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February 25, 2006
Meanwhile Back at the FrontBy Greyhawk
A weekly look at events in Iraq, and on the home front.
This week: an examination of the propaganda war that's ongoing in the wake of the Shrine bombing. With our western reporters absent or holed up in Baghdad hotels, propaganda may be all we're hearing this week - and may in fact be the real battle.
The New York Times says More Clashes Shake Iraq; Political Talks Are In Ruins
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 23 — A groundswell of sectarian fury continued to roil Iraq on Thursday after Wednesday's bombing of a major Shiite shrine, leaving at least 138 people dead in the past two days and political negotiations over a new government in ruins.In addition to the death toll, as of Friday, there were published claims that as many as 184 Sunni mosques in Iraq had been attacked in retaliation for the bombing of the shrine of Imams Ali al-Hadi and Al-Hasan al-Askari.
But Major General Rick Lynch, spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, described a somewhat different situation on the ground in the wake of the bombing:
It's important that you understand from our perspective the repercussions from that attack yesterday. Candidly, I'm watching the media, I'm listening to discussions about attacks across Iraq that we, the coalition, can't see, we can't confirm. So I'm going to tell you in detail what we've seen since yesterday when the attack occurred until the time of this press conference so that you understand what we have indeed seen and we can confirm.Note the General's candor - he admits that confirmation of the full extent of any damage nationwide can not be accomplished in a matter of hours. He was probably surprised when in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the Shiite shrine accounts of over 100 attacks on Sunni mosques were presented in US media as confirmed facts.
In fact, within hours of the shrine bombing, the New York Times had reported that at least 27 Sunni mosques had been attacked in Baghdad alone
The Iraqi police, whose ranks include many followers of Shiite militias, largely stood by during the attacks on Sunni mosques on Wednesday and Thursday, as did many Iraqi soldiers.The story would also note that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political coalition, failed to make any sort of apology for the dozens of attacks on Sunni mosques and imams — a key demand made by Sunni Arab political leaders, who withdrew in protest on Thursday from talks over forming a government.
Other Times stories would describe a "wave of killings of Sunni Arabs", and the victim's response:
The attacks, mostly by Shiite militiamen, were troubling not only because they resulted in at least 170 deaths across Iraq, but also because they showed how deeply the militias have spread inside government forces. The Iraqi police, commanded by a Shiite political party, stood by as the rampage spread.The Washington Post would claim that 120 mosques had been attacked, adding that "Shiite militias -- including the Mahdi Army, loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- continued to attack Sunni mosques, engaging in drive-by shootings, occupying the buildings and setting them ablaze, or detaining worshipers inside."
Time Magazine would caption a photo of the demolished shrine with a claim that "a string of similar attacks to Sunni targets took place across Iraq."
And even as a government imposed curfew established calm in the region, reports of the numbers of Sunni mosques attacked would skyrocket. By Friday night published claims would reach as high as "184 Sunni mosques" that "had been damaged, some destroyed". But perhaps as an overdue admission that the claims were becoming a bit outlandish, media reports began to qualify the numbers by actually citing the sources.
The Association of Muslim Scholars claim 168 Sunni mosques were attacked, 10 imams were killed and 15 imams were kidnapped.In the US
Some 168 Sunni mosques had been attacked around the country, 10 imams killed and 15 abducted since the shrine attack, according to the Sunni Clerical Association of Muslim Scholars.In Australia, a report that
The Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars said that since Wednesday, at least 168 Sunni mosques had been attacked, 10 imams killed and 15 abducted.would even explain that "Their claims could not be immediately verified."
The main Sunni religious group said 184 Sunni mosques had been damaged, some destroyed; 10 clerics had been killed and 15 abducted.This is, in fact, the modus operandi of the Association of Muslim Scholars - an Iraqi Sunni/Ba'athist group formed in the wake of the 2003 invasion. Their role in the current conflict is to fight the "information war" while others conduct the actual shooting. After any atrocity committed by Sunni "insurgents" in Iraq, the Association immediately insists a similar atrocity has been committed by American or Shi'ite forces.
In October, 2004 a suicide car bomber slaughtered three dozen children in Baghdad. The AMS immediately accused American and Iraqi troops of widespread atrocities in Samarra.
"The hospital is full of bodies, children are buried in the gardens, and there are bodies filling the streets," said Muhammad Bashar al-Faidhi, one of the members of the group in Baghdad who said he was basing his accusations on witness accounts. It was impossible to independently verify his claims."It was impossible to independently verify" - in fact, reporters actually on the scene told a very different story. But due to the quick work of the "Muslim Scholars" both accounts appeared simultaneously in the press.
That same month, an Iraqi Sunni blogger reported
Last Monday, while I was in Basra watching TV in the afternoon, Al-Fayhaa channel broadcasted a film they said it was sent to the station via e-mail. I have to say that the credibility of the film is questionable but since I found that no one in the media, whether inside or outside Iraq commented on it, I decided to tell you about it and perhaps we could together find some answers.
In November 2004 the BBC reported that the AMS was protesting raids on mosques in Ramadi that had discovered weapons caches:
Yesterday coalition forces raided seven mosques in Ramadi, detaining four people and seizing bomb-making materials.Note that unlike American sources the BBC is willing to acknowledge the ties between the AMS and terrorist groups in Iraq.
