Archive for the ‘New York Times’ Category

Truth

November 9, 2015

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Truth, written and directed by James Vanderbilt, tells the story of the widely criticized CBS News report about Bush’s National Guard service. The controversy around the report resulted in several people losing their jobs, and it forced Dan Rather into early retirement.

Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) is a producer for CBS News. She organizes an investigation into Bush’s National Guard service during the 1970’s, specifically as to whether he received preferential treatment and whether he went AWOL at one point. Mapes is contacted by a former National Guard officer, Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach), who gives her documents allegedly written by a now deceased National Guard officer, which are highly critical of Bush. The documents are used in a 60 Minutes report. Almost immediately, the Internet is flooded with accusations that the documents are forged.

I found Truth to be an intelligent and compelling drama, despite some hokey moments. The acting is quite good; Cate Blanchett is affecting as Mapes. However, there were some things about the film that bothered me. In particular, I was struck by the fact that Vanderbilt goes out of his way to depict Bill Burkett in a sympathetic light, despite the fact the he lied to Mapes about how he obtained the documents. This seems odd, especially since there is very good reason to believe that Burkett may have been the one who forged the documents. The paper trail ends with Burkett, and he possessed the necessary knowledge to write the documents. Also the film doesn’t mention that Burkett was an outspoken critic of Bush before he produced the documents, which was something that Mapes must have been aware of.

In one scene, a character makes a speech about corporate control of the news media. Although I think corporate control is a problem, I don’t think it has any bearing on this incident, and the film doesn’t make a convincing case that it does.

Truth does make a valid point that the pressure of deadlines can lead reporters to make unwise decisions. However, I think Mapes should have known better than to use the documents from Burkett in the report.

In my opinion, the The New York Times’s coverage of Iraq during the build-up to the Iraq war was far more egregious than what Mapes and CBS News did, since it created support for an illegal war. Yet only one person there, Judith Miller, lost her job because of it. I think this says something about the media’s priorities.

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The Empire of Shamelessness

June 17, 2014

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Iraq’s slide into sectarian civil war is conclusive proof, as if any were needed, that the US’s Middle East policies of the past twenty years have been an absolute catastrophe. Yet it is an indication of the neoconservatives’ endless capacity for stupid opportunism and self-delusion, that they see the current crisis as an opportunity to re-occupy Iraq.

The New York Times – which, you may recall, published false claims about Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction” – recently posted a puff piece devoted to the neoconservative “historian”, Robert Kagan. In it, we learn:

    To Mr. Kagan, American action to stop the militants is imperative, but a continued military presence in Iraq and action in Syria would have averted the crisis. “It’s striking how two policies driven by the same desire to avoid the use of a military power are now converging to create this burgeoning disaster,” Mr. Kagan said in an interview.

Mr. Kagan apparently failed to notice that the presence of US troops in Iraq failed to stop a previous sectarian civil war in that country, one in which thousand of Sunni Muslims were driven out of Baghdad. As for “action in Syria”, I assume that what he means by that is going to war against the Assad government, which is fighting against ISIS, the same group that Kagan wants us to now fight in Iraq. Yes, this man is clearly a master strategist.

We do learn some interesting things from this article. For example:

    But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

    “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Those liberals who are “ready for Hillary” are in for a nasty surprise should she ever be elected president.

We also learn that Kagan is married to Victoria Nuland – yes, that Victoria Nuland. The article tells us that Nuland is:

    … an assistant secretary of state and one of the country’s toughest and most experienced diplomats, whose fervor for building democracy in Ukraine recently leaked out in an embarrassing audio clip.

Just how stupid do these people think we are? Nuland’s notorious “fuck the EU” phone call showed a sneering contempt for democracy. It was all about her belief that she has a right to tell the Ukrainians how to run their country.

Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz showed up on Meet the Nation:

    … on June 15 from his NBC platform, Wolfowitz opined that the current Iraqi violence could be traced to the absence of U.S. troops, suggesting that we should have stayed in Iraq just as we “stuck with South Korea for 60 years.”

Wolfowitz must surely be aware that the US pulled out of Iraq at the insistence of the Iraqi government. Such is Wolfowitz’s arrogance, that he doesn’t even pretend to care about the sham democracy that he helped to create. When asked what he would do about ISIS, Wolfowitz said, “I would do something in Syria.” Uh, you mean like drop bombs on people? The US has been dropping bombs on various parts of the Middle East for years now, and nothing much has really changed.

Even the ghoulish figure of Tony Blair has been resurrected. (George W. Bush appears to be too busy with his newfound career of painting, as well he should be.) He has been telling people: “We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this.” We need to liberate ourselves from the notion that we need to listen to the advice of people such as Tony Blair, Robert Kagan, and Paul Wolfowitz. Only then can we begin to understand what is going on in this world.

The New York Times Beats the Drums of War (Again)

April 14, 2013

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It was irresponsible of the New York Times to publish the op-ed piece by Jeremi Suri titled Bomb North Korea, Before It’s Too Late. Suri argues that the U.S. should take out North Korea’s missiles. He argues that this will not result in a war because:

    The North Korean government would certainly view the American strike as a provocation, but it is unlikely that Mr. Kim would retaliate by attacking South Korea, as many fear. First, the Chinese government would do everything it could to prevent such a reaction. Even if they oppose an American strike, China’s leaders understand that a full-scale war would be far worse. Second, Mr. Kim would see in the American strike a renewed commitment to the defense of South Korea. Any attack on Seoul would be an act of suicide for him, and he knows that.

First of all, it’s not clear how much influence China actually has over North Korea. Second, it’s just as possible that “Mr. Kim” would see the attack as a prelude to a ground invasion. And if it is true that “Mr. Kim” knows that a war with the U.S. is “suicide”, why should we worry about him having missiles?

Suri concedes that North Korea might attack South Korea:

    A war on the Korean Peninsula is unlikely after an American strike, but it is not inconceivable. The North Koreans might continue to escalate, and Mr. Kim might feel obligated to start a war to save face. Under these unfortunate circumstances, the United States and its allies would still be better off fighting a war with North Korea today, when the conflict could still be confined largely to the Korean Peninsula.

It think it worth noting that an estimated two million Koreans were killed in the last Korean war. It’s reasonable to suppose that at least that many would die in another Korean war. This is the price that Juri would be willing to pay to maintain “stability” in the Far East.

Since the U.S. clearly has not exhausted its diplomatic options in Korea, one can only wonder why the Times thought it worth running an article like this.