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Because spelling is a tool of the imperialist warmongers.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two mortar rounds hit a U.S. military post in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, setting it on fire, police and witnesses said. A large cloud of black smoke was seen rising above Baladiyat, a predominantly Shiite area of capital, at about 3 p.m.
Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a U.S. military spokesman, confirmed that "indirect fire rounds" had landed in the vicinity of the coalition forward operating base, but he refused to describe the results of the attack, saying that would allow "the enemy" to assess its effectiveness.
The fact that there is indirect mortar fire in a war zone barely qualifies as "news-in-brief" material, yet the AP floated this as today's top story. Think of it this way. Mortars are used at the squad and platoon level, the basic warfighting elements in our combat infantry units. They are a scant step above heavy machine guns as far as warfighting tech goes. To a servicemember, running this story at the top of the fold is the rough equivilant of the Washington Post frontpaging a story on Cletus and Gilbert discharging shotguns in the Washington National Forest. It simply does not make sense.
Triggered by the work of Patterico and Flopping Aces, I ran a quick search into Mr. Bassem Mroue. I wanted to know why he felt this was earth-shattering news. Sure enough, Mroue's less-than-even journalistic practices were exposed earlier this summer by the blogosphere's ever-alert media watchdogs.
Now whether or not anti-Israeli bias translates to anti-American bias is subject to speculation. In my experience, it usually does, particularly when you're talking about Arab stringers. But the question in itself segues into another important topic: the credibility of blogger critiques on MSM reporting.
While chatting informally with a journalist -a pro, so to speak- about the upcoming 2007 Milblogging Conference, the reporter groaned "oh man, this isn't going to be 3 days of trashing the media is it?"
Caught a bit off-guard, I stammered out a "well, yeah. I suppose that'll be part of it." Integrity counts. The inadequacies of the media were discussed at length during 2006's conference, pretending like the topic wouldn't be a part of next year's event is would have been dishonest.
What bothered me about the reporter's question was the reflection of how the MSM views bloggers (and to a smaller extent milbloggers). To the media elites, we're just a bunch of armchair quarterbacks who are constantly telling them how poor they are at their jobs. Which is somewhat ironic, in that I felt the same way about journalists and the military. Still, that perception blinds reporters to the very real, very specific grievances that milbloggers have leveled against media giants regarding their coverage in Iraq, issues that should be seriously considered instead of callously dismissed.
During the 2005 conference, I never heard a panelist throw out an ambiguous, hazily phrased critique of war reporting. Instead I heard laser-focused grievances: "reporters never leave the Green Zone," or "they are employing stringers with ties to the insurgency."
Bassem Mroue's case alone should be a blazing red flag to the AP. When indirect mortar fire in a war zone is headline news, something is wrong. When the Pentagon is forced to stand up an entire unit dedicated to fighting reporting inaccuracies, something is wrong. When a major news network airs enemy propaganda thinly disguised as a story, something is wrong. Breathing in all of that foul air at once leads me to believe that something is rotten.
Doctored photos, suspect stringers, slanted reporting, all of this helps the enemy. If military bloggers don't have a dog in this fight, then who the hell does?
(I suppose I could call this post "Another Re: CENTCOM...)
This is a damn good sign. And they aren't getting "happy happy joy joy" responses. Flopping Aces has a list of recently media-quoted "MOI [Iraq Ministry of the Interior] spokesmen we are tracking since the middle of November and trying to verify" - an acknowledgement of the complexity of the "information war" and the engagement of PAOs therein. It's not a short list.
But "engaged" is the key word, and it's great to see that bloggers are being recognized as key allies (perhaps "weapons" is a better term) in the battle.
Update: For the Record is still going strong too. (And if you haven't read all three links in this post, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do so.)
Al Qaeda attacks Al Anbar tribeThis is big. Remember al-Qaeda's threat to kill the "renegade" Sunnis after Ramadan? Since the tribes "have given their men to the Ministry of the Interior to serve as Iraqi Police" and the coalition has given significant resources in support, they're going to have a tough time delivering.
Sunday, 26 November 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20061126-01
Nov. 26, 2006
Al Qaeda attacks Al Anbar tribe
Multi-National Corps – West PAO
AR RAMADI, Iraq – Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the Abu Soda tribe in Sofia Nov. 25. In response, Coalition Forces provided support to the Abu Soda’s fight against Al Qaeda.
“The American’s have come to the aide of the Abu Soda tribe. They have understood the dire situation [that the Abu Soda are currently battling the Al Qaeda], because [the Americans] see it as a fight against a common enemy,” said Sheikh Ahmed, Sheikh of Abu Resha.
After establishing positive identification, Coalition Forces conducted air strikes and fired artillery at Al Qaeda forces attacking the Abu Soda Tribe.
