Friday, September 28, 2007

Today's NYT Blackwater non-stories

Two more stories on Blackwater in the New York Times today – they might as well start a separate daily 'Blackwater' section. Neither contains much in the way of new or useful information, and appear to be in the paper simply because several reporters have been tasked with producing Blackwater stories every day for the next year:

(a) because it's the kind of sinister, 'military-industrial complex' stuff the Times feels compelled to report and thinks is 'sexy', whether or not it's correct or even interesting;

(b) because it's one of the few 'negative' stories coming out of Iraq right now, and an important counterweight in the eyes of the Times to the increasingly positive stories coming out of the country; and

(c) because the Times hopes that if it keeps digging it'll come up with some damning evidence against the Bush administration.

I've done two lengthy posts on Blackwater in the past few days, here and here; The White Rabbit is doing a lot of interesting stuff, and this article is also good. I'm not going to pick through the latest stories – as I said there's not much to pick through – although each contains an important omission that's worth noting.

This story is a mainly political report, which suggests that Blackwater has been involved in a higher number of shooting incidents than figures given yesterday by the Times suggested; however the Times has left out pertinent information included in yesterday's story: namely that Blackwater is working in more dangerous areas of Iraq, and protecting higher-value targets, than other contractors.

The other story contains the latest, still confusing and still conflicting accounts of the shoot-out on September 16 that sparked the whole Blackwater furor. This story mentions that Blackwater contractors fired on a car, without providing any context, which suggests the shooting was unprovoked and indiscriminate. However, an earlier Times story reported that the car was approaching a junction that the Blackwater convoy was about to cross, that it was driving on the wrong side of the road, and that it ignored a policeman's order to stop.

So all told, the Times brings us nothing new, but quietly drops inconvenient facts that don't fit its 'murdering mercenaries on the rampage' narrative.

Appropriately enough, the second story concludes with a line that the Times itself, not to mention the other media outlets, and the Democrats and anti-war types who've jumped on the anti-Blackwater bandwagon, would do well to heed:

The official added that in the urgent moment of a shooting events could often become confused, and cautioned against leaping to hasty conclusions about who was to blame.

Somehow I don't think the Times is finished jumping just yet.

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