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post #1 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure


Knight Ridder's Baghdad Chief Replies to Criticism From Back Home


Early this week, Mark Yost, an editorial writer at Knight Ridder's St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote a column that sharply criticized Iraq war coverage as "bad" for focusing on the negative. Today, another Knight Ridder writer who may actually know what's going on in Iraq, penned a reply.

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher Magazine

(July 13, 2005) -- On Tuesday, Mark Yost, an editorial writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a column that sharply criticized Iraq war coverage as "bad," for focusing on the negative aspects when there's so much progress to report.

Yost, of course, is welcome to his opinion, but some of his colleagues in the press quickly counter-attacked, in letters to Romenesko and others, pointing out that, ironically, Iraq coverage by the company he works for, Knight Ridder, had been hailed by many (including E&P) for often running a step or two ahead of all others.

One of those letters was written directly to Yost, by a colleague at the Pi-Press, Chuck Laszewski. "With your column," he declared, "you have spat on the copy of the brave men and women who are doing their best in terrible conditions. More than 20 reporters have died in Iraq from around the world. You have insulted them and demeaned them, and to a much lesser degree, demeaned the reporters everywhere who have been threatened with bodily harm, who have been screamed at, or denied public records, just because they wanted to present the closest approximation to the truth they could. I am embarrassed to call you my colleague."

Pretty strong stuff, but I wondered, in a note Tuesday to Knight Ridder's Washington chief Clark Hoyt, if we would hear a defense from his estimable Baghdad bureau, or what's left of it, following the death of one of its prize reporters there last month.

The KR response arrived late Wednesday.

But first, a bit more from Mark Yost, writing from the air-conditoned splendor of his office or home in leafy Minnesota.

"I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq," he revealed. "A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.

"I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren't so blinded by their own politics that they can't see the real good we're doing there. ...Why isn't the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren't are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years? And reporters wonder why they're despised."

Now here's the Knight Ridder reply, first from Hoyt, then Baghdad bureau chief Hannah Allam, from a memo sent to KR editors.

***


From Clark Hoyt:

It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq. He knows the reporting of hundreds of brave journalists, presumably including his own Knight Ridder colleagues Hannah Allam and Tom Lassetter, is bad because his Marine colonel buddy tells him so.

Yost asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid, which the colonel oversaw. Maybe it's because there is no progress. Iraqis currently have electricity for an average of nine hours a day. A year ago, they averaged 10 hours of electricity. Iraq's oil production is still below pre-war levels. The unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. New cases of hepatitis have doubled over the rate of 2002, largely because of problems with getting clean drinking water and disposing of sewage.

The "unfiltered news" Yost gets from his military friends is in fact filtered by their isolation in the Green Zone and on American military bases from the Iraqi population, an isolation made necessary by the ferocity of the insurgency. To say that isn't to argue that their perspective is invalid. It's just limited and incomplete.

Knight Ridder's Baghdad bureau chief, Hannah Allam, has read Mark Yost's column. Her response, from the front, says it far better than I could.
***
From Hannah Allam:

It saddens me to read Mark Yost's editorial in the Pioneer Press, the Knight Ridder paper that hired me as a rookie reporter and taught me valuable lessons in life and journalism during the four years I spent there before heading to Iraq.

I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members' toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home. I frequently find them camping out in the office overnight because electricity is still only sporadic in their sweltering neighborhoods, despite what I'm sure are the best-intentioned efforts of people like his Marine buddy working on the electrical grid.

Mr. Yost could have come with me today as I visited one of my own military buddies, who like most officers doesn't leave the protected Green Zone compound except by helicopter or massive convoy. The Army official picked me up in his air-conditioned Explorer, took me to Burger King for lunch and showed me photos of the family he misses so terribly. The official is a great guy, and like so many other soldiers, it's not politics that blind him from seeing the real Iraq. The compound's maze of tall blast wall and miles of concertina wire obscure the view, too.

Mr. Yost can listen to our bureau's morning planning meetings, where we orchestrate a trip to buy bottled water (the tap water is contaminated, when it works) as if we're plotting a military operation. I wonder whether he prefers riding in the first car -- the most exposed to shrapnel and bullets -- or the chase car, which is designed to act as a buffer between us and potential kidnappers.

