Patterico's Pontifications

11/24/2006

Is the Iraq Conflict Now a Civil War? The L.A. Times Knows for Sure . . . (UPDATED: But Al Jazeera Doesn’t!)

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:41 pm

Is the Iraq sectarian violence a full-scale civil war? Various factions might debate it, but Solomon Moore — the guy who wrote that flawed story about Ramadi and wouldn’t respond to my questions about it — has made up his mind. He has a piece titled Civil war worsens, which begins:

Iraq’s civil war worsened Friday as Shiite and Sunni Arabs engaged in retaliatory attacks in the wake of coordinated car-bombings that killed more than 200 people in a Shiite slum the day before — even as a main Shiite political faction threatened a walkout, a move that likely would lead to the government’s collapse and plunge the nation deeper into disarray.

I guess the debate is over.

UPDATE x4 (Bumped to top for obvious reasons): While the L.A. Times says that we’re already in a civil war, Al Jazeera quotes a UN envoy saying we’re headed there:

Meanwhile, a UN envoy has urged Iraq’s government to halt a slide into civil war and stop the “cancer” of sectarianism from destroying the country, warning that the carnage of this week could tear Iraq apart.

As the updates below show, the L.A. Times article also quotes an expert worried that we’re headed in that direction. But the L.A. Times declares we’re in civil war now. In its story, Al Jazeera does not.

Lovely.

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Excellent News!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 4:19 pm

There is a new post from Beldar.

I was very concerned about him in recent months, and sent him numerous e-mails, even going so far as to leave a phone message for him at work.

I never got any response. I feared the worst.

I’m thrilled to see he’s doing okay, and at least thinking about blogging again.

UPDATE: And another post! I’m highlighting it in a new post but it’s also worth an update.

Cops in Atlanta Shouted that They Were Police and Wore Vests Labeled “Police”

Filed under: Crime,Current Events,General — Patterico @ 3:41 pm

More news on Kathryn Johnston, the 92-year-old woman who opened fire on cops serving a search warrant on her house in Atlanta, and died from wounds caused by return fire from the police. Turns out that, although the police weren’t in uniform, they say that they were still clearly identifiable as police:

[Assistant Chief Alan] Dreher said Johnston should have recognized the men as officers even though they were not wearing uniforms. He said all three wore bulletproof vests that had the word “Police” across the front and back. He said they shouted they were police as they burst through the door.

I’m still trading messages with a use of force expert who is going to discuss the police tactics with me. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Since we now know that police lied to get in the house, as I disclosed in this post, I can’t trust what they say about this incident at all.

Grandma the Suicide Bomber

Filed under: General,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:26 am

She was 57:

[A] 57-year-old Palestinian woman blew herself up near Israeli soldiers, slightly injuring three. The suicide bomber was identified by family members as Fatma Najar, a grandmother and member of the military wing of the ruling Hamas movement.

What would you say if Mom blew herself up?

“I received the news with happiness. We are all proud of our mother. She was always hoping to be a martyr,” her 32-year-old son, Fuad, said as well-wishers handed out sweets and tossed flowers outside the family home in Jabaliya.

“But then, I admittedly have a very twisted sense of priorities,” he added.

OK, I made up that last sentence. Folks like this generally aren’t that self-aware.

At Tim Blair’s, folks are asking if she gets the 72 virgins. With 41 grandchildren, we know she isn’t one herself.

Thanks to See Dubya and another reader.

Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,War — Patterico @ 9:11 am

Is the L.A. Times reporting unconfirmed enemy propaganda from an Iraqi stringer with ties to the insurgency? Or is the paper simply misreporting the facts, and failing to seek out and report the military’s side of the story?

You be the judge.

On November 15, the L.A. Times ran an article titled Iraqi residents say U.S. airstrike kills 30. The article emphasized that 30+ people, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike. A headline proclaimed: “Victims include women and children, witnesses in Ramadi say. The military has no immediate comment.” The story began as follows:

BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

The aerial attack, which took place late Monday, brought the number of violent deaths reported in Iraq on Tuesday to at least 91, according to military sources and witnesses.

. . . .

A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.

Last Friday, my reader Tom Blumer sent me a link to an interesting blog post, by a blog called “One Oar in the Water,” which attacked the L.A. Times story about the Ramadi airstrike. The post quoted what purported to be an e-mail from a soldier who was involved in the Ramadi incident. The e-mailing soldier claimed that the “Times correspondent in Ramadi” has ties to the insurgency, and is knowingly repeating enemy propaganda:

The [L.A. Times article] is an example of why you simply cannot believe most media reports coming out of Iraq. The LA Time[s] reporter, Solomon Moore, is not in Ramadi. He relies on an Iraqi stringer here who has ties to insurgents. In this article, Moore repeats almost verbatim, insurgent propaganda we have intercepted. The fighting in question occurred in my battle space within Ramadi and I was personally and intimately involved.

