NY Times and Husaybah story

T
he Times report leads with a questionable claim of civilian casualties in the raids on the safe houses today. The reports are based on calls to hospitals that have been notoriously inaccurate in the past, particularly if the hospital staff is sympathetic to the enemy, or the reporter is. They also tend to label enemy deaths as civilian since they violate the Geneva Convention by camoflaging themselves as civilians.

The airstrikes took place in and around the border city of Husaybah, a common transit point for insurgents entering Iraq from Syria and the site of frequent bloody skirmishes between American forces and militants in recent months. One major tribe in the area supports the insurgents, and its members have fought in the past with another tribe that supports the Iraqi government and American forces. Last week, local residents warned American military officials that terrorists were meeting in a house in the area, and American F-16 fighter-bombers bombed the building soon afterward.

American military officials said the strikes had killed a known terrorist, Abu Islam, and an unknown number of other fighters. The American military's accounts of its operations have often clashed with accounts of local people, especially in the vast desert area to the west and northwest of Baghdad, where fierce hostility to the American presence is common.

Note the internal contradiction in the story. We have a local tribe that is friendly to the US and warned the US that the terrorist were meeting in a specific house. That was the main reason for the strike, yet the Times says, "The American military's accounts of its operations have often clashed with accounts of local people, especially in the vast desert area to the west and northwest of Baghdad, where fierce hostility to the American presence is common." So where did that bias punchline come crom? What happened to the layered review and editing? Do the Times reporters just assume the US is lying, when experience has shown that casualty figures given to reporters talking to someone on the hospital staff that they don't know are given equal or greater credibility?

Like most reports on this action the Times has done a poor job. The story is datelined Baghdad which menas it is probably written from a hotel near the Green Zone, where antiwar reporters sit around waiting for releases and bitch about how awful things are going in Iraq. It is amazing how much more honest the reporting is when the media is embeded. The Times had some terric reporting from a woman embedded with the Marines fighting in this area a few months ago. They need to send her back.

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