Perhaps Mr. Yost would be moved by our office's tribute wall to Yasser Salihee, our brave and wonderful colleague, who at age 30 joined the ranks of Iraqi civilians shot to death by American soldiers. Mr. Yost would have appreciated one of Yasser's last stories -- a rare good-news piece about humanitarian aid reaching the holy city of Najaf.

Mr. Yost's contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. On his visit to Baghdhad, he can check that by chatting with our resident British security consultant, who every day receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country.

If Baghdad is too far for Mr. Yost to travel (and I don't blame him, given the treacherous airport road to reach our fortress-like hotel), why not just head to Oklahoma? There, he can meet my former Iraqi translator, Ban Adil, and her young son. They're rebuilding their lives under political asylum after insurgents in Baghdad followed Ban's family home one night and gunned down her 4-year-old daughter, her husband and her elderly mother in law.

Freshly painted schools and a new desalination plant might add up to "mission accomplished" for some people. Too bad Ban's daughter never got to enjoy those fruits of her liberation.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #2 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 01:29 PM Thread Starter
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure



IRAQ SEAPORT:
Languishes in disrepair
By ANTONIO CASTANEDA
Associated Press Writer



UMM QASR, Iraq (AP) - At Iraq's only outlet to the sea, Bob Hearn is one of two Americans trying to give this country an economic shot in the arm. Sometimes he sleeps in his car when major shipments arrive, trying to reassure ship captains the port is functioning again.

But success remains far away, as it does for many U.S.-funded reconstruction projects in Iraq. Although ships are trickling back two years after the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, the port is more than a year from international accreditation, which could increase ship traffic fivefold.

For now, Hearn can't even get the U.S. military to route supplies through Umm Qasr.

Thousands of U.S. and Western reconstruction workers across Iraq are in the same situation - struggling to rebuild the country in a volatile environment. Frustrated Iraqis dismiss U.S. explanations for delays.

"That's our big challenge - hiring people so they're not shooting at us. They just want some money," said Hearn, who oversees a multimillion dollar project that has cleared away several sunken ships and repaired some loading docks.

Many reconstruction workers in Iraq see a direct link between their efforts and easing the U.S. military's burden.

"I thought we'd be able to bring soldiers home earlier if projects" went well, said Dan Drew, a U.S. project manager who has worked to refurbish the nearby airport at Basra. The airport, too, is more than a year away from gaining accreditation to handle international flights.

For now, Hearn is trying to persuade the U.S. military to ship its supplies to the port here instead of to Kuwait, arguing the move could employ thousands of Iraqis and end American troops' need to drive the equipment north.

But he has not succeeded, in part because 50 sunken ships still lie in the short waterway leading from the Persian Gulf to the port. Some date back to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

At some docking areas in the sprawling port, rusty, abandoned ships still sit idle. Towering cranes, including two recently purchased with U.S. money, mark the active areas.

But weeks sometimes go by without the arrival of a single commercial ship. One recent day, only a few Iraqi workers in blue uniforms were busy bagging rice newly arrived from the United States.

Ships that put in at unaccredited ports are deemed "contaminated" by inspectors, forcing them to pay higher fees and undergo rigorous examinations at other ports. To gain the accreditation, Umm Qasr must make more repairs and meet safety and other standards - something Hearn estimates could take $300 million more.

Across Iraq, the reasons for such reconstruction lags are many: Bureaucratic tangles, security worries and the legacy of postwar looting.

Even here in the relatively safe southern part of Iraq, with the stretched military preoccupied with the insurgency, most Western workers rely on private security guards to escort them to project sites. That means they must limit trips and can't check on workers as often as they would like.

Hearn can sometimes camp out in his car to keep an eye on things because the British military protects the site.

At the port, some Iraqi hostility is evident. "No, No, USA" and "Yes, Yes, Quran," is spray-painted along the perimeter walls. Nationwide, security costs have eaten away an estimated 20 percent of U.S.-pledged reconstruction money.

But development goes on: Near Basra, a power plant that can serve over 200,000 people is scheduled begin operating soon. And by next summer, the city's sewer system will be run by a U.S.-funded project.

