Kevin Drum: Flight 924 and crisis PR

From Drum’s Political Animal blog @ Washington Monthly:

FLIGHT 924 UPDATE….Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel follows up today on the question I asked yesterday: what did Rigoberto Alpizar really say as he was running off Flight 924 on Wednesday?

A Miami-Dade police spokeswoman said Thursday that multiple witnesses reported that the 44-year-old was yelling that he had a bomb as he made his way down the aisle with a backpack slung across his chest. Later, the agency’s chief of investigations insisted that Alpizar was yelling about a bomb but declined to say whether he was on the plane at the time.

Seven passengers interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel ? seated in both the front and rear of the main passenger cabin ? said Alpizar was silent as he ran past them on his way to the exit. One thought he had taken the wrong flight. Another thought he was going to throw up.

“I can tell you, he never said a thing in that airplane. He never called out he had a bomb,” said Orlando architect Jorge A. Borrelli, who helped comfort Alpizar’s wife after the gunfire. “He never said a word from the point he passed me at Row 9….He did not say a word to anybody.”

Two teens seated in Row 26 agreed. So did Jorge Figueroa, a power-plant operator from Lakeland seated a few rows behind first class.

“He wasn’t saying anything; he was just running,” Figueroa said. “I said to myself, ‘It is probably a person who took the wrong plane.’ “

And Drum concludes:

To be clear: the air marshals who shot Alpizar may have reacted properly. Maybe he started yelling about a bomb after he got onto the jetway. But they don’t do their own case any good when they seemingly decline to tell us the straight truth about exactly what happened and why Alpizar was being pursued in the first place.

The first law of crisis PR is: talk to the press and tell the truth. If you don’t, people will concoct stories far worse than anything you can imagine. I think the Federal Air Marshal Service needs some lessons in this.

Is the U.S. shrugging off American hostages in Iraq?

American Hostage
The report of an American hostage killed Thursday, if confirmed, represents the first foreign hostage killed in Iraq in four months and the first American in over a year.

Who is this reportedly slain hostage? NBC affiliate KTUU in Anchorage, Alaska reported Wednesday:

Family members have confirmed that the American hostage on a video released Tuesday is, in fact, Ronald Schulz of Eagle River.

Schulz grew up a farm boy in North Dakota and later became a marine, according to Thursday night’s KTUU news, which included footage of his family members at a press conference:

?Our family is aware that the Iraqi people have concerns regarding the U.S. government presence in their country. However, murdering Ron will not solve these issues,? said Julie Schulz, Ron Schulz?s sister.

It appears that Schulz, an industrial electrician, purchased a round trip ticket from Anchorage to Amman, Jordan, where some believed that he was to marry, others were unsure whether the trip was for business or pleasure, according to KTUU.
family of Ronald Schulz

While the kidnapping of Schulz is confirmed, Thursday’s claim that he was murdered was posted on an Islamic militant website as reported by CTV:

“[T]he American security consultant for the Housing Ministry was killed after the end of the deadline set to respond to the Islamic Army’s demands.”

The U.S. government squelched the claims immediately, and it rotated to the back of most news round-ups.
Continue reading “Is the U.S. shrugging off American hostages in Iraq?”

U.S. bars Red Cross from visiting detainees

BBCNews reports:

The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody.

The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.

Correspondents say the revelation is likely to increase suspicion that the CIA has been operating secret prisons outside international oversight.

Video report at streaming at the BBC

In past visits to detainees in Iraq the Red Cross confirmed treatment “tantamount to torture,” and authorities were pressed to admit that 70 to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees had been arrested by mistake.

read: Sidney Blumenthal’s “Condi’s Trail of Lies” Salon column (free Spiegel online mirror)

Bring them to Justice

Corruption in Iraq
Ginger Cruz, Deputy Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a US government office and Isam al-Khafaji, former reconstruction advisor to the Coalition Provision Authority and former director of Iraq Revenue Watch lined up on opposite sides on KCRW’s “To the Point” with Warren Olney (.mp3 download/podcast) (web site).

But in the end, both agreed on the most major issue. As Cruz, described, people don’t understand how in 1991, under Saddam Hussein’s regime, electricity was restored within a year of U.S. air raids, but NOW, under the occupation of the mighty U.S., three years have passed and utilities are occasionally functional at best.

Riverbend, whose postwar blog entries were recently released in the book Baghdad Burning, posted this in her blog last week:

The electricity schedule in what appears to be most areas in Baghdad is currently FIVE hours of no electricity for every one hour of electricity. It?s very frustrating considering the fact that it?s not really cool enough yet for excess electrical heater use- where is it all going? If the electrical situation is this bad now, what happens later when the populace starts needing more electricity?

Approximately 1/6 of the (taxpayers’) funds going to Iraq reconstruction is lost in the shuffle, due to corruption within the CPA and the corrupt middlemen and brokers. Many are already predicting it will completely eclipse and overshadow the UN oil-for-food scandal in terms of both finances and degree of fraudulence.

And it extends beyond Robert J. Stein, Phillip H. Bloom and their cartel. The Boston Globe highlighted last week that “11 investigators in Iraq [are] looking into more than 50?cases of graft involving civilians and the US military.”

Initially the grand plan was for a GLOBAL war on terror; but right now a good portion of our money is vanishing into thin air, while another chunk is inevitably being siphoned into anti-Democracy and anti-American hands, whether you call them sadaamists, insurgents, islamofascists, or pinko commies. There can be no democracy, at least as America envisions it, when corruption, theft, and the influx of foreign funds distracts from the top down. They don’t even have electricity yet.