Mary Katharine Ham

This has been the big story of the day, and I haven't been able to sit down and think about it until now.

First, for anyone who thinks I wish to allege that there is no violence in Iraq, that everything is hunky-dory, and the press is making up all the bad stuff, please be advised that this was the first thing I read on Iraq this morning, and the bleak perspective from my favorite pessimist was going to be a linked must-read on this blog today, regardless.

Read it.

Bush and conservative supporters of the war in Iraq are often accused of not facing up to the reality on the ground, attempting to paint a rosier picture than that which exists, maintaining blindspots for sectarian violence, and outright lying about conditions in-country.

But is it any wonder that we wonder whether the all-bad, all-the-time story we're getting out of Iraq is completely trustworthy? Here are the basics.

This weekend, this horrific story of sectarian violence in Iraq made the international rounds. It originated with the AP, and continues to spread into other MSM reports, like this Lebanon Daily Star piece:

In one attack, black-clad gunmen grabbed six Sunnis as they left worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near an Iraqi Army post.

The attacks were an apparent reprisal for the attacks in Sadr City the day before.

Later reports, however, seemed to suggest no one could verify the horrific story:

The U.S. military said Saturday that Iraqi soldiers securing the Hurriyah area had found only one burned mosque and could not confirm reports that six Sunni civilians had been burned to death with kerosene.

Curt at Flopping Aces figured out that it was on the sole account of one Capt. Jamil Hussein with the Iraqi Army that the "burned alive" story became an international fact.

The only person stating that this incident happened was one Capt. Jamil Hussein. Every news report printed this man as the source of the information.

If you do a search for this name you come up with ten pages of pretty much the same article describing the burning six.

Trying to dig up some information on this man as we speak.

CENTCOM and Curt dug this up (scroll down to "BIG UPDATE"):

Dear Associated Press:...

We at Multi-National Corps - Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. 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 employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city’s Yarmouk police station, does not work at that police station and is also not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP. The MOI has supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning.

I know we have informed you that there exists an MOI edict that no one below the level of chief is authorized to be an Iraqi Police spokesperson. An unauthorized IP spokesperson will get fired for talking to the media. While I understand the importance of a news agency to use anonymous and unauthorized sources, it is still incumbent upon them to make sure their facts are straight. Was this information verified by anyone else? If the source providing the information is lying about his name, then he ought not to be represented as an official IP spokesperson and should be listed as an anonymous source.

Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was. MNC-I and MNF-I are always available and willing to verify events and provide as much information as possible when asked.

He's not who he says he is, he's not an Iraqi police officer, the AP's been using his quotes for months, and CENTCOM had already informed AP of another fake Iraqi Police Spokesman whose statements they were taking at face value. You'd think that revelation might have inspired them to be more careful with these sources.

I'll add more to this later, but I wanted to get the basics out there. Read the links, click through. They are not being responsible.

 


Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of HotAir.com, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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