Patterico's Pontifications

1/11/2007

A Cautionary Note on Jamil Hussein and the Burning Six Story

Filed under: General,Media Bias,War — Patterico @ 7:02 am



People sometimes hope for bad news for others, if they think it will be good news for them.

For example, anyone who has ever followed the stock market closely has observed situations where analysts predict that good news for the economy is likely to be bad news for the market. This is not always the case, but it does happen. For example, a report showing higher unemployment might cause the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower, which market analysts would welcome. Put simply, in those situations, higher unemployment translates to higher stock prices.

So you sometimes get situations where people — certainly not me! — await economic news with the hope that it will be bad, so that their stocks will go higher.

Bad news for others is sometimes good news for the individual.

I was reminded of this when I read this post by lefty Iraqi blogger Zeyad about the “Burning Six” incident. Zeyad basically makes many of the arguments you have heard from lefties on the Jamil Hussein issue — some of which may be valid, by the way. But this is the part that jumped out at me:

I have heard from friends in Baghdad that they have seen a cell phone video of the burning incident and that it was broadcast on Zawra TV. They couldn’t get me the clip when I asked for it, though. Mosques have been burned before in Baghdad, so I also can’t see why that would be surprising to some American bloggers. Just check my YouTube page on the sidebar for examples.

If such a video emerged, it would be bad news for Iraq and for the Burning Six — but good news for the lecturing left.

Do some lefties hope such a video surfaces? Well. I would never say out loud that the Glenn Greenwalds and Eric Boehlerts of the world would be thrilled to their core to see such a video emerge. But I can guarantee you this: if such a video were to emerge, they would run, not walk, to their computers. And if you thought that they were lecturing, moralistic, humorless scolds before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

So let me take this opportunity to warn conservatives: there is a chance that the Burning Six story could be true — all of it. Questions have been raised about the story, and they are legitimate, serious questions that deserve to be aired. But the fact that there are questions doesn’t mean, all by itself, that the story is bogus.

And, as Zeyad says, is it really that hard to imagine such an atrocity in the vicinity of Baghdad nowadays? The answer is, of course, a resounding “no.”

P.S. Zeyad also says:

Could the whole incident be just an urban legend, given the highly polarised environment in Iraq today and the total lack of trust between the Shia and Sunni communities in Baghdad? I would say it’s totally possible, and there have been many occasions of outlandish accusations made by both sides of the conflict, to the extent that it is hard to discern the truth of what is happening. That is why we have to rely sometimes on Internet postings, rumours, word of mouth, and incomplete reporting.

This, to me, is the takeaway point from the Burning Six story, my posts on the Ramadi airstrike, and all reporting from Iraq nowadays. It’s very hard to be smugly sure about anything, because it’s almost impossible to trust entirely any news coming out of Iraq.

The one thing it’s safe to say is that it is, in places, utterly chaotic and out of control. I have heard enough reports from sources I trust to believe that this is so; to take one example, look at Bill Ardolino’s most recent Examiner piece from Fallujah. Bill writes that firemen there were reluctant to put out a fire when an Abrams tank was hit with an IED, because they were scared of being killed by the insurgents, for helping Americans. Good Lord.

But any reporting out of Iraq has to be viewed with a very skeptical eye. We should all be able to agree on that.

28 Responses to “A Cautionary Note on Jamil Hussein and the Burning Six Story”

  1. I totally agree!!

    Sue (7b9b21)

  2. I think the burning six story is more important for exposing AP’s techniques (or lack thereof) than the story itself.

    And it really shouldn’t be that hard to take a picture of a burned out Mosque. Unless of course they keep the name and location of the mosque hidden to protect it as a source.

    jpm100 (6dd049)

  3. Patterico1: “But any reporting out of Iraq has to be viewed with a very skeptical eye. We should all be able to agree on that.”

    Patterico2: “Read Bill Ardolinos account of going hunting for IEDs in Fallujah…. Between that and Teflon Dons account, you get as good a picture as youre going to get without going yourself.”

    Patterico3: “Bill Ardolino has a fascinating interview with a civil servant in Fallujah. It is one of the best pieces about Iraq I have read in some time.”

