June 2, 2006

Questions? Who Cares? It Bleeds, So It Leads

Hatched by Dafydd

Now that the first wave of hysterical overreporting is past -- where antique media sources casually tossed around phrases like "U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of November 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead" (which "military officials" were those? why can't we find any such confirmation on the record?) -- we are finally starting to get a little skepticism... at least some probing questions.

Alas, aside from one CNN reporter who became suspicious about some of the children's Haditha testimony (which Sachi is working on a post about), all of the questioning is coming from the blogosphere.

But that's actually not bad: I've thought for some time that the best us of blogging is not to engage in original reporting (most of us have no access to the resources necessary to chase down stories), is not opinion-mongering (yeah, get in line, pal!), but rather applying actual skepticism to claims of certainty by the major media.

For example, Sweetness and Light has noted two interesting points about Iraqis involved in the Haditha story:

  • Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, the reporter who conducted the video interviews of the supposed survivors and witnesses, was just released in January after being held for five months at Abu Ghraib on suspicions that arose in connection with photographs he had in his camera (possibly of terrorists setting up IEDs) and other evidence that connected him with terrorist groups.

    Al-Mashhadani also wrote the major Haditha story for Time Magazine on March 21st, which is still being used by news services today as the template: claims, accusations, even entire phrases are still being lifted from this story... written by an Iraqi stringer who, whether you believe he was innocent or guilty, has more than enough reason to hate the American Marines.

    Additionally, al-Mashhadani shares a last name with the head of the Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani; Hammurabi is the group that first brought the supposed Haditha "massacre" to Time's attention. Sweetness and Light notes this may not mean much, if it's a tribal name; but the reporter sharing an unusual last name with his primary source should have been investigated by Time before running the story... if only to add "no relation to," if that's the case.

  • Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, the Haditha doctor who claims to have examined the bodies of the victims of Haditha and claims that they were all "shot in the chest and the head -- from close range" also claims to have himself been tortured by U.S. Marines back in October. Again, regardless whether this is true or false, if he actually believes it, it gives him ample reason to very much want to find that the Marines executed innocent people in November. (And if he doesn't really believe it, but he's saying it anyway, that's even worse.)

(Hat tip for the above to Little Green Footballs, and to commenter MTF, who first brought this to our attention in the comments of another post on this blog. Thanks, both!)

This must be set against the background of a previous claim of American forces -- soldiers, this time -- "massacring" innocent women and children in Ishaqi (north of Baghdad)... a claim that has now been emphatically refuted by a U.S. military investigation of the incident:

U.S. officials described a nighttime raid aimed at finding a specific guerrilla, who then fled the building but was later caught.

U.S. forces at the site began taking direct fire from the building, and the commander at the scene "appropriately reacted by incrementally escalating the use of force from small arms fire to rotary wing aviation, and then to close air support, ultimately eliminating the threat."

A defense official said an AC-130 gunship was called in to help.

As with the Haditha incident, local police forces and local "civilians" (scare-quotes because we really don't know, do we?) had claimed that the troops intentionally massacred the victims at Ishaqi:

Police in Ishaqi [said] five children, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up.

They said all the victims were shot in the head, and that the bodies, with hands bound, were dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Television footage showed the bodies in a morgue. Their wounds were not clear, although one infant had a gaping head wound.

This sounds eerily reminiscent of what is claimed about Haditha; but it turns out to be a complete fabrication. Which is not, of course, evidence that the Marines behaved appropriately at Haditha; we await the forensic evidence to draw any conclusions about that.

But these three points together do make the case that eyewitness testimony and even "expert" opinion are not necessarily as reliable in a country like Iraq, with its tribal affiliations and serious terrorism problem, as they might be in a more civilized country with more institutional safeguards against officials and witnesses simply making stuff up, either due to collusion or because they have been threatened into doing so by the very people who benefit most from these charges: Musab Zarqawi's "al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia" organization.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 2, 2006, at the time of 5:21 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I mentioned in another post that the US pays relatives of victims. That is a motive. I have no idea if these charges are true or false, but I have to say that in a country like Iraq where violence is the only way they seem to understand to settle disputes, it is impossible to know when we are dealing with the truth and vendetta.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 5:35 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Does graduating from Berkeley in 1974 impeach the objectivity and credibility of a magazine writer? If it does, then Time's Tim McGirk is impeachable on that basis. Just kidding. Sort of.

