The "Mosque masacre" ploy

Can you guess I am skeptical of the report that US troops killed between 16 and 22 "praying" Muslims in a Mosque? When I see a report like this it suggest that we must have had a good operation. It sounds like all those bogus reports of bombing wedding parties whose "celbratory" gunfire was "mistaken" for a threat.

There are several things that should have tipped reporters that they were getting bogus enemy information. The first is that US troops appear to have standing orders to not enter mosques unless they are under attack from that mosque. This would suggest that the building was either not a mosque, or that the men in the mosque attacked US troops who responded.

Early reports from the US command suggest the building was not a mosque. They also suggest that it was Iraqi special ops who made the attack. Since the enemy suffered a humiliating defeat, they would naturally try to say it was the superman US that conducted the assualt, rather than admit to losing to Iraqi troops.

Bill Roggio discusses the various reports. The Belmont Club also discusses the various reports, including one from an Iraqi blogger.

For now I remain skeptical of many of these reports. My guess is that the information came from stringers who tend to get either exagerated reports or they in many cases repeat enemy propaganda. This is usually the case when reporting casualties. Casualtiy reports are almost always suspect.

This event does highlight one of the failings of coalition operations in Iraq. We know that the media is the main battlespace in the war, yet we constantly let the enemy get inside the media decision cycle and play catch up as after action reports work their way up the chain of command. The military needs to seriously focus on this problem and find a way to get inside the media decision cycle so that the correct story isn't always playing catch up. During offensive operations the US is second to none in using digital information to advance the battle. It has to find a way to push the after action reports through the process quicker.

One way to do that is have someone besides the operational command responsible for filing near realtime reports, which are review for accuracy by the operational commander. This is particularly important when they believe the operation will generate a lot of public interest such as lots of bodies after an action involving Sadr's men.

This Washington Post story sounds more like a real world report of events.

U.S. and Iraqi special forces killed at least 16 followers of the Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr Sunday in a twilight assault on what the U.S. military said was a "terrorist cell" responsible for attacks on soldiers and civilians.

No U.S. or Iraqi personnel were killed in the clash, which occurred in the predominantly Sunni Arab neighborhood of Adhamiyah, in northern Baghdad, according to a U.S. military statement issued late Sunday. One Iraqi soldier was wounded, and 15 people were detained. An unidentified hostage was found at the site, the statement said, along with materials used to fashion homemade bombs.

...

Contrast that with the NY Times story which leads with a report on knocking off an 80 year old iman.

American and Iraqi government forces clashed with Shiite militiamen in Baghdad tonight in the most serious confrontation in months, and Iraqi officials said the fighting left at least 17 Iraqis dead, including an 80-year-old imam.

...
Now if you have a mindset that US troops are out of control idiots you might believe the NY Times report. Put me down as skeptical. The Post version just sounds more plausible at this point.

Update: Big Lizard does the math on the AP's incompetent reporting on this event. Gateway Pundit also takes on the neo quagmirest. Bill Roggio updates his earlier post on this issue and is pretty close to my analysis. This is the MNFI release on the raid.

Iraqi Counterterrorism Forces killed 16 insurgents and wounded three others while conducting a coordinated operation to capture and detain insurgents responsible for kidnapping and execution activities in northeast Baghdad Sunday.

Soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade, also detained 18 other individuals, discovered a significant weapons cache, and secured the release of an Iraqi being held hostage.

The discovered weapons cache included AK-47 assault rifles, grenades, RPGs, two RPG launchers, heavy machine guns, crush switch indicators used to make improvised explosive devices, and several rounds of ammunition. The cache was destroyed on the scene along with two vehicles that contained weapons and IED making material.

The hostage, a dental technician with the Ministry of Health, was kidnapped earlier Sunday as he was walking outside of his office. During the next 12 hours, his captors beat him and threatened to torture him.

After the ISOF soldiers rescued him, they took him to an undisclosed location where he received medical care from Iraqi doctors.

Military officials have issued two statements correct errors in the civilian media.

“No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation," military officials said. "The building was not a party headquarters but a community meeting room, and there was substantial intelligence on this building showing that that was not, in fact, what it was used for.”

U.S. Special Forces troops were on hand only as advisors.

...

OK, put down your RPG's and pray that the good guys do not find you, and keep that hostage quite.

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