June 28, 2007

Bring Me the Head Of Kim Gamel

Many of us awoke this morning to a disturbing Associated Press account of extreme barbarity coming out of Iraq:

Twenty beheaded bodies were discovered Thursday on the banks of the Tigris River southeast of Baghdad and a car bomb killed another 20 people in one of the capital's busy outdoor bus stations, police said.

The beheaded remains were found in the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.

The bodies all men aged 20 to 40 had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Another version of the Associated Press story provided a bit more detail about the two anonymous Iraqi police officers who were the sources for the story.

Shockingly, they weren't there at all:

One of the police officers is based in Baghdad and the other in Kut, 100 miles southeast of the capital. The Baghdad officer said he learned of the discovery because Iraq's Interior Ministry, where he works, sent troops to the village to investigate. The Kut officer said he first heard the report through residents of the Salman Pak area.

I'm not Associated Press reporter Sinan Salheddin, nor am I Kim Gamel, AP's Baghdad news editor, but if I was investigating a story about a 20-corpse mass murder in—let's say, Manhattan—then I'd try to find a local police officer at the scene to interview about the case.

I wouldn't rely on a desk sergeant in Staten Island who merely heard reports of other officers being dispatched to check to see if there was such a crime, nor would I rely on a beat cop in Albany Fishkill who is only reporting rumors of what he heard from friends of relatives in Queens.

But the Associated Press didn't rely on the local police. Instead, they blatantly presented hearsay as the truth, and as a result, ran a story about a brutal massacre that currently appears to have never taken place.

Shortly after reading the AP's dubious "cousin in Kut" sourcing, I contacted several sources of my own, and which led to the following being released to me via email this evening from Multi-National Forces-Iraq:

We've been working on this query here at the Multi-National Forces Iraq Press Desk throughout the day and have been unable to confirm any of these reports of the 20 bodies at Salman Pak. After communicating with the Iraqi police and searching the area with some of our helicopters, we've been unable to find any evidence that proves the initial "report".

You were also very observant and correct to notice that these initial statements were from areas nowhere near the claimed location of the discovery which also leads us to question the validity of this report.

Until we turn up any clear evidence, we've concluded that this is an unsubstantiated claim but we'll let you know if we hear anything otherwise in the next 24 hours.

The email was signed by LCDR K.C. Marshall, U.S. Navy.

For the second time in less than year, the Associated Press seems to have run a story of a horrific massacre involving 20 or more people, using police officers not assigned to the area as their primary sources. For the second time in less than a year, it appears that there is no physical evidence that so much as a single person has died.

This time, if 20 heads cannot be recovered near Salman Pak, perhaps an equal number should roll at the Associated Press.

6/29 Update: In addition to MNF-I in researching the AP claim, I contacted Ron Holbrook, assigned to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior Transition Team Public Affairs Office (the MOI runs the Iraqi Police).

This morning, he states via email:

I can not confirm anything at this time.

While more ambiguous than LCDR Marshall's statement, I take this to mean that the Iraqi Police have been unable to confirm the existence of any decapitated bodies in Um-al Abeed.

It is very much starting to look like the Associated Press has falsely reported yet another non-existent massacre, using a sourcing methodology that reports unconfirmed hearsay from anonymous off-site sources as facts.

If this story is conclusively debunked, (meaning no bodies are found), the Associated Press will owe it to their readers and the news agencies they provide with information a full accounting of why they continue to fail to verify claims before presenting them as news.

Further Update: Via email, Eason Jordan, formerly of CNN, notes that both Reuters and Voices of Iraq have also made this same claim as the Associated Press.

I can't find the Reuters account (if you do, please drop it in the comments), but the VOI account seems to use the same sort of anonymous police sources as does the AP.

Further MNF-I Update: LCDR Marshall again:

Sir, we still have no further information that would substantiate the initial "reports". I believe that there's going to be a statement in the next day that will emphasize this; I will send it to you when it's released.

You heard the man: an official denial may be released as early as tomorrow.

Things are not looking good for the Associated Press, who has now twice allowed shoddy reporting methodology and incredibly poor sourcing to damage the credibilty of the Associated Press and those news organizations that rely upon the AP to deliver timely, accurate information.

In related news, CY commenter Dusty Rafferty has found the Reuters article noted by Eason Jordan. You can read it here. It appears Reuters has also fallen for the same, or similar, anonymous police sources. Should we be calling for Rueters to explain how they allowed themselves to fall for the same apparently false story?

You bet.

07/06/07 Update: Ever able to miss the overall point, an observant liberal snarks via email that the distance from Albany to New York City is 130+ miles, and so my analogy is geographically inaccurate--as if a cop in Fishkill, NY would be any more knowledgeable about an event in NYC than the cop in Albany would. Whatever. I'm sure you all understand the analogy just so much more now that it is geographically precise. Right?

