizon, and if you ignore them, you can say goodbye to the place in history that could be yours.” If Woolsey was disregarded, he alone is responsible for it.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I had the feeling that I was the eternal message-bearer of bad news, the agency killjoy.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 16
—Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to Franklin Roosevelt (1944)
More fun with Michael Moore for Porter Goss
Porter Goss, retiring Republican Representative from Florida and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was selected Tuesday by Bush as his pick to become Director of the CIA.
Goss achieved a certain amount of infamy in Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. As USA Today reported it, Goss asserted on camera that
Americans with concerns about the U.S. intelligence network can call a toll-free 800 number.
Moore informs viewers there is no such number and instead displays the phone number to Goss' office in the Cannon House Office Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol.1
This resulted in a deluge of calls to Goss's office. And Goss's response is more fun than the film. His spokesperson Julie Almacy said,
Goss didn't mean to imply an 800 number really exists. She said he was referring to the intelligence committee as if it were a "help line" Americans could call with concerns they have about the Patriot Act or other aspects of U.S. intelligence gathering.
"It is a reference to the intelligence committee," Almacy said. "Mr. Moore decided to take it literally and it wasn't meant that way."
Well, gee. How could Moore have been so dumb as to confuse a reference to an 800 number with a very poor metaphor for the House Intelligence Committee!
So in a moment of channel-surfing yesterday, I hit upon CNN, probably picking up a story from Reuters,2 which was saying that Goss's nomination to CIA Director may be in trouble. It seems that Goss specifically spoke to the matter of his qualifications for the CIA in Fahrenheit 9/11:
"I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably," Goss is quoted in an interview transcript.
"And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have."
Moore told Reuters that for Fahrenheit 9/11,
Goss granted an interview to two of his producers without first checking to see who they worked for.
"You'd think the person who was the head of the intelligence committee would ask a few more questions," said Moore.
"The reality is that Porter Goss was in charge of the oversight of the CIA during a time when the CIA didn't do its job, which in part resulted in the loss of lives of 3,000 people," he said via telephone from New York.
A White House spokesman declined to comment specifically on the Goss interview but described the lawmaker as "the most qualified man for the job."
They say that no manager ever wants an employee more competent than the manager himself. In Bush's case it must have been difficult to find someone sufficiently "credible" while meeting the requirement of sufficient incompetence. He's found his man in Porter Goss.
1 I tried to locate a transcript containing this text. A right-wing blogger supposedly posted the complete transcript at "Red Line Rants," but a perusal showed that it is not a complete transcript and in fact omits the Porter Goss segment entirely. [back]
CNN has posted a number of transcripts from yesterday's news relating to Goss, but has not posted this segment. I was struck by the fact that they had not bothered to acquire the videoclip for the segment. It would have been quite dramatic, not to mention newsworthy. [back]
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(2)
This brief section reveals the attitudes toward Saddam Hussein. Joseph Wilson’s comment is especially meaningful in light of Bush Jr.’s efforts at coalition-building. In any case, finding Saddam was no easier during Desert Storm.
VOICEOVER: The Gulf War would be brief. Saddam Hussein would see his army collapse in a few days. The crucial question remained: Was it necessary to halt operation “Desert Storm” even though those in power were still in place? The CIA wished to be entrusted with the task of eliminating Saddam Hussein. But President Bush refused.
ROBERT GATES: Even before the first shot was fired, we had decided that an overthrow of the regime would not be one of our objectives.
JOSEPH WILSON: I don’t believe we would have been able to set up a coalition if overthrowing Saddam Hussein had been our goal. In fact, I’m sure that everything would have fallen apart.
ROBERT GATES: But there were also practical problems. Saddam wasn’t going to sit on his veranda and wait quietly for the 24th division to come stop him.
WILLIAM WEBSTER: Nobody would have shed the slightest tear if Saddam Hussein had been killed at the same time as the many soldiers who perished in that war.
JIM HOAGLAND:14 If by chance Saddam had caught a stray bullet, pity! But there were very strict limits on what they could do to cause the death of a foreign head of state.
ROBERT GATES: Every night we lit a candle and prayed that Saddam would be in one of the bunkers that we were bombing—all the while knowing very well that he was sleeping soundly in a school, a hospital or a mosque—places that he knew we weren’t going to bomb.
