Friday, September 29, 2006

The Incapable Washington Post

This is a personal position paper of The Jacksonian Party.

Recently the Washington Post has decided to give the public a view from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction on the Baghdad Police College. This Washington Post article is 27 SEP 2006. The reporter gives us some view and into the opinions of those that are presenting the investigation and the Special Inspector General's dismay at the failure of this project. Of course one could actually peruse the good Special Inspector General's web site and learn quite a bit about the failure of Parson's *before* this. Indeed, Parson's has had many a problem with its contracting and holding sub-contractor's accountable and has turned in shoddy work. So, while the US Army Corps of Engineers may have set out the original design work, they are to be held accountable *only* for the poor workmanship that their Contracting Officer signed off on.

But the Washington Post had not *heard* about this before this report. Which is very, very strange because they had given a 'bad news on rebuilding in Iraq' story that was not only 'factually challenged' but presented some basic things that any reporter who actually KNOWS the Federal Contracting and Budgetary system would have understood. This was covered topically at the time by me, and my review of their numbers *before* the USACE weighed in demonstrated the problems of the reporters trying to make a 'hit piece' out of very, very little. That was supposed to be a 'hard hitting piece of journalism', which basically required the gumshoe effort of going to Iraq, being taken on tours, asking a few questions and then misreporting on what you heard.

At the very same time those reporters were over there, they did *not* bother to make local contacts, did *not* bother to contact the Iraqi Government, and did ZERO actual investigative work on their own. The Washington Post reporters were spoonfed information and they regurgitated it not only undigested, but with some of the dog's breakfast included. These intrepid reporters zeroed in on the favorite 'contractor the Left loves to hate' which is Halliburton and its KBR subsidiary. Bechtel and Parsons get mention for failure on projects at the time, but those were older projects which were either re-awarded to a local firm, in the case of Parsons or was being being reworked by the company responsible. By only looking at projects past and, in one case, months past, those intrepid reporters missed asking Iraqis being trained as policemen about this *blockbuster* mess at the Police College.

By being cowards, by not wanting to take initiative, by taking only what has been spoonfed to them, these Washington Post reporters missed the opportunity to GET THE SCOOP. They went on a junket to Iraq to 'prove that they had the goods' and wound up with the swell parting gifts given to them. Gifts that could have more easily gotten by a couple of phonecalls and having the Contract Officer's reports SENT TO THEM via e-mail. There was a day and age when a reporter, sent to cover a story in a far off land would then proceed to work his or her butt off to get MORE STORIES there so that their newspaper could inform the public of events in far off places. This gained *prestige* for those papers. It earned the reporters credit for being stalwart investigative journalists willing to 'go the extra mile' to bring news to the public. After that age such reporting was done to find the hidden corruption of public officials and misspent money by government so as to show what needed to be addressed and *why*.

Of course they might have to take some *risks* to get such stories. Perhaps be kidnapped and decapitated for a 'live studio audience' on "What's my Jihad?" for a competing Arabic news organization that shall remain al-Jazeera. They would have had to go beyond the bounds of what was handed to them, take a step 'on the wild side' and look around. Make some contacts. Take tea with local Arab tribesmen. Sit down and have a nice chat with a local construction foreman and the graft he had seen. Even, dare I say it, talk with some actual, real, live Iraqi Police Officers?

This is a *blockbuster* problem in that it is the largest screw up by one contractor that has screwed up a number of jobs and should have been *suspended* about 6 months ago from any more work. The Contracting Officer is in for a tough grilling and possible court appearance for abuse of position and mis-spending federal funds, perhaps facing long years in jail and having to repay the Government out of his or her own pocket. The nearly $20 Billion being spent on reconstruction, less than 5% and it looks to be in the neighborhood of 1% has been ill-spent on such things. A $75 million project that is screwed up after a similar amount at a teaching hospital and something near that at a prison by one Contractor is nothing to sneeze at. For what has been misspent you might be able to buy a single B-2 Bomber, out of funds necessary to by 10 or more of them.

What is truly and absolutely appallingly *blockbuster* is that the Washington Post wastes money on junkets for reporters to get spoonfed pablum who then gobble up dirt and spin it all as they spew it back and mis-report the actual situation. And because they have NO capability of doing their own, independent research outside of contacting Congresscritters, they MISSED this story. They are not only incompetent, but they are laughably incapable. They are cowardly. They have no intestinal fortitude to actually *find news* and *get the story*. They took the easy path to smearing the USACE and have been *called on it*.

And by having another reporter put forth a personal *smear piece* that is demonstrably false in its *facts*, the Washington Post is slipping into the fever swamps of partisanship and their bubbles of air are reaching the surface. Those bubbles are mixed with swamp gas and the stench of their reporting is foul both for what it says and for the structure of the organization that can no longer FIND investigative journalists willing to find stories and facts, and plainly present them to let the public decide on how bad they are.

The Washington Post now joins the New York Times, al-Reuters, AP and AFP as news sources that cannot be trusted to report *facts*. When I get a report by any one of them I look at who the reporter is and wait for at least one other source that is unaffiliated with them to *also* report on the facts. These news organizations now lie repeatedly and continuously and put their own partisan viewpoints ahead of the 'news', ahead of the 'story' and the *facts* are left for the very last thing of any importance to them. By abdicating editorial oversight, by not having capable and competent reporters and by putting 'viewpoints' and 'spin' ahead of 'stories', 'news' and *facts* they are purposely misreporting the news, refusing to print *good news*, missing vital stories and, in the end, destroying their profession.

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