    Very skeptical, indeed.

    [Your failed attempts at “gotchas” are getting really old. The pieces I praised were great pieces — and Bill’s interview in particular tells Americans some things they don’t want to hear. But people should neverless be skeptical of these stories and posts, as excellent as they are, and realize that there may be things these folks can’t say because of their positions. That said, I’ll trust Bill Ardolino, whom I’ve read for years and who calls ’em as he sees ’em, over an unnamed Iraqi stringer for Big Media. *Judgment*, my fine feathered friend. Didn’t you say that once? — P]

    m.croche (85f703)

  4. pot to kettle, you’re a lecturing, moralistic scold (but at least not humorless)! aren’t lecturing and moralism the very essence of a pontificator? it’s ok, i’m a pontificator too.

    assistant devil's advocate (e7286b)

  5. […] Read this post by Patterico. His point is well taken, as his points usually are. Also, please don’t mention Jami’s real name in the comments here. I don’t think it should have been published to begin with and I don’t want HA used to help spread it around. […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » Jamilgate non-bombshell: AP allegedly used pseudonym (d4224a)

  6. I highly doubt such a video exists. We have seen too many fake vids out of the Middle East before.

    I highly doubt such a video exists and a fake one has to be taken at face value not just because some blogger in Iraq says its true.

    Bill Amos (b7c504)

  7. Too many details. The whole point of the Jamil-Burning Six story is that it was shocking, even for Baghdad, and that most of America heard the story for this very reason.

    Like it or not, if it is true and can be documented — as MM and war bloggers have been attempting to do since the story came out — it will reshape our understanding of what’s going on there, and worse — it could change quite a few minds about the value of attempting to help these people.

    That’s what this story is about.

    Jerry Hurtubise (2ea0c5)

  8. Proven: “Jamil Hussein” does not exist!…

    Part 36 of a series. Continued from this post.J-DAMNConfederate Yankee And so a major Associated Press claim in Jamilgate takes an apparently fatal hit. According to Bill Costlow of CPATT (Civilian Police Assistance Training Team) in Baghdad, and as fo…

    Bill's Bites (72c8fd)

  9. […] Update! Both AP and Patterico beg to differ, at least somewhat, and more power to ‘em. For what it’s worth, I maintain that the issue here is the AP’s credulity (or disingenuousness) — as well as the eagerness of Lefty bloggers and other journos to suspend the skepticism they usually reserve for the military, in order to close ranks around their fellow antiwar propagandists at the AP — and not specifically whether or not any police captain/AP source named Jamil Hussein does in fact exist. So there. […]

    Pass that crow on over to the left side of the table | Cold Fury (6f4592)

  10. lefty Iraqi blogger Zeyad

    Why do you call Zeyad “lefty”? If you check his old entries, he was quite strongly pro-invasion, which, I guess, is incompatible with being “lefty”. He’s very skeptical of the Iraqi government now — given the fact the he’s a Sunni from Baghdad, that’s quite natural.

    NN (f82c0b)

  11. […] The larger picture is whether 6 Sunnis were taken from prayer, doused with kerosene and burned to death, as this pseudonymous source said. I doubt it. Patterico said it could still be true. But I require something more than this Jamail/Jamil guy’s word. […]

    Don Surber » Blog Archive » AP blew it (78dd76)

  12. i wouldn’t call zeyad a lefty blogger. he often makes fun of lefty bloggers as much as he does with rightwing bloggers. he’s just a cynic.

    fed up iraqi (9eeb27)

  13. Patterico:
    What’s been bothering me a lot is that no one has gone to the Mashadani Tribe to inquire about the background of this supposed incident and what led up to it. That was the tribe which was identified as being the targets. First, they picked off the muezzin– for voicing warnings on his PA system about who was approaching or what? The others were said to be fellow tribesmen, too. I don’t get it. Even if someone spoofed a legit po’s id, the anecdote could have happened. But why hasn’t anyone (like Eason Jordan) contacted that tribe? It seems to me that this question needs to be answered, too.

    Button (451eb2)

  14. button, yes they did pay a visit to the tribe. the iraqi defense ministry sent a delegation to the tribe’s leader’s house and ordered him to retract the story of the burned sunnis or esle and he did. it was in the news. he was the first source of the story on aljazeera before this capt hussein fellow but nobody seems to realize that.

    fed up iraqi (9eeb27)

  15. I always suspected this guy’s name was a pseudonym. This guy is more or less a prison or gang snitch, and using his real name would be a death sentence for him. If I was Jamil, I would probably start looking for another job (and home) in the near future. Unless he’s running some sort of incredible disinformation campaign, but that honestly doesn’t make much sense.

    Tuna (ab48f6)

  16. Unless he’s running some sort of incredible disinformation campaign, but that honestly doesn’t make much sense.

    Given the fact that his “61 stories” are neither pro-Shia nor pro-Sunni, and most of the stories he reported are pretty regular (3 dead bodies found; drive-by shooting kills a man — something like this), the idea of this being propaganda makes no sense at all.

    NN (d035f8)

  17. NN,

    How do you know that Jamil X’s stories were neutral? I’ve searched all over the internet and I can’t tell whether the slant is pro-Sunni, pro-Shia, or mixed. Apparently the articles are only available via Lexis-Nexis, if there, and I haven’t been able to find any summary or analysis of the details. If you know, please link your source. Otherwise, I suggest you rethink your last comment.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  18. If you know, please link your source. Otherwise, I suggest you rethink your last comment.

    I think I already gave a link here. Since spam-filter seems to block a direct link, I’ll give a link to a blogpost, and you just click at “61 AP Stories”.
    There.

    NN (9c16c2)

  19. NN,

    Thanks for the link. Your link is to a list compiled and/or provided by Curt of Flopping Aces. It lists AP articles sourced to Jamil X from April 2006-November 2006 and provides a very brief summary of each. I’ve seen this list before and I’ve even linked to it, but I don’t see how it provides enough information to determine the slant of the underlying stories.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  20. It lists AP articles sourced to Jamil X from April 2006-November 2006 and provides a very brief summary of each.

    It seems that it’s not summaries, but just all quotes attributed to “Jamil X”.

    Some of the stories are about Shiites killing Sunnies, some about Sunnies killing Shiites. Most of them just “Iraqis killed in a car bombing”, which means no slant at all, unless you deem it “anti-war” slant, which is, you know, quite a crazy idea.
    As far as I understand, “Six burnt Sunnies (and some mosques)” is the only “charged” story sourced to “Jamil X”. And as far I remember, there’s not a single “US army kills a civilian” story there.

    Can somebody believe that a skilled Al-Qaeda propagandist would invents stories such as:

    A roadside bomb in western Baghdad hit an Iraqi army patrol, injuring two Iraqi soldiers and damaging one vehicle

    The trash collector, a Shiite, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting early Thursday in western Baghdad

    A suicide car bomber also struck an Iraqi army checkpoint in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah, killing one soldier and wounding two others

    gunmen shot dead a bodyguard of a senior official of the Justice Ministry after breaking into his house Friday night in western Baghdad

    I think it takes just a bit of common sense to understand that this is not propaganda in any way.

    NN (d035f8)

  21. It lists AP articles sourced to Jamil X from April 2006-November 2006 and provides a very brief summary of each.

    It seems that it’s not summaries, but just all quotes attributed to “Jamil X”. More than enough to me.

    Some of the stories are about Shiites killing Sunnies, some about Sunnies killing Shiites. Most of them just “Iraqis killed in a car bombing”, which means no slant at all, unless you deem it “anti-war” slant, which is, you know, quite a crazy idea.
    As far as I understand, “Six burnt Sunnies (and some mosques)” is the only “charged” story sourced to “Jamil X”. And as far I remember, there’s not a single “US army kills a civilian” story there.

    Can anybody really believe that a skilled Al-Qaeda propagandist would invents stories such as:

    A roadside bomb in western Baghdad hit an Iraqi army patrol, injuring two Iraqi soldiers and damaging one vehicle

    The trash collector, a Shiite, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting early Thursday in western Baghdad

    A suicide car bomber also struck an Iraqi army checkpoint in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah, killing one soldier and wounding two others

    gunmen shot dead a bodyguard of a senior official of the Justice Ministry after breaking into his house Friday night in western Baghdad

    I think it takes just a bit of common sense to understand that this is not propaganda in any way.

    NN (f82c0b)

  22. It lists AP articles sourced to Jamil X from April 2006-November 2006 and provides a very brief summary of each.

    It seems that it’s not summaries, but just all quotes attributed to “Jamil X”. More than enough to me.

    Some of the stories are about Shiites killing Sunnies, some about Sunnies killing Shiites. Most of them just “Iraqis killed in a car bombing”, which means no slant at all, unless you deem it “anti-war” slant, which is, you know, quite a crazy idea.
    As far as I understand, “Six burnt Sunnies (and some mosques)” is the only “charged” story sourced to “Jamil X”. And as far I remember, there’s not a single “US army kills a civilian” story there.

    Can anybody really believe that a skilled Al-Qaeda propagandist would invents stories such as:

    A roadside bomb in western Baghdad hit an Iraqi army patrol, injuring two Iraqi soldiers and damaging one vehicle

    The trash collector, a Shiite, was gunned down in a drive-by shooting early Thursday in western Baghdad

    A suicide car bomber also struck an Iraqi army checkpoint in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah, killing one soldier and wounding two others

    gunmen shot dead a bodyguard of a senior official of the Justice Ministry after breaking into his house Friday night in western Baghdad

    I think it takes just a bit of common sense to understand that this is not propaganda in any way.

    NN (d035f8)

  23. NN,

    With the exception of the trash collector story, the examples you give prove my point. Despite your claim that Jamil X’s 61 stories are “neither pro-Shia nor pro-Sunni,” we can’t tell that based on the information provided at the Flopping Aces’ link because the information there is so sketchy. The fact that we can’t tell doesn’t mean Jamil X’s stories must be neutral. It simply means we can’t tell one way or the other.

    Thus, if your claim that the Jamil X stories are “neither pro-Shia nor pro-Sunni” is based solely on the Flopping Aces’ link, I submit your statement is incorrect.

    DRJ (51a774)

  24. NN #20:

    It seems that it’s not summaries, but just all quotes attributed to “Jamil X”. More than enough to me.

    IMO, the link contains excerpts from the byline and first line of AP articles covering the period from April 2006 through November 2006. Curt has represented that each excerpt is to an article in which there is a reference to Jamil X as the/a source. The excerpted material does not appear to be quotes.

    DRJ (51a774)

  25. To clarify, I think it’s true that the limited excerpts purport to be quotes from AP articles … but they do not appear to be quotes from Jamil X.

    DRJ (51a774)

  26. You Are Preaching to the Choir, I think they call that, “The Fog of War!”

    mike (f84a09)

  27. Unexpected News on Jamilgate…

    So, if this pans out, then the AP is not telling the truth of the matter asserted. If this information is incorrect, then someone at the Ministry or Costlow isn’t telling the truth, which is a story in and of itself. Either way, there’s a major story…

    A Blog For All (59ce3a)

  28. Despite your claim that Jamil X’s 61 stories are “neither pro-Shia nor pro-Sunni,” we can’t tell that based on the information provided at the Flopping Aces’ link because the information there is so sketchy.

    You mean, you don’t agree with the fact that report like “A roadside bomb in western Baghdad hit an Iraqi army patrol, injuring two Iraqi soldiers and damaging one vehicle” is “neither pro-Shia nor pro-Sunni”, since you believe that there would be something else to the story? Why? I think, it’s perfectly clear: here’s a short report about violence in Baghdad, perfectly neutral, not giving sectarian details about victim or perpetrator. That is all.

    To clarify, I think it’s true that the limited excerpts purport to be quotes from AP articles … but they do not appear to be quotes from Jamil X.

    Every quote in the Curt’s file ends with “Capt. Jamil Hussein said”. As far as I understand, that means that all the information coming from Jamil Hussein is there. Even if the next line of the story would be “meanwhile, in his dark chamber, the evil Moqtada Al-Sadr…” it doesn’t change anything, because that would not be Jamil’s statement.

    NN (d035f8)


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