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Buying illegal drugs gives money to terrorists. If you have an addiction problem you should check yourself into drug rehab.

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Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 28, 2007 10:01 PM

I suspect this news you are breaking will make for an interesting next few days. Great work, CY. You've outdone yourself again.

Posted by: Dusty at June 28, 2007 10:24 PM

Do you recall in my Weekly Standard article on Afghanistan ( where I said that one of the AP reporters I was quartered with said he thought 9/11 was a hoax? And he was no stringer; he worked directly for the agency. When you hire people like THAT you get stories like THIS.

Posted by: Michael Fumento at June 28, 2007 10:30 PM

That the AP would be hiring truthers is a story all by itself Michael.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 28, 2007 11:27 PM

AP runs another AQIZ propaganda piece in other words no change just the same old same old. Look with very few exceptions the MSM is 100% against this war and will do whatever it takes to lose it as a bonus their favorite political party gets to ride into power. Remember the old maxim "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" to the Dhimmi's and the MSM the enemy is the Republican party, Conservatives and anyone who does not march in lock step with them ie.. the American voter.

Posted by: Oldcrow at June 29, 2007 01:57 AM

A police officer in Baghdad, you say?

Whatever could his name be? And how could a police officer in Baghdad get around and know so much about what's going on? And why do i get this Deja Vu feeling?

Posted by: See-Dubya at June 29, 2007 03:13 AM

To be fair to AP, at least 20 bodies routinely turn up every morning in Bagdhad showing obvious signs of torture and execution, so rather than being an out of the ordinary story that should have raised scepticism it is much more routine. For example,

Yes, they should have been more careful in their investigations, though I would hold off on a final judgement for a couple of days, but it hardly as if they received news that something wildly out of the ordinary had happened.

Posted by: Rafar at June 29, 2007 03:32 AM

I also note this piece from the LA times;

Which contains the line (from a US officer);

"This week Odierno visited one such location Salman Pak, a Sunni town on the Tigris River south of Baghdad. He spoke with soldiers as they pushed into Sunni-dominated neighborhoods where U.S. and Iraqi government forces had not ventured for two years. "

This week being the last week. That would imply that there really isn't a police force to talk about there, nor is there a meaningful government Presence. Until this week, there is. When Iraqi (Which mean Shiite in this case) forces entered the largely Sunni town. This is hinted at by the suggestion that the Bagdhad police source says that they knew about it because police were sent out to investigate. This surely implies that there aren't actually any police sources in Salman Pax to ask.

It is all speculation, of course, as are most things in Iraq.

Posted by: Rafar at June 29, 2007 05:08 AM

Rafar, Salman Pak has their own police force and police stations with American advisors. They just defeated a small insurgent force that attacked the station on May 9.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 29, 2007 06:10 AM

Then I retract the above comment unreservedly.

Posted by: Rafar at June 29, 2007 08:13 AM

And if weapons of mass destruction are not found in Iraq, perhaps an IED should be detonated in the Offal Office.

I hear that, in response to your post, the AP has decided to run a story indicated that milk and honey are now flowing freely in the Euphrates, and that the bodies daily found floating in it died from glucose and lactose intolerance.

Keep up the Sisyphean task of defending the indefensible!

Posted by: jamienewman at June 29, 2007 08:15 AM

Yea, fake news is such a valuable thing, exposing it is truly "indefensible". Goebbles would be proud.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 29, 2007 08:53 AM

Jaimenewman, I am not surprised by what you heard AP is planning to report. I am not surprised that AP *plans to report* rather than reports news gathered.

Finally, I would not be surprised if AP used your comment here as a verification of the event, either.

Posted by: Dusty at June 29, 2007 09:16 AM

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Would everyone assume their previous positions the last time we had the "If things are so bad in Iraq, why do they need to use fake news? / Just because you disprove one story it doesn't discount the hundreds of other bad news stories coming out of Iraq or do you think they are all fake" argument.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 29, 2007 10:30 AM

"The more things change, the more they stay the same. Would everyone assume their previous positions the last time we had the "If things are so bad in Iraq, why do they need to use fake news? / Just because you disprove one story it doesn't discount the hundreds of other bad news stories coming out of Iraq or do you think they are all fake" argument.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at June 29, 2007 10:30 AM"

It's not so much the fake stories and the under-researched stories and the distorted stories (abu Ghraib & Gitmo come to mind, as well as Haditha) but the flat out UNreporting of the positive events. Of course, that doesn't fit the template of "embarrass Bush and destroy the Republican party" nor the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality of the MSM. In truth, if they were honest about what's really going on in Iraq and domestically, there would be no liberal movement nor Democrat least in its current state - further left than it's ever been.