MILTON BEARDEN: 15 They never succeeded in finding him.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 15
CIA: Secret Wars — Part III-a(1)
Today I’m posting the beginning and will post the remainder over the next few days. Following the suggestion of a friend, I’ve cut it into smaller chunks than I did in the concluding section and have added a bit of commentary (shown in italics in the text). Part III-a deals with the time of George H.W. Bush, and Part III-b is concerned with the Clinton years.
If you are unfamiliar with William Karel, you may want to read the introduction to my first post before dipping into the water. His films, which have been hailed in Europe and Australia, have never been shown in the U.S. How odd.
I would add, without wanting to do a film review, that there is a strong contrast between the technique of Michael Moore and that of Karel. Moore often confronts his subjects with the unexpected while maintaining a disingenuous tone. An illustration of this would be the sequence in Fahrenheit where he accosts Congressmen on the street to ask for their support in sending their children off to war. Karel, on the other hand, combs through his interviews for the unexpected, without any evident provocation on his part.
Translation note: The voice-over segments of the documentary are narrated in the present tense. I felt that in print they read more easily in the past tense and have changed them accordingly.
CIA: Secret Wars, Part III
"One war begets another"
In this opening section, Karel’s cast of characters speak of the mindset of the intelligence services from the period immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union up to the beginning of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
GEORGE BUSH SR. (film clip): With me America will progress and we will continue to go forward—toward a dream without end, inexhaustible [unfailing] and in a blaze of light. That will be my mission and I will accomplish it.1
JAMES WOOLSEY:2 The ideology of the whole country could be summed up in a few words: Why worry? let’s make the most of life and make money, the problems of the planet have disappeared, the Cold War is over.
ROBERT GATES:3 From the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, we quickly realized that the world was going to become unstable, much more troubled and difficult to control than during the relatively structured period of the Cold War.
ROBERT STEELE:4 Gates, who was rather talented, ended up being a prisoner of the system. According to him, there was always only one enemy—the Soviet Union.
OLEG KALUGIN:5 The CIA, in the imagery of the United States and the West, felt that it had triumphed. We’ve won the Cold War! The result was that they ceased to be vigilant and the enemy sprang up from the other side.
JAMES WOOLSEY: We wrestled with the dragon of the Soviet Union for over 40 years. We had just barely brought it to the mat when we found ourselves in the heart of the jungle where all kinds of poisonous snakes were crawling. And these snakes—a great deal more difficult to confront than the dragon6—bore the names Iran, Iraq, North Korea, terrorism, Islamic terrorism.
RICHARD HAASS:7 We were just getting used to the idea that the Cold War was over, when at that very moment Saddam and Iraq invaded Kuwait.
JOSEPH WILSON:8 I was posted in Baghdad at that point, responsible for the embassy. We had already received several pieces of information indicating to us that Saddam was threatening Kuwait.
As Saddam Hussein built up his troops, the CIA was giving warnings of a possible attack. The administration of George H.W. Bush seems to have been befuddled or willfully ignorant.9 The comments of Joseph Wilson reflect this.
VOICEOVER: At the end of July 1990 the CIA and the intelligence services alerted the Bush [Sr.] government—The invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein is imminent. The satellite photos indicated the massive presence of invasion forces on the Kuwaiti border.
ROBERT BAER:10 He sent his troops and all his logistics toward Kuwait, had tons of fuel moved forward. They could see everything. They had satellites, the best electronic systems capable of intercepting their communications. But what they lacked were intelligent maps to understand Saddam.
JOSEPH WILSON: Despite all those evident indicators—the troop movements, the long lines of fuel trucks or supply trucks that they had there under their noses—Saddam’s intentions always remained unclear.
ROBERT GATES: The CIA had followed the deployment of their armed forces and the invasion preparation with great attention. We were very well informed.
ROBERT BAER: But in Washington, as soon as the White House was called to tell them that Saddam was setting up all his forces along the border or that he was sending some new batallions, they told us (and I remind you that the White House was in the hands of the Republicans): "We’re all aware of Saddam. He's only amusing himself by scaring Kuwait, nothing more."
WILLIAM WEBSTER:11 They trusted the leaders of the regions—the Iraqis, the Jordanians and the others—who were telling them: "Certainly not. Saddam will never invade an Islamic country, a friendly country."
ROBERT GATES: All these heads of state confirmed to Bush: "He will never invade Kuwait. It’s only a bluff to seize the oil prize. Mubarrak has confirmed it, King Hussein of Jordan also and even the Emir of Kuwait has told us the same thing."
JOSEPH WILSON: We followed the advice of members of the Arab League who were our friends and they clearly asked us to do nothing.
