From the Pew Research Center:
Sydney Schanberg was the greatest boss I never got to work for.
Back in 2001, I talked extensively with Schanberg about a new weekly newspaper he was preparing to launch in New York. He agreed to hire me, though the pay wouldn’t be much at first.
No problem, I said, eager to work in the most powerful city on earth for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for whom I had deep respect.
We had a lot in common, two stubborn men who had each been driven out of prestigious journalism jobs, his at the New York Times and mine as the lead investigative reporter for the Sacramento Bee, because we had dared to ask important questions about very important people.
But then came 9/11/ and with it, funds for the new venture evaporated.
Schanberg went on to write columns for the Village Voice and I would soon be hired as managing editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet.
And today, Sydney Schanberg is gone.
From today’s New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:
Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film “The Killing Fields” with the story of his Cambodian colleague’s survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.
His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, who said Mr. Schanberg had a heart attack on Tuesday.
A restive, intense, Harvard-educated newspaperman with bulldog tenacity, Mr. Schanberg was a nearly ideal foreign correspondent: a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history.
Indeed, if folks today remember Shcanberg it’s probably because of the hit film based on his book about the Cambodian genocide.
Here’s the trailer for the critically acclaimed 1984 feature film:
The Killing Fields
OSCAR WINNER: Best Supporting Actor – Haing S. Ngor, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing.
A New York Times reporter and his Cambodian aide are harrowingly trapped in Cambodia’s 1975 Khmer Rouge revolution. After the war, the adviser is imprisoned in Pol Pot’s work camps in Cambodia, and the journalist lobbies for his release. Sam Waterston, John Malkovich and Oscar winner Haing S. Ngor star in this shattering true story.
Schanberg won a Pulitzer for International Reporting for his coverage of the Cambodian killing fields, and his return to the Big Apple should have marked the beginning and a rise to the top.
But Schanberg had a problem as one of his Times colleagues explained to me: “He covers the city like a damned foreign correspondent.”
Consider this excerpt from journalist Edwin Diamond’s 1993 book From Behind the Times: Inside the New New York Times:
In the fall of 1977. . .Sidney Schanberg, his distinguished overseas service behind him, was back in New York, on a senior editing track, and being talked about as the “next Abe Rosenthal.” Like Rosenthal a decade before, Schanberg was running the Times Metro desk and seeing New York with the fresh eye of a a foreign correspondent. In a memo to Rosenthal, Schanberg proposed major new treatment of the homosexual community of New York, which he described as “ large and increasingly middle class. According to Schanberg, “many people still think of homosexual life in terms of interior decorators, Fire Island, and leather bars, but increasingly it’s also very much a world of lawyers, physicians, teachers, politicians, clergymen and other middle-class professional men and women who, aside from their sexual experience, live like their ‘straight’ counterparts,”
Rosenthal replied that while he would always give attention to Schanberg’s ideas, he didn’t “want a whole bunch of stories or a series. A great amount of coverage at this time would simply seem naive and deja vu. It was “a question of perspective” for the Times. “Yes, there are many homosexuals, just as there are many of almost everything in New York, I have a gut feeling that if we embark upon a series for now or a bunch of pieces, it would be overkill. And here he set down his principle of inclusion-exclusion, old hand instructing the new man: There is also a question of what we want to do with our space. Space is gold, The proper use of space is the essence of our existence, because it reflects our taste and judgment. . .It is the areas of taste and judgment that, in the long run, are our most important areas of responsibility.” Schanberg’s ambitious series never appeared.
Chris Hedges, a former New York Times colleague and fellow Pulitzer winner, described Schanberg’s experiences in a 17 July 2013 interview with The Real News Network:
Sydney Schanberg, who worked for many years for The Times, was eventually pushed out of the paper as the metro editor for taking on the developers, who were friends with the publisher and who were driving the working and the middle class out of Manhattan (so now Manhattan’s become the playground of hedge fund managers primarily), says correctly that your freedom as a reporter is constricted in direct proportion to your distance from the centers of power. So if you’re reporting from Latin America or Gaza or the Middle East as I was, or the Balkans, you have a kind of range that is denied to you once you come back into New York and into Washington.
Hedges had more to say in a 27 June 2011 essay for Truthdig:
Many editors viewed Schanberg’s concerns as relics of a dead era. He was removed as city editor and assigned to write a column about New York. He used the column, however, to again decry the abuse of the powerful, especially developers. The then-editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to acidly refer to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch along with the paper’s publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, grew increasingly impatient with Schanberg, who was challenging the activities of their powerful friends. Schanberg became a pariah. He was not invited to the paper’s table at two consecutive Inner Circle dinners held for New York reporters. The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film “The Killing Fields,” based on Schanberg’s experience in Cambodia. His days at the newspaper were numbered.
There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading
And the turf is familiar: Libya, a country still reeling from the civil war launched during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of state.
From Al Jazeera English:
Air traffic control recordings obtained by the Middle East Eye suggest British, French, Italian and US forces have been coordinating air strikes in support of renegade Libyan general, Khalifa Haftar.
The leaked tapes, which could indicate the countries are helping Haftar fight rebels in the east, appeared to confirm that a joint operations base exists – something which the London-based media organisation has previously reported.
“What’s clear is that Western forces are helping Haftar coordinate air strikes in eastern Libya ,which is where his base of control is. But the targets there aren’t actually Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS),” Karim el Bar, the journalist who reported the story, told Al Jazeera.
“They [the targets] are his [Haftar’s] political enemies – some of whom are Islamists, some of whom have other political affilations … he’s undermining the government in Tripoli.”
Conversations between Libyan pilots and the air traffic controllers at Benina airbase, one of Haftar’s vital military facilities, can be heard in the leaked audio, in both Arabic and English. French, Italian American and British accents are audible.
The clear beneficiaries of this latest deadly gambit will be the fundamentalists, who will draw still more recruits fighting this latest effort by NATO to install a government that will help the Big Oil tighten its grip on the source of the finest light sweet crude on the planet.
As Britain braces for the imminent release of the 2.6-million-word Chilcot report on the impact of the U.K.’s role in the American-led, perto-seeking Iraq invasion and the ensuing and seemingly endless bloody chaos of civil war, another report has already laid out a stark picture of a nation whose minorities are vanishing, swept up in endless terror.
From Minority Rights Group:
After thirteen years of war minority communities in Iraq are now on the verge of disappearance, says a new report by Minority Rights Group International, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Institute for International Law and Human Rights and No Peace Without Justice.
‘The Chilcot report needs to reflect not just the immediate circumstances of the invasion, but the devastating long-term consequences of the conflict for Iraqi society. The impact on minorities has been catastrophic. Saddam was terrible; the situation since is worse. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and millions have fled for their lives,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.
No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance documents how tens of thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.
According to the international rights organisations, the Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, is now under 250,000. Most of the Yezidi and Kaka’i have been forced from their traditional lands and are now internally displaced or have fled the country altogether, whilst Shi’a Turkmen and Shabak have been driven to the south.
There’s more. . . Continue reading
In one of her best interviews yet for teleSUR English, Abby Martin talks with New York Times reporter James Risen, whose critique of American imperialism and its fruits is almost as radical as Martin’s
We are perplexed that none of the San Francisco Bay Area news media have profiled Martin and her rise to become a journalist of international standing, a Bay Area native who began her career on Berkeley’s community access cable channel, then moved on to RT America and then to teleSUR, where she hosts The Empire Files, a weekly investigative series.
In the latest episode she talks with New York Times reporter James Risen, whose reporting on the National Security Agency and other issues won him a Pulitzer Prize and threats of prosecution from both the Bush and the Obama administrations.
In their wide-ranging discussion, Martin and Risen talk about the national security state, American imperialism [yes, a New York Times reporter actually uses the I-word], the corporatization of war and the insidious power of military contractors, and the hypocrisy of an Obama administration that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous American presidencies combined.
Perhaps most telling is Risen’s observation of a critical fact un- or undereported by mainstream media: The fact that virtually all “lone wolf” terrorists have resorted to desperate measures in search of revenge for deaths of loved ones at the hands of the American military and its allies.
From teleSUR English:
The Empire Files: Abby Martin with NYT’s James Risen on Fighting Censorship
Few journalists know the cruelty of government censorship as well as James Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at the New York Times, targeted for several major stories implicating criminality by the US war machine and its national security state.
American intelligence agents captured the wrong man, held him in a ‘black’ prison in Afghanistan, continued to hold him after they realized their error, and eventually dumped him without apology or recompense.
To make matters worse, those responsible for this illegal and egregious miscarriage of justice didn’t get pink slips.
Instead, they were promoted.
By January of 2004, when German citizen Khaleed al Masri arrived at the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison in Afghanistan, agency officials were pretty sure he wasn’t a terrorist. They also knew he didn’t know any terrorists, or much about anything in the world of international terror.
In short, they suspected they’d nabbed the wrong man.
Still, the agency continued to imprison and interrogate him, according to a recently released internal CIA report on Masri’s arrest. The report claims that Masri suffered no physical abuse during his wrongful imprisonment, though it acknowledges that for months he was kept in a “small cell with some clothing, bedding and a bucket for his waste.” Masri says he was tortured, specifically that a medical examination against his will constituted sodomy.
The embarrassing, and horrifying, case of Masri is hardly new. It has been known for a decade as a colossal example of CIA error in the agency’s pursuit of terrorists during the administration of President George W. Bush.
But the recently released internal report makes it clear that the CIA’s failures in the Masri case were even more outrageous than previous accounts have suggested.
Even though the agency realized early on that Masri was the wrong man, it couldn’t figure out how to release him without having to acknowledge its mistake. The agency eventually dumped him unceremoniously in Albania and essentially pretended his arrest and detention had never happened.
None of the Americans involved in Masri’s detention has been held to account, notes Masri’s attorney, Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. Indeed, the two men most responsible for the errors were promoted. Meanwhile, Dakwar said, Masri is haunted to this day by the psychological torture inflicted by his detention in the CIA’s secret Afghan holding center and by the stigma of having been snatched in a CIA anti-terror investigation.