Is the Media Telling the Real Story in Iraq?

Reuters / Global Voices are hosting a very intriguing forum this evening:

In your country, how does the media’s Iraq coverage rate? […] Have blogs helped clarify things or added to the confusion? We want to bring the opinions of the world’s bloggers on this issue directly into the debate. Please join us for a live discussion on Wednesday at 22:00-24:00 GMT (6-8pm EDT).

Reuters will be hosting a panel discussion which will be videocast and audio cast via this link: http://reuters.com/IraqNewsmakers.

A panel of notable bloggers will join a panel of journalists on the ground (including Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune, CBS’ Lara Logan and Reuters’ Alastair MacDonald).

The conversation starts now. More here and here.

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Meanwhile, the Washington Post gets their “real story” straight from the U.S. budget for Iraq. Today’s article alleges that funding cutbacks for building democracy in Iraq:

….Threatens projects that teach Iraqis how to create and sustain political parties, think tanks, human rights groups, independent media outlets, trade unions and other elements of democratic society.

Kevin Drum saw this coming from miles.

Show me the $$$

Facebook, the MySpace-like social networking website based on University-affiliations, is on the block and seeking more than a few dimes.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg took Facebook live just two years ago, while a sophomore at Harvard. After recently turning down an offer for $750 million and seeing Facebook’s growth stagnate, he is now seeking up to $2 billion for the popular website, according to BusinessWeek.

Om Malik still believes he should have sold out when the money was on the table as Facebook will be hardfought to compete with the anomaly that is MySpace.

While MySpace continues making headlines as the detective’s best friend, Facebook may be best known locally for exposing the profile of Holly Ashcraft, the USC student convicted of murder for abandoning her newborn in a dumpster near campus last fall.

But many college campuses are already committed to adjusting to a campus culture future dominated by sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

UC Berkeley administrators told the Contra Costa Times:

“…Because students are so far ahead of us, we have a lot of catching up to do.” […] “If we don’t,” added student-development director Jerlena Griffin-Desta, “we’re missing a whole shift in the culture.”

MySpace fetched nearly $600 million last year when Rupert Murdoch swallowed it whole. Facebook’s audience is not nearly as huge, however, as noted at TechCrunch, it is used by 85% of all college students.

$2 billion is a ridiculous amount of money for a social networking site, but, alas, not three weeks ago Viacom announced its interest in combatting Rupe mano-a-mano.

If It Looks Like a Civil War…

Remember the made-for-Saturday-Night-Live Iraqi Information Minister? Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf became the most laughed-about character in the early days of the 2003 Iraqi invasion, when he declared — with bombs dropping in the background — “I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad.”

Iraqis were already accustomed to misinformation and government propaganda, but the rest of the world quickly shrugged al-Sahaf off as a fool and a joker.

But, today, not only is the U.S. government lying straight to the faces of the “liberated” Iraqis, the public messages being sent home are point-blank untruths that don’t match up to accounts (see the pictures below) on the ground.

The U.S. government doesn’t need a funny-face guy like the Iraqi Information Minister — they already tried that with the Don Rumsfeld show — it just grinds out misinformation like an anarchic machine.

The NYT Week in Review has a barometerical graphic of rhetorical devices used by the administration to term what is by-definition “civil war” as anything but. And a hideous number of politicians and supposedly non-partisan journos have bought into the notion that the media isn’t reporting any of the good news (documented here by Peter Daou w/ additional commentary here, here, and here).

But, as Lara Logan made clear on CNN’s Late Edition this morning, the media goes out of its way to try and report the good news, but is precluded from doing so by the government for security reasons (transcript):

“Who says things aren’t falling apart in Iraq? I mean, what you didn’t see on your screens this week was all the unidentified bodies that have been turning up, all the allegations here of militias that are really controlling the security forces.”

Indeed, this was best exemplified in today’s nothing but the truth accounts of a Baghdad attack Sunday killing around 20 “bystanders” (or “insurgents” as the Army reports) at a “mosque” (say Iraqi’s and observers on the ground, including the video evidence below) or a “community meeting hall” (U.S. military).

Read the first few grafs of the original AP report (since updated) and join me in my frustration. It is every bit as difficult to believe the U.S. version of the story as it is to believe al-Sadr’s.

Rep. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) effectively disclosed last week that reports from U.S. generals in Iraq tend to be significantly altered as they pass through our “ministry” of information.

“I think we have had a low-grade civil war going on in Iraq, certainly the last six months, maybe the last year. Our own generals have told me that privately.”

I want to know how U.S. troops are efficiently providing security considering daily reports of sectarian beheadings and executions on public streets. Isn’t that what we went there to stop?
The screenshots from the AP video taken at what the cameraman described as an imam’s living quarters attached to a mosque in Baghdad, where the aforementioned attack occured, depict the slaying of apparently unarmed civilians. I just knew the story would change as the day progressed — I can no longer believe Pentagon press releases proclaiming a “secured objective” netting 16 dead “insurgents” and 15 additional captures.

UPDATE: The British press continues to dig for truth in Bush’s War, as pointed out by Editor and Publisher. BBCNews reports today that “Iraqi police say U.S. troops killed up to 20 people… in Baghdad mosque raid.” The Sunday Times reported the following in “Iraqis killed by U.S. Troops ‘on Rampage’“:

the evidence from Haditha and Abu Sifa last week suggested that the Pentagon is finding it increasingly difficult to dismiss allegations of violent excesses as propaganda by terrorist sympathisers.?

Iraqi Reconstruction… Wha Happened?

Good eye, CJR’s Gal Beckerman, highlighting a much-overlooked bit of news that appeared in Friday’s USA Today:

The government has slipped a noose around the $21 billion program that, according to the article, was supposed to “fix or build schools, roads, clinics, ports, bridges, government offices, phone networks, power plants and water systems.”

Also in the how-to-blow-a-trillion-bucks department:? Warren Olney discussed estimates that the U.S. will spend over one trillion dollars on the Iraq campaign on PRI’s To the Point (listen).