ROBERT GATES: And the United States took that literally.
JOSEPH WILSON: So in the end the attack on Kuwait was really a surprise, and for everybody. But that doesn’t mean that we could have done very much more to prevent it. It was only in the course of the last 18 hours that the signs began to become undeniable.
WILLIAM WEBSTER: Richard Kerr, who was my deputy, warned the crisis group 12 hours before the invasion. He told them: "According to the CIA, Saddam Hussein is going to invade Kuwait in the next 12 to 24 hours."
RICHARD KERR:12 Oh, I don’t remember if William Webster was warned. The President was warned in any case.
ROBERT BAER: The gap between what Washington refused to admit and the reality was immense. I was on the ground, I saw the fighting, but they continued not to believe it. I was shouting into my satellite phone: "But I’m not crazy, I can see everything that’s happening, the pillage has begun. You can see tanks and all the rest." And they went on, "In any case, we don’t see anything."
VOICEOVER: And on August 2 Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. Nobody in the Pentagon took seriously the warnings of the CIA agents stationed along the border. They even forgot to inform the person most interested, Robert Gates.
ROBERT GATES: I was on vacation. We were having a family outing along a riverbank near Washington when a relative of my wife joined us for lunch. She looked at me and said, "I’m surprised to see you still here." I asked her what she was talking about, and she said, "The invasion." I asked her "What invasion?" She replied, "Iraq has invaded Kuwait."
WILLIAM QUANDT:13 They were fortunate to have CNN in order to get the news.
JOSEPH WILSON: Saddam invaded Kuwait on August 2. I met with him on the 6th for almost an hour and a half and he suggested to me what you might call a proposition, broadly this: You let me annex Kuwait and I will guarantee to provide you with petroleum indefinitely at a reasonable price. I would then be the dominant power in the Northern Gulf region. The face-to-face meeting was rather chilly; I hadn’t slept for 4 days. I made him a counter-offer that could be summed up in two words: "Evacuate Kuwait."
COLIN POWELL (public speech): Our strategy against this army will be simple... very simple. First, isolate them, then destroy them.
5 OLEG KALUGIN, former KGB general, handler for John Walker, charged with treason by the Soviet Union, convicted in absentia and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He decided not to return. He became an American and gave himself over to the entrepreneurial spirit. [back]
6 Beyond the stabilizing effect on world order that the bipolar world of the U.S. and the Soviet Union brought with it, the sudden ascendancy of the U.S. to sole superpower status meant that it no longer had to fret about how its actions might appear on the world stage.
Would the Civil Rights movement have succeeded (to the extent that it did) without the Cold War, without the propaganda coup that a failure of the movement would have represented for the Soviet Union?
Indeed, would we be in Iraq now?
The liberal values asserted in our myth of ourselves at home and in our propaganda abroad could now be replaced by "let’s make the most of life and make money"—capitalism triumphant. [back]
There is some confusion about the spelling of his name. The French transcript has him as "Haas" as do a number of other publications, but I’m going to have to go with the CFR and The New Yorker. In March of 2003, Nicholas Lemann wrote, "With his departure, it’s hard to think of whom one could call a prominent moderate theoretician in the Bush [Jr.] Administration." [back]
10 ROBERT BAER, formerly with the CIA-Covert operations, author of Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude. Interviewed last year on PBS’ All Things Considered in the segment "Saudi Arabia and Terrorism" and in June of this year on Morning Edition in "Saudi Arabian Oil." But then you probably shouldn’t miss "House of Saud" either. [back]
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 14
- Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.
- Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.
Kerry's answer to Bush at the Canyon's edge
Kerry flew to the edge of the Grand Canyon to highlight the Bush administration's neglect of the national park system. But reporters were pressing him on another matter.
Since last month's Democratic National Convention, the senator from Massachusetts has been under mounting pressure to provide a clearer explanation of his views on the war, including why he voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the invasion yet opposing funding for the war.
On Friday, Bush challenged Kerry to answer yes or no to the question of whether he would support the war "knowing what we know now" about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction that U.S. and British officials were certain were there.
In response, Kerry said: "Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it was the right authority for a president to have." [my emphasis]
I listened to an account of this on NPR this morning in the story "Kerry Reaffirms Iraq Stance at Grand Canyon Stop." They seem to have heard his response as support for going to war. That is clearly not what Kerry said.
His response was standard polit-speak: When asked a question, answer another. He did not say that he supported going to war; he said he supported giving the President authority to go to war, which was of course how he voted in the first place.
