The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [casi] Dreamers and Idiots

Hello Hassan,

Thanks for sharing.

Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg who authored/concocted the Jessica Lynch book
DOES have a record.

You'll find a mini selection of relevant articles below.



1) Rick Bragg's Lousy Alibi
2) Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg is penalized in Blair's wake



Rick Bragg's Lousy Alibi

The suspended New York Times reporter insists-wrongly-that everybody does

By Jack Shafer
Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2003, at 4:27 PM PT

On Friday, New York Times reporter Rick Bragg insisted to the Columbia
Journalism Review he'd done nothing wrong in claiming 1) the byline for a
story that an unpaid free-lancer had reported for him and 2) the dateline
"Apalachicola, Fla.," after visiting the town only briefly. (See "Rick
Bragg's 'Dateline Toe-Touch.' ")
"I wouldn't have done anything different," Bragg tells CJR.
Bragg reiterates that position to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz again
today-as he pre-announces his resignation from the New York Times. He tells
I have dictated stories from an airport after writing the story out in
longhand on the plane that I got from phone interviews and then was
applauded by editors for "working magic." . Those things are common at the
paper. Most national correspondents will tell you they rely on stringers and
researchers and interns and clerks and news assistants.
Bragg continues his defense, saying Times stringers and interns "should get
more credit for what they do," but in "taking feeds" from such assistants,
"I have never even thought of whether or not that is proper. Maybe there is
something missing in me. ..."
I will take it from a stringer. I will take it from an intern. I will take
it from a news assistant. If a clerk does an interview for me, I will use
it. I'm going to send people to sit in for me if I don't have time to be
there. It is not unusual to send someone to conduct an interview you don't
have time to conduct. It's what we do.
In his pique and all his declarations of innocence, Bragg would like readers
to believe he is the victim of the post-Blair "poisonous atmosphere" that's
settled over the Times. The real issue isn't Rick Bragg's conduct, he
asserts; it's the backroom politics of the New York Times, and he's just the
pawn in that elaborate struggle.
Everyone who ever wanted to get even for a slight or unpleasantry or act out
their jealousy now has their chance, and it will continue. . What I don't
understand is the callousness of some people who would try to use this
situation to settle their political squabbles. It is shameful that some
people are using it in a power grab at the newspaper. It's just about the
saddest thing I've ever seen.
Bragg maintains that his editors were "fully aware" of his Apalachicola
methodology, citing the approved techniques he used in reporting from the
Oklahoma City bombings. Details for those stories came from "a stack four
feet high" of clips from the Oklahoman, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston
Chronicle, and other papers. "From each one of the stories I took a piece of
the pain he had caused people," Bragg tells the Post. "We backed it up with
interviews. That's what we're supposed to do. We gather the string that's
out there."
Before we allow Bragg to blame his troubles on Times internal politics or
let him imply that the Times knew what he was up to and that everybody does
what he does, let's review Times policies on datelines and bylines. Let's
also determine which of those policies Bragg violated. Via e-mail, Times
spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis takes her best shot at sorting it all out
for you.
Mathis on the Times' official dateline and byline policy:
A dateline guarantees that a reporter (the bylined one, if there is a
byline) was at the specified place on the date given, and provided the bulk
of the information, in the form of copy or, when necessary, of notes used
faithfully in a rewrite. Especially in a story so vivid in reconstructing
sights and sounds, readers logically infer that the bylined correspondent
has heard the voices and experienced the scenes. This is why we believe the
story from Apalachicola in June 2002 required a correction.
Mathis on Bragg's violation:
Mr. Bragg had traveled to Florida and had set out to write a much broader
story about the impact of development on the rivers that feed the bay off
the Florida Panhandle. He was working out of one town in Florida. He had
asked a freelancer to gather some information about the impact of
development on the oyster business in another town, Apalachicola, which is
about 90 minutes away. Mr. Bragg changed the approach of the story to focus
on the impact of development on the oyster business based on the information
and reporting that the freelancer brought to him. (Mr. Bragg did visit
Apalachicola briefly.) Given the amount of reporting the freelancer did, he
should have also had a byline on the story.
Mathis won't answer the question of whether the free-lancer in question, J.
Wes Yoder, could have possibly qualified for a byline had Bragg informed his
bosses about Yoder's participation. "It's not our policy to employ unpaid
freelancers," is the best Mathis will do. That said, Bragg appears to be
guilty of three counts of editorial deceit in hiring an unpaid, undisclosed,
and unauthorized helper-essentially subcontracting his work to others
without his bosses' consent. More clarity from the Times on when, where, and
how stringers are used would produce much needed enlightenment-for both its
reporters and readers.
Mathis on who doles out credit:
The editors in the respective departments determine whether or not freelance
journalists receive byline credit subject to the guidelines noted above.
This policy point prompts the question, what did Bragg's editors know about
his use of stringers? If they knew he was using Yoder throughout the summer
of 2002-Yoder broke bread with Bragg and Executive Editor Howell Raines in
Birmingham, Ala.,-the failure was partly theirs, and they should say so. If
Times editors knew what Bragg was up to, did they cut him slack because of
his close friendship with Raines? The internal committee headed by Times
Assistant Managing Editor Allan Siegal, assigned to review Times newsroom
practices in the wake of the Jayson Blair affair, will also examine the
paper's byline and dateline practices.
There's no question that Bragg's Apalachicola methodology violates Times
policy, and his conduct there differs radically from his work in Oklahoma
City. Bragg spent real time in OK City, deserving the dateline; he claims he
fortified the information he sifted from the newspaper clips with
independent interviews. Yes, reporters everywhere do what he did in OK City.
But no, they don't-and shouldn't-do what he did in Apalachicola.
In mounting his inept "everybody does it" self-defense, Bragg doesn't cite
another Times case remotely comparable to that of Apalachicola. Although
other Times stringers, interns, and staffers have alleged cases in which
reporting for the Times was improperly credited, none has alleged to me a
provable violation as dramatic as Bragg's. In general, it's a point of pride
for newspaper reporters not to slough the reporting off on assistants.
Today's Wall Street Journal recounts how an intern-of the paid
variety-collected almost all of the courtroom quotations for Bragg-bylined
stories about a Miami trial. While you can question the ethics of sending a
paid intern-whom you don't credit-to stake out a courtroom while you do
additional reporting and writing from the local Miami office, this, too, is
entirely different from visiting Apalachicola for a couple of hours solely
to claim the dateline and foster the illusion that you'd seen the story
The Apalachicola text reveals how Bragg infused the piece with its
fraudulent sense of immediacy. He repeatedly invokes the word "here" to
imply an intimacy with his subjects and the environs, even though he didn't
do any of the interviews with the oystermen. [Emphasis added.]
More and more, life here feels temporary. .
As in any society, there are layers here. .
A man has to get very drunk not to think about the future here. .
While environmentalists call the bay pristine, people who have lived here
the longest say change has long since come. .
The people have a toughness in them here. .
Obviously, the journalistic profession should better codify 1) exactly how
much work a stringer must do before earning a byline credit and 2) how many
minutes a reporter need occupy the city limits of his dateline in order to
claim it. But the lack of a hard-and-fast standard doesn't mean I don't know
journalistic scamming when I see it. Reconstituting a "you are there" story
from somebody else's notes and conducting a touch-and-go landing to claim
the dateline violates not only Times policy, but any sober person's
elemental sense of intellectual honesty.
Bragg correspondence read here: .
Related in Slate

