Wednesday, May 18, 2005

May 17, 2005

What’s Wrong With Newsweek

Only reporters really understand how it feels when they discover too late that there’s a mistake in their story. I can’t tell you the number of nights over the years I awoke in a cold sweat terrified there might be an error in a story of mine running off the presses.. (Should I have triple-checked that item? Are my two, or three, or five sources spinning some kind of self-serving agenda I missed? Am I going to get sued and lose everything?)

Over nearly three decades of reporting I made a mistake or two, fortunately nothing that ever rose to the level of requiring a retraction or resulted in one of those dreaded “see you in court” moments. But that’s like saying I’ve been driving for 48 years and never had a major accident. It was a combination of careful reporting and a good helping of luck.

But let me assure non-journalists out there -- reporters hate mistakes that make it into print more than you can imagine. A big mistake in a story is to a journalist what a death on the operating table is to a surgeon.

Those who have been there know the aftermath. It consumes your nights and days for weeks, or even months. You lose your confidence. You begin to hesitate over even little matters. You start checking and rechecking the same facts over and over in a process that boarders on OCD. It can paralyze your production. When your editor asks, “Hey, when will that story be ready to go?” you can list a dozen reasons why you need more time.

Sooner or later you either have hang up the old word processor or get over it and slip back into the newsroom workflow.

Anyway, those of you who know of what I speak, know. Those of you who don’t, can’t even imagine how bad it can be.

I know what Newsweek’s Michael Isakoff is going through right now, and I extend my condolences. But there is a lot more wrong going on in this Koran-down-the-toilet flap than just a reporting error. Newsweek has taken its lumps, and will take more before this one is over. But some bigger lumps are going undelivered to other players who are far more deserving of them.

The Bush Administration
I almost choked on my lunch yesterday when I heard Rumsfeld and White House spinsters pontificating on the Newsweek piece, and how “the damage is done” and how Newsweek’s apology and admission that mistakes were made “were too little too late.”

- Of ALL people on the face of the earth the Bush administration has the least right to make such a statement. Some 15 people died in riots after Newsweek’s mistake. But thousands died from the Bush administration’s WMD intelligence “mistake,” -- for which they have not even had the decency to apologize.

- And, wasn’t this the administration that, after their WMD intelligence was proven to be not just wrong, but W-R-O-N-G, shrugged it off with a casual “oh, you know intelligence is never perfect.” Well, I have news for you guys, neither is s journalism. But journalists get it right (and tell the whole truth) a lot more often than this administration does. That’s for sure. And I challenge the administration to disprove it.

- Also, I heard no one from the Bush administration acknowledge the damage their own policies have done to the image of the US. Such as their well-documented policies and statements that the Geneva Convention’s rules for treatment of prisoners does not apply to the guys we a fighting right now. The actions that grew from that policy gave credence to the Newsweek story. For example, have US interrogators ever tortured and otherwise mistreated detainees? Yep. They sure have. We have the pictures. Have US interrogators ever targeted Muslim detainee’s religious beliefs to break them down? You betchya. We have the thousands of pages of documentation on that and now even a book written by former Gitmo interrogator that backs it up.

Nevertheless, the very administration whose own policies, lies and arrogance that took American down this ugly path now demand that Newsweek apologize and change the way it does business. What breathtaking chutzpah! Just when I think we have seen the limit of this administration’s Machiavellian/Orwellian proclivities they top them with something that leaves staring at the TV screen frozen in disbelief.

Is this a double standard? No. Double is not big enough. This one is off the mathematical chart.

Crazy Muslims
Islamic nations and their Koran thumping populations have to start taking responsibility for their own behavior and the causes for it. Even if US interrogators did flush a Koran down a toilet, rioting and killing 15 fellow Muslims in a street riot is not the US’s fault -- or Newsweek’s either. It’s the fault of the nations that allow half-educated radial Mullah’s to force-feed their flock a diet of 10th century ignorance, prejudice and intolerance from the pulpit. And more:

- These people burn American flags for sport, mindless of how Americans might be offended by it. But two lines in the Newsweek article that some infidel may have mistreated a Koran and it drives them into a self-righteous, murderous frenzy of insult – and more burning American flags.

- Every day now some self-proclaimed Islamic radical blows himself up killing scores of innocent civilians someplace in the world. And they justify this murderous behavior on “Islamic grounds.” The same folks that rioted at the thought some infidel might have mistreated paper, don’t riot over suicide bombings. Only one conclusion can be drawn from this; Muslims disapprove of Koran-abuse but approve of killing civilians -- as long as it is done under color of the Koran.

Islamic radicals like to indulge in the belief that the Judeo/Christian West is at war with the Muslim world. Well, there is a war going on, that’s for sure, but they have it backasswards. The West would be more than happy to see Muslims living quietly in their quaint 12th Century Islamic theme park nations, cutting off heads and abusing their women, if they would just knock off the terrorism.

On the otherhand, sending suicide bombers is the wrong way to convince the West to leave them alone. The Saudis and Egyptians learned a long time ago that all they had to do to be left alone was to find the right pressure points. They did and since then they have had the West dancing like a monkey at the end of their leash. Provide oil, promise to make nice to Israel, promise not to build nukes, promise not to become Commies – that's all it takes and then the checks from Uncle Sam start rolling in. (Duh!)

But as long as Islamic terrorists insist on blowing things up that don’t belong to them and killing innocent civilians, the West will continue returning the favor.

Would White House, State Department and DOD reporters do us all a favor? Ask the those spinsters (on camera please) to compare the gravity of the administration’s WMD intelligence mistakes with Newsweek’s Koran-down-the-toilet mistake. And, why Newsweek has come clean but the administration feels their mistakes require nothing more than s shrug and a “well, considering Saddam’s history of behavior, we could have been right.” That same excuse could easy serve Newsweek. After all we have learned about US interrogation methods the flushing a book down a toilet seemed the least serious thing alleged.

The administration was also bemoaning the “damage done to the image of the US” by the Newsweek piece. Jesus, this administration has made mistakes that have hurt the US in ways that border on treason. I know some will see that as hyperbole, but think about it – torture, lying to justify a military invasion of another nation, detention without trial for detainees – the very kinds of behavior the US fought. There ought to be laws. (Oh wait -- there are laws.)

As the Queen told Alice, once you say something you have to live with the consequences. Newsweek is living with the consequences of its mistake. And the rest of us will, for the rest of our lives, have to live with the consequences of what this administration has said by its policies and actions since 9/11.

Ducks & Cover Update

For those of you asking, the surviving 12 ducklings and their two mothers are doing fine. They are now in a secure, undisclosed location.

Unfortunately the mastermind of the 5/11 attacks, Osama bin Skunk, continues to elude capture.

I am happy to report that we do have five local Raccoons in custody. They are currently undergoing interrogation in my Pizgo facility. My intelligence indicates that those in custody may know the current whereabouts of OBS so they are being subjected to certain "stress positions" until they talk.

Repeated demands by PETA to see the detainees have been denied. The detainees may not be skunks but they come from the same neighborhood, wear masks and sure look suspicious.

<> By Stephen Pizzo
Raconteur at Large

No comments: