Friday, October 26, 2007

Anne "Kurtz" Garrels Reporting

Someone needs to send a boat up the Tigris and bring Anne Garrels back for a little journalism refresher course. Garrels, investigating the forces of Muqtada al-Sadr, tells us that "his militia leaders say Iran is their chief source of weapons. But now these same leaders are saying Iran is creating big problems by supporting renegade and competing militias with very effective weapons." And what do you know, but NPR got an invitation (I wonder if it was on parchment paper with a deckled edge?) from "the head of Sadr's militia in the western side of Baghdad...to an interrogation session of three of these renegade Sadr militiamen." The rest of this report is truly shocking.

Maj. General Garrels states, "In the Sadr safe house the three detainees had clearly been tortured and the story they told was that they were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in Iran. They say they worked for money and that their orders were to attack Americans and sow suspicion and violence between Shiites and Sunni."

Inskeep, interviewing Garrels, chimes in at this point to ask, "How were they tortured?"

To which Garrels responds, "There was blood all over their clothes. They were in such bad shape they couldn't walk; they had to be dragged onto the chairs, and one of them was just sobbing."

If you are a humane, compassionate person, you might think that at this point there is NOT ONE SHRED of validity to any of the confessions that these three torture victims give. But in fact Garrels reports at length about the testimony that these men give. She tells us "they said they went into a contested area of Baghdad, pretended they were Sunnis, raped a Shiite girl....also said they killed local Sadr militia leaders...also say they use American troops to further their ends....they said they're doing this for money on orders of Iranian agents working out of Badrwadjasan [sp?] on the Iraq-Iran border. They said their mission was to create an unstable Iraq."

I sometimes think that I'm pretty jaded, but then I hear a piece like this and am aghast. Garrels, Inskeep and NPR is normalizing torture, and treating testimony extracted under torture as valid and informative.

A secondary point worth noting is Garrels sloppy, misleading statements at the beginning of the piece. Of Muqtada al-Sadr she says, "Now Sadr has...been spending months in Iran apparently seeking safe haven there and his militia leaders say Iran is their chief source of weapons." Juan Cole has commented on the brazen US military propaganda nature of this unsubstantiated and unlikely scenario on February 14, 2007 and then on August 21, 2007 when he cited this interview in The Independent.

5 comments:

Mytwords said...

I should add that I sent the following comment to NPR:
"On Friday's Morning Edition, Anne Garrels and Steve Inskeep treat the statements extracted from three severely tortured Iraqis as worthy of restatement and comment. This was the most flagrant and disgraceful violation of journalistic ethics that I can imagine. The only substance of the report should have been the treatment and welfare of the torture victims and not a discussion of the supposed information contained in their statements. This is barbaric. What action are you planning to take against Garrels, Inkseep and the producer for this?"

Porter Melmoth said...

Well done, MTW. If you get a mechanized response from NPR, then that will probably certify that they are dreadfully afraid of the questions you pose. If you get a personalized reply, I suspect they will defend Gen. Garrels to the limit, equating her with Ed Murrow during the London blitz, or some such delusion.

As I've intimated before, I can't help but wax cynical over Garrels and her ilk, who seem to be buccaneering the war in their own kind of perverse profiteering. Sure, there will be book deals, but a film contract or a video game deal is where the big bucks lie.

No matter how much the issue of torture is decried in public, the fact is, the US has embraced such savage techniques. Their excuse: in 'asymmetrical' warfare, one must fight fire with fire. Journalists like Garrels, whose objectivity has been sacrificed for the sake of their egos, now have mutated into voyeurs to a world where torture is normal and thus, taken seriously. It is a fact that torture doesn't work. IT DOES NOT WORK. So how can it be taken seriously as a tool of warfare? If journalists lack the insight to discern this persistent truth, then they fall prey to torture's wider effects. They buy into the whole illusion: that torture can indeed work, and that it can be accepted without too much question. How can we possibly rely on them to separate realities from illusions?

There is also a blatant racial issue attached here. The US tortures predominantly non-Caucasian people, people that the US does not intrinsically care for. This is not the place to expound on this subject more, but it is a matter that is completely sidestepped within the public debate on torture.

Never has Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' (to mention only one examination of conscience) been so timely.

Liberality said...

While listening to this garbage on the radio I began screaming, such is my frustration with NPR and most US news period! Torture does not work. Why isn't she concerned about the welfare of her fellow human beings? Does she have no heart? I am beginning to HATE NPR!!!

Porter Melmoth said...

Hell, I think the world is now divided (to put it in Bush/neocon terms!) into those who are against torture, and those who are for torture. Many who are for it WISH it would work, so as to ease their fears, but those of us who are against it, KNOW it doesn't work, so our fears are increased.

GerryM said...

I am so glad I found this blog. I have been shocked since Friday that I not heard any retraction, apologies or denunciation of Garrels and Inskeep from NPR or anywhere else! Friday I emailed NPR and asked how they could actively support torture by using the quotes from the victims. All I have received was an automated reply acknowledging my email.