The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, November 10, 2003

The Miklaszewski Mystery - War Party attack-dogs have fangs in other meat, presumably

Howard Kurtz, the WaPo media guy with the Nelsonian I See No Conflict of Interest touch, is reporting (November 10) the travails of NBC hack Jim Miklaszewski.

Miklaszewski was in the offing when the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad was bombed on October 26, and naturally, together with his cameraman, went about the task of recording the aftermath for posterity. Or the nightly news, at least.

And, fearful, no doubt, of the effect such footage might have on support for the crusade back home, US officials took steps to impede the pair in their work. According to Kurtz, at least one Briton came to the aid of the (war) party:
A British press officer with the CPA says she told the two men while they were filming in the lobby, "I swear to God, if you do not take that tape out of that camera, I am going to kill you.

The Great Leader will no doubt be pleased to read that his own zealotry had percolated through the levels of a civil service traditionally believed to view enthusiasm with positively Walpolean contempt. Even more so when he reads on:
"I'm sorry, we have a job to do," Miklaszewski recalls telling her.

A woman, damn it! The assumption, widely propagated by the Guardian tendency, is that fanaticism is a peculiarly male vice, which can be tempered only by the administration of large quantities of sweet reason from the distaff side. An examination of the history of the Saloon Bar Leagues (to name but one example) leads, I believe, to a very different conclusion. And, with this unnamed British harpy, we have more evidence in the same direction.

It does, of course, cross my mind that Miklaszewski made up the interview with the woman. But the fact that
Gary Thatcher, communications chief for the U.S. occupation authority
subsequently went completely troppo about the case on the record (as quoted by Kurtz) rather lends credence to his tale.

None of this is either surprising nor reprehensible. USG, méchant animal-like, should be expected to do anything, legal or otherwise [1], to preserve their position in Iraq; one might hope that the hacks would be energetic in uncovering some, at least, of the facts on the ground. It's only natural that USG should use any means short of assassination to stop them [2].

I'd be surprised if the marginal effect of the NBC footage - especially as sanitised for broadcast - would be more than a blip on the trace of public opinion.

There is, perhaps, a one-time hit to be had from the broadcast - in the right circumstances [3] - of raw footage of such a disaster, stray body parts and all. But after the CBS Reagan: The Miniseries climbdown, I can't see any US (or UK, for that matter) network risking the backlash.

Funny thing, though: Google News is amazingly thin on Miklaszewski stuff: just six items from a search on his surname alone! A New York Daily News piece (October 27) is the only one Google lists which deals with the al-Rashid bombing.

MSNBC pieces on November 7 and 8 - basically the same piece updated - on the Saudi bombing at the weekend are picked up by the search - and the slab of text against each search item includes Miklaszewski's name. But - go to those pieces now, and his name is nowhere to be seen!

Is this a Stalin-type airbrushing out of history of the poor guy? Where's the rest of his stuff? He can't be cheap for NBC to keep in theatre - he must be producing screeds daily, surely?

And not the slightest cheep from the usual suspects - or so it seems - against Miklaszewski and his unAmerican activities. The Town Hall should surely be shaking with thunderous condemnations, the Standard brandished aloft (if not brought down on the offender's head) [4].

I smell a rat. Alternatively, it may just be a spelling thing...]

  1. International law is so delightfully flexible in content, and lacking in means of enforcement. It helps, of course, when, like the US, you fail to subject yourselves to the likes of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court...

  2. It occurs to me that some presidential flunky might mention the Orson Welles Prater Wheel test from The Third Man in 43's ear. But 43? A parlour-game of passing interest, perhaps, to wonder which of recent US Presidents would actually appreciate the reference. Wild guess, I'd say the best bet would be JFK; Reagan was in the biz, of course - and the flick was full of Robert Krasker's sarcastic dutch angles (pun not only intended but rejoiced in!) - but I suspect not. What about 41?

  3. And what might they be? Showing the horror of war is almost inherently an anti-war thing. In the UK, for instance, there were, I would guess, more BBC journos opposed to than supporting the Iraq war. But shock footage would never have got through the bureaucracy in the same way that Andrew Gilligan's David Kelly report for the Today programme got through. And the prospect of the report from Lord Hutton on the Kelly affair - the actual report may be even more potent - has kept all BBC heads well below the parapet.

  4. A regular Google search does produce a Standard piece (November 10) mentioning the guy:
    The hallway had already begun flooding. Six rooms down from ours, an internal wall had been blown into the hall by the rocket. The smoke seemed to be getting thicker, and there were shouted warnings of a "big fire," though I never saw one. I stopped in the room next door to ours, where NBC News cameraman Jim Long and veteran Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski were standing in front of the window. Long was shooting video of the smoke near the blue trailer.

    And that's it. No neocon fire and brimstone accusations of treason and the like. Almost as if Miklaszewski hadn't done anything wrong.


A piece by Michael Wolff (November 17!) in New York Metro on Good News and Bad News on Iraq. A flavour:
The we’re-not-quitters stance of the Bushies (and that the Democrats are, ipso facto, quitters) is explicitly disconnected from any talk about how we’re actually going to win.

The arguable merit of the Bush position—life is certainly better in Iraq—is subsumed by its larger, relentless, messianic, and fatalistic ambitions.

He never was on Rummy's Christmas card list, I'm thinking...

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