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Thursday, November 30, 2006

 

the Associated Press is pro-victory

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, November 30, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
The Associated Press has faced considerable critique about its horrific story about six Shi'a men being burned alive by Sunnis in Baghdad. The critique hinges one the claim by the US military that the AP's source, a police captain Capt. Jamil Hussein, misrepresented himself. From a letter written by Lt. Michael Dean to the Associated Press:

We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city's Yarmouk police station, does not work at that police station and is also not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP. The MOI has supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning.
[...]
Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was.


The AP however made it clear that their source was legitimate. From a response letter written by AP International Editor John Daniszewski:

AP reporters who have been working in Iraq throughout the conflict learned of the mosque incident through witnesses and neighborhood residents and corroborated it with a named police spokesmen and also through hospital and morgue workers.

We have conducted a thorough review of the sourcing and reporting involved and plan to move a more detailed report about the entire incident soon, with greater detail provided by multiple eye witnesses. Several of those witnesses spoke to AP on the condition that their names would not be used because they fear reprisals.

The police captain cited in our story has long been known to the AP reporters and has been interviewed in his office and by telephone on several occasions during the past two years.

He is an officer at the police station in Yarmouk, with a record of reliability and truthfulness. His full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein.

The AP stands by its story.


In fact, the AP then produced the follow-up with more sources as promised.

Seeking further information about Friday's attack, an AP reporter contacted Hussein for a third time about the incident to confirm there was no error. The captain has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions. The captain, who gave his full name as Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, said six people were indeed set on fire.

On Tuesday, two AP reporters also went back to the Hurriyah neighborhood around the Mustafa mosque and found three witnesses who independently gave accounts of the attack. Others in the neighborhood said they were afraid to talk about what happened.

Those who would talk said the assault began about 2:15 p.m., and they believed the attackers were from the Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He and the Shiite militia are deeply rooted in and control the Sadr City enclave in northeastern Baghdad where suspected Sunni insurgents attacked with a series of car bombs and mortar shells, killing at least 215 people a day before.

The witnesses refused to allow the use of their names because they feared retribution either from the original attackers or the police, whose ranks are infiltrated by Mahdi Army members or its associated death squads.

Two of the witnesses — a 45-year-old bookshop owner and a 48-year-old neighborhood grocery owner — gave nearly identical accounts of what happened. A third, a physician, said he saw the attack on the mosque from his home, saw it burning and heard people in the streets screaming that people had been set on fire. All three men are Sunni Muslims.


So let's recap here. The AP prinmts a story. The military objects, casting doubt on the source, and asks for either a retractio or to provide additional witnesses. The AP demonstrates that their source was in fact legitimate, and then also provides additional sources.

This whole affair speaks to a larger issue of "news out of Iraq". The belief seems to be that if the general public is shielded from bad news, or that bad news is minimized, or even outright denied, then that will maintain support for the war, or at least counteract the increasing lack of support.

This systematic campaign to delegitimize the media has backfired. By pretending that things are actually rosy and that good progress has been made (and it is no slight upon the honor and sacrifice of brave Iraqis or US soldiers to acknowledge otherwise), proponents of the campaign in Iraq have weakened their case. That is precisely why the public sentiment has hardened.

Had the media simply been muzzled for the past five years, as the most extreme of the media critics demand, then the public may have been ignorant of the details on the ground, but the reason we are losing the war in Iraq against the forces of anarchy is the fault of the insurgents, and a lack on our side not of will to sacrifice and fight but simply in resources, planning, and organization. I mean, isn't is truly shameful that we are only hearing about "going long" now, three years after the invasion? And make no mistake - it's liberals and Democrats who came up with that idea first.

To be honest, i still favor staying in Iraq. If we do withdraw fully, we will be ensuring that the brave voices of freedom upon whom the future liberty of all the oppressed masses in the middle east hinges, will die hideous deaths. It would be supreme cynicism to abandon Iraq.

The failure thus far is of execution, not principle, which is why the Administration is so desperate to whitewash the metrics by success or failure might by any reasonable standard be measured. And thus we see the Lancet study attacked, daily reports of deaths attacked, violence in iraq compared to urban street violence in the US, etc. To these critics I simply ask, what metric would YOU accept that would definitively show that we have failed in Iraq? But asking the question is pointless - especially since they have never been able to satisfactorily define victory. I mean, the Administration is so detached from the reality they'd prefer that they are actually considering choosing sides in the civil war whose raging they still refuse to acknowledge.

Elections were simply a (purple) fig leaf. But democracy is an end state, built upon a robust and rigorous foundation of stability, security, and personal freedom. The right of the individual as a sovereign must be secured by liberal constitutionlism first, before any talk of representative government can be entertained. Otherwise, you end up electing Hamas.

What is needed now is indeed to go long. Follow Phil Carter's prescription to abandon the superfortresses and increase the embedded advisers. Give Maliki an ultimatum: rein in the Shi'a militias, or lose control of your (still sovereign nation)'s armed forces. Engage Syria - there's plenty of carrots to peel them off of Iran and re-align with us, to the benefit of Israel and to Iraq.

And we need to celebrate the media for its role in keeping the pressure on. Because the Administration would rather "pick sides" and "declare victory and go home" rather than make the hard choices and the commitments that have been needed from the start.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.