Thursday, August 23, 2007


It is actually hard to quantify the number of insults and inaccuracies contained in two radio pieces by NPR reporter David Greene that aired on last night’s All Thing’s Considered and today’s Morning Edition—there are that many.

The segments, as introduced and summarized on air and on the NPR website, are “reporting” on the supposed difficulties that Democrats (most specifically those running for President) are having with the current situation in Iraq. Why the difficulties? As Greene tells us, flat out, “It’s becoming clear the troops that President Bush added are doing some good.”

Really now? Says who, exactly? I mean, says who besides the president and his fan club?

Greene quotes no one on that point. Doesn’t even bother to bother us with Pollack or O’Hanlon. He certainly doesn’t bother to cite statistics, like those that say Iraqi civilian deaths are as high as ever, or those that show this to be the bloodiest summer of the war for American troops.

Greene also fails to even mention that many will disagree with his warm and fuzzy assessment. For instance, how about those seven US Army infantrymen and noncom officers? They “are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political, and social unrest we see every day.” And that was before they heard David Greene’s pieces.

After Greene tells us how swell the “surge” is going, he then seeks to detail the “tightrope” that Democrats must walk. This is from the Morning Edition piece:

The tightrope the president must walk is vexing, but so is the tightrope for Democrats in Congress and in the presidential campaign. Two candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have long criticized the war, but for the moment, they have joined the president in pointing to some military successes.

Wow. That paragraph is so messed up, it’s hard to take it apart (but let me try). First off, the President’s vexation, as explained by Greene, has to do with his need to support the rather miserable leadership of Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki (an entire post could be written on this point alone), which, as it turns out, has absolutely nothing to do with the Democrats tightrope, as “explained” by Greene.

That rope is stretched between being a longtime critic of the war and seeing some military success—which must indeed be a tough tightrope to walk, since those two “points” are not on opposite sides.

Even if we are to believe Greene’s assertion that the military surge is “doing some good” (which I do not), that does not in any way contradict a long-standing and/or ongoing opposition to the war. You can point to some regionalized or temporary success and still argue that the war was wrong from the start and continues to reap a whirlwind of problems, can’t you?

Then there is the lumping together of Senators Clinton and Obama. Their positions on the Iraq war are both different from the one President Bush likes to trumpet, but that doesn’t mean they are the same. Clinton voted for the Authorized Use of Military Force (in Iraq); Obama did not. Obama continues to speak proudly of his 2002 position, and Clinton stands by her directly opposite vote.

And, if that were not information enough, we have audio! While the morning piece quotes only Clinton, the segment on ATC played clips from both Senators. (Greene ignores all other the Democratic candidates for president on ATC, and only quotes Richardson and Biden, in addition to Clinton, in the morning.)

Here’s what Senator Clinton had to say:

We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in al Anbar province, it's working.

And here’s what Senator Obama said (audio is on the NPR site, the same speech is quoted in the New York Times):

Our troops have performed brilliantly in Iraq. They have done everything we have asked of them. They have won every battle they have fought. . . . [But] no military surge, no matter how brilliantly performed, can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region. Iraq’s leaders are not reconciling.

First, how are those two quotes even remotely similar? Second, where in Obama’s statement does he say that the surge is doing some good?

Trust me, I’ve read it and listened to it a half-dozen times, it doesn’t say anything of the sort. But Greene doesn’t let that get in the way—he’s got a story to tell, an analogy to make, and, apparently, a point of view to push.

This is Greene’s walk-off (from the ATC version):

Once again, key Democrats find themselves under all too familiar pressures: The need to show support for American troops, and the need to satisfy those Democrats that wanted the war over yesterday.

Memo to NPR: How the hell are those two things mutually exclusive? Where’s the dance (as Greene also calls it)? Explain how that makes for a tightrope.

If the Democrats are walking a tightrope, it is between some lizard brain fear of Republicans calling them soft, and the vast majority of voters that want America to begin a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. That is a sticky wicket. That is something to talk about. But Greene would rather perpetuate the tired saw that, somehow, you can’t be opposed to this war occupation fiasco, and still care about the troops.

Is that good journalism? I don’t think it is.

And, finally, let me talk about the elephant in the room (at least the room I’m in, I have no idea where Greene is): The “surge” is a tactic—it is not a strategy. A military push might win a battle or clear a district, but it does not, in and of itself, settle this conflict. Bush’s 30,000-person PR stunt was supposed to give the Iraqi’s “breathing room” to get their house in order. Regardless of what’s going on in al Anbar, or any other part of Iraq, how has Iraq as a country, as a nation, become more stable and self-sustaining?

Again, it has not. Not even a little. And, with the carnage on all sides continuing at the highest levels, this escalation hasn’t even worked as a tactic. It hasn’t done “some good”—indeed, it hasn’t done a bit of good.

Alas, with the airing of these two factually challenged pieces by David Greene, neither has NPR.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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