Wednesday, April 11, 2007


AP Neutrality

The Associated Press (AP) works very, very hard to make sure that worldwide (and particularly US) public opinion remains convinced that Iraq is a disaster, a civil war, and an ill-advised foreign occupation.

Sure, you can read between the lines to get the real story, but the writers, freelancers, and editors at AP really don’t want you to do that. That’s why they structure their “reporting” the way they do.

First, consider the headline that AP chooses for their report: “Iran may be helping Iraqis build bombs.” (Note: The headline may change over time, as part of the game as played AP is to first use inflammatory, misleading, or subjective headlines that they later “clean-up.”)

Note that the source for their story, the US Military, did not apply any qualifiers to their statements of fact:

BAGHDAD - Iran has been training Iraqi fighters in the assembly of deadly roadside bombs known as EFPs, the U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

EFPs, or explosively formed penetrators, hurl a molten, fist-sized lump of molten copper capable of piercing armored vehicles.

"We know that they are being in fact manufactured and smuggled into this country, and we know that training does go on in Iran for people to learn how to assemble them and how to employ them," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said at a weekly briefing. "We know that training has gone on as recently as this past month from detainees' debriefs." In January, U.S. officials said at least 170 U.S. soldiers had been killed by EFPs.

But for the AP, that means that Iran may be helping Iraqis build bombs to kill US and coalition soldiers. Because for the AP, the propaganda of terrorists, state sponsors of terror, other enemies of the US, and “neutral” foreign observers can be taken at face value and reported as such. Information relayed by the US Military, in contrast, must be treated as propaganda, or even outright falsehood.

Of course, the AP chose to dilute the full magnitude of what MGEN Caldwell conveyed, by burying some additional details far lower in the story:

Caldwell added that fighters also were trained in how to carry out complex attacks that used explosives followed by assaults with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms.

"There has been training on specialized weapons that are used here in Iraq. And then we do know they receive also training on general tactics in terms of how to take and employ and work what we call a more complex kind of attack where we see multiple types of engagements being used from an explosion to small arms fire to being done in multiple places," Caldwell said.

The general would not say specifically which arm of the Iranian government was doing the training but called the trainers "surrogates" of Iran's intelligence agency.

Caldwell opened the briefing by showing photographs of what he said were Iranian-made mortar rounds, RPG rounds and rockets that were found in Iraq.

That’s quite a bit more of the picture, helpfully deferred by the AP, and placed below an extended discussion on Iraqi domestic politics. (This makes these details more likely to be cut out of abbreviated versions of the story when reprinted by smaller media outlets.)

But that’s just post-history journalistic practice for the AP, and only part of the way they distort the “news” they choose to “report.” And boy, do they have allies in that effort.

The AP reaches for some of that allied support in the paragraph immediately following the two skeptical graphs above:

The international Red Cross released a report that found the situation for civilians in Iraq is "ever-worsening," even though security in some places has improved as a result of stepped-up efforts by U.S.-led multinational forces.

Note the imprecise language used to mask the agenda. Yesterday, the MSM was happy to quote the Pope that “nothing good can come from Iraq.” Today, they trot out the always reliably anti-US ICRC, who describes the situation for Iraqi civilians as “ever worsening.” Things never get better, always get worse, and always will, as long as the US remains in Iraq. Despite any evidence to the contrary of course, because the ICRC can’t be expected to have a factual understanding of the total situation. They just have their agenda, and that’s all they need.

Later in the same report, the AP returns to the ICRC for more fact-less opinion-making:

Also Wednesday, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, said that thousands of bodies lay unclaimed in mortuaries, with family members either unaware that they are there or too afraid to go to recover them.

Medical professionals also have been fleeing the country after cases where their colleagues were killed or abducted, the neutral agency said.

"Whatever operation that is today under way, and that may be taken tomorrow and in the weeks after, to improve the security of civilians on the ground may have an effect in the medium term," Kraehenbuehl said.

"We're certainly not seeing an immediate effect in terms of stabilization for civilians currently. That is not our reading," he said.

That makes a total of five paragraphs in an AP story that pretends to be news about Iraq, that are nothing but agenda-driven editorializing from an ICRC bureaucrat. News flash to readers of AP reports, “neutral agencies” are often more agenda driven than those with an allegiance, as the AP itself often proves.

