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flydye45
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quote:
The AP's Jamil Hussein Scandal
Controversy Will Haunt the AP Until It Does What is Right

By EASON JORDAN Posted 23 hr. 32 min. ago

If an Iraqi police captain by the name of Jamil Hussein exists, there is no convincing evidence of it - and that means the Associated Press has a journalistic scandal on its hands that will fester until the AP deals with it properly.

This controversy and the AP's handling of it call into question the credibility, integrity, and smarts of one of the world's biggest, most influential, most respected news organizations, the New York-based Associated Press.

The back story: On November 24, the AP quoted Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein as the source of a sensational AP story that began this way:

"Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by."

It was a horrific report that was an AP exclusive - a story picked up and reported by news outlets across the U.S. and the world.

The U.S. military and Iraqi officials were quick to call the story baseless, saying there was no evidence that six Sunnis were burned to death in Hurriya and that there was no record of an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein. The U.S. military and the Iraqi government demanded the AP retract the story and explain itself.

The AP fired back with at least three strong statements defending the initial AP report and provided a follow-up report from Baghdad quoting anonymous witnesses as confirming the original immolation story.

In the absence of irrefutable evidence that Captain Hussein exists and that the original AP report was accurate, bloggers and a few mainstream media journalists kept plugging away in an effort to get to the truth about whether there is a Captain Hussein and whether six Sunnis were burned alive that day.

Five weeks after the disputed episode, key questions remain unanswered, but what is clear is the AP has botched its handling of this controversy - and it's not going away until the AP deals with it forthrightly and transparently.
*
*
*
To make matters worse, Captain Jamil Hussein was a key named source in more than 60 AP stories on at least 25 supposed violent incidents over eight months.

Until this controversy is resolved, every one of those AP reports is tainted.

Reuters handled a similar problem this year, and did it correctly, pulling all potentially tainted photographs.

The AP is...less forthright. Now this does not prove that Iraq is a bed of roses, but as Newsweek taught us, questionable reports of atrocities make great copy, poor truth and bad business.

Lacking revealing Mr. Hussein, they should at least verify that there were six bodies burned to death during that time. Any support would make this go away. AFAIK, none of this has happened except for attacking the questioners.

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Eric
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I've been following this story since late November, and it's not going away. AP's done nothing but stonewall when questioned about it, and they look worse the more time passes.

Agencies like AP and Reuters have a unique responsibility in the media in that they're essentially wholesalers of news product. When big papers like NY Times, Washington Post, etc. publish their stories, the stories are assumed to have already been vetted, fact-checked and scrubbed for accuracy.

How many millions of people read that story about the alleged four burned mosques and six Sunnis burned alive and have no idea the story may not at all be true?

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Pete at Home
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You know, I think that I defended Rumsfeld for so long, not because of the way that he was handling our nation's enemies, but because I was so delighted to see someone giving the press what they deserve. Making them squirm when they asked stupid questions. Trapping them in their own dishonesty.

As fun as I had watching Rummy's press conferences, I can't help wonder if those antics didn't help drive them into the arms of the terrorists, if only to take him down. The fourth estate has truly become the fifth collumn in this war. Constitutionally, I'm not sure there's much the government can or should do. But when people die because the press is lying or stretching the truth, I don't think the bloggers should pull any punches. Words like "collaborator" exist for a reason.

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LetterRip
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I haven't followed this story but did just spend quite a bit of time searching, reading through blogs etc.

here is an NYT piece on the 1st of December

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/12/01/peering-through-a-foggy-war-in-iraq/

here is piece by AP on the 8th of December

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003494742

What sources have since attempted to verify things? Only the AP appears to have claimed boots on the ground investigation with multiple collaborations. The NYT piece suggests they made some phone calls and didn't hear enough rumours to consider it credible.

