I'm going to make a flat out statement with which many of you will disagree. WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING IN IRAQ.
In spite of the news anchors, talk show hosts, bloggers extraordinaire, news magazines, cable networks and politicians, all of whom CLAIM to know the facts, WE DON'T HAVE A CLUE.
Two weeks ago the Iraq Study Group painted a very gloomy picture. Many pundits, bloggers and glitterati trumpeted the report as if it were the word of god, handed down from the mountain.
The only question left unanswered was which came first, the gloom or the doom.
But, somewhere in the background that very same week, Col. Oliver North, a conservative zealot to be certain, reporting for right leaning Fox News, began a series of reports from Iraq's absolutely worst hotzones. North is embedded with the troops, an increasingly rare vantage point. And he's outside of Bagdad, in Ambar Province and later in the city of Ramadi.
And his reports, almost all interviews with U.S. troops from privates to generals, is decidedly upbeat. Progress is being made. Iraqi's are taking control. Police forces are working. Violence is dropping. U.S. troops are taking a step back.
It's old fashioned reporting. Four years ago every network was doing it. Talk to the troops. Let them wish loved ones back home a Merry Christmas. Give them a much deserved pat on the back. All pretty much out of style in 2006.
Other networks turn up their noses. Only FOX and Ollie North are cheerleaders this Christmas.
Objective? No, not really. Fair and balanced? Nope.
Pro Bush? Yep. Pro U.S. troops? Absolutely.
While George Stephanopoulos treasures the dead each week, Ollie North treasures the living.
The other networks, newspapers and news magazines don't have the time for old fashioned troop support. There's hard news to report. They've got a civil war to cover. Sectarian violence. Murders. Kidnappings. Torture. Bagdad is burning.
Bagdad is burning. The reporters, safe in their Green Zone Hotels, can smell the smoke.
The violence increases daily. On November 24th, the Associated Press (AP) reported the most horrific violence yet. Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein told the AP that Shia thugs in Baghdad "grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near Iraqi soldiers who did not intervene."
Twelve Mosques were burned. Payback for earlier violence against the Shia's was hell on earth for innocent Sunnis. Steven R. Hurst, writing for the Associated Press, reports,
|BAGHDAD — The attack on the small Mustafa Sunni mosque began as worshippers were finishing Friday midday prayers. About 50 unarmed men, many in black uniforms and some wearing ski masks, walked through the district chanting "We are the Mahdi Army, shield of the Shiites."|
Fifteen minutes later, two white pickups, a black BMW and a black Opel drove up to the marchers. The suspected Shiite militiamen took automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from the vehicles. They then blasted open the front of the mosque, dragged six worshippers outside, doused them with kerosene and set them on fire.
This account of one of the most horrific alleged attacks of Iraq's sectarian war emerged Tuesday in separate interviews with residents of a Sunni enclave in the largely Shiite Hurriyah district of Baghdad.
The Associated Press first reported on Friday's incident that evening, based on the account of police Capt. Jamil Hussein and Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, who told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were soaked in kerosene, then set afire, burning before his eyes.
You'll remember this incident because it was so widely covered. It led the news reports. Civil War in Iraq was no longer a concept that could be debated. Civil War was a reality.
But there is one little problem. This might never have actually happened. This widely reported and often repeated story might actually have a whole lot less credibility than Col. Oliver North's cheer leading reports from Ambar.
Almost immediately the U.S. military liaisons questioned the report. They could not confirm it ever happened. The the Iraqi government denied the report. And finally the Iraqi's denied that there was ever anyone named Capt. Jamil Hussein in any branch of the Iraqi government, armed forces or police.
|However, the U.S. military said in a letter to the AP late Monday, three days after the incident, that it had checked with the Iraqi Interior Ministry and was told that no one by the name of Jamil Hussein works for the ministry or as a Baghdad police officer. Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, signed the letter, a text of which was published subsequently on several Internet blogs. The letter also reiterated an earlier statement from the U.S. military that it had been unable to confirm the report of immolation...|
...The U.S. military said that neither police nor coalition forces had reports of such an incident.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry later said that al-Hashimi, the Sunni elder in Hurriyah, had recanted his account of the attack after being visited by a representative of the defense minister...
The AP has stood by it's story.... sort of. But they've back peddled every day. And they can't seem to produce Capt. Hussein. The story has virtually fallen apart.
Hussein is likely a Sunni plant. For over two years he supplied stories to the AP that depicted horrific violence against Sunni's, but never a single incident of violence against Shiites. And the AP was duped.
The real problem is that the supposedly real reporters are trapped in the Green Zone. They are highly visible targets and their lives are in danger. They rely on Iraqi stringers. Sources can't be checked.
Bloggers who first broke the story are now traveling to Iraq in search of the elusive Capt. Hussein.
But where is the truth in all this? Oliver North claims progress, real progress, is being made. Is it possible he and the U.S. troops he interviews are telling the truth?
Or is Capt. Jamil Hussein just as real as the AP has claimed? Is Iraq in the throws of Civil War? Is the violence he reported (and virtually everyone covered without any question or confirmation) real? Or is it just partisan propaganda? Point and counterpoint to North's cheer leading?
We don't know because in this war truth is not just a victim, it's the sworn enemy of each faction. Every player in this drama has a reason to suppress the truth.
Sunni's plant stories. Shiites plant stories. The Iraqi Government has its message. The U.S. military orchestrates entire docu-dramas.
Politicians carefully paint partisan pictures.
And even the networks, newspapers and newsmagazines have agendas.
Holding reporters in the Green Zone serves everyone's interests.
Don't just wag the dog. Put on an entire dog and pony show. Just don't let any reporters actually look behind the stage.
Any reporters who might like to do their jobs are held captive in the Green Zone auditorium, unable to venture out beyond its walls, unable to trust anyone or anything, least of all what they see on stage.
The Truth is Out There.
Trust No One.
Save the Cheerleader, Save the World.
A Tip of the Wizard's Pointy Cap to Michelle Malkin, whose reporting on this issue was invaluable to me, even though she might disagree with my conclusions. Michelle is now planning to travel to Iraq in further pursuit of this story.
Click for an UPDATE from USA TODAY on the Capt. Hussein and Michelle Malkin portion of this story
TECHNORATI TAGS: THE IRAQ REPORT STUDY GROUP REPORT IRAQ OLIVER NORTH CAPT. JAMIL HUSSEIN FOX NEWS GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS PRESIDENT BUSH SUNNI ISLAM SHIITE
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