He's an interesting fellow: born in Columbia (CIA parent?-- I mean who else was in Bogota in 1952?); studied journalism at Berkeley; found himself in Iran for the fall of the Shah (writing for whom?); an adult life subsequently spent mostly overseas; wrote for Time of a cordial Thanksgiving 2001 dinner shared with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan; recently spent several years as the Time bureau chief in the always dangerous Islamabad, and now is johnny-on-the-spot in Haditha.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 6:14 PM

The following hissed in response by: Sachi


Chalabi lied about many things in the past. Why should you start believing him now? I never trusted that old raccoon, (sorry Japanese expression:meaning a man who cannot be trusted.)

The above hissed in response by: Sachi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 7:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

monkyboy, calling Nixon a St. only shows your failure in the thinking dept.
No one calls Nixon a St. but maybe you knew that.
As to coverup: What coverup? The only reason we are hearing ab out this at all is due to the fact it is being investigated. An ivestigation by everyone except democrats is not a coverup.
It would appear that once again the left is fabricating lies out of whole cloth, or is lazily repeating lies about massacres.
The Dan Rather school of journalism has really taken root in the left.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 8:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


swiftboating a nine year old girl....

Does that word actually have a meaning, or is this just another instance of "Spurette's" Syndrome?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2006 10:29 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


I think the point is that the people who are or so eager to hang the Marines are getting out in front of the news cycle in their drooling anticipation of riots, reprisal attacks on our troops, national demorialization, self loathing for all things American and the hope and desire that whatever chance there might be of establishing a democratic Iraq instead of another Arab dictatorship will be forever thwarted. Keep your britches on.

Let me repeat: if these Marines did anything wrong then they will be in very very big trouble from their own.

But in light of the Museum looting that was a not a looting and numerous other screwups on part of the gullible press I suggest we take a wait and see attitude.

As for coverup. We have heard about this on CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, C-span, from Reuters, AP, out of the mouths of numerous commentators, politicians, and God knows who else. I would say that was a pretty unsuccessful coverup.

And the remarks about swiftboating a nine year old girl are really dumb. She is a kid.

I remember when 27 children were killed by a terrorists when they were taking candy from American soldiers. If the Cindy Sheehan branch of the Democrat party got outraged about it, I missed it.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 4:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

I was watching some drivel on PBS last night, where they were using a computer generated cartoon to show how the evil Marines allegedly did what they allegedly did. A few thoughts came to mind. One is that if it was a coverup, it is remarkable that the MSM was able to use the Marine report to genrate their cartoon. The other was in the form of a question: When the Al Qaeda and other terrorists blow up a school bus of kids as the goal of their strategy, do the terrorists face punishment or praise from their peers?
That great patriots like monkyboy refuse to admit the difference is telling. It is clear Murtha lied when he claimed that the Marines shot the place up in cold blood, even from the MSM claims about this incident: it was a multi-hour fire fight, not a cold blooded slaughter.
But even if the Marines lost it in this incident and slaughtered everyonbe exactly as Murtha and monkyboy and so many great Americans gleefully hope, I would then ask this: Does it help the troops to make this the center piece of the war? Does it make them closer to victory? Does it help the Iraqis to set up a civil society? Does it help suppress Al Qaeda? Since the answer to all of those questions is 'no', I then ask: What is your motive in obsessing on this? Al Qaeda deliberately slaughters more innocents by specific strategy than died here on many days. If you care aboutthe Iraqis, monkyboy and you other great patriots, then where is your daily outrage for those murders? Under saddam's tyranny, the average death rate of Iraqis by Baathist actions agaisnt their own people was much higher than what allegedly happened at Haditha. Yet monkyboy and the other great Americans were silent about saddam. And in fact most of the dem leadership voted against even removing him from Kuwait in 1990/91.
So save the bilge and the false outrage, you great patriots. You only care about this becuase you can make false claims of coverup and use it to hurt the troops and endanger Americans.
your pitiful moral stance is transparent and empty.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 6:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

This whole thing bothers me not a bit. The Marines are honorable, and unafraid of facing up to their shortcomings-- in fact, we all know they will fiercely pursue the truth of this matter, and those Marines who can't live up to their institutional ideals will be dealt with as the situation warrants. The truth will out. Can the same things be said of their desperate accusers? No, of course not.

The press is a tool of our enemy. We have Zarqawi's own testimony to that fact. That is what should be remembered here. That is what is most important.

A free press will eventually reassert itself, but not now and maybe not for a long time. For now, this is a disinformation effort, playing to the fake moralists among us. We are at war and these despicable efforts are an effort to divide us from our warriors. I care not about Haditha. I trust the Marine Corps.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 6:53 AM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

A couple of things crossed my mind when I first heard of this .

1. Haditha has been under the almost total control of "the insurgents" for almost a year. True that it was "taken back" for a period of time, but as soon as our troops left, they moved back in.