The Iraqi military had a patrol in the area at one time that verified a molotov cocktail in one mosque that they had put out by the fire department at around that time.

http://www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7540&Itemid=21

For myself - I have no idea if we can trust the reports from the Iraqi government or military on such issues since groups within both have been complicit in such behavior. (edit - in particular the original story accussed the iraqi army of being present at some of the actions and doing nothing - which means that we should at least be skeptical of the Iraqi Armys report regarding actions they are being accused of being a part of)

One blogger claimed to have Iraqi contacts who had found two Jamail Husseins (not Jamil - but apparently Jamail and Jamil are sometimes used interchangably) working as Iraqi police (one in Abu Ghraib, and one at one of the police stations mentioned).

http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009292.php

Also here is the report on 11/28 by USA today

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2006-11-28-iraq-fire_x.htm

My personal view is that I would like an independent source to verify that status of the mosques in the area and to find and interview Jamail Hussien and visit the area and seek to interview others from that location.

I don't think there is enough evidence right now to state with any certainty that the event did or did not take place exaclty as descibed. The reasoning in the NYT makes sense to me, thus I would have expected him to hear outrage from his sources regarding immolations and attacks on mosques - but then his sources appear to have not confirmed the molotov attack that was confirmed on one mosque which also I would have had quite a significant impact - which may just mean the NYT has inadequate sources in the area.

edit - according to a post here

quote:
[...] Times of London account relating the same events with different eyewitness quotes.
http://patterico.com/2006/12/19/5547/takeaway-points-from-marc-danzigers-post/

LetterRip

[ January 03, 2007, 05:10 AM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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Eric
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LR --

You need to read all the posts from Winds of Change...you posted the one from 12/17. Read the others from 12/18 and 12/19.

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flydye45
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There are several problems both ways. A Sunni Elder and Capt Cipher whom I assume is a Sunni, both have their own incentives to lie. The AP reports that they canvased the neighborhood and found "lots of support" for the story. Who? I know, no one wants to be identified.

Where are the corpses? In a terrible (i.e. inspiring terror) atrocity, leaving the corpses would be much more effective then making them disappear. Only a few people would see the act. Many more could see the corpses.

Additionally, the AP has not addressed the destroyed mosque stories, which should give them pause. Jamil's veracity is based on the weakest of his stories and one is already teetering.

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DaveS
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Maybe there is something fishy here, but this is a relatively small story in the larger scope of the widespread atrocities that happen day after day in Iraq.

Let's go further and say that the AP printed a false story and won't correct themselves. But, let's not go too far. PaH enjoyed watching the press squirm under Rummy's foot. Did he also enjoy when Rummy dissembled and lied and the press couldn't force him to admit it because Rummy diverted attention to amuse himself and PaH by making them squirm?

Fly started this thread out of a sense of outrage about press excesses in reporting atrocities and glorifying those acts. Let's see if we can share the outrage across the board. Is he equally outraged by the dozens of assassinations and murders that happen every day but probably go unreported because the press can't go out into the city and elsewhere because their lives would be at risk? More members of the press have been murdered in Iraq over past few years than in any previous war in modern history.

The only way this story makes sense as news is if it is part of conspiracy by the press to misrepresent events in Iraq. If it's an isolated or relatively uncommon reporting floof, who cares? Fly offers that "... this does not prove that Iraq is a bed of roses", but he should be more direct and tell us what it does prove to him.

[ January 03, 2007, 11:17 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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Wayward Son
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Well said, Dave. [Smile]
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DaveS
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For reference, here is one (2002) of Rummy's most famous squirmations that cuts deeply both ways:
quote:
Q: In regard to Iraq weapons of mass destruction and terrorists, is there any evidence to indicate that Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction? Because there are reports that there is no evidence of a direct link between Baghdad and some of these terrorist organizations.

Rumsfeld: Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones. And so people who have the omniscience that they can say with high certainty that something has not happened or is not being tried, have capabilities that are -- what was the word you used, Pam, earlier?...


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Eric
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quote:
The only way this story makes sense as news is if it is part of conspiracy by the press to misrepresent events in Iraq.
Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that "Capt. Jamil Hussein" is actually a Sunni insurgent or a sympathizer. It suits his agenda to feed "news" to AP that depicts an ongoing Shi'ite slaughter of Sunnis. This isn't hard to imagine since every one of his statements to AP have been on incidents of Shi'a violence against Sunnis.

AP, in their role as a wholesaler of news product to media outlets around the world has a responsibility to make sure the product they provide is 100% accurate.

