Patterico's Pontifications

1/5/2007

Kaus Sums It Up

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:53 am



Mickey Kaus on Jamil Hussein:

Capt. Jamil Hussein, controversial AP source, seems to exist. That’s one important component of credibility!

Heh.

Too bad about the other components . . .

UPDATE: For those of you who don’t know what I mean by that, I’ll spell it out.

Let me just remind you what a couple of the major questions about the initial “Burning Six” story are.

For one thing, the story initially claimed, based on Captain Hussein’s word, that there were four mosques burned:

The savage revenge attack for Thursday’s slaughter of 215 people in the Shiite Sadr City slum occurred as members of the Mahdi Army militia burned four mosques and several homes while killing 12 other Sunni residents in the once-mixed Hurriyah neighborhood, [Police Captain Jamil] Hussein said.

But after an Iraqi Army patrol said the mosques had not all been burned, the AP later appeared to back off of this claim, saying that they had corroborated claims of a burning at one mosque.

Second, the event generated remarkably little buzz — a fact that caused a local New York Times correspondent to doubt that it had happened. Here is what that correspondent said in response to a query from a New York Times reporter:

Hi Tom,

You ask me about what our own reporting shows about this incident. When we first heard of the event on Nov. 24, through the A.P. story and a man named Imad al-Hashemi talking about it on television, we had our Iraqi reporters make calls to people in the Hurriya neighborhood. Because of the curfew that day, everything had to be done by phone. We reached several people who told us about the mosque attacks, but said they had heard nothing of Sunni worshippers being burned alive. Any big news event travels quickly by word of mouth through Baghdad, aided by the enormous proliferation of cell phones here. Such an incident would have been so abominable that a great many of the residents in Hurriya, as well as in other Sunni Arab districts, would have been in an uproar over it. Hard-line Sunni Arab organizations such as the Muslim Scholars Association or the Iraqi Islamic Party would almost certainly have appeared on television that day or the next to denounce this specific incident. Iraqi clerics and politicians are not shy about doing this. Yet, as far as I know, there was no widespread talk of the incident. So I mentioned it only in passing in my report.

Best,
Edward Wong

Also, the Washington Post reported that “two local imams, in an interview, denied such an attack took place.” Could they have been wrong? Sure. But does their denial raise questions? Yes, it does. Have those questions been answered? No, they haven’t.

I’m still curious about Marc Danziger’s sources, which said that the only Jam(a)il Hussein at Yarmouk was a Sgt. Hussein who was a Uday acolyte and Baathist holdover. Is this the same guy that the Ministry of the Interior says is at al-Khadra? I don’t know.

There are plenty of other unanswered questions. Plenty. Cassandra has an excellent post on this which you should read, which mentions a few. Karl at Protein Wisdom has more.

But the left hopes to try to embarrass righty bloggers into ignoring all these questions, as if the fact that Jamil Hussein is a policeman ends the whole inquiry. But it doesn’t, as I noted when we thought Marc Danziger had found the guy:

[F]inding that such a person exists doesn’t answer the many lingering questions about the story. . . . [I]f the [AP] story is completely wrong — and there is such a person as Jam(a)il Hussein, Legit Iraqi Cop — doesn’t he have some ’splainin’ to do?

Yes, he does. Will we get the explanation? I doubt it.

By the way, those oh-so-careful leftists? Some of them are claiming that Jamil Hussein has already been arrested — based on a report that says he faces arrest. Careful leftists like this guy, who says “Malkin may get this guy killed” because “Jamil Hussein has been found, and he’s been arrested.” There is another example I could give you from a much more major lefty site (“he’s now been arrested . . .”), but it’s a site I don’t link as a matter of principle, so you’ll have to figure it out yourself. (It rhymes with “Madly Ho.”) Anyway, keep your eyes open for the lefties who claim Jamil Hussein has already been arrested. You’ll see ’em. Because they’re the careful ones!