Posted by: Jarhead68 at June 29, 2007 11:19 AM

Here's one from Reuters, CY. It's from yesterday with a timestamp of 9:23AM BST:

The earliest AP report I could find was 5:05 AM EDT, 28 June from The Columbian:

Not sure who had it on the wires first but Reuters looks like it may have been first. I'm pretty sure BST (British Summer Time) beats EDT though.

Skimming through reports from both, Reuters' was out of Baghdad, was very brief and read as being skeptical and I don't see that there was any elaboration.

On the other hand, AP had a very early report, too which was about as brief, but then a very large story followed with much more elaboration.

FWIW, I noticed two out of Australia that were also very brief at about 6 PM which might be about the same as 6AM EDT, without attirbution to a news organization, just Correspondents out of Baghdad. The wordig however looks more like Reuters than AP but I'll have to check more closely.

Seems like AP chased it, but why they chased it away from those who could verify and not towards those who could verify is, well, interesting.

I have some screen shots and cut and pasted stories if you have a need.

Posted by: Dusty at June 29, 2007 02:11 PM

The answer is obvious to anyone who isn't drinking the Red State kool-aid. The bodies are cleverly hidden in those five... no, four mosques that weren't totally destroyed back in November.

Posted by: Cassandra at June 29, 2007 03:48 PM

Soylent Green -- the spooks are just turning them all into Soylent Green.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 29, 2007 06:58 PM

...let's play the democrats' favorite game, the 'suspicious timing' game. Is it any wonder that the AP was in an overly eager rush to try and publish any sort of bad news out of Baghdad in order to minimize and create doubt about a slightly later story, Gen. Joe Fil's remarks that nearly half of Baghdad is now under control?

Posted by: DJ at June 29, 2007 07:38 PM

DJ, I missed that one. Where did you see that report?

Posted by: Dusty at June 29, 2007 08:07 PM

Even some of the MSM is starting to notice.

From an opinion_editorial by John Hughes,
Wed Jun 20 - Christian Science Monitor

Meanwhile, in a separate firefight at a makeshift suicide vehicle factory, three separate suicide bombers were killed, two suicide trucks were discovered and blown up, and foreign and other fighters were killed or captured. On the defending side, one civilian and one policeman were wounded, with no US or other casualties. "The enemy was killed in his tracks; his best weapon was discovered before it could cause any harm," says the officer, "but Western media reported no enemy killed in these operations, 28 civilians killed, and 50 civilians wounded. We are getting demolished," the Marine officer says, "by nefarious enemy media outlets 'reporters' or 'sources' for Arab and other news agencies either on insurgent payrolls or who have known sympathies with insurgent operations, and by collective Western media that are often being manipulated by enemy elements. What incredible economy of effort the enemy is afforded when US media is their megaphone. Why spend precious resources on developing your own propaganda machine when you can make your opponent's own news outlets scream your message louder than you could ever have hoped to do independently?"

Posted by: teqjack at June 29, 2007 08:11 PM

I'm trying to figure out how the AP could damage their credibility when they have none left to begin with.

Posted by: antimedia at June 29, 2007 09:22 PM

The U.S. Military is officially calling the decapitation story a hoax.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 30, 2007 10:05 AM

Bravo to Confederate Yankee-- a reliable and honest news source!

Posted by: Lloyd at June 30, 2007 05:43 PM


You make me laugh. You used "AP" and "Credibility" in the same sentence....


Sorry, it's just so hard to actually read anything anymore that eminates from either AP, Reuters, or the NYT. Not that I am jaded, mind you, but that, well, after listening to the various MSM and leftist groups whine about this war being "Bush's Vietnam" I would offer that, at the least, they certainly have the press reporting part of Vietnam down cold.


Posted by: AW1 Tim at June 30, 2007 07:37 PM

You were asking for a conformation from the same people that could not confirm that a "civil war" was taking place in Iraq

Posted by: John Ryan at June 30, 2007 09:49 PM

The German Newspaper "WELT" repeated this hoax on June,30 2007. I sent them an e-mail with a link to this post. I'm curios if they will respond. Keep on blogging, the MSN has become absolutly useless for anyone interested in facts, not fiction and bias.

Posted by: Patrick at July 1, 2007 06:04 AM

This is just silly. I realize that the AP is a big bogie man for you guys, but you'll notice the AP reported the story as they heard it. The said the police were the source and they described in detail who the police officers were. I suspect that information is a bit harder to come by in a war zone than in Manhattan, and as someone else pointed out, it's not as if it's the first time a bunch of bodies have been found.

It may be they could have investigated more, and if so then fine, criticize them for that. But for you folks it's always got to be part of a nefarious agenda. The AP routinely reports spin from the administration uncritically, and agrees to withold the identity of the administration official they are talking to, for no other reason than that's what their source wants. Do you criticize them every time that happens?

Posted by: ChrisO at July 2, 2007 04:01 PM