If their sole source for 61 reports of Shi'ite-on-Sunni violence is questioned by not just a bunch of conservative bloggers but a growing number of mainstream media figures, don't you think that's news?

I don't really believe there's a "conspiracy" of any kind. I think it's much more likely that AP has been serially duped and is now in damage control mode.

While Kathleen Carroll (AP's executive director) has been steadfast in her defense of Jamil Hussein, there's been not one AP story with him named as a source since this thing broke near the end of November.

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DaveS
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quote:
there's been not one AP story with him named as a source since this thing broke near the end of November.
Caution given their inability to resolve the controversy or further evidence of their corruption?
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Eric
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To AP's credit, I'd say it's caution. Like I said, I don't think AP is guilty of anything more than being duped by someone with an agenda.

Here's another possibility...Jamil Hussein is a real person using an assumed name for his own protection when he speaks with AP.

My real problem has been with AP's "FU" response to people who've been asking them legitimate questions.

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DaveS
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I hadn't thought of the possibility that JH wants to stay under cover. That is independent of whether he is an honest source or not.
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flydye45
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Yes Dave, I am not outraged at the dozens of murders or assassinations in Iraq. I also support child hunger, colonial oppression and kicking puppies. [Roll Eyes] For the record, my kids would LOVE for me to support child hunger tonight.

I heard 50 people were killed in Iraq the other day. There are 350 missing from the daily daily requirement for Lancet figures to be accurate. I suppose they are in Kenmeer's new franchise "Mass Graves R' Us". If I could only buy shovel stock in Iraq, my fortune would be made with all these undiscovered and hidden corpses dotting the landscape. [Wink] Including, it seems, the 6 burned corpses.

Dave, one wrong story is bad. Ask Newsweek. But Captain Nobody is responsible for 25 or more. What is the effect of 25 overblown stories on your perception of Iraq? This has less to do with conspiracy then mindset. If AP reporter Honeydew is sure that Iraq is a disaster, her reports will reflect that, the stories she believes will reflect that, and that perception gets passed along to everyone not able to check things out personally, including here.

Here is a piece further down on the 12/19 link above which addresses the problem of mindset in another venue:

quote:
I happen to think that this particular story - and the other stories - coming out of Iraq matter a lot because our policies on the war will be driven by our perceptions which are in turn driven by - the stories we read. My reply to Andrew started this way (with some amendations):

The problem, Andrew, is [we don't know] whether [Iraq is] hell on earth or heck (or Beaumont, Texas); that's the point I keep trying to raise and that keeps getting slapped aside.
I spoke with Greg Sergeant today about all this, and we had a friendly chat in which I tried to explain why it is that one reported tragedy like this matters so much (and why the aggregation of small tragedies matters so much) and I asked if he'd ever heard of Karen Toshima.
He hadn't so let me explain here.

I did a fast experiment - someone with Lexis-Nexis could do better - and searched the LA Times website archive (which has stories searchable since 1/1/1985) and looked for some word combinations...

Mentions of 'gang murder' in the L.A. Times in 1987: 297
Mentions of 'gang killing' in the L.A. Times in 1987: 192

Mentions of 'gang murder' in the L.A. Times in 1989: 649
Mentions of 'gang killing' in the L.A. Times in 1989: 435

Annual increase (both terms summed) from 1987 to 1989: 121.68%

Mentions of 'murder' in 1987: 3,893
Mentions of 'killing' in 1987: 3,585

Mentions of 'murder' in 1989: 5,686
Mentions of 'killing' in 1989: 5,117

Annual increase (terms summed): 44.46%

The underlying numbers look like this:

Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1987: 975

Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1989: 1,053

Annual Increase: 4.0%

Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1987: 387

Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1989: 554

Annual Increase: 21.5%

Note that the increase in gang homicides - 167 - is greater than the increase in the number of total homicides - 78. This suggests the possibility that some homicides that would otherwise have been classified as 'normal' were instead classified as 'gang' - something I'll take up with my law-enforcement friends.

What changed? Why did the coverage go up so much more than the underlying numbers?

Karen Toshima was murdered, that's what changed.

In 1988 in Westwood Village, then the 'Third Street' of Los Angeles, where young upper middle class people went to dine and catch a movie or listen to some music or dance, two gangs opened fire on each other and Long Beach resident Karen Toshima died.