2. There has been little comment on the ROE. In those rules, it states that if the troops think that their lives are in mortal danger they can initiate offensive action and measures.

3. When I read that an Iraqi (or Iraqis) determined that the "civilians" were all "shot", I said to myself, really, shot by whom and when? It's not difficult to get American weapons and ammo in Iraq. You can buy them, steal them or borrow them.
If they "were shot" were they shot before or after the incident? Remember this is an area where the "insurgents" are in control and have the local population scared to death. People that fear for their lives and their children's lives will say and do anything.

Now, just yesterday, its being reported that the families of the "murdered" will not give the U.S. permission to examine the bodies.

Someone should explain to the "murdered" victims families that if they don't allow them to be examined, the defense lawyers are going to contend that there is "no proof that they were shot or by what, or when". Maybe they have been watching CSI and know that we can determine if they were already dead when they were shot,and by what caliber ammo. Your guess is as good as mine.

One footnote: A person can be killed by concussion from a nearby explosion. Sometimes, there is no outward evidence of injury.

The comments on how the left, democrats, socialists, euroweenies, insurgents and terrorists (and others) are going to make the most out of this and that it will undermine or worse our long war (forget about Iraq) are not only true but understated. This willingness of half the world (it seems) to undermine and demonize America is going full blast while we lose this media battle in everyway by letting it happen and not fighting back. Where are the law suits and the public outcry at the crap that the media prints and broadcasts?

Now, our Warriors will be reduced to not fighting back, even if they are being fired upon, for fear of going to prison and being disgraced and called a murderer.

As my Dad used to say, "Things have gone to hell in a handbasket".

Papa Ray
West Texas

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 7:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

The likes of Monkeyboy and his ilk have never supported our troops in this WOT. Their continuing hatred for GW have consumed them.
My "sources" say otherwise:

Iraq War Ending Soon

Breaking News! The War in Iraq is ending. Insurgents are calling it quits.

Beaten down by coalition forces (primarily US and British forces) and world public opinion, Al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and most of the major insurgents are surrendering their arms and calling for a truce.

Sources say the unexpected turn-around has been attributed to the formally spineless left wing of the democratic party in the United States, who's admitted agenda has been their hatred for President Bush and the total lack of support for the men and women who have fought this war against terrorism in the middle east. That has changed.

Sources say that the change of heart/mind originated from the relationship of both partys of congress last month when Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hassert were caught holding hands on an issue. It can now be said that the "Jefferson Bribe" has led to the full support of our armed forces on the war on terrorism. The sudden change and full support led to the sane leaders of the world to put the shameful and indiscriminate murder of innocent women and children by suicidal/homicidal terrorist in prespective.

Sources also said that movie director Micheal Moore said the outright filming of actual body parts of men,women, and children torn apart by the senseless and indiscriminate bombings contributed to the world opinion that the terrorist had no ground to stand on. Moore said the relationship between Hassert and Pelosi moved him so much, he put aside his outright hatred for George Bush and decided to film the carnage.

Other sources say that the decision of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to give their unanimous support to the war on terrorism, (and to approve putting President Bush's bust on Mt. Rushmore), also contributed to the change of world opinion.

My sources also say that the letter/email sent by Markos (of the DailyKos)to Vice President Richard Cheney that he could not stand by and let one more of our military people be murdered by the Islamofascist killers of the innocent, he was willing to set aside his personal feelings for our leadership and give his full support to the war against Al Qaeda , Osama bin Laden , al-Zarqawi, et al.

The left wing of the blogosphere followed Marko's lead and contributed to the downfall of the insurgents.

All of this because two people decided to hold hands on an issue they felt was more important than their party affiliation. And that issue led to further talks about how to end the war on terrorism.

History may not be so kind to the "incident" called "Jefferson-Gate". But good things do come out of tragedies. To think a tiny nation in Africa (that needed to "nud$e" a congressman) that led to a temporary stability and sane awakening in the world is just beyond comprehension.

Now we can bring our troops home with pride.

God Bless America

In other news, oil prices dropped to a five year low, hitting $32.50/barrel as OPEC decided their days were also numbered. With full congessional support for a ten year plan to end dependency on petroleum products, most of the oil producing nations have decided to produce as much of the product as possible before they begin capping their wells. Venezuela and Iran hardest hit by the down-turn.

Bin Laden has assumed room temperature.


Do I really have to call this a satire?


The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 9:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Last August when those Marines were ambushed in Haditha, their weapons were taken. I wonder who has them now?

