Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Times Most Recent Operation Happy Talk Bites Back

From NYC Indymedia, this story by Chris Anderson gets its own entry because it's about the Times (and other media). It's entitled "The Media: Blind In Iraq." First paragraph of Anderson's story:

It sounded like a scene out of a Joel Schumacher movie: acting on tips from Iraqi citizens "emboldened by the January 30 elections," U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 85 militants at a suspected training camp along the marshy shores of a remote lake, "one of the highest guerrilla death tolls of the two-year insurgency." "As the commandos closed in, guerrillas began firing with assault rifles, machine guns and mortars or rockets," wrote the AP. "The Iraqi police then called for support from the 42nd Infantry Division. The Americans sent in Apache attack helicopters and smaller OH-58D Kiowa helicopters, as well as ground troops. An official at the Interior Ministry said some insurgents tried to escape by boat across the lake, but were killed on the water or as they tried pushing off from shore."

That's offered for a backdrop. (Read the full article.) Moving on:

Burdened by the dangers of reporting in Iraq, unofficial military censorship, and the conventions of foreign correspondence early reports about the "Battle at Lake Thanthar" were compiled almost entirely from briefings given by Iraqi and US government officials. The reports, in the NY Times, the AP, and elsewhere emphasized the high insurgent death toll, the importance of Iraqi civilian tips, the presence of foreign fighters, the large ammount of equipment at the camp, and the fact that insurgents that tried to escape in boats across the lake were killed. Late last night, a reporter from the Agence France Press (AFP) took the amazing step of actually going to Lake Thanthar. Here's some of what he or she found:"Insurgents were still manning a training camp in northern Iraq in defiance of a blistering raid by the authorities ... About 30 to 40 fighters were seen Wednesday at the lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces on Tuesday and denied they had ever left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said.""There were numerous discrepancies in the accounts given by the rebel and Iraqi security forces. The US military said Thursday it was investigating the new accounts of a rebel presence after what had been reported as a crushing raid ... A fighter named Amer, who claimed membership in the Secret Islamic Army of Iraq, said the men had never abandoned the camp and only 11 of his comrades were killed in airstrikes on the site."

Remember Bill Keller's whining about criticism of the Iraq stories and how hard the reporters worked to get them? Well this is exactly why we don't highlight the paper's Iraq coverage at this site. It's not reporting. It's being spoon fed (through a strainer!) and it requires swallowing what the military provides you without any questioning.