Barbara Crossette and Iraq: Here She Goes Again
by Gilles d'Aymery
March 26, 2000
"Can a single reporter warp the perceptions of a nation?" asks Swans' contributor, Drew Hamre.
Hamre continues: "The New York Times coverage of Iraq is chiefly in the hands of their UN reporter, Barbara Crossette. And The New York Times is, in turn, one of only four mainstream outlets that regularly covers this beat (AP, Reuters, and the Washington Post being the others). Given the deserved stature of The Times, and its vast reach through the syndicated market, the damage caused by Ms. Crossette's repeated transgressions against transparency, fairness, and simple honesty are incalculable."
"Following is an indictment of Ms. Crossette by the press watch organization, FAIR, in an outstanding report by Seth Ackerman:"
"New York Times on Iraq Sanctions -- A case of journalistic malpractice
[Note: This report is very much worth reading.]
So, what is Barbara Crossette up to this time?
Crossette did not have much time for Kosovo this week, not out of disinterest in the matter but out of one of the most cherished causes of The New York Times, Iraq and the toppling of the Iraqi regime.
First, on March 23, she wrote 2,000 words to explain, in Expert Says Iraq Got Bomb Data From U.S., that Iraqi students may have "combed U.S. libraries for bomb-building information and Iraqi agents and scientists collected valuable data at American scientific conferences." Darn, you would think that only the Serbs can rival with Iraqi's duplicity! Suffice it to say, an "expert" said it. And the expert is one Khidhir Hamza, a man who "held several high-level jobs in Iraq before his defection in 1995." That the article is filled with innuendoes is unimportant. What counts is the headline....Iraq Got Bomb...
To make sure that the reader gets the drift, William Safire comes to the rescue in an Op-Ed of the same day, Saddam's Sudan? There is a story going around people in-the-know that suggests "North Korea offered to sell the government of Sudan an entire factory for assembling scud missiles." Problem is, Sudan is broke. Not a problem, people in-the-know suggest, as analyzed by Safire, Iraq will finance the venture. So, here we go, with all the bad guys on stage. Iraq, North Korea, Sudan and the Chinese-Russian-French "cabal" (the French again, can't love them, can't hate them!) are conspiring to destroy the free world, that is the good old United States of America. Safire gets to no specific conclusion but he need not reach one. The readers will. They skim over Barbara Crossette's headline and got to Saddam's Sudan? Intrigued, they read the piece of conspiracy babble. Don't you always read William Safire's columns anyway? I do - this is Safire after all. Suggestion is enough.
Enough for what?
Barbara Crossette provides the beginning of an answer the next day, March 24, in Smuggling of Iraqi Oil Is Rising, U.N. is told. To help the reader understand, the subhead reads, Iranian help is seen as sanctions are violated. And, if the reader is not yet convinced, an article by Elaine Sciolino, a new character in The Times' play, expands on Iraq Builds Base for Rebels fighting Iran, U.S. Contends. And it adds, in a subhead, Oil smuggling gives Baghdad money for terrorism, U.S. says.
These two articles are quite instructive as they demonstrate the work of the U.S. administration on both fronts, that of Iraq and of Iran, trying to play one against the other. Iraq appears to have increased the amount of oil it smuggles, mainly through Iranian waters. The small quantity of smuggled oil is not a hindrance for an oil market that could use more production so that American consumers stop whining about the price of gasoline and heating oil. The problem is that the smuggled oil brings revenues to the Iraqi government outside the control of the U.N. which has dictated for the past ten years how much oil Iraq can produce and the allocation of the proceeds. It's been called the "oil for food" program, though it's a misnomer. Essentially, the U.N. confiscates a substantial portion of the proceeds for its own surveillance programs against Iraq and for financing the so-called reparations for Kuwaiti private properties that were destroyed during the Gulf war. So Iraq pays for the people that regulate Iraq, the very people controlling what Iraq can import, the type of food and medicine it needs, etc.. It's a very ingenious and Orwellian system. So, when Iraq smuggles oil by trucks to Iran, Turkey and Jordan, and by small tankers through Iranian waters, it tries to loosen the strangling knot placed by the International Community around its sovereign neck. Having once worked in the oil business I would not be surprised if the Iraqis and the Iranians were using a more sophisticated scheme known as swaps. In that instance, Iraqi oil is sent to Iran for Iranian domestic consumption and the equivalent in Iranian oil is sold entirely legally on the international market. Iran gets a swapping fee of say $5.00 a barrel and Iraq pockets the difference. This is really what the U.S. Administration and its allies are desperately trying to foil, as these proceeds have helped the Iraqi regime to survive the most drastic and debilitating sanctions ever put in place against a single country by the International Community. Then, one can understand the article written by Elaine Sciolino, the zest of it being, how can we drive a wedge between Iraq and Iran? After all, as a senior official of the administration is quoted as saying: "This is a propaganda campaign."
But that's not the only reason for Barbara Crossette to write so profusely with the assistance of Safire's conspiratorial rat-a-tat-tat. She is back the next day, March 25 - that is for the third day in a row. In Annan Exhorts U.N. Council on 'Oil for Food' Program, she describes the predicament faced by the proponents of the Iraqi asphyxia until the end of time or the toppling of the Iraqi regime, whichever comes first. According to Crossette, U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan told the members of the Security Council that "The humanitarian situation in Iraq poses a serious moral dilemma for this organization." Annan: "The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always sought to relieve suffering, yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population." Annan again: "We are in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war - if we haven't already lost it - about who is responsible for this situation, President Hussein or the United Nations." And the U.S. administration is scrambling to put together a newly "improved" package to put a more human face on the "oil for food" program.
And this is the second reason why Barbara Crossette is once again so actively using her undeniable talent to write about Iraq and its wicked regime, the very real Security Council meeting this coming week that will decide once more to prolong the sanctions that are slowly and surreptitiously (being far away from the cameras' eyes) exterminating the Iraqi people.
Maybe one day Barbara Walters will ask Ms. Crossette, "Is it worth it?" And Ms. Crossette will consult with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for the proper answer.
Note 1 - Read our February 25 article on the same subject, The Business of Manipulation, From Baghdad to Belgrade.
Note 2 - Have you asked yourselves why the price of oil increased so suddenly? This should be the object of a full commentary. But really, why did Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mexico (non-OPEC member), all U.S. Client states, lead the charge to curtail production? Why did even Norway go along? And why now, when the price had already gone over $20.00 a barrel and not when the price was languishing at $11.00 a barrel? Perhaps you could turn your attention to a region that has gone back below the radar screen, namely, the Caucasus. Does the Baku, Azerbaijan - Cehlan, Turkey pipeline ring a bell? Just think of it. I wish William Safire would focus his conspiracy babble on that very fine subject!
This Week's Other Articles
Serbia, Kosovo: Gone MIA? - by Gilles d'Aymery
News that did not make The New York Times this week, March 20-26, 2000 - by Swans
She Was Bridge-Killed - by Pedja Zoric
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath