(Note: I've added a few things to this story since its original publication.)
For reasons which will soon be obvious, I've put off writing about Lara Logan. She is, as most of you know, a TV journalist (born in South Africa) now on leave of absence from 60 Minutes
. I guess there's no better time to discuss her than right now, because New York
magazine has published a long look
at her controversial career. (Print version here
Much of the article concerns a fake Benghazi investigative report she filed on 60 Minutes
-- a piece which made the Obama administration look very bad. Her source for that report was a "military contractor" named Morgan Jones, whose real named turned out to be Dylan Davies.
Relentlessly hyped in the days leading up to the broadcast, the story fit broadly into the narrative the right had been trying for months to build of a White House and State Department oblivious to the dangers of Al Qaeda, feckless in their treatment of their soldiers and diplomats, then covering up their incompetence. It was soon revealed to be made up almost of whole cloth. Davies, who worked for a security firm called Blue Mountain, had invented the story to sell a book.
A lot of her reporting has had a pronounced rightward bias. Although I normally couldn't care less about a journalist's romantic life, in this case we must note the following...
By late 2007, Logan had another boyfriend in the wings: Joe Burkett, a government contractor in Baghdad who, Gawker uncovered, had worked for a firm called the Lincoln Group. Burkett was a former Texas Army National Guard member whose company did public relations for the military, courting reporters and trying to inject positive war stories into the media.
Burkett was rather more than that. The Lincoln Group has been described as a "private intelligence outfit." Moreover
A source intimately familiar with Burkett’s family told Newsweek that he regularly suggested he was some sort of super-spook.
Naturally, I'm wondering if this Joe Burkett of the Texas Air National Guard is related in any way to Bill Burkett
of the Texas Air National Guard. As you may recall, Bill was the guy who fed those controversial documents about George W. Bush to Dan Rather, resulting in a scandal that led to Rather leaving CBS News. Getting rid of Rather helped pave the way for Logan's rise. It'd be fascinating if the two Burketts were related, but I've found no evidence to that effect. Although there is
Back to our main story.
Lara married Joe. Far be it from me
to suggest that there is something unseemly about a prominent journalist marrying a "super-spook" who was paid to manipulate public opinion.
I can, however, say that Lara's rise within CBS was aided by 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager.
Her stories fit a trend at Fager’s 60 Minutes: more and more segments with a patriotic theme, not only by Logan but also by Scott Pelley, who did his own square-jawed delivery while glorifying military heroism.
As you probably know, Lara Logan's most famous story was the one in which she became
the story. She claimed that she was raped in Tahrir Square while covering the First Egyptian uprising that took down Hosni Mubarak.
Now you know why I hesitated to write about Logan. Rape is just about the touchiest subject imaginable -- especially when a male writer calls into question the veracity of a woman who has made a claim of rape.
Nevertheless, we must note that there are three contradictory accounts of this story:
1. The initial reports.
Some extremely disturbing and detailed tales spread worldwide with amazing rapidity:
Reportedly some of physical and sexual assault activity was caught on camera phones as well. One video purportedly involved some boy fondling the breasts of the reporter. However, another purported video that was described by a controversial YouTube video claims that a bearded man ripped the top off the reporter and began slapping her face and breasts. He then pinned her to the ground, and by this time she stopped resisting, apparently accepting the fact that she was overpowered. The bearded man then removed her pants and masturbated in front of her before raping her. He also reportedly clawed at her breasts with his hands. The YouTube video claims that at least six men raped her vaginally, and a number of men also raped her anally as well. She was reportedly masturbated on and urinated on by some men as well according to the YouTube video claims which was supposed to be pieced together from information and videos posted on Arab Websites and other sources.
The assault was said to have lasted three hours. Originally, it was reported that Logan had one nipple bitten off
In this telling
, the attacks stopped only when a group of women and some Egyptian soldiers intervened. Also see here
for the account offered by Pam Geller -- whose credibility is, of course, unimpeachable
2. The version told by Lara Logan.
This is best summed up by Wikipedia:
She said the incident involved 200–300 men and lasted around 25 minutes. She had been reporting the celebrations for an hour without incident when her camera battery failed. One of the Egyptian CBS crew suggested they leave, telling her later he heard the crowd make inappropriate sexual comments about her. She felt hands touching her, and can be heard shouting "stop", just as the camera died. One of the crowd shouted that she was an Israeli, a Jew, a claim that CBS said, though false, was a "match to gasoline". She went on to say that they tore off her clothes and, in her words, raped her with their hands, while taking photographs with their cellphones. They began pulling her body in different directions, pulling her hair so hard she said it seemed they were trying to tear off chunks of her scalp. Believing she was dying, she was dragged along the square to where the crowd was stopped by a fence, alongside which a group of women were camping. One woman wearing a chador put her arms around Logan, and the others closed ranks around her, while some men who were with the women threw water at the crowd. A group of soldiers appeared, beat back the crowd with batons, and one of them threw Logan over his shoulder. She was flown back to the U.S. the next day, where she spent four days in the hospital.
This is indeed a disturbing, sad and infuriating story. (When she told it on 60 Minutes, she was interviewed by Scott Pelley.)
Note, however, that "Story 2" does not include the more extreme details of the initial accounts. No missing nipple, no masturbation, no sprays of urine, no anal rape -- in fact, no rape of any kind
, if your definition of "rape" requires actual genital penetration. (Granted, "rape" is a word which people sometimes use to describe situations that do not fit the usual definition. We speak, for example, of the Rape of Nanking.)
