Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The skeptical press?

A suicide bomber on Monday assassinated four Sunni sheiks who were cooperating with Americans to fight Al Qaeda in Anbar Province. Witnesses said the bomber sneaked through security checkpoints, strode into a large Baghdad hotel and detonated an explosive belt just before lunchtime, killing 12 people including the sheiks.

So opens Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Ali Adeeb's "Attacker Kills 4 Sunni Sheiks Who Aided U.S." in this morning's New York Times. To harp on something yet again, it truly is amazing that reporters continue go glom on the al Qaeda motif. Generally speaking, AFP remains the most likely to use the preface "alleged," but for a Western press that's pretty much confined to the Green Zone and has been for years, it really is amazing to see them repeat the talking points from US military releases day after day with little to no skepticism. Four sheiks who pocketed money and in whose interest it was to see al Qaeda apparently would have no reason to lie, stretch or bend the truth. It's why a pilgrimage resulted in a slaughter and a great deal of press nonsense about how it was a cult.

As Ned Parker's "Blast could derail a key Iraqi alliance" (Los Angeles Times) notes, the US military is finding the usual suspects, but see what's missing:

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bloody bombing. U.S. and Iraqi government officials said they thought it was the work of Al Qaeda-linked militants. But in a display of the rancor that the bombing could engender, two prominent Sunni tribesmen made new threats against Iraq's Shiites, blaming the blast on Maliki's government or agents of Shiite-dominated Iran.
The explosion at the fortified Mansour Melia Hotel, home to the Chinese Embassy, parliament members and prominent national figures, came on a day that saw at least 48 deaths across Iraq in suicide attacks, bombings and mortar strikes. Survivors described being knocked down by the force of the blast, which various witnesses ascribed to either a suicide bomber or explosives placed in the hotel's lobby. Those wading through the smoke said they saw the charred bodies of several Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders whom they had hoped would help Iraq overcome its fierce sectarian warfare.

So what's missing? Al Qaeda's suddenly shy? Where's the announcement of "We struck in the Green Zone"? Where's the talk of a video announcement online or a taped statement?

The Green Zone attack is news because that's where the bulk of the press is housed. But? Martha notes this from John Ward Anderson and Naseer Nouri's "Baghdad Blast Targets Sunni Tribal Leaders: Bombings in Iraq Kill at Least 54" (Washington Post):

In the single deadliest incident of the day, a suicide truck bomber drove a loaded oil tanker into the side of the police station in Baiji, about 125 miles north of the capital, causing a huge explosion that collapsed part of the building, police Capt. Bilal al-Qayissi said. He said the 8:20 a.m. blast killed 30 policemen and prisoners held at the station and wounded 55 other people.
"A ball of fire came out of the police station and hit the shops across the street," said Ahmed Abdullah, 30, the owner of a nearby tire repair shop. "It was just like a horror movie. The last thing I remember is that my clothes and hair caught fire," he recalled at a local hospital.

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