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The alleged war atrocity thatthe NYTimes can’t substantiate

By Michelle Malkin  •  December 4, 2006 09:26 AM

***update: video – Jules Crittenden on Fox***

The controversy over the Associated Press’ coverage of the alleged burning of six burning Sunnis in Hurriya, Iraq last month continues–even if most of the media refuses to confront it.

This morning, the New York Times’ Tom Zeller–one of the few on the case–follows up his blog coverage with an article that calls for separating “hyperbole from horror.” Unfortunately, Zeller’s article doesn’t succeed at doing so–and has left the impression that he is, as Lucianne.com writes, “sneering at the blogosphere.”

Zeller does knock the AP for its paranoid, hyperbolic reaction to the blogger challenge:

Then there was The Associated Press itself, which by Friday had come to view the continued scrutiny of its article as evidence that everyone — the military, the blogosphere, even other media outlets tracking the back-and-forth — was either agenda-driven, insolent, or both, but not legitimately curious.

And most importantly, he does not accept the AP’s word that the incident at Hurriya occurred:

It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning. Otherwise it will all become din.

Left out of the article, as Allah notes, is Zeller’s discovery that the NYTimes reporter in Iraq could not substantiate the story. Zeller published the little-noticed e-mail he received from Times reporter Ed Wong on his blog last week:

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.

Ed Wong

Allah asks:

Why didn’t [Zeller in his article published today] specify that the Times’s own Baghdad correspondent has reason to doubt the AP report? Probably for the same reason he didn’t note that the AP’s new witnesses to the burning were all anonymous or that the agency hasn’t disputed Centcom’s assertion that its initial report about four mosques being burned was wrong: because that would have screwed with his theme of “rag[ing]” bloggers and Bush’s keystone kops military assailing the “venerable, trusted” Associated Press.

Zeller’s article today ends with an embarrassingly shallow conclusion:

Whatever the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking the article, it somehow seems important to figure out why this incident — in the face of all the killings in Iraq — remains in such dispute.

“Somehow seems?” Why is it that the “agenda” of the bloggers–finding out the truth–somehow seems so alien and suspicious to Zeller and his colleagues? Imagine! Bloggers who want to know whether what the media reported is true!

Questions about witness recantations, anonymous reporters, false reporting about the mosque torchings, still-unsubstantiated claims about the six burning Sunnis and the existence, identity, and employment of Captain Jamil Hussein remain. Zeller’s article also glosses over one of the most important matters raised in the blogosphere: the reliance of the “venerable, trusted” Western press on unknown, unidentified foreign stringers in the Middle East.

Last week, I asked the AP’s media relations director Linda Wagner:

Who were the two reporters who went back to the Hurriyah neighborhood around the Mustafa mosque to conduct the follow-up reporting?

Here was her e-mail response:


We don’t publicly identify reporters who work in the field in Iraq because it would endanger their lives. But both are reporters that we know well and who have worked for us for an extended period of time.

Linda M. Wagner
Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs
Associated Press, Corporate Communications

Photographer Bilal Hussein was known well to the AP, too…before he was captured by the US military in Ramadi this spring and held in detention (where he remains) for his suspected ties to terrorists.

Photographer Adnan Hajj was known well to Reuters…before he was fired for faking war photos in Lebanon this summer.

Curt at Flopping Aces, who started the ball rolling in the blogosphere on this story, responds to the New York Times here and scrutinizes AP reporter Qais al-Bashir here. Newsbusters and Jim Hoft are also tracking. A reader at Flopping Aces e-mailed Curt after combing through Lexis-Nexis and asked, among other questions:

At least 16 AP reporters have cited Capt. Hussein as a source. Have they all spoken to him? If they had, I’m sure AP would have said so when his existence was questioned. So how do the reporters get his statements?

That lack of transparency, disclosure, reliability, and credibility is at the heart of the war coverage controversy the MSM doesn’t want to confront. Far easier to attack bloggers as reckless, rumor-mongering “mad rabble” than look in the mirror and face the truth.


Jules Crittenden: “Say no to AP’s shoddy work”

Flashback: “Real or fake?”


Rumors and reporting in Iraq
Burning Sunnis, burning mosques, burning questions
Burning Six update: The AP responds (to USA Today); update: and now, a new AP account
Real news vs. fake news in Iraq
The media fog of war
The Associated (with terrorists) Press strikes again
Bilal Hussein’s congresswoman
AP runs to the Washington Post
AP stands for Advocacy Press
AP vs. the “so-called blogosphere”
Associated Press and the Bilal Hussein case
Where is Bilal Hussein?

Shame on the selfish Associated Press. Shame.

September 4, 2009 02:16 PM by Michelle Malkin

The AP and Bilal Hussein: Story is not over

April 9, 2008 03:03 PM by Michelle Malkin

Amnesty does not equal absolution.

Copyright hypocrites at the Associated Press

March 15, 2008 10:07 PM by Michelle Malkin


Categories: Bilal Hussein