And the winner is…
Sorry Mr. Sudarsan Raghavan, your competitor over at the New York Times has out-dimwitted you yet again.
For those of you late to the game, it is the opinion of this blog that Raghavan and James Glanz, the Baghdad bureau chiefs of the Washington Post and the NYTimes respectively, have been outdoing each other in authoring shoddy news reports about recent events in Iraq.
But today, Glanz may have gone where no clueless reporter has gone before.
To start with, there’s an incessant urgency in trying to corroborate his past narrative about the battle of Basra, which just doesn’t stand-up to even the most casual application of logic. How is that with the Iraqi Army firmly in control of all of Basra—including the ports and the pipelines—and with the majority of the men with arrest warrants out on their names either dead or in custody, AND with Maliki’s deadline for the handover of heavy arms due to expire TOMORROW, that Glanz still has the gall to write, and write, and write: “…the badly coordinated push into Basra…”, “…the Mahdi Army stopping Mr. Maliki’s Basra assault cold…”, “…Mr. Maliki’s military operation in Basra foundered against Mahdi resistance…”, and “…the military ‘fiasco’ of his Basra adventure.” How is that?
It seems that Glanz hopes that by repeating something often enough, he can magically make it real.
But I think that he’s losing whatever hold on reality he may have had, and it is beginning to show in his writing. Take this logic-bender:
The crackdown on the Mahdi Army has also eroded Mr. Maliki’s credibility with a large segment of the public that fears Mr. Sadr’s militia but also sees him as a legitimate champion of their interests.So a segment of the population fears Sadr yet still looks up to him as its protector. Does this make any sense to anyone?
To authenticate such stretches, Glanz cites a single source to firm up his diagnosis:
Reflecting that calculus of power on the streets, Amal Mosa, a 28-year-old computer systems worker in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, said, “I think Maliki and America are more powerful than JAM, but Maliki alone would be smashed by it,” referring to the Mahdi Army by its Arabic acronym.There is something very fishy about this quote, since there is no “Arabic acronym” for the Mahdi Army. It is either referred to in Arabic as jaish almahdi, jaish alimam, or jama’at alsadr. “JAM” is an acronym invented by the U.S. military and is never used by speakers of Iraqi Arabic. I don’t want to accuse Glanz of fabricating a quote, but even if this error is somehow passed on to Glanz’s interpreter then it would seem doubtful that Glanz, who boasted in his Op-Ed over the weekend that he can speak some Arabic, would not have caught this error while in translation or not figured out that it was quite weird for a native speaker to employ American terminology.
But it gets even weirder:
But for many Iraqis, in the past few weeks Mr. Maliki has cemented his reputation as a tool of the Americans.But towards the end of the article, Glanz writes:
Opinion appears to have divided into two camps: the Sadr followers, who accuse Mr. Maliki of being a tool of American policy, and anti-Sadrists, who say they are sick of extortion and gunmen.So these “many Iraqis” that Glanz references earlier turn out to be “Sadr followers”. Duh! Why didn’t he make that as crystal clear when he first mentioned the sentiment?
Heavens, this piece is poorly written indeed!
Glanz then employs the same trick that Raghavan used that I had pointed out a couple of days ago, which is to quote that crazy old coot of a Kurdish MP, Mahmoud Othman. But there’s another ‘quote pattern’ emerging since a great number of the negative reports about what had transpired in Basra carry quotes from Joost Hiltermann, the Istanbul/Amman-based analyst for the International Crisis Group. Hiltermann has become the media’s go-to ‘expert’ for those flashy ‘doom and gloom’ quotes. Wait, wasn’t it Hiltermann who a couple of years ago predicted that Iraq had descended into the bloodiest of civil wars and that no one will make it out alive, or something like that? Isn’t his credibility just a tad bit questionable at this point?
But poor, gullible Glanz delivers his own coup de grace when he enthusiastically writes:
A truer gauge of the two sides’ real power may come Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the day United States troops captured the Iraqi capital, when Mr. Sadr has called for a million of his followers to march through the streets of Baghdad to protest the continuing presence of American forces in Iraq.Muqtada al-Sadr cancelled the demonstration. He did so today. It may have escaped Glanz’s notice because Sadr’s declaration to this effect was twisted around by the western wire reports and made to seem as if he was threatening to end that fictional ‘ceasefire’ that the western media had invented to begin with.
So by cancelling the demonstration, does that make Sadr more powerful than Maliki or less so, according to the metrics by which Glanz gauges power dynamics in Iraq?
I can’t wait to see how Glanz will try to spin this one tomorrow.
On a final note, I’d like to take issue with this assertion: “…the force that has won past showdowns: the street power wielded by the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr.”
Ahemmm, I guess Glanz is referring to the battles of April and August 2004. I was there, with front-row seating, watching these events unfold in real time. I kinda remember arriving at these outcomes differently. I remember Chalabi’s role overt role in the first instance, and his covert role in getting Sistani to intervene in the second. It is still too early to tell these stories in detail, but enough of it is already out in the public domain that would preclude Glanz from making such silly assertions, or so I thought. It is as if the Sadr’s spokesmen have taken over the New York Times bureau. Can someone please check whether any gunmen had stormed that office and are forcing Glanz and Co. to write this stuff at gunpoint? Maybe that’s why no NYTimes reporters have been able to travel to Basra and see things for themselves even after two weeks have elapsed…