Reconstruction officials say they frequently hear complaints from Iraqis who say electricity and clean water supplies are still below prewar levels. Some 58 percent of the $21 billion in pledged U.S. reconstruction money has yet to be spent, according to a federal inspector general.

Frustration is greater to the north, where attacks by the Sunni-based insurgency have delayed many projects. In the Shiite-dominated south, the relative calm has prompted U.S. officials to try to get more done.

"I'm a big fan of making hay during sunshine," said Wes Watson, a district engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Some delays are rooted in the widespread looting after the invasion.

The Umm Qasr port, for example, was stripped after the U.S.-led invasion, with looters even stealing light bulbs.

"I'd ask, 'Why'd you loot schools?'" Watson said. "And (Iraqis) would say, 'Well, they weren't our schools, they were Saddam's schools.'"



Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #3 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 01:41 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

DID YOU KNOW THIS?
Of course I didn't know. How could I?

Did you know that 47 countries have reestablished their embassies in Iraq?

Did you know that the Iraqi government currently employs 1.2 million Iraqi people?

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers, all currently operating?

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2005 for the reestablished Fulbright program?

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational?! They have 5- 100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a naval infantry regiment.

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational = squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport = aircraft (under Iraqi operational control) which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 Bell Jet Rangers?

Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq? They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consists of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a televised debate recently

OF COURSE WE DIDN'T KNOW! WHY DIDN'T WE KNOW? OUR MEDIA WOULDN'T TELL US!

Instead of reflecting our love for our country, we get photos of flag burning incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at the presidential motorcades. The lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves two purposes.

It is intended to undermine the world's perception of the United States
thus minimizing consequent support, and it is intended to discourage American citizens.

post #4 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 01:57 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

At least we reasonable assurance the AP is reliable and relatively unbiased. Where the f&ck does Alfa source his news?? Who knows. No source identified. Is he protecting confidentiality? Covering up crimes?

OBK #35

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post #5 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 02:06 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

It's just like all the other copy & paste & post Bull.
Why would it matter to you if it came from Twinkle Toes Fred Flintstone or from a friend in An Najaf?

post #6 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 02:18 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

Quote:
old300D - 7/20/2005 2:57 PM

At least we reasonable assurance the AP is reliable and relatively unbiased. Where the f&ck does Alfa source his news?? Who knows. No source identified. Is he protecting confidentiality? Covering up crimes?
Yep,"AP" blood guts, goods news is bad news.
Unbiased in your eyes, reliable sure.
Extremists love their Head Lines

post #7 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 02:24 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

Quote:
Alfa - 7/20/2005 3:18 PM

Quote:
old300D - 7/20/2005 2:57 PM

At least we reasonable assurance the AP is reliable and relatively unbiased. Where the f&ck does Alfa source his news?? Who knows. No source identified. Is he protecting confidentiality? Covering up crimes?
Yep,"AP" blood guts, goods news is bad news.
Unbiased in your eyes, reliable sure.
Extremists love their Head Lines
The only extremist here is you. Your level of verbal hysteria speaks volumes about your (correctly feared) minority position within the american population regarding this so called war. Your refusal to validate your claims makes your only real retort laughable. Next.
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post #8 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 02:34 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure


[/QUOTE]

The only extremist here is you. Your verbal level of hysteria speaks volumes about your minority position within the american population regarding this so called war. Your refusal to validate your claims makes your only real retort laughable. Next.[/QUOTE]

Hysteria? The sky is falling,the sky is falling, the Earth is flat.
I guess I need to post at lot more of some one else’s opinions (from our American unbiased editorial news paper folks) so I could be like you.
A mindless numskull who believes everything he reads except from those who disagree
with him.
post #9 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 02:58 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

"A mindless numskull who believes everything he reads except from those who disagree
with him."

Sigh....
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post #10 of 77 (permalink) Old 07-20-2005, 03:28 PM
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RE: Iraq Reconstruction: Total Failure

Quote:
gnomo - 7/20/2005 2:58 PM

"A mindless numskull who believes everything he reads except from those who disagree
with him."

Sigh....
Don't go there. Irony is lost.

OBK #35

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