It's very hard to catch reporters who go off the reservation. Last week,
this column criticized Bragg for cutting corners. Michael Kinsley reminds
journalists everywhere of their extraordinary debt to the New York Times,
from whom they pillage without so much as a note of thanks.



      Posted on Sat, May. 24, 2003

      Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg is penalized in Blair's wake
      By Howard Kurtz

      The fallout over the Jayson Blair debacle at the New York Times has
hit a far more prominent Times reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg.

      In an editor's note Friday, the paper said that Bragg had only briefly
visited the Florida town of Apalachicola, from which he filed a story last
June, and that most of the reporting had been done by a stringer.

      That freelance reporter, J. Wes Yoder, should have shared a byline
with Bragg, the paper said.

      Times sources said Friday that Bragg has been suspended, although the
duration of the sanction could not be learned.

      The Columbia Journalism Review reported Friday that the suspension was
for two weeks.

      Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis declined to comment on whether
Bragg had been disciplined.

      Asked if this was a serious infraction, Mathis said: "The story was
accurate, and Bragg did indeed go to Apalachicola, though briefly."

      Asked if disciplinary action had been taken, Mathis said the paper
does not comment on such matters.

      She said the Blair controversy "has produced a variety of tips" about
questionable work by other Times reporters, "and we have telephoned
reporters to pursue those tips."

      Bragg did not return calls Friday, but he said in a recent interview
from his New Orleans home that he has never faked a dateline.

      He acknowledged that he sometimes relies on stringers and researchers
and may visit a given town only briefly because of deadline pressures.

      "I've made plenty of mistakes," Bragg said, but insisted he is
constantly getting on and off airplanes and had never been dishonest in his

      At another time, Bragg's feature about struggling oystermen on the
Gulf Coast would have drawn little notice.

      Times staffers say that national bureau reporters like Bragg are under
constant pressure from executive editor Howell Raines and his management
team to get in and out of cities quickly and accumulate as many datelines as

      Some staffers may touch down in a city shortly before deadline and
file a piece based largely on phone interviews done by researchers in New
York -- a practice that, to varying degrees, other newspapers sometimes
pursue in tight deadline situations.