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 12:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: Papa Ray

"eyewitness testimony and even "expert" opinion are not necessarily as reliable in a country like Iraq, with its tribal affiliations and serious terrorism problem,"

This is in a difference local, but with somewhat the same type country. Read what locals think about the "bad" Americans. About the "eyewitness" testimony and what the Afgan rumor mill will do to an incident..

The above hissed in response by: Papa Ray [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 12:54 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Now, we have the BBC piling on with more reports of atrocities at Ishaqi (already flatly denied by the Pentagon).

The press is moving rapidly towards complete dhimmitude.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 5:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Re: monkyboy at June 3, 2006 06:30 PM

> I don't think the Iraqi people will be
> as forgiving as the Pentagon.

We don't know if these Marines need to be locked up, or apologized to, yet. America's mainstream press is so gullible, and so anxious to find fault with the military, it's hard to tell what the real story is at this point.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 8:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


Considering what the Iraqi people do to each other on a daily basis I have not gotten the impression they are all that soft and fuzzy about violence.

And you know what? In all the polls the most consistent concern is for the Iraqis is security and often as not the Iraqis complain that the Americans are not tough enough with terrorists and their sympathizers.

But hey, go ahead and jump on the Marines. It is the cool thing to do.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 6:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Why is is that the antiwar people never have a problem with terrorists hiding among civilians?

They act as if it is the most normal thing in the world to lay out a roadside bomb, wait for it to blow up when the humvee goes by, start shooting at the troops when they roll out and then run and hide behind a group of small children when the soldiers return fire.

Meanwhile there is some guy who just happens to have a video camera standing there waiting to take pictures of dead people.

And if some local should to warn the soldiers these insurgents, these freedom fighters, will not only kill him...they will kill his family. And it seems that is ok fine. No problem.

The monkyboys of the world only have a problem when the US military might be at fault. If you are anyone from Saddam to Zarqawi to Sadr however, the monkybys will kiss your butt. Or so it seems to this observer.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 6:26 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

"Calling in an AC-130 "Wedding Crasher" to level a house full of kids is a curious way to be speading democracy in Iraq, MTF.

I don't think the Iraqi people will be as forgiving as the Pentagon."

MB, if America walks away from this war the Iraqi people will be a helluva lot less forgiving of that terrible fact than of any one wartime horror. The last thing any of them want to do is return to fascism, especially and non-sensically only to avoid accidents of the war of liberation. The Iraqis will pay a tremendous price if we leave them in the lurch. Have you no humanity?

Incredibly, the anti-war side in America seems to have convinced themselves we can leave Iraq, and avoid confrontation with Iran, without paying any price, just as they seem to assume the Iraqis will pay no price. Wasn't 9/11 enough of a warning for you? You need more such warnings?

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 7:49 AM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

monkyboy, banished left wingnut troll from CQ:

The terrorists are civilians by definition, so this harping about civilians means nothing. I believe a story in the National Enquirer about space aliens more than this left wingnut propaganda hit piece by the Democrat party house "news" organs.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 11:22 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I'm not following the logic here...

At last, a position where I can agree with you.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 3:55 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


That was stupid. I tell you what, let's give Iraq back to Saddam. He can get back to the business of starving and killing and torturing his people.

I don't get it, the anti war people love the Iraqi people so much they want the US to pull out and let the head hackers take over. That way in ten years when the place looks live Afghanistan did in 1992 they can bitch about us leaving. Strange logic.

For years I listened to liberals bitch and moan and whine that the US did not do anything to help those people and then when the US did they bitched and moaned about that.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 3:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye


That is ridiculous. If that were happening do you think this would be news? Do you think it would be such a big deal when a building gets hit or 2 dozen civilians died if we made a habit of this kind of thing?

I know you hate the military and have no faith in this country but considering our fire power if we were half as vicious and cold blooded as you obviously believe we are we could have obliterated that place a long time ago. Why do you think the Germans and Japanese were easier to occupy? Are they weaker? More cowardly? No, it was because the Allies totally defeated them. We do not fight like that anymore. We are too concerned about civilians.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 8:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Terrye

As for the remark about firing on a building because of who might be in it, I have one word for you: WACO.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 4, 2006 8:10 PM

The following hissed in response by: The Yell

more Deep Thinks from the monkyman

"You support the war...well...PEOPLE GOT DEAD! What's up with THAT?"

The above hissed in response by: The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 5, 2006 12:03 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

Given how long after the event it now is I don't know if you'll see this Dafydd, but Powerline pointed out this article today, summarizing the work Sweetness and Light has done so far on the Haditha story. It's well worth reading.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 7:31 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Thanks, I'll definitely read it.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 7:48 AM

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