War is Peace - Freedom is Slavery - Ignorance is Strength

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Liberal Media Watch:

The N.Y. TIMES gives front-page prominence to yet another totally unfounded Iraq Story.

The piece in question here was published on July 11, 2004 at the top of the front page. The headline was "Iraq's Rebellion Develops Signs of Internal Rift - Tactics and Goals Split Iraqis and Foreigners." The basic premise of this story, written by Ian Fisher and Edward Wong, is that native Iraqi resistance fighters may be beggining to oppose or even combat the efforts of foriegn fighters who are operating in Iraq. Now, on a personal level, I have no way of assessing the validity of these claims one way or the other, and the problem with this story is not that it is evidently false. The problem is that this entire piece is based on background briefings from military sources, with some very questionable secondary sources used as window dressing, and in totality the entire things amounts to nothing more than speculation - speculation which happens to perfectly serve a "best case scenario" in which victory in Iraq is at hand.

The sources cited by the authors are as follows: (ordered as they appear)
-"Dhary Rasheed, a professor at the University of Baghdad"
-"a young fighter in Falluja whose relatives hold high positions in the resistance"
-Iyad Allawi (from public statements)
-"[a] 25-year-old Sunni insurgent in Baghdad"
-"Hamid al-Bayati, the deputy foriegn minister"
-"Sheik Abdul-Satar Sattar al-Samarrai, a leader of the Muslim Clerics Association"

The nice little quirk about this story is that none of its primary assertions are actually made by named sources, instead they are all attributed to unnamed "experts," a "senior American military official," and "Arab television and web sites."

The later of those seems to be the real primary basis for the assertions made in this article. In particular the "release of a videotape containing threats to kill Abu Musab Zarqawi" is apparently the most convincing indicator of this so called "rift" in the Iraqi resistance. Additionally, the story cites other website postings that supposedly demonstrate some disagreement amongst fighters over tactics and ideology.

Now, on a personal level, I am not especially impressed by this video - which could have been made by anybody with a ski mask, some robes, and an AK-47. Obviously website postings have even less credibility. But even assuming that these aren't CIA plants, or other self-serving forgeries, one has to ask how the N.Y. Times discovered them in the first place. These postings are, after all, on Arabic websites. Does the Times has Arab speakers who routinely scour the internet, making translations of every message board posting, so that english speaking reporters can analyze and report on them? I doubt it. But one assumes that the U.S. intelligence community does have that kind of operation, and that if a "senior American military official" was doing a background briefing for some reporters, he would be more than happy to provide them with the appropriate documentation supporting whatever story he was trying to sell that day.

What we have then, is a story whose primary assertions are all based upon documentation selectively provided by U.S. inteligence, and an analysis of that documentation that is very obviously self-serving to the U.S. military, and the administration. That is not journalism, it is a reprinted press release, which is unfit for me to wipe my ass with.

[I would link to the story, but unfortunately the TIMES only allows free access to articles published within the last 7 days]

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