Monday, January 15, 2007

A Very Busy Day in Iraq

After discussing the twin hangings this morning in Iraq with Jamie Tarabay, Steve Inskeep continues, "We’re talking with NPR’s Jamie Tarabay in Baghdad at a very busy time in Iraq, and Jamie I want to ask about another story. Last week a number of Iranians were arrested by the United States inside Iraq, in the northern city of Irbil, and that story’s continuing to develop. What’s happening now?" That seems a reasonable enough question. I know I'm curious. I'd like to hear from someone on the ground in Irbil (e.g. Ivan Watson did a professional job reporting from Irbil on the morning of the raid). I'd like to know if there is any hard evidence. Is there corroboration from anyone who knew the seized men?

What we get is Tarabay stating, "...the top military commander, the top American military commander, General George Casey, said that, in detention, these five men gave intelligence that gave the American military great confidence that these people were not diplomats; they’re actually intelligence operatives working inside Iraq..." So?

Tarabay needs to do a little brushing up on source reliability. General Casey is not a reliable source; here are a few things he had to say back in October 2006:
  • "...violence and progress coexist in Iraq, and we shouldn't be distracted from the positive things that are going on there amidst all the violence."
  • "the new government.....They're working hard to build unity, security and prosperity for all Iraqis."
  • "...we also continue to make progress with the Iraqi security forces."
  • "...lots of work to do with the police and still with the army, but the progress you're seeing there is heartening."
  • "...we continue to make progress across the country every day."

One can't fully blame Casey; after all he is subordinate to Bush and couldn't tell the truth if he wanted to, but to parrot his statements when asked "What's happening now?" is not honest reporting. It is also extremely sloppy (or intentional?) for Tarabay to correctly open her statement by attributing "Casey said that" but then to turn his groundless allegations into an assertion of fact: "they’re actually intelligence operatives working inside Iraq."

Really, why bother with parroting the claims of the Pentagon-unless it is to reinforce them? Why not honestly answer Inskeep's by stating, "Well Steve, I'm in the Green Zone and so have no way to verify anything regarding the raid on the consulate, but General Casey claims to have evidence justifying the raid--evidence that cannot be independently verified."


Porter Melmoth said...

Interesting analysis. I've criticized Tarabay before ('not ready for prime time'), but her reports are some of the most unsatisfactory that I've heard to come out of this war. And her novelty has long since worn thin. But of course, as you accurately point out, insightful and intuitive Green Zone-based reporting is doomed to failure.

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since NPR correspondents routinely added those all-important caveats. Why does the Pentagon even bother having its own public affairs department, when NPR is so willing to do the job for them?

Why should we pay for this sludge twice (first to the Pentagon through our taxes, second through our pledges)?

Dianna said...

Jamie Tarabay does not live in the Green Zone. She lives in what the Americans here call the "red zone"--in other words, she lives in Baghdad.
I would know because I live and work with her here.