Later the group demanded that Sunnis boycott the January, 2005 elections. (Some would interpret the demands as threats against any potential Sunni voters). After the January elections, they would condemn the new government while demanding to be included in the writing of Iraq's constitution. But within days they would announce their refusal to assist in preparring the constitution as long as the country remained under US occupation. Virtually all subsequent difficulties with developing the constitution could be traced to actions of the group.
Additional details of the relationship between the AMS and terrorist groups would be revealed following the kidnapping of Italian "journalist" Giuliana Sgrena
Giuliana Sgrena, a 56-year-old reporter for the Communist daily Il Manifesto, was kidnapped near Baghdad University.And now the group claims atrocities against Sunnis in Iraq - stories that shove the actual bombing of the Samarra shrine into the background of the daily news.
One might wonder why American media sources decline to offer details of The Association of Muslim Scholars, opting to refer to them as simply "an influential Sunni group" or "group of influential Sunni clerics". In fact, it's worthwhile to question why early reports of the mass destruction of Sunni Mosques didn't even acknowledge the group as the source of the claims.
Just prior to the Samarra attacks, Richard Miniter offerred an intriguing suggestion that could explain much of the bias in US media coverage of Iraq:
Richard Miniter: Everyone talks about intelligence failures, no one talks about media failures. The media is the people's intelligence service, and it's failing us.In fact, in at least one case last year a CBS-employed stringer was arrested for helping "insurgents" with a car bomb.
We noted previously that the role of the AMS in the current conflict is to fight the "information war" while others conduct the actual shooting. That might not be completely accurate.
On Saturday two attacks targeted the funeral procession for Atwar Bahjat, the well-known Al Arabiya correspondent killed with two crew members Wednesday while reporting on the violence engulfing Samarra, where the Al-Askariya "Golden" Mosque was bombed.Though we are left to determine for ourselves why this last fact is important to the story.
A roundup of those accused in the bombing of the shrine of Imams Ali al-Hadi and Al-Hasan al-Askari would produce an interesting line up.
Following the lead of Iran's President, Vice President, and "Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian News agency reports that Friday "prayers" in Tehran were used to condemn the "agents of the Western arrogance, US leaders, Mossad, CIA and the Zionists" responsible for the mosque bombing in Iraq:
Substitute Leader of Tehran's Friday Prayers Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani here condemned the criminal act of bombing the holy shrines of Imam Hadi and Imam Hassan Asgari in Samarra, Iraq and called for unity between all Muslims of the world.Translations of the "prayers" also indicated the Ayatollah claimed that "Iran's nuclear issue, cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and bombings in Samarra were all part of a Western conspiracy to attack Islam."
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Thousands of protesters have rallied in Iran, voicing anger at the U.S., Israel and an attack on a holy Shiite shrine in Iraq.Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Ba'ath party claimed the Badr Corps (an Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq), the United States, and Iran were behind the attack. "The Badr Corps bombed the Shia shrine on behalf of Iran and with encouragement from American forces in Iraq."
In an amazing coincidence, in a web forum posting The Mujahidin Shura Council in Iraq (an umbrella group of several Sunni terrorist organizations) also placed blame for the bombing on Iraqi Prime Minister al Jafari, the Badr Corps, and the government of Iran. According to the statement, the bombing was an effort to distract attention from the crimes of these groups (a likely reference to recent militia killings). They further promised a strong retaliation against the Shia.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani yesterday accused the "takfiris" - those Muslims who regard other Muslims as infidels - of carrying out the bombing in order to cause sectarian sedition. (The US does too - but while fellow Muslims call them takfiri, we call them al Qaeda.)
The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad remains optimistic
In his first acknowledgment of the turmoil, Zalmay Khalilzad is asking Iraqis to resist the push toward civil war. And he says there is "an opportunity to bring people together" to defeat the promoters of sectarian attacks.And a milblogger there offers a unique perspective: "The situation remains tense here in Baghdad." But, he adds, "I’ve never heard it this quiet."
Update: Things move fast -
THE movement of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, alleged to have played a role in the anti-Sunni violence over the last few days, publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders overnight.The union of two of the most potent anti-US groups in Iraq might be cause for concern. They've coordinated before, when Sunnis in Fallujah were battling US forces while Sadr's militia did the same in Najaf and elsewhere. But Sadr's agreement with the US ended that battle and helped clear the way for the coalition to strike Fallujah in force.
But this statement, while open to interpretation, is promising:
The sheikhs condemned "those who excommunicate Muslims" a reference to the "takfireen" or Islamist extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who justify killing fellow Muslims by declaring them non-Muslims.(Via CDR Salamander)
Last week's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front can be read here.
(The author of these compilations, an Iraq war veteran, runs the web log The Mudville Gazette.)
Posted by Greyhawk / February 25, 2006 3:03 PM | Permalink
I'm not there right now. What I do know is that the further you get from there, the more filtered your information is - and a lot of reports from Iraq depend on where that person is. Kind of like the old "Blind man describing an elephant." What I ... Read More
Were early reports of civil war and attacks against mosques throughout Iraq greatly exaggerated by the media which didn't bother to actually confirm the carnage? Read More
Click here for Greyhawk's latest weekly report. This week: an examination of the propaganda war that's ongoing in the wake of the Shrine bombing. With our western reporters absent or holed up in Baghdad hotels, propaganda may be all we're Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com