Friday, January 13, 2006

Surprise...BBC respects NYT

The BBC's Matthew Davis, in his superficial recap of Judge Alito's confirmation hearings, says:
Yet an editorial in the respected New York Times newspaper said there had
been a number of "quiet bombshells" that should give cause for concern.
Well, there's a shocker. The New York Times, the most prominent voice of liberalism in the US outside of the Democratic National Committee, home to such reliably hard lefty loons as Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich, is "concerned" about a conservative getting on the Supreme Court. This qualifies as news, how exactly? If the NYT had actually said that, despite its political disagreements with Alito, it had to acknowledge his manifest fitness to serve on the high that would have been worth noting.

But of course Davis (or his editors, if there be any) can't even put the NYT in its proper context by identifying it as a highly partisan voice of liberalism. No, to Davis it is simply the "respected" NYT. I guess if he respects its opinions, that settles the matter. Is there any need to wonder why he chose to mention the NYT instead of the Wall Street Journal, which editorialized that:
[The Democrats] can't touch him on credentials or his mastery of jurisprudence, so they're trying to get him on guilt by ancient association...[I]f this irrelevant arcana is the most his opponents have, he can start measuring his new judicial robes.
I suppose the WSJ is just not a respectable enough voice for the BBC.

Heh heh

Israel tells Robertson where to go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The two Bremers

Paul Bremer, the man who led the US civilian authority in Iraq following the toppling of Saddam, has written a new book about his experience in Iraq and, naturally, is doing the interview rounds to drum up publicity for the book.

On Sunday, Paul Harris of The Observer/Guardian covered one of those interviews, with NBC, while today National Review Online had its own interview with Bremer. It is interesting to contrast the two, especially the impression one gets of the tone of Bremers thoughts about Iraq.

For instance, Harris says that Bremer claims that “ultimately the White House bore responsibility for decisions that had led to the current violence.” In the NRO interview, when asked if the current insurgency was the fault of the US, Bremer says simply “No, the insurgency is the fault of the insurgents and the terrorism is the fault of the terrorists."

Harris says that in the NBC interview Bremer “recounted the decision to disband the Iraqi army quickly”, a “decision” which, Harris says, has come under much criticism. But in the NRO interview, Bremer says that no such decision was ever made, calling it a “myth”.
The facts are these: There was not a single Iraqi army unit intact in the country at Liberation. There was no army to “disband.” It had “self-demobilized,” in the Pentagon’s phrase. Hundreds of thousand of Shia draftees, seeing which way the war was going, had simply gone home. They were not going to come back into a hated army.
With regard to the NBC interview, Harris says that “Bremer’s comments will upset [the] optimistic picture [of Iraq being presented by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw].” However, in the NRO interview, Bremer says:
I stay in touch by phone, e-mail, letter, and message with many Iraqis. I think what would surprise most Americans is how optimistic most Iraqis are about their future despite the daily terrorist attacks. You could say, “Well that’s because they’ve been down so long there’s nowhere to go but up.” But they are going up and one of the least-reported aspects of Iraq is the enormous economic advances they’ve made. According to the IMF, per-capita income has doubled in the past two years.
Harris goes on to claim that Bremer “join(s) a lengthening list of Iraqi hawks turned critics of policy in the country.” Yet in the NRO interview, Bremer says that he remains “a strong supporter of the president, both in the war on terrorism and in the Liberation of Iraq.”

Not having seen the NBC interview, it is difficult to know just what accounts for the discrepancies. Perhaps Bremer is telling different stories to different audiences. Perhaps it was the nature of the questions he was asked. Or maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with Paul Harris spinning Bremer's comments to appear as negative about the liberation of Iraq as he possibly can.

You make the call.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The neverending story

You may recall that back on December 1 TAE pointed out some deficiencies in a Newsnight piece about the Joe Wilson/Niger affair. On the same day, I sent an official complaint to Newsnight pointing out directly to them the same problems. Today, January 9 - that's 39 days later, for those counting - I finally got a response.

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the 'Newsnight' website. May I start by apologising for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents expect a swift response and I am sorry that you have had to wait so long on this occasion.

The report you refer to was drawn from a number of sources across BBC News Online and was an attempt to accurately summarise the key issues for viewers. I appreciate you feel this has not been achieved; however, there is not a great deal I can add to the response you received to a similar complaint about News Online recently from Laurence Peter.

Having said that, 'Newsnight' have now decided to take down the story.

Thank you again for contacting the BBC.

Yours sincerely
Stewart McCullough
Divisional Advisor
BBC Information

It is something, I suppose, that they have removed the article, although that could be simply due a judgment that the story is stale rather than wrong. But it is instructive that Newsnight drew the story from a number of sources across BBC Online. As TAE has already pointed out, those sources were more often than not wrong themselves. A fine example of how errors get perpetuated through either laziness (why bother checking the source documents when I have a nice, convenient storyline already?) or arrogance (if the BBC has already said it, it must be true.) My guess is that it is arrogance. In my comment to Newsnight, I included references and links to source documents (Wilson's original NYT op-ed, the Senate Intelligence Committee report) which proved that the Newsnight timeline was incorrect, but Mr. McCullough makes no mention of those whatsoever.

BTW, the reference to the response from Laurence Peter is to a response TAE received to an earlier complaint that, in another on-line article, the BBC had erred in asserting what Wilson had "reported" upon his return from Niger. Mr. Peter defended the article by quoting from the Senate Intelligence Committee:
The Senate report you link to contains this passage: "the former ambassador described his findings to Committee staff as more directly related to Iraq and, specifically, as refuting both the possibility that Niger could have sold uranium to Iraq and that Iraq approached Niger to purchase uranium."
When I pointed out to him that the sentence immediately following the one he quoted made it plain that the CIA report based on Wilson's debriefing following his trip contradicted Wilson's testimony and "did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium," Mr. Peter had no response.

That Mr McCullough has little to add to Mr. Peter's non-response is, somehow, not that surprising.