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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fear of Flooding

The Israeli news outlets reported today that US warplanes carried out four bombing sorties against ISIS (Islamic State in Syria and Iraq) forces in Iraq's Anbar Province.

Naturally, since the US is an ally and the forces being targeted belong to a terror organization, the news is being reported here in a logical, matter-of-fact manner; with the assumption being that most people understand who the players are and why the attack was carried out.

But after the way the western media - The New York Times in particular - savaged Israel for carrying out military operations against a universally recognized terror organization that was engaged in targeting Israeli civilians, I was curious to see how the current US bombing campaign was being reported there.

Here's what I found:

The New York Time's home page, above the fold (meaning what is visible without having to scroll) looked like this (click the image to enlarge):

NYTimes BAU

For your convenience I've circled the date so it is clear we're talking about the same time-frame.

I draw your attention to what is visible without scrolling (which, one would assume, are the most pressing, news-worthy stories of the day):

Center:  A photo of Palestinian children playing in squalor with the caption:  "Children played in a plaza in Al Fawwar, West Bank. Public spaces like the plaza are almost unheard-of in West Bank camps".

Below center:  The article related to the photo, entitled: "Reshaping a West Bank Refugee Camp"

Top left:  An article about influence peddling at some Washington think tanks, entitled: "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Washington Think Tanks".

Top right:  A fluff piece entitled: "News Analysis: Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?"

In fact, you'd have to scroll well down the home page in order to find the article about the US having carried out a military air-strike on foreign soil!

That article, entitled "U.S. Launches Fresh Air-strikes on ISIS to Protect Dam in Iraq", was refreshing for its complete lack of journalistic curiosity about the types of munitions used, the amount of damage done to infrastructure and the number of civilians who might have been displaced, wounded or (G-d forbid), killed in the strike.

In fact, if one reads the entire article (feel free) not only are these details absent, but entire paragraphs are taken up with earnest explanation of who the people being bombed were, why the strike was necessary and what hung in the balance if the strikes would not have been carried out.  

In short, what was provided in today's piece about a US air-strike in Iraq was pretty much all of the context that was denied to anyone reading about Israeli air-strikes on terror targets in Gaza.

For those who can't be bothered to read the 11 paragraphs that make up the article, I'll do the heavy lifting for you:

Who:  US Warplanes (no type mentioned, but it is probably safe to assume that those being bombed don't possess any), and ISIS terrorists

What:  An air-strike on an ISIS stronghold.  

When:  Saturday night

Where:  Near the strategically important Haditha Dam

Why:  "to stop militants from seizing an important dam on the Euphrates River and prevent the possibility of flood-waters being unleashed toward the capital, Baghdad".

Nice and neat, no?  See how everything makes sense when context is offered?

And to ensure that the reader understands both the legitimacy and legality of the extremely measured use of US military force, here are helpful explanatory phrases full of language that positively exude 'truth, justice and the American way':

"...the limited goals that President Obama set...he had authorized air-strikes in Iraq..."

"Administration officials nonetheless stressed that the strikes around Haditha Dam... were within the constraints of what Mr. Obama initially characterized as a limited campaign to break the ISIS siege of the minority Yazidi population stranded on Mount Sinjar..."

"... as well as to protect American citizens, official personnel and facilities in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and Baghdad".

The strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts...".

"...the mission of protecting American citizens and facilities gives the White House wide latitude to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias ..."

 The messeage being delivered is that clearly, someone is in charge, and there are excellent reasons for the actions he is taking.

The Times slavishly adheres to its policy of even-handedness by referring to the ISIS forces as 'militants'.  But at the first opportunity, they availed themselves of the following quote from Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, which uses the terminology the times really wants to ensure their readers see:  “We conducted these strikes to prevent terrorists from further threatening the security of the dam".  [emphasis mine]

Oh, you were bombing terrorists?!  Why didn't you just say so??!!!!

Now, what's so special about this dam that US warplanes had to be dispatched to a foreign country half a world away to protect it from falling into ISIS' hands?

Glad you asked, because the article provides a helpful explanations:

"A significant rupture of the Haditha Dam, officials have said, could send flood-waters through a large number of Iraqi communities and toward the capital, perhaps putting at risk the Baghdad airport, which could threaten Americans in the country."

Notice how far down that list the direct threat to American interests is?  I'll number it for you:

  1. The dam
  2. Iraqi communities
  3. The Baghdad airport (perhaps!)
  4. Americans located in the country

Seems to me that at a distant fourth on the list, it would be far easier to airlift any remaining American citizens out of Iraq than risk getting the US mired in yet another open-ended foreign military adventure.  But who am I to question the leader of the free world?

If nothing else, the reader (at least any reader who read past the midpoint of the article) was provided with an amazing amount of local and regional context to explain why the US had taken this extraordinary step: The US was bombing a bunch of terrorists to keep them from blowing up a dam and flooding a bunch of strategically important Iraqi communities and installations.

Which begs the question, why weren't similar efforts spared by the New York Times to provide regional context to those reading about Israeli attacks on Gaza?

The Times mentions Israeli fears of being flooded with terrorists (who would flow effortlessly into Israeli through tunnels prepared for just such a flood), and deluged with missiles (which rained down from launchers and storage facilities deliberately placed within civilian schools, hospitals and religious institutions), only in passing, if at all throughout weeks of relentless attempts by Hamas terrorists to target Israeli civilians.

Yet in Iraq, The Times reports breathlessly of US warplanes that are somehow able to make perfectly surgical strikes with no civilian losses and without a scratch to civilian infrastructure (or so one must deduce from the lack of reporting to the contrary).  And these attacks, The Times patiently explains to us, are carried out because of a fear of flooding!

Posted by David Bogner on September 7, 2014 | Permalink

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Some much needed comparative journalism, garnished with inevitable sarcasm. Nicely done.

Posted by: Delmar Bogner | Sep 7, 2014 6:34:52 PM

I saw polls during the war,that the more people followed the war and were familiar with the issues involved,the more they favored Israel.No surprise then that the NY Times would slant their coverage of anything regarding Israel and seek to hide the truth.This proves they are capable of doing some fair and balanced reporting,but don`t do it when it comes to Israel.

Posted by: ED | Sep 8, 2014 1:34:41 AM

Did you read the article about the Palestinian "camp?" I read what I found of it above the fold in the print edition. The article is about the controversy surrounding the construction of a public square. The "conservatives," as the NYT put it, object to the construction of any such civic infrastructure as an admission of permanence.

Such is the true nature of the oppression of the Palestinian people: their own leaders, the powers that be within their communities won't let them get on with life, but insist, instead, that they must live in a continuing state of dreck and not have nice things.

The premise of this story is that there ARE Palestinians who want to move on in their lives from this self imposed dreckdom, and that there is a conservative opposition that they must fight in order to do so.

As a story about some Palestinians oppressing others for the sake of the narrative of dreckdom, I think it is a refreshing angle, and very revealing about the mindset that sustains the conflict.

Posted by: Rich | Sep 8, 2014 5:47:33 AM

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