Friday, April 21, 2006

Stories you might have missed, from a news agency you surely will

My local newspaper is a Knight-Ridder paper. I have my issues with it (they give fools like Victor Davis Hanson way too much ink), but the fact is that the Knight Ridder DC bureau has been among the strongest over the last few years. When the NYT and WaPO were banging the Iraq drum, K-R reporters like Warren Strobel were getting it right. I don't know what will happen to that kind of reporting now that McClatchy has bought most of the K-R properties, and others remain on the block. As noted in the must-read piece from Ariana (and the reader comments that follow) about the boardroom intrigues at the Times, party politics cannot be completely ruled out as a factor in the sale/break-up of K-R.

But the K-R team is going out in a blaze of glory

First, Tom Laseter in Iraq, from Tuesday:
U.S. officials were warned for more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq's security forces and taking control of neighborhoods, but they failed to take action to counteract the threat, Iraqi and American officials said.

Now American officials call the militias the primary security concern in Iraq, blaming them for more civilian deaths than the Sunni Muslim insurgency.

U.S. officials concede that they did not act, in part because they were focused on fighting the Sunni-dominated insurgency and on recruiting and training Iraqi security forces.

"Last year, as we worked through the problem set, that [militias] wasn't a problem set we focused on," Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the top American military spokesman, said at a recent news briefing.

U.S. inaction gave the militias time to become a major force inside and outside the Iraqi government, and American officials acknowledge that dislodging them now would be difficult.

Among U.S. officials' missteps:

White House and Pentagon officials ignored a stream of warnings from American intelligence agencies about the mounting danger posed mainly by two powerful Shiite militias, the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army.

A group of high-ranking Iraqis appointed in 2004 to persuade militia leaders to disband their groups received no funding and was allowed to wither away.

U.S. diplomats in Baghdad were slow to recognize that the majority Shiite population's ascent to political power would expand rather than diminish militia activity.

Acting against the Shiite militias would have raised doubts about the administration's reliance on training largely Shiite security forces to replace U.S. troops in Iraq.

The other story is a bookend to a well-reported 2004 story. Remember when Colin Powell trumpeted a report showing that terror attacks worldwide had declined because of Fearless Leader's fearless leadership? And then a few days later sheepishly admitted that they had miscounted, and the number of attacks had actually gone up? (Said increase was not Fearless Leader's fault, of course.) We haven't been hearing much about that metric lately, have we? I think I know why. A few numbers from the (revised) U.S. State Department summary for 2003:

Terror attacks worldwide: 208
Killed: 625
Wounded: 3,646

Which brings us to the piece from Warren Strobel in today's paper.
he number of terrorist attacks documented by U.S. intelligence agencies increased sharply in 2005, surpassing 10,000 for the first time, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers.
We won't see the full report until next week, according to Strobel. And he says the criteria have changed since 2004, so your mileage may vary. But from 208 to 10,000+ is a staggering increase. Heckuva job, Georgie.

I don't have time right now, but there is a database of terror stats here. I sure wish I knew a statistics guru who could crunch these numbers for me....

Anyway, enjoy the truth that K-R reporters bring you while you can.


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