A Late Attack on the War in Iraq - June 14, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for June 14, 2004

A Late Attack on the War in Iraq

Sunday's front-page story by Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt, "Errors Are Seen In Early Attacks On Iraqi Leaders," comes courtesy of the left-wing anti-war group Human Rights Watch-and, critics say, unaccompanied by military knowledge and historical perspective.

The story begins: "The United States launched many more failed airstrikes on a far broader array of senior Iraqi leaders during the early days of the war last year than has previously been acknowledged, and some caused significant civilian casualties, according to senior military and intelligence officials."

Journalism professor Cori Dauber notes the Times' ahistorical perspective and thinks the story simply reveals the Times' ignorance of military matters: "By the simple rhetorical move of never contextualizing these bombing campaigns historically, never mentioning how the campaign the Times reporters are writing about compares to those before it, the Times is able to make each one seem almost criminal, rather than the historic achievement it actually is".We just finished celebrating the landings at Normandy. Do you have any idea how inaccurate the bombers of they day were back then, how many civilians would have to be bombed before they could be liberated?"

(Indeed, Reuters estimates several thousands of civilians were killed in bombing of French coastal towns like Caen during the D-Day invasion.)

In the sixth paragraph, Jehl and Schmitt reveal their left-wing source: "A report in December by Human Rights Watch, based on a review of four strikes, concluded that the singling out of Iraqi leadership had 'resulted in dozens of civilian casualties that the United States could have prevented if it had taken additional precautions.' The poor record in the strikes has raised questions about the intelligence they were based on, including whether that intelligence reflected deception on the part of Iraqis, the officials said. The March 19, 2003, attempt to kill Mr. Hussein and his sons at the Dora Farms compound, south of Baghdad, remains a subject of particular contention."

Later they write: "The broad failure rate was confirmed by several senior military officials, including some who served in Iraq or the region during the war, and by senior intelligence officials."

But Jason Van Steenwyk questions whether the strikes actually "failed" at all, arguing that Times reporters "are simply not equipped to make an informed judgment or analysis. The holes in the story-the holes in their knowledge-are simply glaring to any reasonably educated military reader. They do a pretty good job, though, of letting themselves get led around by the nose by Human Rights Watch."

For the rest of Jehl and Schmitt on civilian casualties in Iraq, click here.

" Human Rights Watch | Iraq War | Douglas Jehl | Eric Schmitt | World War II

Making Room for Anti-Bush Barry

David Kirkpatrick pens another unflattering story on Bush and religious conservatives. Sunday's entry is headlined "Bush Asked for Vatican Official's Help on Issues, Report Says." "On his recent trip to Rome," Kirkpatrick notes, "President Bush asked a top Vatican official to push American bishops to speak out more about political issues, including same-sex marriage, according to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper."

The first person he goes to for an opposing quote? "The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called the report 'mind-boggling.'"

This marks the fourth time already this month that Kirkpatrick, the reporter on the conservative beat, has quoted the secular liberal Lynn on the Republican outrage du jour.

For the rest of Kirkpatrick's story, click here.

" George W. Bush | David Kirkpatrick | Barry Lynn | Religion | Vatican

More (Power) Failure In Iraq

James Glanz's front-page story for Monday is "In Race to Give Power to Iraqis, Electricity Lags." While there are myriad problems in Iraq, the tone Glanz takes is nonetheless rather strident. Here's how he opens his story from Baghdad: "Tripped up by problems ranging from sabotage to its reliance on by-the-book engineering, the United States has failed by a wide margin to meet its long-stated goal of reviving Iraq's electricity output for the start of the searing summer. The American-led occupation missed its goal by as much as 30 percent, starving air-conditioners, lights, factories and oil pumps. That has damaged the occupation's efforts to foster stability and good will among a populace already traumatized by the failure to guarantee their security."

As if their security was guaranteed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Glanz continues on how things were better electricity-wise under Hussein: "Capacity has been stuck in a range around 4,000 megawatts for months. Not only is that less than during the Saddam Hussein era, but it is also far below the American promise of 6,000 megawatts."

But deeper into the story there's this: "The shortage has left ordinary Iraqis seething, particularly in Baghdad. The city was generously supplied with electricity at the expense of the rest of the country under Saddam Hussein, but now receives a more proportional share of the smaller pie, and is subject to frequent cutoffs."

If the "seething" in Baghdad is due to a more equitable sharing of electricity than it was under Hussein's rule, then Times Watch can sympathize with sweltering Iraq but will keep its crying towel dry for now.

For the rest of Glanz on power failures in Iraq, click here.

" James Glanz | Iraq War