The bottom line is that, as Kaus says, existence may be “one important component of credibility” — but there are others. And Jamil Hussein fails miserably on those.

Saying that “Jamil Hussein exists” ends the story is like saying there is nothing to Rathergate because Bill Burkett existed.

Usually, the fact that a media outlet actually has a source is not cause for rejoicing. Usually, the source is expected to be accurate and reliable.

Not here. For the lefty bloggers, existence ends the inquiry. Or so they hope.

25 Responses to “Kaus Sums It Up”

  1. I think Mickey’s sarcasm will sail over AP’s deep thinkers and they believe they are vindicated.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  2. I think Kaus’ little quip sailed right over your head, PS.

    Read it again…

    Neville Chamberlain (80a4fa)

  3. I wonder if they (the AP, Iraq, and just about everyone) tried to hide him because he was embarrassing – a former regime supporter with lots of baggage or something. Also, could Eason Jordan have anything to do with his outing, directly or indirectly?

    Amphipolis (fdbc48)

  4. What’s the problem, really? Michelle is going to Iraq anyway, so nobody thinks that the story is over.
    No matter what will be the end of the story, & what credibility Jamil Hussein turns out to have, two fact are already established:
    1) MOI is ready to say lies.
    2) CENTCOM is ready to push those lies.
    Isn’t it some sort of scandal in itself?

    It’s really funny that Michelle’s post ends with the quote from Hitchens being “often no more than the disguise for religious fascism or organized crime” — evidently to smear Hussein, but this line of thought was not applied by her to MOI itself, which wears the same uniform?

    NN (f82c0b)

  5. The ever unhinged Juan Cole says that this is a “vindication” of the AP’s original story. As if producing the sole named source in the story somehow legitimizes the lack of evidence supporting the initial claims.

    Gabriel (6d7447)

  6. the admission of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.
    i don’t know jack shit about what’s happening in baghdad. there’s stories, buzzes, intimations, psychic transcosmic fluffspikes of awareness, none of which i trust. we’ve been lied to so many times, i don’t fully accept that jamil hussein really exists even now. bring me his head!

    assistant devil's advocate (6432b0)

  7. The MOI either lied during all this or were pathetically incompetent. They are effectively useless as a resource for daily information-gathering.

    As it’s commonly too dangerous to enter neighborhoods and canvass witnesses, you have to depend on a police contact not regarded as corrupt and cross-reference his accounts and numbers with morgue, hospital and political/religious officials. Sometimes it does not produce a reliable picture. Passions have a way of turning a thrown molotov cocktail into a “mosque burning” and a “burned alive” story needs more detail. One can be doused and lit and still live, obviously, if bystanders intervene.

    The oldest complaint about reporters is the competitive instinct to ‘sell’ the editor on the most alarming, disturbing aspect of any event to win the widest coverage. Iraq reporting needs no such propulsion. I’m surprised no one has combed through AP writer Qais Al-Bashir’s bylines to see if he’s given to such excess.

    I think three things: The AP has been chastened a little by this, a police captain is forever a marked man and the disturbing events of November 24 will never be definitively chronicled. We’re not very far from where we started.

    steve (8f3e6c)

  8. Jamil identified, facing arrest? — Day 2…

    CENTCOM says AP’s Iraqi police source isn’t Iraqi police — Part 30 — Continued from this post. Libs on Jamil Confederate Yankee The overwhelming majority of liberal bloggers were dead silent from late November throughout the month of December, and…

    Bill's Bites (72c8fd)

  9. Random spurious thought: At least Baghdad Bob made the trains run on time. … OK, I’m going back to my room now.

    Bill Faith (3cc7e8)

  10. The byline for the adjective-drenched story (the “hour seven” version) that ended up on the front page of hundreds of newspapers worldwide?

    Steven Hurst.

    The byline on the “Jamil Hussein is Real!” piece that rolled out as the pressure mounted? Anyone wanna take a really wild guess?

    Uh huh. Steven Hurst.

