Friday, December 08, 2006

 

There are facts...and then there's AP

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fuad Saniora is at least verbally taking on Hezbollah. Good for him. But this AP report by Zeina Karam contains a few stylistic tics that I think highlight part of the problem many of us have with the quality of reporting out of the Mid East. Saniora Accuses Nasrallah of Coup Threat

“Six pro-Hezbollah ministers resigned from the Cabinet last month over Saniora's refusal to accept the demand, depriving the government of any Shiite representation.”

Saying they were “pro-Hezbollah” is like saying Nancy Pelosi is pro-Democrat. CNN gives us the breakdown:

“Four of the five Shiite ministers who quit Saturday are part of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah; the fifth, Mohammed Jawad Khalife, is with the Amal political party.

Environment Minister Yaacoub Sarraf, a Greek Orthodox Christian, announced his cabinet exit Monday morning. He is aligned with Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud.
Lebanon approves court amid crisis - CNN.com (Ed. Note: other sources say that 3 of the 5 were Hezbollah and that Amal had 2 of them)

The issue was the number of reps the Shiites would have on the Cabinet. Hezbollah wanted at least a third, PM Saniora quite rightly rejected such a power share. Also lacking is the context of the demand:

Lebanon's depleted government Monday approved a United Nations draft setting up an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. CNN.com

Hezbollah – and more importantly, their friends in Syria – have no interest in such a tribunal coming into being.


Then there’s this: as a reporter, if you take note of something like this:

“"Your sit-in today, with God's help, will defeat the American project," Yakan said, accusing the U.S. of sowing division between Shiites and Sunnis in the Islamic world.”

…aren’t you kind of curious as to what the hell he means. Perhaps find some examples of such U.S. actions. ‘Cause from where I sit, it doesn’t look like they need much help.

Finally, my biggest pet-peeve:

“The pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its opposition allies have called for a huge demonstration Sunday, saying it will mark an escalation in their attempts to oust the U.S.-backed premier.”

What does that mean: U.S.-backed premier? Did we somehow install him in a rigged election (sit down, Mr. Carter!)? Who knows?...but this is repeated all the time in much of the press without anyone adequately defining what the hell it means. (And if PM Saniora is a “U.S.-backed” leader, we are doing a piss-poor job of selecting who to back..)

I suspect what it means is that the Prime Minister was fairly elected and he isn’t fronting a terrorist organization so we’re not on record as being to opposed to him. (Of course, in that vein, I guess you could describe French leader Chirac as a “U.S.-backed” leader.) I don’t think we had volunteers out there handing out campaign literature; don’t believe we set up a 527 to funnel soft money toward his campaign nor can I did iI hear of us peppering the Lebanon airwaves with pro-Saniora ads on VOA.

The problem with such a description here is the less-ominous description of Hezbollah as “Pro-Syrian”, making the Prime Minister appear like some Yankee puppet while Hezbollah has merely staked out a political position. But of course Hezbollah is not just “pro-Syrian”, they are Syrian backed. They are practically an extension of the Syrian government, a vestige of the not-so-distant past when Syria occupied Lebanon. but at least the connection was made there. the AP isn't always so even-handed:

“A senior Hezbollah official vowed on Sunday to press ahead with street protests and other peaceful means to topple Lebanon's Western-backed government but said the group's plans would not be announced beforehand.” Hezbollah Official Vows Protests Vs US-Backed Lebanon Government

The Syrian backing of Hezbollah is much more relevant than any moral support the US or the West in general is offering to the Lebanon government and yet…

“Lebanon’s American-backed government on Saturday approved the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, overriding objections by Hezbollah and the country’s pro-Syrian president, Émile Lahoud.” Lebanon Backs Tribunal - New York Times

“Thousands of Hezbollah supporters set up camp in the heart of Beirut on Saturday, starting an open-ended sit-in with a carnival atmosphere intended to pressure the U.S.-backed government of Fuad Saniora into resigning.” Hezbollah Loyalists Camp Out in Beirut - Worldnews.com

You get the idea…

Side Note: “On Thursday, Nasrallah said government officials had asked American envoys to persuade Israel to destroy Hezbollah and claimed that Saniora had ordered the Lebanese army to deprive Hezbollah of weapons. …

“The Lebanese army said Friday that it had received no such orders from the government during the 34-day war, but that troops did confiscate Hezbollah ammunition at one checkpoint.”

Where else but the Mid East could a terrorist group “accuse” its own government of using its army to deprive it of weapons…and the army feels compelled to issue a denial.

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