Thursday, March 24, 2005

Body Counts Afterall Redux

Eli at Left I has an update on yesterday's news that's unlikely to show up in the US media:

I also wrote in another post about how nice it would be if reporters actually investigated the incident and did such radical "reporter" things as asking to see the alleged 85 bodies, and so on. Well, now someone has. Not an American reporter, mind you, but an AFP reporter (and, at least as of now, the story is only running in Australian media):

"Up to 40 fighters were seen today at a Iraq lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces a day before and said they had never left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said. The correspondent, who went with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there.

"One of the fighters, who called himself Mohammed Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.

"He also said only 11 of his comrades were killed in airstrikes on the site."


It's unfortunate that our government's credibility is, well, in the toilet when it comes to Iraq--not that the insurgents are any more credible--but one person I'll at least give creedence to is Juan Cole, who notes the following:

Agence France Presse...managed to get some independent journalists up to the lake, north of Samarra, and they found 40 guerrillas still there. The guerrillas denied that 85 of their fellows had been killed by the Iraqi army, but admitted that 11 had been killed by US aerial bombardment. (American news organizations such as CNN refuse to report news that is only carried by AFP, because they consider it to have inadequate journalistic quality-control. But reports like this one are not being done by US wire services in Iraq, and if we don't take AFP seriously, we essentially may as well just believe whatever Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib and the Pentagon claim...

...the US military is filtering our news from Iraq, and we only hear about a fraction of the violence that actually takes place there. What we do hear is often imbued by a kind of US boosterism (such as the recent faintly ridiculous claim that Fallujah is the safest city in Iraq-- as though it were still an inhabited city). Even if it were not exaggerated, this report about the Tharthar Camp would mean more in the context of all the violent incidents that occurred on Wednesday, but we don't have access to most of those. That such battles signal a "tipping point" in the counter-insurgency struggle strikes me as highly unlikely. Another question: Are these gung-ho gendarmes killing Sunni jihadis from a Shiite background? Are they getting intelligence via the Badr Corps?


Cole, in other words, is suggesting that even a best case scenario re: Tharter Camp is incipent civil war--not exactly a "light at the end of the tunnel moment."

Meanwhile, the one genuinely steadfast member of what could truthfully be called the Anglo-American coalition, namely Britain, is in the midst of a row over whether a deputy legal advisor to the foreign office--and their Attorney General--believed the war was legal in the first place:

...the Government released the resignation letter written by Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who quit as a deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office before the war because she believed military action would be unlawful.

But a section of the letter was "redacted" - blacked out. The missing sentences have been seen by The Times. In them, Ms Wilmshurst said Lord Goldsmith used to share her view that invasion was unlawful without a second UN resolution, but had changed his mind by the time he wrote a letter on March 7 2003. By March 17 he had declared an invasion of Iraq would be lawful.

Opposition spokesmen and some Labour backbenchers have wondered aloud whether the Attorney General was leaned on to change his view.


Well, to their credit, the scandal involves something other than outright torture, although The Times article notes that soldiers could potentially be prosecuted if the war was judged illegal.

And finally, to round out this post, Jerome Doolittle makes an interesting point re: Rummy's blaming the war's woes on Turkey (see below):

Has it really never occurred to him that the war, being entirely optional, could have been delayed until enough troops were assembled? Doubtful. More likely he was just having a little fun, knowing that anyone dumb enough to watch Fox News couldn’t tell horseshit from a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate anyway.

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