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calendar   Wednesday - June 07, 2006

Haditha: PR Geniuses & Media Tools?

I’ve just finished reading TIME magazine’s extensive coverage of the alleged Haditha “massacre”. If you want to get the full text of the article quoted below you’ll have to buy the rag mag. Don’t worry, I read TIME so you won’t have to. Here is my take on the story:

Based on what I’m reading at TIME and other sources, it seems the Marines may have overreacted and innocent civilians may have been killed. There are a lot of caveats in that sentence because the Marines in question have not been brought to trial yet and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) is still involved in an ongoing investigation. Let’s let justice take its course, OK?

With that said there are several things about the media coverage that bother me tremendously. Take the excerpt below from TIME’s article “How Haditha Came To Light” ....

imageimageIf the Marines are indeed guilty of an atrocity, they had the ill fortune to have committed their crime in the worst possible place: outside the front door of a budding Iraqi journalist and human-rights activist. Taher Thabet, 43, was at home in Haditha on the morning of Nov. 19 when around 7:15 he heard the detonation of the roadside bomb that struck a Marine humvee, killing the driver, Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas, 20.

The blast shattered Thabet’s windows. He ran outside in time to see Marines from three other humvees springing from their vehicles and heading for four homes on either side of the road. “They went into one house. I heard gunfire, explosions and screams,” he told TIME in an interview in Baghdad last month. “Then they came out and went into another. I could only stand and watch.”

The next morning, Thabet--who last year co-founded a small outfit called the Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring--went into the houses where the killings had taken place and videotaped what he saw, as well as the wrenching scenes later at the local morgue, where friends and family collected the bodies of the victims. “I didn’t know what I was recording,” he says. “I just felt I had to record everything I could see.”

Thabet shared the VCD with the other members of the Hammurabi group, but for a time, news of the killings did not go further than that. Then, in mid-December, President George W. Bush announced the military’s estimate that 30,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the start of the war. TIME’s Tim McGirk, posted in Baghdad, began to investigate cases in which Iraqi civilians had been killed by U.S. troops. In the course of his reporting, he obtained a copy of Thabet’s VCD.

Now what are the odds that a a “budding Iraqi journalist and human-rights activist” would be living next door to the house where the incident occurred? Even more strange is how this man managed to make his way into the house the next day with a digital video camera, make videos of the “victims” and then managed to get back to his computer and burn the videos onto a Video CD (VCD) that wound up in the hands of TIME, Reuters, AP and every media outlet in the known civilized (and uncivilized) world within a matter of weeks. Is it just me or does anyone else smell a rat here?

Regardless, TIME immediately dispatched its team of “crack” journalists onto the trail of the alleged “bloody massacre” that John Murtha has been screaming about for weeks. Chief among these professional “investigative journalists” was Tim McGirk ...

In the ensuing weeks, McGirk and TIME’s Baghdad staff members interviewed more than a dozen Haditha locals by e-mail (travel between Baghdad and Haditha is exceedingly dangerous for Iraqis, let alone foreign journalists), including the mayor, the morgue doctor and a local lawyer who negotiated a settlement between the Marines and the families under which the military agreed to pay $2,500 compensation apiece for some of the victims--mostly the women and children. Several survivors visited TIME’s Baghdad bureau, including a man in his 20s whose four brothers were killed and an orphaned girl who is now the sole caretaker of her 8-year-old brother. The bureau was also pursuing leads that a 12-year-old girl had survived the attack by playing dead. In interviews, Thabet filled in details about what he witnessed before he began shooting his VCD.

This really raised a red flag for me when I read that McGirk could not travel to Haditha to interview any of the natives in person because “travel between Baghdad and Haditha is exceedingly dangerous for Iraqis, let alone foreign journalists”. Is this cowardly Tim McGirk the same idiot who bravely went to Afghanistan and shared Thanksgiving dinner with the Taliban just weeks after 9/11?

Thanksgiving With the Taliban
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2001

TIME correspondent Tim McGirk shares bread, raisins, and thoughts about the afterlife with some Taliban fighters, and finds some common ground

By TIM MCGIRK

With a few colleagues, I spent my Thanksgiving meal squatting on the floor of an Afghan passport office, talking to Taliban fighters about miracles and Judgement Day.

On the Afghan side of the border near the Pakistani town of Chaman, we had pulled into a Taliban base, a dusty courtyard with two broken-down cars. Earlier in the day, a convoy of journalists were stoned and robbed while leaving Spin Boldak, just up the road.

Some 200 other journalists had already left for Pakistan. We were waiting for four reporters who had been led off into the Rigestan desert by the Taliban to look at some fuel tankers blown up by U.S. commandos. It didn’t seem like a very good idea to leave our friends behind in Afghanistan.

I’m afraid I just don’t get it. There are way too many questionable things about this whole incident. Lest you question TIME’s integrity, take a look at the “Letters To The Editor” in any issue. It reads like something from DailyKOS or Democratic Underground with readers screaming about impeachment, Haliburton, domestic spying, etc. - the whole Leftist Moonbat Brigade in full dress rehearsal.

Even more suspicious is the fact that I can find no reference whatsoever on the web for the “Hammurabi Organization for Human Rights and Democracy Monitoring”. You’d think that an organization that has digital video cameras and computers to burn VCD’s in the middle of the Iraqi desert would at least have a web site, wouldn’t you? Even if it is only a dialup connection?

Far be it from me to question TIME’s impeccable staff of non-partisan journalists (?) but I also object to TIME’s incessant crowing about what a great job they did uncovering this alleged incident. I realize they’re fishing for a Pulitzer Prize but there’s really no need to be so blatant about it. They just need to be patient and let the whole story unfold. Besides, TIME needs to be careful that they don’t suddenly get more evidence faxed to them from a Kinko’s somewhere in Texas - if you know what I mean ...


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 06/07/2006 at 04:23 PM   
Filed Under: • IraqMedia-BiasMilitary •  
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