Thursday, May 17, 2007

NYT: Cave joins the cast of Scrubs and he can't do it all on his own, he's no Superman

ICCC is reporting that the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war has now reached 3400.

On Saturday, 4 US soldiers were killed (and 1 Iraqi translator) and 3 US soldiers went missing. Apparently in homage to the latter, the New York Times has seen fit to keep the story missing from the front page which, for the record, they do again today. Front page? Paul Wolfowitz, heart surgery, James B. Comey, '08 presidential candidates' resumes and Simon Romero trying to scare the world about Hugo Chavez. All together now: "Show me what distraction looks like! This is what distraction looks like!"

And the Times is so busy distracting readers that they not only can't front page, they can't do the basics. Damien Cave covers or miscovers the story today with "Iraqis Admit Ambush Roles as U.S. Searches for 3 G.I.'s" which runs on A14 (yes, it's moving further and further inside the paper, seriously, it may very well end up in the "Escapes" section tomorrow).

Yesterday was damage control and Cave pretends not to notice. As questions (a few) were finally asked of spokespeople (questions that should have been asked on Sunday if not Saturday), the story began to change.

Cave plays dumb despite that fact that, as the reporter who filed the original story, he should grasp that the story is changing.

Not included in the paper -- can't let readers know apparently -- is the fact that yesterday the original time frame for the story changed. While official hack William Caldwell had maintained that it took the closest troops one hour to reach the site of the attack, yesterday they suddenly began saying "thirty minutes." One hour was ridiculous and thirty minutes still is. But the change Cave sells (he doesn't even question it) is the issue of distance.

The original measure (still being used for most of yesterday) of distance between the attack and the nearest stationed troops was "500 meters." Better use metrics because it will confuse most American readers! That's not even one mile, it's .31 of a mile. Cave rushes into print this morning to declare that the nearest troops were "450 to 550 yards away." That's 411 meters to 502 meters. 411 meters is a lot less than 500 meters. Today's lies may lead to flacks and commanders declaring that it took only 10 minutes for other troops to arrive and they were just 4 feet from the attack!

As noted yesterday, the feeling of some in the rank and file is that the attack resulted from the two Humvees being stationed too long and too far -- from being sitting ducks. It's really interesting to watch the military scramble to alter the time it took for the nearby troops to get there and the distance they had to travel. Of course Caldwell did admit to CNN yesterday (though Cave 'forgets' to include this as well) that there are some questions and they'll try to answer/address those after the search for the missing soldiers is concluded.

But we're all supposed to play stupid (Cave is playing, right?) and believe that it took a half hour for US troops (now as close as 411 meters away!) to get to the charred and burning Humvees (after hearing the explosions)? That's less than half a mile. We're supposed to believe that it took a half hour to travel less than half a mile?

Cave helps out there today 'reporting' that: "Colonel Infanti said the soldiers had gotten out of their Humvees and moved on foot to where the attack occurred as rounds of ammunition popped from the burning vehicles. By the time the first group from the south arrived, the three soldiers were gone." It's still not going to play. Less than half a mile? Thirty minutes?

Those are the details. (Currently. It was less than half a mile and one hour to get there until yesterday saw the time frame reconstructed.)

3 US soldiers remain missing (and remain missing from the New York Times front page) but no one's supposed to notice the holes in the story.

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Added: Tina Susman and Julian E. Barnes' "U.S. says it has suspects in Iraq ambush" (Los Angeles Times) contains more reality than the Times of New York can handle.