The AP must have scooped up the ICRC grudging acknowledgment above when scrounging for negative sound bites: that current operations “may have an effect in the medium term.” But note that the Red Cross spokesman doesn’t characterize what those effects might be, and immediately indicates that their “reading” of the situation is that things haven’t gotten better just yet. Their “reading?” If that doesn’t describe a subjective opinion, I don’t know what would any more clearly.

That first paragraph contains another propaganda trick employed by the AP (they must be coaching the Red Cross). Thousands of bodies lay unclaimed, because either nobody knows those people are dead, or they’re “too afraid.” That’s two possibilities that are at a pretty wide extreme, don’t you think? You might think the AP might want to investigate those claims, talk to morgue operators, visit mortuaries, confirm whatever data is available, identification, etc.

Could these be the bodies of foreign Al Qaeda terrorists? Whatever, I guess. I have no doubt whatever that these same “thousands of unclaimed bodies where part of the unofficial mortuary network that helped contribute data for the improbable and unsupported claims of the Lancet Survey people. As I said, the Red Cross has their agenda, that’s all they need.

Just like the AP. They follow the obligatory propaganda of their ally with a description of recent fighting related to the ongoing surge.

Bodies lay scattered across two central Baghdad neighborhoods after a raging battle left 20 suspected insurgents and four Iraqi soldiers dead, and 16 U.S. soldiers wounded, witnesses and officials said. The fighting Tuesday in Fadhil and Sheik Omar, two Sunni enclaves, was the most intense since a massive push to pacify the capital began two months ago.

They report so dishonestly, that they will need to re-describe the same scenes at the very last paragraph of the article:

By Wednesday, 13 of the 16 wounded Americans had returned to duty, according to a senior U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. Twenty suspected insurgents were killed and 30 wounded, he said.

Catch that? The first way the AP reports the incident, the create a demonstrably false equivalency between combat losses on both sides: 20 “suspected insurgents” versus 20 US and Iraqi casualties. But check out the math the second time AP reports: 20 insurgents killed, 30 wounded (and captured), versus 4 dead Iraqi soldiers and 3 US soldiers wounded enough to require extended medical attention.

As reported by the AP, it looks like “Iraqi Cabinet ministers allied to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr” want Iraqi Prime Minister to support Democratic Party Congressional proposals for cutting and running date certain in Iraq. I’m not sure the Democrats want to have the support of a thug like al Sadr in such matters, but then I wouldn’t have thought they wanted to be in bed with worse thugs in Syria or Iran, either.

When the AP gets around to describing events in Fadhil in more detail, they cloud the story with conflicting details among US military, Iraqi government, and anonymous AP sources on the ground, contacted by the telephone. Guess which version of events the AP plays up with greatest prominence?

Here’s how the AP puts it all together:

Iraqi soldiers held a security cordon around Fadhil on Wednesday, and residents hid frightened in their homes, a witness told The Associated Press by telephone, on condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

The Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni group, issued a statement quoting witnesses as saying Tuesday's battle began after Iraqi troops entered a mosque and executed two young men in front of other worshippers. Ground forces used tear gas on civilians, it said.

"The association condemns this horrible crime carried out by occupiers and the government," the statement said.

But the witness in Fadhil said the two men were executed in an outdoor vegetable market, not in the mosque. The Iraqi military was not immediately available to comment on the claim.

The U.S. military said the battle began after American and Iraqi troops came under fire around 7 a.m. during a routine search operation.

They follow that with a silly diversion into obvious propaganda that is immediately refuted by information from the US military that is completely verifiable:

Some Arab television stations reported an American helicopter was shot down in the fight, and showed video of a charred piece of mechanical wreckage that was impossible to identify. The U.S. said an attack helicopter suffered damage from small arms fire but returned to base.

Unfortunately, the AP must not have had time to verify that the Arab television accounts were fabricated, and had to report “both sides” as is.

I note that Associated Press writers Lauren Frayer and Hamid Ahmed in Baghdad and Alexander G. Higgins in Geneva contributed to this report. I’ve not been in the habit of checking bylines, but I’d be willing to guess that Frayer is the career AP reporter, Ahmed is the local stringer (probably with Mahdi connections), and Higgins took the tap on the ICRC. Not for any particular reason or to conclude anything, but this story sure looks like a composite of multiple, unrelated storylines.

One final observation. I just fisked my way through only one day of AP reporting, and I’m exhausted. That takes more time than it’s worth, you might think, but imagine. How many days worth of misreporting and agenda-driven propaganda gets dished out, without anyone taking the time to document the dishonesty?



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