Suddenly in the consciousness of the upper-middle-class of Los Angeles - the class that produces TV news and newspaper columns - gang murders, which had been confined to streetcorners and alleys in South Central and East Los Angeles were vividly real.

And if you lived in Los Angeles then, you locked your doors and bought guns. I must have taken half a dozen friends to the shooting range and then the gun store that year.

For most of the next decade, as gang crime rose, peaked in 1995, and then fell dramatically, the narrative of life in Los Angeles was the omnipresent fear of gang violence.

That fear was fed by sensational media - first news, then movies and television - and it defined and limited life in Los Angeles.

Was gang violence a real issue in Los Angeles before 1988? Of course. Was it something worth spending significant resources on and attempting to suppress? Yes.

But the monomaniacal focus on Los Angeles as the "Gang Capital of the World" created a false impression that Crips and Bloods ruled the streets. Where did that perception come from? From reporting the, like a hip-hop drumbeat, regularly pounded home the point


As was mentioned in some of the above links, at least two of the "4 burned mosques" still seem to be standing, unburned. There is a huge difference between 4 mosques burned to the ground and a molotov cocktail thrown, some spray paint and a few bullet holes. Lest I sound like I am making light of such incidents, I am not. But a drive by at a building is far less of an atrocity then 4 burned buildings.

Are the reporters vetting their sources carefully? I don't know and they aren't allowing any questions. Have they been used by Sunni and/or Shia plants who pass along the sexiest stories? No questions please. If this was the White House, you'd be up in arms. But this is the press, so they get a press pass.

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DaveS
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Fly, this is more than a matter of perception, and you and I disagree about what is happening and what it means because we tend in different directions. I won't raise any facts in this email, because it would only encourage you to cite statistics about Los Angeles or Gary in response [Smile] , two of our more famous cities with high crime rates.

So, let me put it this way: Iraq is a war zone where some of the most egregious atrocities imaginable are taking place. Looking for a escape hatch to get away from recognition of that is very human, but it doesn't give proper respect to the level of carnage that you and I both know is taking place on a daily basis. I don't support any news outlet or talking head distorting things or being careless in their fact-checking, but it seems to me that the willingness to deny the degree of horror taking place there is a disguised statement of support for the war, rather than a sober assessment of the real situation.

Slap AP around as you wish, but don't let it distract you from what you know is happening.

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flydye45
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Which things are you talking about?

There are two stories here and you want to focus on one. As long as we're being honest with ourselves.

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DaveS
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There are always two or more sides. The article you cited was written by someone (Christopher Hitchens) who is well-known for seeing one side (up, sunny) clearly and the other (down, dark and foreboding) only dimly. He wrote an article about war in Iraq entitled "A War to Be Proud Of", in which he said:
quote:
LET ME BEGIN WITH A simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad."

I could undertake to defend that statement against any member of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International, and I know in advance that none of them could challenge it, let alone negate it. Before March 2003, Abu Ghraib was an abattoir, a torture chamber, and a concentration camp. Now, and not without reason, it is an international byword for Yankee imperialism and sadism. Yet the improvement is still, unarguably, the difference between night and day. How is it possible that the advocates of a post-Saddam Iraq have been placed on the defensive in this manner? And where should one begin?

That is definitely taking a sunny position on the argument, but I'm afraid I can't bend over that far. It's close to Mr. Wiggles saying that what happened at Abu Ghraib was no worse than fraternity pranks.
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Eric
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Stop the presses...it appears that Jamil Hussein does exist, after all.
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Jesse
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"BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media."

From Erics Link.

Go, bloggers, go.

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DaveS
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So, JH is real. What I hope everyone will agree on is that the media is the most self-policing public institution our country has. Here's a news blog, IraqSlogger, that takes on the failures of the media to resolve this flap more quickly and directly. It points the finger at itself along the way. If only the government had a similar attitude.

[ January 05, 2007, 05:31 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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Eric
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Fly's original post that started this thread was from the IraqSlogger blog (Eason Jordan's new venture).

Here's the original IS post quoted by Fly.

