Monday, December 17, 2007

Angles in America

The deity who walks among us with the name and form of one Glenn Greenwald has deigned to notice our friend Michael J. Totten in reference to Michael's recent reporting from Fallujah, and Michael's criticism of another reporter's relentlessly negative work from there.

There's some degree of murk in the disagreement between the reporters. But the way Greenwald treats them is clear, and illuminating. He casts doubt on Michael's credibility in every case where Michael's reporting disagrees with his own narrative of Iraq (all failure all the time). Then he turns around and quotes him approvingly when Michael reports on the myriad problems and resentments still percolating in Fallujah.

Yes, of course, with him it's a case of implying, "if even a wingnut says it's this bad, you know it is worse," after having tarred you with that brush. [The same thing the extreme right does with regard to the NYT and WaPo.]

But it would be equally justifiable, even from Greenwald's position, to read Michael as an honest reporter without an agenda other than to tell what he sees. He could quote him more honestly in support of his arguments that way, without the gratuitous rubbishing. But gratuitous rubbishing is what GG was put on this earth to perform.

Along the way, Greenwald also applies standards of criticism to Michaels' reporting that he never mentions with regard to the other Fallujah reporter, whom he quotes with entire credulity.

He damns Michael because he "asserts with no evidence of any kind that [Ali] al-Fadhily's report of citizens being arrested for speaking with reporters is false,"but he fails to point out that al-Fadhily's report -- "Many residents told IPS that US-backed Iraqi police and army personnel have detained people who have spoken to the media" -- is 1. hearsay at best, 2. printed without supporting evidence.

Did al-Fadhily speak to anyone who was so detained, or only to people who told him other people have been detained, which is how I read that sentence. That kind of reporting wouldn't pass muster with a local news editor, but it's gospel to Greenwald.

That this scribbling weasel is held up as a modern day Daniel Webster is a sign that the right wingers may have a point after all about the intellectual anorexia of the anti left.

Here's Michael on the Marines in Fallujah. This is just good war reporting. The ghosts of Walt Whitman and Xenophon nod in agreement, from the shadows, reading this stuff. It serves nobody's side, nor is meant to:

“Was there one fight in particular that was intense or memorable?” I said. “The kind of story you would tell your kids or your friends back home?”

“I don't talk to my friends back home about it,” he said. “We pretty much only talk amongst ourselves.”

“Is it because they don't want to hear about it,” I said, “or you don't want to talk about it?”

“It's because everybody glorifies it so much, I think,” he said softly and a little bit sadly. “Everybody thinks it's cool. You know?”

“You mean American civilians glorify it?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Guys our age. You go home and you always get those stupid questions. Did you shoot anybody? Did you kill anybody? How many people? I just don't personally deal with that. I had a great uncle who was in the Korean War. I talk to people like him about it. As far as regular people, I don't. If they ask I just tell them it was nothing. That's what I hear from everybody else, too. They feel the same way.”

“How do you feel about what happened here?” I said.

“I definitely think it was necessary,” he said. “I don't have any regrets. I'm glad I did it, and I would do it again. It's good to see the city the way it is and to go to the same neighborhoods. They're so much cleaner now. These people are doing things on their own, they're taking care of their own stuff. When I was here three years ago, I never would have imagined this place would ever be like it is now. It reminded me of Tijuana. When we got here it just seemed like everything you could think of that was bad, this city had it going on. Now they have regular families thriving in the city. There are people working neighborhood watch, working together. It has turned around a lot. I didn't even want to come on this deployment, but now seeing the city the way it is, I'm glad I did. It's like a closure on everything.”

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