      Bragg, who considered leaving the Times two years ago after publishing
his second book, is known to believe that he has become a target within the
paper because he is close to fellow Southerner Raines, who had to approve
all his assignments.

      Bragg is renowned for his portraits of hard-living, hard-drinking
Southerners, as typified by his first book, "All Over but the Shoutin'," a
best-selling account of how his impoverished mother raised him and his two
brothers in the Deep South.

      That kind of writing about Southern characters earned him a Pulitzer
for his Times work in 1996.

      Yoder, now a reporter at the Anniston (Ala.) Star, said in an
interview Friday that he had volunteered to be an assistant to Bragg and was
never an official Times stringer.

      He did interviews and other reporting for Bragg on 15 stories, with
the oystermen yarn involving the most work, and didn't feel exploited when
Bragg got all the credit. "We have nothing to hide," Yoder said. "We didn't
do anything wrong."


----- Original Message -----
From: "Muhamed Ali" <>
To: "as-ilas" <>; "casi" <>
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2003 4:48 PM
Subject: RE: [casi] Dreamers and Idiots

Dear colleagues,
                 To-day's Guardian covers Iraq extensively.
Private Lynch's media war continues as Iraqi doctors deny rape claim

Sexual assault would have killed injured soldier, says medical team,2763,1083110,00.html
There is also a feature in Guardian G2 on the Iraqi lawyer, who helped
saving Private Lynch's life.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of as-ilas
Sent: 12 November 2003 11:19
To: casi
Subject: [casi] Dreamers and Idiots

None of this matters to the enthusiasts for war. That these conflicts
unjust and illegal, that they killed or maimed tens of thousands of
civilians, is irrelevant, as long as their aims were met. So the hawks
should ponder this. Had a peaceful resolution of these disputes been
attempted, Osama bin Laden might now be in custody, Iraq might be a
and largely peaceful nation finding its own way to democracy, and the
prevailing sentiment within the Muslim world might be sympathy for the
United States, rather than anger and resentment. Now who are the
and the useful idiots, and who the pragmatists? "

Dreamers and Idiots
  Bush and Blair did everything necessary to prevent the outbreak of
  By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 11th November 2003

  Those who would take us to war must first shut down the public
imagination. They must convince us that there is no other means of
preventing invasion, or conquering terrorism, or even defending human
rights. When information is scarce, imagination is easy to control. As
intelligence gathering and diplomacy are conducted in secret, we seldom
discover - until it is too late - how plausible the alternatives may be.

  So those of us who called for peace before the wars with Iraq and
Afghanistan were mocked as effeminate dreamers. The intelligence our
governments released suggested that Saddam Hussein and the Taliban were
immune to diplomacy or negotiation. Faced with such enemies, what would
do?, the hawks asked, and our responses felt timid beside the clanking
rigours of war. To the columnist David Aaronovitch, we were "indulging
in a cosmic whinge".1 To the Daily Telegraph, we had become "Osama bin
Laden's useful idiots".2

  Had the options been as limited as the western warlords and their
suggested, this may have been true. But, as many of us suspected at the
time, we were lied to. Most of the lies are now familiar: there appear
have been no weapons of mass destruction and no evidence to suggest
that, as
President Bush claimed in March, Saddam had "trained and financed ... al
Qaeda".3 Bush and Blair, as their courtship of the president of
reveals, appear to possess no genuine concern for the human rights of

  But a further, and even graver, set of lies is only now beginning to
to light. Even if all the claims Bush and Blair made about their enemies
their motives had been true, and all their objectives had been legal and
just, there may still have been no need to go to war. For, as we
last week, Saddam Hussein proposed to give Bush and Blair almost
they wanted before a shot had been fired.4 Our governments appear both
have withheld this information from the public and to have lied to us
the possibilities for diplomacy.

  Over the four months before the coalition forces invaded Iraq, Saddam
Hussein's government made a series of increasingly desperate offers to
United States. In December, the Iraqi intelligence services approached
Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-terrorism, with an
offer to prove that Iraq was not linked to the September 11th attacks,
to permit several thousand US troops to enter the country to look for
weapons of mass destruction.5 If the object was regime change, then
the agents claimed, was prepared to submit himself to
internationally-monitored elections within two years.6 According to Mr
Cannistraro, these proposals reached the White House, but were "turned
by the president and vice president."7

  By February, Saddam's negotiators were offering almost everything the
government could wish for: free access to the FBI to look for weapons of
mass destruction wherever it wanted, support for the US position on
and Palestine, even rights over Iraq's oil.8 Among the people they
was Richard Perle, the security adviser who for years had been urging a
with Iraq. He passed their offers to the Central Intelligence Agency.
week he told the New York Times that the CIA had replied, "Tell them
that we
will see them in Baghdad."9

