Via CNN, the five Americans killed in a January 2007 attack by the League of Righteous:
Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama.
And when Michael S. Schmidt's report online at the New York Times was published early yesterday evening, we didn't call him out in the snapshot. We played nice and just left it, in the snapshot, at, "We need to provide backstory because, sadly, US press outlets don't know how many Americans were killed by the terrorist group."
Five, Schmidt, not four. But we were kind and no good deed goes unpunished so Schmidt teamed with Jack Healy for the final version of the report and chose to 'improve' on getting the number wrong by leaving out the five completely.
That's offensive in so many ways.
In terms of news, it's offensive because the League of Righteous has long trumpeted the attack. In terms of news, it's offensive because five of the fallen are rendered invisible. (The reported claim that the League of Righteous killed a solider during the US reposturing phase do not make up for that -- especially due to the fact that the reporters leave him nameless as well.)
In terms of the newspaper, it's offensive because the paper actually received credit for something it did right. Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s" in June 2009. It caused a ripple. It's become much more than that. Among the groups we speak to are military and military families. And the five have become a growing issue since the White House decided to let those responsible for the deaths of US service members walk. Like the attack on the USS Cole, this is something that brews and bubbles and largely remains out of the media's view because the media refuses to explore it at any real length. And Rubin and Gordon were getting credit for their article, as was the paper itself. (When we speak, I always give credit to writers by name.) More people had heard of the report than read it but it helped the paper's image. And now we get Healy and Schmdit undoing the goodwill as well as undercutting the work of their colleagues.
What were they thinking? (Oh, that's right, they weren't.)
The article's pretty much embarrassing throughout. For example? Let's go with this sentence: "The militant group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, broke away from the fierce Shiite militia commanded by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who has strong ties to Tehran." With no further notes of 'ties to Tehran,' the implication is that Moqtada has them but not the League of Righteous. The sentence after the 'ties to Iran' seems to imply that, "The American military has long maintained that the group, led by a former spokesman for Mr. Sadr, Qais al-Khazali, was trained and financed by Iran's elite Quds Force -- something that Iran denies. " The paper will insist, "We included the allegation about ties to Iran by the League." The paper presented Moqtada as tied to Iran with no qualifiers, no 'people say,' nothing. It was treated as established fact, in the report, that Moqtada has ties to Iran. In the same article, in the same paragraph, the wording and claims were presented to suggest that they were inconclusive when it comes to the League of Righteous.
October 20th, Niqash interviewed "chief negotiator of the League of Righteous" Salam al-Maliki. Excerpt.
NIQASH: Who does the League look to for religious authority and the issuing of fatwas, the directives issued by Islamic religious leaders?
Al-Maliki: The league enjoys a lot of support from leading religious authorities such as Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Husseini al-Haeri and Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi [Editor’s note: both reside in Iran]. Many religious authorities believe in the importance of armed resistance. But our legitimacy is primarily based on the injustices done to the Iraqi people who have now put their trust in the Islamic resistance.
[. . .]
NIQASH: What is the nature of the relationship between the league and Iran?
Al-Maliki: The Islamic Republic [of Iran] embraces resistance efforts in the region and it maintains good relations with various factions in the Arab world. So this is what the League has in common with the Islamic Republic.
Is anyone else feeling that Schmidt and Healy put about as much time into their 'report' as Gail Collins puts into her bad columns? It doesn't even appear that the two are familiar with Rubin and Gordon's original report in 2009.
In terms of established facts -- established within the paper's own page previously -- this is an awful article. Possibly, they spent too much time trying to get statements (there's a wide variety of chatters, some on the record, some not) about how it relates to the political crisis today. That's a noble effort but it's cheapened when you forget to cover the 2007 attack in which 5 US service members were killed. That's all the more true when you write of the 2009 release from US imprisonment of two of the leaders but 'forget' to tell why they were imprisoned to begin with.
It's also insulting when you write, "On Thursday, Asaib Ahl al-Haq made another conciliatory gesture, saying it would release the body of a British bodyguard, Alan McMenemy, who was kidnapped in 2007 with four others, only one of whom was released alive."
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, his loved ones went on television and publicly begged the League. The Telegraph of London quoted Rosaleen McMenemy stating, ""It's now been three years since he's been held captive, which is 1,096 days. This is far too long for myself and our two children and I would ask those holding him to please show mercy and compassion and return him to us immediately and unconditionally. You've showed compassion by releasing his four colleagues and I would ask you to do the same for my family to bring closure to this." Not only did that take place in 2010, but in July 2011, the League made statements publicly that Alan McMenemy was still alive, when they had killed him years before. They misled the loved ones and did so deliberately. They killed Alan McMenemy, they tortured his family with their games after. It's really out of bounds to call their current offer a "conciliatory gesture."
One quote the reporters didn't go for is the most important one. Reuters quotes US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey on the latest claims of wanting peace by the League, "We've heard it before."
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Chocolate City, Jane Fonda and The Diane Rehm Show -- updated last night and this morning:
(Troy Yocum photo taken by John Crosby)
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the new york times
michael s. schmdit
alissa j. rubin
michael r. gordon