    Tully (e4a26d)

  11. […] He also notes (as I did earlier) that there are several lingering questions. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Eason Jordan on Jamil Hussein (421107)

  12. Uh huh. Steven Hurst.

    Uh-huh, his was a follow piece.

    Re-read the first paragraphs of the U.S. military PAO’s retraction demand after the Qais Al-Bashir story:

    Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

    Dear Associated Press:

    On Nov. 24, 2006, your organization published an article by Qais Al-Bashir about six Sunnis being burned alive in the presence of Iraqi Police officers. This news item, which is below, received an enormous amount of coverage internationally.

    We at Multi-National Corps – Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

    —–

    LT Michael B. Dean
    Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
    MNC-I Joint Operations Center
    Public Affairs Officer

    Al-Bashir’s article stated all these events occurred “as Iraqi soldiers stood by,” not “in the presence of Iraqi Police officers.” Since an Iraqi Army patrol later disputed the evidence, that’s not an insignificant discrepancy.

    steve (8f3e6c)

  13. Steve-

    I find myself in agreement with an awful lot of what you just said, especially about the MOI. I felt it was reasonable to trust them on a trivial matter like reading their payrolls. Now I won’t even trust them to do that.

    I do still think some closure is possible on this story, and I also don’t think the AP has offered a credible explanation for how Capt. Huseein–and its other sources–know what they know about events all over Baghdad.

    They have effectively been reduced (by the security situation, or perhaps occasionally through laziness) to stenographers– trusting people like Capt. Hussein to relay events often without any apparent confirmation. If we can’t trust Jamil Hussein, I don’t see much value in AP reports that transcribe his take on Baghdad events. Why should he necessarily be any more reliable than his employers at the MOI?

    [People routinely believe things they believe in press reports. I don’t think there is anything crazy about having believed the MOI — at least until they gave reason for us not to believe them, which they quickly did, which is when I got suspicious. The glee over this is predictable but silly and juvenile. The ones who look bad are the MOI folks who provided the bad info. — P]

    See Dubya (f7706f)

  14. P, it’s not glee, not here anyway. It’s just that your lashing out at lefties upon hitting a dead end in your pet theory.

    It’s like the government charging Padilla with loitering (or something) when all that evidence they expected to turn up of his planned attack on U.S. cities, never did. It’s like the Republicans crying about unilateral parliamentary tactics in Congress as of this week. It’s like blaming Clinton for 9/11 and the defecit. It’s like…well, you get it.

    In short, it’s the predictable reaction to failure, or the lack of evidence, that’s amusing. Your mission to figure out the truth in Iraq, however quixotic – I respect it wholeheartedly. Your histrionics about the lefties’ glee, less so.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  15. It’s just that your lashing out at lefties upon hitting a dead end in your pet theory.

    What is my pet theory again, biwah, beyond believing the Ministry of the Interior for about three days?

    Patterico (906bfc)

  16. P, as I understand it, you were positing that the air strikes in Ramadi, the torched Mosques, the burned Sunnis, were all fabricated by the AP as a means to turn us against the war effort.

    There was palpable excitement from the righty blogs, incl. very much you, over the possibility of catching the traitorous (or at least biased and grossly negligent) MSM red-handed.

    And now you’re disappointed.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  17. fabricated by the AP

    …or that they turned a blind eye to the faultiness of some nefarious, non-official source.

    biwah (2dcf66)

  18. P, as I understand it, you were positing that the air strikes in Ramadi, the torched Mosques, the burned Sunnis, were all fabricated by the AP as a means to turn us against the war effort.

    There was palpable excitement from the righty blogs, incl. very much you, over the possibility of catching the traitorous (or at least biased and grossly negligent) MSM red-handed.

    And now youre disappointed.

    Well, you don’t understand it. That’s your problem. You have it totally wrong.

    So go back and get your facts right before you say something like that again.

    [UPDATE: Here’s a hint. The air strikes in Ramadi were the L.A. Times, not the AP. Strike One for biwah.

