Letter to the editor
Annan, Hung from the Crossette
by Drew Hamre
March 19, 2000 - Note from the Editor: Once again Drew Hamre dissects the flagrant misrepresentation of the news by Barbara Crossette of The New York Times. Meantime, the U.S. and British Air Forces keep bombing the country. As of early March, Iraq has been bombed 17 times! Now, Hamre sent this letter to The Times which obviously did not publish it. However, The Times published a letter from Denis J. Halliday in its Sunday's edition. Halliday, a former assistant secretary general, was U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq from 1997 to 1998. He wrote in response to the very same article Drew Hamre refers to. We are reproducing Halliday's letter below.
Wednesday, March 15, 2000 - Secretary General Kofi Annan's 90-Day report on the oil-for-food program has just been released at http://www.un.org/Depts/oip/.
It's interesting to compare the original report with summaries by the
following news organizations:
The Washington Post
The New York Times
The BBC and the Post reports have been noted earlier, while the NYTimes report is attached below.
What a flabbergasting construction the Times report is! - so eccentric, it appears to summarize a different document altogether. In the U.S., regular news reportage from the UN emanates from only four sources: the AP, Reuters, the Washington Post (in the person of the reliable Colum Lynch), and the New York Times (in the person of Barbara Crossette, whose unfathomable biases are well documented; see a compendium at www.swans.com/library/art6/ga081.html and www.swans.com/library/art6/zig042.html). Ms. Crossette's work is especially damaging because of the reputation of the Times and its vast reach through the syndicated market. (For example, if my local "Minneapolis StarTribune" runs this story, odds are it's Crossette's report they'll use).
In the following, Ms. Crossette leads with historical aggregate revenue totals, which sound so impressive that by the end of paragraph 3 ('the money has rolled in') the casual reader must be convinced that Iraq is awash with petro-dollars. In paragraph 5, she obliquely notes the question of the morality of sanctions, stumbling over it as if it were the office cat*. But she gives no specifics. And she then implies that humanitarian concerns may be an Iraqi propaganda ploy, timed to conincide with a new arms inspector beginning work.
Arms control concerns drive the next four paragraphs. By the way, it's after this point that most syndicatees will typically truncate the article due to length.
Ms. Crossette then notes the issues of contract holds. She notes concerns over the state of the Iraqi oil industry. And finally, one paragraph from closing, she notes that "Despite advances in Iraq, the oil-for-food plan has come under sustained criticism from the last two administrators of the program there, Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who have deemed it to be too little too late for the people of Iraq."
In future years -- when toothless press ombudmen and historians sift through the wreckage of the NYTimes coverage of this calamity -- it's to this paragraph that defenders of the Times will vainly point. "You see ... balanced coverage!" they'll shout.
What a joke!
Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, March 19, 2000
Re: "U.N. Chief Assesses Benefits to Iraq of Oil-for-Food Program" (news article, March 15):
Of the $20 billion in oil revenues that Iraq was allowed to accumulate in the past three years, $13 billion has been spent on basic foods, medicines and supplies. The remaining $7 billion has largely been paid in reparations to those who lost property in Kuwait.
The oil-for-food program is meant to supplement human needs, but it is hardly sufficient -- only $200 per person per year. Today, with the collapse of Iraq's health care system, one in seven Iraqi children dies before the age of 5. Reparations should be suspended.
The secretary general cannot remain silent any longer. The United Nations should respect its own charter, as well as the Declaration of Human Rights, and lift economic sanctions while retaining the military embargo.
Denis J. Halliday - New York, March 15, 2000
(Copyright - 2000, The New York Times)
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