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DaveS
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Good point, so IraqSlogger is pointing the finger at themselves. Both the original post and the post I cited are good examples of responsible media introspection and accountability. Some media outlets do try to get it right and admit their mistakes in doing so. Let's see how this standard is reflected by Malkin, TownHall, Powerline, NewsBusters, BizzyBlog and others who came down hard on the AP about this. I'm sure everyone here is as intensely interested to know that those sites are as invested in peddling honest information, so I'll keep you posted about any retractions or admissions they post. And let's not forget that the AP didn't hide, they went underground until they could resolve the controversy. I don't always approve of the slant they give the news, either, but they appear to have come out on top on this one.

From the first IraqSlogger story:
quote:
I, therefore, urge the AP to appoint an independent panel to determine the facts about the disputed report, to determine whether Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein exists, and to share the panel's full findings and recommendations with the public.

Until this matter is resolved, the AP's credibility will suffer.

Meantime, IraqSlogger and others will doggedly pursue the truth in this case.

and from the second:
quote:
All the key players in the Jamil Hussein controversy have been sullied in this process.

Iraqi officials and U.S. military spokesmen look foolish for making the mistake of flatly stating in late November that there was no Iraqi police captain by the name of Jamil Hussein. ...

Jamil Hussein made a mistake by waiting six weeks to speak out on this matter...

The AP erred in part by responding in a hot-headed, antagonistic way to questions about the existence of Jamil Hussein and the credibility of AP reports featuring comments from Captain Hussein...

Third parties -- IraqSlogger included -- trying to get to the truth in this matter did not dig aggressively enough to determine the facts because otherwise we seemingly would have discovered proof of Captain Hussein's existence sooner...


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flydye45
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quote:
In IraqSlogger's case, Iraqi police sources told our team in Baghdad both that Captain Hussein did exist and that he did not exist -- flimsy and conflicting circumstantial evidence from less than reliable sources {somehow Capt Hussein is free from this flaw}(information we chose not to report until we could get confirmation, either way, while prompting us in our reporting to leave open the possibility that Captain Hussein was real).

Is Captain Hussein a reliable news source? While we now know he's genuine, he was not an authorized spokesman. His critics, including his Iraqi government bosses and the U.S. military, have challenged the veracity of many of AP reports attributed to him. Many violent incidents reported by Captain Hussein via the AP were not reported by other western news organizations, raising suspicions about whether all those incidents occurred. The controversy likely will linger in this area, with third party reporting being done to determine the accuracy of Captain Hussein's statements to the AP.


I found these to be the two most interesting statements.

The AP writer framed his story as "Americans and Iraqis are quelling freedom of information" instead of asking "why is this guy telling us things no one else can confirm?" Which is the other side of this story. Are Iraqis cracking down on him because they are hiding something or because they don't want the press used by those with their own agendas or with inaccurate or incomplete reports?

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DaveS
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Dunno, good questions. Asking questions is good, but the assumption that whatever we don't know goes against credible explanations is presumptive. As far as I know, no "leftish" blogs are presuming one way or the other. Not so from the right. There may yet be unwelcome discoveries behind this, but what I've seen from TownHall, et al, is "we may have been wrong on the facts, but we're still right." Not a terribly open-minded attitude. As these things go, I suspect they will declare victory, even if they only end up "discovering" that ironclad proof can't be found for every supposed fact in the AP stories. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, as are you, so let's see how it plays out.
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flydye45
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They are not mutually exclusive positions.
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DaveS
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Fly, if 1% of the stories of mayhem and madness turn out to be either false or unable to be substantiated for any of a number of reasons, I predict the Malkin force will declare victory and vindication that their suspicions were well-founded. The AP has filed literally thousands of reports about murders, etc., in Iraq. Does it really matter if some small handful don't pass the smell test? Will it reduce or roll back any of the 3,000 US dead and 20,000 wounded. Will the war suddenly be going well, even though somewhere between 50,000-500,000 Iraqis have died and close to 2,000,000 have been dislocated?

Like I said earlier, this whole "story" is news only if it is the tip of a media conspiracy iceberg to conceal the fact that things are going really well in Iraq. If you reach that conclusion, you might want to borrow a tinfoil hat from Daruma.

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