Al Qaeda forces attacked through a tribal area check point and engaged the Abu Soda in Sofia. Al Qaeda burned homes, and killed members of the tribe using small arms fire and mortars.
There were no reports of Coalition or Iraqi Security Forces casualties during this fight. Both Al Qaeda and the Abu Soda suffered casualties but the exact numbers are unknown at this time.
According to Sheikh Ahmed, “The Abu Soda tribe that is being led by Sheik Jassim and supported by Sheikh Abbas from the Abu Mahal have given their men to the Ministry of the Interior to serve as Iraqi Police. Al Qaeda has decided to attack the tribes due to their support. The terrorists have gone to a neighboring tribe and have brought fighters to attack the Abu Soda.”
The Abu Soda and Abu Mahal are both members of the Sahawat Al Anbar (Awakening Council) started by Sheikh Sittar of the Abu Resha tribe.
But the significance of it will likely be lost on Western media, where you might see it depicted as Americans taking sides in Iraq's Civil War. (That would certainly be the POV for some "stringers".) Even if that characterization is accurate, I'd have to agree with Glenn Reynolds: "I don't know if we can pick winners, but we may be able to pick a couple of losers"
Sen McCain: Would it make sense to say it might be well to get both Baghdad and al Anbar province under control...?Perhaps he'll understand this one then.
Gen Abizaid: ...You can't have a "main effort" everywhere... the preponderance of military activity needs to go into the Baghdad area.
Sen McCain: I don't understand that tactic, General.
Welcome to MilBlogs, Instapundit readers - there's a lot of news from Iraq this weekend, and a lot of military bloggers commenting on it here. If your interested in a look beyond the headlines from folks who know the business, start here and scroll.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Iran was ready to help the United States and Britain in Iraq but only if they pledged to change their attitude and withdraw their troops.
This offer is like when you are at a party and your girlfriend is drunk and she wants you to run to the store for something but you don't want to leave her alone. And the only person around is that guy you kind of know, but don't really trust because he's all sorts of shady and kind of a scumbag, and he says "No man, go ahead, I'll keep an eye on her for you."
Her name is not usually thought of in nautical terms, but World War I North Sea mines couldn't sink her, she took shots at the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.
Her follow-on helped clear mines off Japan after WWII.
OPFOR's resident Foward Air Controller is also calling shenanigans.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMuch more at Flopping Aces, who is communicating with CENTCOM on some aspects of the story, and has yet another appearance by the Association of Muslim Scholars.
RELEASE No. 20061125-09
Nov. 25, 2006
One Mosque Burned in Hurriya
Multi-National Corps – Iraq PAO
BAGHDAD — Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood.
Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a patrol in Hurriya Friday afternoon in response to media reports that four mosques were being burned as retaliation for the VBIED attacks in Sadr City on Thursday.
The Soldiers set up a checkpoint near the Al Muhaimen mosque at approximately 2 p.m. and found the mosque intact with no evidence of any fire at the location.
While investigating the Al Meshaheda mosque, the patrol received small arms fire from unknown insurgents. The patrol returned fire, and the insurgents broke contact and fled the area. A subsequent check of the mosque found the mosque intact with no evidence of a fire.
At approximately 3:50 p.m., a local civilian reported to the patrol that armed insurgents had set the Al-Nidaa mosque on fire by throwing a gas container into the mosque. The patrol pursued the insurgents but lost contact with them.
The Soldiers called the fire department and set up a cordon around the mosque. Local fire trucks responded to the scene and extinguished the fire at approximately 4:00 p.m. The mosque sustained smoke and fire damage in the entry way but was not destroyed.
An alleged attack on a fourth mosque remains unconfirmed. The patrol was also unable to confirm media reports that six Sunni civilians were allegedly dragged out of Friday prayers and burned to death. Neither Baghdad police nor Coalition forces have reports of any such incident.
Note that Iraqi soldiers went into harm's way in response to bogus media reports - and were attacked. Hopefully the media will extend the courtesy of covering this debunking with the same intensity they devoted to the original.
'Military denies mosque attacks' is probably the best we can hope for.
Update: Corrected original to properly identify soldiers involved.
In case you haven't had enough conversation with the home folks this weekend, from Glenn Reynolds
I don't know if we can pick winners, but we may be able to pick a couple of losers, which may be good enough. (Seeing that the right people lose is important, after all). The Sunnis seem to have picked themselves as losers, and to be doing their best to ensure that they'll be driven out of the country in response to their campaign of terror.My part of the conversation here.
UPDATE: I don't think that what's happening to the Sunnis is a good thing; I just think they've brought it on themselves by foolishly stirring up a civil war that they can't win. They haven't been as canny as I'd hoped. What's going on now is a political, not a military problem -- we'd rather it were a military problem because we're better at military matters than politics -- and it will require an Iraqi political solution. The Sunnis, however, seem to me to have ensured that it will be a solution that they don't like.