  Saddam Hussein, in other words, appears to have done everything
to find a diplomatic alternative to the impending war, and the US
appears to have done everything necessary to prevent one. This is the
opposite to what we were told by George Bush and Tony Blair. On March
13 days before the war began, Bush said to journalists, "I want to
you that it's his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It's
Saddam's choice. He's the person that can make the choice of war and
Thus far, he's made the wrong choice.".10 Ten days later, Blair told a
conference, "we have provided the right diplomatic way through this,
is to lay down a clear ultimatum to Saddam: cooperate or face
disarmament by
force ... all the way through we have tried to provide a diplomatic
solution."11 On March 17th, Bush claimed that "Should Saddam Hussein
confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been
taken to avoid war".12 All these statements are false.

  The same thing happened before the war with Afghanistan. On September
2001, the Taliban offered to hand Osama bin Laden to a neutral Islamic
country for trial if the US presented them with evidence that he was
responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington.13 The US
the offer. On October 1st, six days before the bombing began, they
it, and their representative in Pakistan told reporters "we are ready
negotiations. It is up to the other side to agree or not. Only
will solve our problems."14 Bush was asked about this offer at a press
conference the following day. He replied, "There's no negotiations.
no calendar. We'll act on [sic] our time."15

  On the same day, Tony Blair, in his speech to the Labour party
ridiculed the idea that we could "look for a diplomatic solution".
"There is
no diplomacy with Bin Laden or the Taliban regime. ... I say to the
surrender the terrorists; or surrender power. It's your choice."16 Well,
they had just tried to exercise that choice, but George Bush had

  Of course, neither Bush nor Blair had any reason to trust the Taliban
Saddam Hussein: these people were, after all, negotiating under duress.
neither did they have any need to trust them. In both cases they could
presented their opponents with a deadline for meeting the concessions
had offered. Nor could the allies argue that the offers were not worth
considering because they were inadequate: both the Taliban and Saddam
Hussein were attempting to open negotiations, not to close them: there
appeared to be plenty of scope for bargaining. In other words, peaceful
resolutions were rejected before they were attempted. What this means is
that even if all the other legal tests for these wars had been met (they
not), both would still have been waged in defiance of international law.
charter of the United Nations specifies that "the parties to any dispute
shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation."17

  None of this matters to the enthusiasts for war. That these conflicts
unjust and illegal, that they killed or maimed tens of thousands of
civilians, is irrelevant, as long as their aims were met. So the hawks
should ponder this. Had a peaceful resolution of these disputes been
attempted, Osama bin Laden might now be in custody, Iraq might be a
and largely peaceful nation finding its own way to democracy, and the
prevailing sentiment within the Muslim world might be sympathy for the
United States, rather than anger and resentment. Now who are the
and the useful idiots, and who the pragmatists?


  1. David Aaronovitch, 16th November 2001. Stop trying to stop the war.
Start trying to win the peace. The Independent.

  2. Throughout the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, the Telegraph ran a
umn on its leader page entitled "Useful Idiots", dedicated to attacking
campaigners for peace.

  3. George Bush, 6th March 2003. National Press Conference in the White

  4. James Risen, 6th November 2003. Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach
Last-Minute Deal to Avert War. The New York Times; Bill Vann, 7th
2003. Washington rejected sweeping Iraqi concessions on eve of war.; Newsweek Web
Exclusive, 5th November 2003. Lost Opportunity? On the eve of the
of Iraq, Defense officials were offered a secret, back-channel
to talk peace with Saddam.; Julian
Borger, Brian Whitaker and Vikram Dodd 7th November 2003. Saddam's
offers to stave off war. The Guardian.

  5. Julian Borger, Brian Whitaker and Vikram Dodd, ibid.

  6. ibid.

  7. ibid.

  8. Newsweek Web Exclusive, ibid

  9. James Risen, ibid.

  10. George Bush, 6th March 2003, ibid.

  11. Tony Blair, 16th March 2003. Press Conference with George Bush and
Jose Maria Aznar, the Azores.

  12. George Bush, 17th March 2003. Remarks by the President in Address
the Nation.

  13. Luke Harding and Rory McCarthy, 21st September 2001. Bush rejects
Laden deal. The Guardian.

  14. Julian Borger, 3rd October 2001. White House rejects call for
Taliban 'ready to negotiate'. The Guardian.

  15. Julian Borger, ibid.

  16. Tony Blair, 2nd October 2001. Speech to the Labour Party

  17. Article 33, Charter of the United Nations. The full text of this
article reads: "1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which
likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security,
shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation,
conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional
or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice. 2. The
Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties
settle their dispute by such means."

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]