Although many accounts refer to cell phone pictures, the only images I've been able to find are here
. Only one (1) photo clearly shows Logan being jostled -- and "jostled" really is the strongest term one may fairly use. Nevertheless, the proprietor of that blog says: "Here are the cell phone pictures of the horrible assault of the christian reporter, Lara Logan..."
If you search Google images, you'll find a painting
of the assault, plus a couple of obvious Photoshop fakes.
3. The story told by an eyewitness.
Here's where things get tricky. The best account we have from an outside party can be found here
. The writer is a respected Mexican journalist named Témoris Grecko
, author of several books (in Spanish). His website is here
. From his bio page
He has covered conflicts in places like Libya, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Congo and The Phillippines, crossed deserts in Central Asia, India and Africa, done road trips by Australia’s Red Centre and USA’s South West, drank with Tuareg riders in Timbuktu, interviewed domestic slaves in Lebanon, ran as a headless chicken under Gaddafi’s bombs in Ras Lanuf, travelled with Central American migrants through Mexico, danced with an escola de samba at the Carnaval do Rio, tracked gorillas near the Virunga volcanoes, breathed sulphur gases by the steaming lava at Ert Ale’s crater, chatted with victims of rape in Congo, been kidnapped by militiamen in Syria (and avoided another abduction in Mindanao), argued with Al Qaeda preachers in the Sahara...
It goes on and on like that. His work seems to be very pro-feminist; he has concentrated on the role of women in the recent revolutions in the Middle East. I hope he will forgive me for quoting him at length.
Here's what he has to say about Lara Logan
I witnessed part of the mob attack against CBS’s Lara Logan at Cairo’s Tahrir square on the evening of Friday, February 11th. I was struck when I read CBS’s February 15th communiqué describing the attack as a “brutal and sustained sexual attack”, and attributing her rescue to “a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.” This account does not fit with what I, and others, witnessed.
I was buying tea from a vendor in Tahrir with two friends, Amr Fekry, a 26 year old Egyptian call center agent, and Andi Walden, a San Francisco political science student. Then we heard the noise and saw the mob coming. A blonde woman, neatly dressed with a white coat, was being dragged and pushed. It didn’t seem to me she was panicking, but rather trying to control the situation. They passed us in an moment. They were yelling “agent!, agent!”
I tried to run to intervene, but some Egyptians I didn’t know prevented me from doing it. There was nothing I could do and, as a foreign journalist, I’d surely end up being accused of being an agent too, and attacked. Fekry did go there and dissapeared into the crowd, 50 or 100 people strong.
Later I spoke with two young male activists who helped the person I later learned was Lara Logan (I didn’t know her before, I don’t usually follow US networks). They were Omar El Shennawy, a 21 year old teacher of English, and Abdulrahman Elsayed, a 25 year old teacher of physical education. They said they had formed a human chain with other young men to protect Logan, and then delivered her to the Egyptian Museum military post.
When I read CBS’s story and it’s interpretation by other media outlets, I felt troubled. It seemed misleading. “It didn’t make sense to me”, said Benjamin Starr, from Boston who arrived as a tourist on January 24th, and stayed to witness the uprising. He also saw the mob pass by with Lara Logan. “I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe something happened in another part of the square, but from what I saw, she was being taken by men to the soldiers, and her clothes were not torn off. There were no women, I didn’t see a single woman in the crowd around her.”
Similarly, in hearing the CBS’s communiqué, Amr Fekry wrote on my Facebook wall: “It’s a little bit ridiculous what we hear that she was raped in Tahrir!! We were there! You remember she was about two meters away from us when we were buying tea! Maybe someone harassed her, but she ran and people protected her from being hit! I tried to go and help her but many people pushed me hard to go away as they thought I was trying to hit her. The only thing that some people only thought she was an Israeli spy!”
I went to ask Abdulrahman Elsayed, and he related a similar account. “I was in front of her, one metre away. This was after I saw her running with a man beside her. They stopped, maybe because someone blocked their way. We formed a human chain to protect her. Only young people, 10 or 15, all men. We surrounded her. People behind us were pushing and trying to grab her, someone might have touched her. I saw her top was uneven. There was a women and children’s tent (Tahrir sq. had become a campsite) and we tried to take her there, but we couldn’t because of the pressure. Someone had a taser and he held it high, making electric noises and threatening the attackers. He told them to move away. So we could go to the Museum’s military post and deliver her to the soldiers. Then we stood there blocking the people who tried to follow her. We brought her two doctors, first a young male, then an older female. The doctor and Lara were the only women around.”
So, who is to be believed -- Grecko or Logan?
I know that some on the right will immediately dismiss Grecko's account because he has committed the unpardonable sins of not being white and not being an Amurrkin
I also know that some feminists will dismiss Grecko's account because he has committed the unpardonable sin of penis-ownership.
There are those among us who have reason to suspect that some women, like some men, do
tell lies. Sometimes they tell embellished accounts of actual events. Sometimes they lose track of what actually occurred.
And only a racist or a blinkered nationalist would dismiss Grecko's reportage simply because he is not a white American. To be frank, I'd say that Grecko's background makes him more
credible, given the terrible state of current American journalism.
I'm curious as to how the original anal-rape-with-missing-nipple stories originated. These lurid and horrifying details immediately spread all over
the Islam-bashing right-wing sites.
know that Lara is married to a "super-spook" who specializes in manipulating public opinion.
And we know that Lara later tried to get a fake story onto the CBS airwaves -- a story that played right into the Republican party's predetermined Benghazi narrative.
And we must never forget the instructive examples of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman
I do not know what actually occurred in Tahrir Square. Come to your own conclusion. Which account is likeliest to be true: Version one, version two, or version three? Whatever your verdict, I suspect that there will again come a time when Lara Logan becomes
the story she hopes to report.