I don't agree with his position or with his vote, but as a candidate for the Presidency he's hardly going to argue differently. After all, when he assumes office, he will want just as much power as the last President. I don't expect to hear in my lifetime a Presidential candidate arguing that Congress should not delegate its power to declare war to the President. That's an argument that can only be made by the Congress itself—our pathetic Congress.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Quote of the Day - Henry Wallace on Fascism - 13
Where the electoral college votes stand today
One interesting feature revealed by the chart is that of the 8 states that are considered to be toss-ups, 6 of them went for Bush in 2000, and only 2 went for Gore. So the Democrats have 28 votes at risk, and Bush has 81.
If you have nothing to do today, you can go play with the Electoral College vote calculator to test out various outcomes. If Kerry carries 2 out of the 3 toss-up states with 20 or more electoral college votes—Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio—he doesn't need to look any further, but if Bush wins all 3, he's still 5 votes short.
Prediction: The Florida popular vote will go to Kerry. Whether he gets the Electoral College votes is, as we all know, another matter.
Bush brings opportunity to Davenport
Ralston Credit Union was robbed at 10:45 a.m., just as Bush was getting off his plane....
The First National Bank was robbed at 11:23 a.m. Less than 30 minutes later, Southeast National Bank was robbed. The suspects in both those robberies were at large, Gano said.
The robbers were no doubt taking to heart Bush's promises to provide a climate of "opportunity" for the less-well-off. As for the method they chose, they were only following the lead taken by Bush and his buddies.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
More Turkish companies vamoosing from Iraq
The Scotsman reports that yet another Turkish trucking company is leaving Iraq to save one of the hostages.
Hasan Tarhan, a partner in the Atahan Lojistik international transportation company, which employs the driver, released a statement saying the company was pulling out of Iraq.
It is the latest in a string of Turkish companies to declare they would no longer operate in Iraq to secure the release of kidnapped staff.
The country’s truckers’ association decided to halt deliveries to the American military in Iraq following the murder of a Turkish hostage, Murat Yuce, in Iraq earlier this week.
Three other companies, whose employees were either missing or kidnapped, also said they were ceasing business in Iraq in the hopes of rescuing the workers.
The Anatolia news agency said the driver was carrying material for prefabricated homes to US troops and was abducted on August 5 on a road between Tikrit and Mosul.
The Turkish driver's union that pulled out was hauling fuel for American troops. And this latest pull-out represents at least a partial cut off in materials for reconstruction. How well do you think things are going in Iraq?
Beheading for the hell of it (corrected)
One blogger, a cable newsdesk editor herself, has a post on how easily the media are tricked, then go into denial.
But the problem with the reporting goes beyond being duped as to the facts. The greater problem is the false or missing attribution of those facts.
Here's the Voice of America:
The video has been linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born suspected operative of the al-Qaida terrorist network, whose group, Tawhid and Jihad, has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks across Iraq and the beheadings of a U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg, a South Korean translator, and a Bulgarian truck driver. U.S. officials have not commented about the tape. [Emphasis added]
Amazing, isn't it. The official right-wing voice of the United States. Note the passive voice in the opening--"has been linked." Has been linked by whom? Apparently not by any U.S. official.
Journalists are discouraged from using the passive voice. Not lively enough. Lacks "punch," and all that. But the real reason journalists should avoid it is that it can so easily hide the lack of attribution.
Consider a rewrite of the quote above, using the active voice: "An unknown person or agency has linked the video to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi...." In an instant you'd be scratching your head and asking "What the ...?"
Of course, the passive voice may communicate as well as the active voice. But if a sentence is missing the phrase "by (agent of action)," watch out. There's a significant part of the picture missing, and it can blow right by without anyone noticing.
My second concern is this:
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Vanderford Saturday morning and an investigation has been opened, said FBI spokeswoman LaRae Quy. She said the agency initially became involved while trying to verify whether anyone had, in fact, been beheaded.
"We are collecting all the facts at this point in this process and we will pursue any and all legal avenues," Quy said, adding that it would be up to the U.S. Attorney to determine what, if any, charges are filed. [Emphasis added]
They're out to get him, plain and simple. He's exposed the gullibility of the media. He's shown the facileness with which any evil deed is linked to Zarqawi. And now "an investigation has been opened."
I hope Mr. Vanderford doesn't have any outstanding parking tickets. If he does, he could be in for some real trouble.
The newsdesk editor to whom I linked above is a "herself," not a "himself."