The U.S.-based Website FloppingAces (floppingaces.net) has published an email from MNCI to the AP that states "no one below the level of chief is authorized to be an Iraqi police spokesperson." The email also addresses the story of the Sunnis being burned alive: "... neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. ... 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 (Ministry of the Interior) employee." The letter is attributed to U.S. Navy Lt. Michael Dean.
I contacted CENTCOM's Baghdad press office and received an email confirming that Hussein is not a policeman nor does he work for Iraq's MOI.
FloppingAces noted that the AP has quoted "Jamil Hussein" in at least eight stories since April 2006.
So who is Jamil?
At this point we really don't know. The AP hasn't provided definitive details. Jamil's "burning Sunnis" story now appears to be rather dubious smoke. However, its horrifying headline has magnified a perception of sectarian terror, one advantageous to Saddam's "former regime elements" and al-Qaida terrorists.
MNCI could be wrong, but the distinct possibility exists that the AP has been misled by its own stringers or duped by an enemy propaganda operation. If Jamil is another "Jimmy," the AP's story -- as a weapon in a war of perception -- is far more damaging than Janet Cooke's Washington fiction.
Jamil and his various stories require investigation and substantiation; an AP self-investigation will strike many as inadequate. Twenty-five years ago, The New York Times dismissed the National News Council as unnecessary. "Jimmy's World" proved the Times wrong. We need to revive the National News Council -- and have it investigate "Jamil's World" muy pronto.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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