    The torched Mosques, the burned Sunnis — there is evidence they’re not true. But I have not claimed that they “were all fabricated by the AP.” Strike Two for biwah.

    Rather, I have said that there’s evidence they’re not true. Had you asked, rather than writing a comment full of half-assed assumptions, I would have told you that Hussein was probably repeating an unsubstantiated rumor, or an insurgent sympathizer passing along propaganda. Also, I have not called the AP traitorous, and indeed posted something today discussing the fact that they’re not.

    Strike three for biwah.

    Your comment is sloppy, inaccurate, and full of unresearched and false assumptions and confusion of issues. You have lumped me in with other blogs without taking the time to see if the charge is correct.

    Other than that, excellent job.]

    Patterico (906bfc)

  19. You have lumped me in with other blogs without taking the time to see if the charge is correct.

    That I have apparently, and I apologize. Been swamped with other things. I still take exception to your claims of lefty triumphalism – the existence of JH was made an issue first by those on the right who denied it – beyond just skepticism. But you weren’t one of them.

    [Frankly, being “swamped with other things” isn’t an excuse for making spurious accusations against someone’s reputation. But hey, you’re just doing it in blog comments. Editor & Publisher is doing it for real. — P]

    biwah (b47da5)

  20. patterico, don’t let these tinhorns get you down. you have been measured, cautious and reasonable at all times while reporting this thang. the epistemological issues are more interesting to me than whether jamil hussein exists or how many mosques/people were burned. is wire service propaganda more or less trustworthy than military propaganda? by what metrics should we evaluate the truth/truthiness of information coming out of a chaotic war zone? how can we evaluate the progress of a war mission when our president has conspicuously failed to articulate exactly what that mission is?

    assistant devil's advocate (b659fe)

  21. Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad…

    The Iraq war — indeed, the larger GWOJ (global war against jihadism) — is as much a propaganda war, a war of ideas and “memes,” as it is a shooting war. Paul Josef Goebbels understood the power of propaganda; so……

    Big Lizards (5ca406)

  22. […] UPDATE 10: Patterico, as usual, is priceless: Saying that “Jamil Hussein exists” ends the story is like saying there is nothing to Rathergate because Bill Burkett existed. […]

    BizzyBlog » Jamil Hussein (Delegated) Update (Late PM; BizzyBlog Resumes Updates) (34f45e)

  23. P, the theory I attributed to you was that JH didn’t exist, and in fact you were merely skeptical. And I re-stated what you had “posited” “as I understand it”. It was an invitation to correction, given that I had not done the research thoroughly.

    Incidentally you have been cited at townhall for the proposition that JH was the Ramadi source, but I am embarrassed to admit that I would ever rely on such a source, so I’ll stand mute on that issue.

    So, I went beyond my original intent to pick at your passing the buck on the lefties for the sins of the right. But it should be evident that I was neither crowing nor leveling spurious accusations against your reputation.

    ada, the abstract issues that interest you seem to be fleshed out by the specific facts of the Jamil hussein issue and whether the mosques were burned etc. so the epistemology is intrinsically linked to the facts, here. without that link, there would be a lot less concern over the facts.

    biwah (b47da5)

  24. […] Just yesterday, I said: By the way, those oh-so-careful leftists? Some of them are claiming that Jamil Hussein has already been arrested — based on a report that says he faces arrest. . . . [K]eep your eyes open for the lefties who claim Jamil Hussein has already been arrested. You’ll see ‘em. Because they’re the careful ones! […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Media Matters’s Eric Boehlert Gets the Facts Wrong — Again (421107)

  25. The lefty blogs have delighted in seeing the conservative blogs’ disbelief in the existence of JH disproven. But there’s a little revisionism going on here – the conservative blogs didn’t start questioning his existence until they heard that the military and the MOI were going to the press to announce that he didn’t exist. Originally it was his objectivity and provenance that was questioned, and those questions are still very pertinent.

    geoff (be57c1)


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