The soldier then disputed certain assertions made in the L.A. Times article. The soldier said that there had been no airstrike, and that only a few insurgents had been killed, by small-arms fire and tank fire. The solder concluded the e-mail with a slap at the L.A. Times:

Every target engaged was well within what our restrictive rules of engagement authorize. I am disgusted by the editorial slant of this article, by what passes from journalistic integrity at the LA Times, and by their complicity with our mortal enemies. My Soldiers fight with great precision and skill on a very difficult urban battlefield. The LA Times dishonors them and give aid and comfort to my enemies.

Assuming this alleged e-mail from a Ramadi soldier was genuine and accurate, it made an explosive allegation: that the L.A. Times is relying on a stringer with ties to the insurgency, and is repeating enemy propaganda.

But was it true? I decided to check into it.

My investigation, which I detail below, has revealed that the soldier’s account of the events in question appears to be accurate in most respects. For example:

  • The soldier claimed that there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indicated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong.

    The military flatly denies that there was an airstrike — a denial that the L.A. Times has failed to report to this day. Several other media reports state that civilians died from small-arms fire and tank fire, and not an airstrike.

  • The soldier claimed that only insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the L.A. Times claimed that women and children were killed. Once again, the soldier’s claims appeared to be true, and the L.A. Times claim false.

    Other than the L.A. Times report, there is no evidence that women or children were killed in the attack. The available evidence, including other media reports and information through a contact at a Ramadi hospital, indicates that the bodies brought into a Ramadi hospital were all adult males. This fact is suggestive of the possibility that those killed were insurgents, not innocent civilians.

  • The soldier claimed: “No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged”; by contrast, the L.A. Times stringer claimed that “at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment.” There are no media reports with reliable firsthand accounts of pulverized homes.

    Indeed, I found only one story (published by Reuters) in which a journalist claims to have been on the scene to report observations of the damage firsthand, and he said: “One small structure was burnt out in that street.” Once again, the objective evidence seemed to favor the claims of the soldier.

I also learned that one of the doctors quoted in the L.A. Times story has been quoted in other stories over the years — always telling the media that the U.S. killed women, children, and innocent civilians. Apparently, this doctor has never seen a terrorist or insurgent killed by U.S. forces — or if he has, the media isn’t interested.

I learned one fact that didn’t gibe cleanly with the soldier’s account: most news reports, and my own independent investigation, tended to corroborate the allegation that 30+ people died in Ramadi that night. However, according to all accounts (excepting that provided by the “Times correspondent in Ramadi”), those killed were adult males, killed by fire from tanks — not women and children killed in an airstrike. The fact that 30+ people died, if true, does not necessarily demonstrate the soldier’s account is false. Rather, it suggests that he may have been unaware of the full extent of the carnage caused by the shelling from the tanks.

In the end, I was unable to determine whether the e-mailing soldier was correct when he claimed that the L.A. Times is relying on propaganda supplied by a stringer with ties to insurgents.

However, I can say this: the journalists at the L.A. Times 1) have utterly failed to report the full extent of the military’s side of the story; 2) very likely got some basic facts about the incident wrong; and 3) have done an extremely poor job of explaining the possible limitations on their knowledge — what I like to call “telling the reader what you don’t know as well as what you do know.”

In addition, after talking with numerous sources who are knowledgeable about Iraq, I came away depressed about the poor quality of information we are getting out of that country. Embedded writers and bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael Fumento, and Bill Ardolino will continue to be absolutely critical to understanding what is going on in Iraq, and I encourage you to support embedded bloggers as much as possible.

The full details of what I learned are below, in the extended entry.

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L.A. Times Ties Iraq to Vietnam

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,War — Patterico @ 1:53 am

There’s nothing subtle about the L.A. Times‘s latest attempt to tie Iraq to Vietnam. It is titled Iraq strategy takes page from Vietnam playbook. It discusses Iraq, and Vietnam . . . and how Iraq is like Vietnam . . . and how Vietnam was like Iraq.

UPDATE: Commenters note one angle that the paper shows little interest in: the lesson of Vietnam that there are serious consequences when America walks away from an unpopular war and leaves a vulnerable civilian population in the lurch.

But who wants to hear about that parallel?

Simon Says: Don’t Obey Me

Filed under: Court Decisions,General — Patterico @ 1:39 am

Orin Kerr addresses the issue of whether Bush v. Gore can be used as precedent, if it declared itself not to be precedent.

It’s an amusing little theoretical question. After all, judicial opinions generally operate as precedent. Whatever the opinion says, that’s what lower courts are supposed to follow. So what should lower courts do if a court says: here’s the rule . . . but it applies only to this case?

I can sum up the conundrum with this hypothetical:

Pretend we’re playing “Simon Says.” I’m the leader, and I say:

Simon says: Follow my instructions without regard to whether I say “Simon says.”

The next thing I say is: “Touch your nose.”

Are you supposed to touch your nose?

(Only lawyers could argue about this kind of thing, huh?)

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