June 30, 2007


The Associated Press, Reuters, and a small Iraqi Independent news agency called Voice of Iraq released stories Thursday about the massacre of 20 men near Salman Pak, who were supposedly found decapitated on the banks of the Tigris River.

But something seemed inherently wrong with the accounts I read from the Associated Press. The only two sources for the Associated Press article were anonymous police, not located in Salman Pak, but from Baghdad (more than dozen miles away) and Kut (more than 75 miles away).

Because of this odd sourcing, I asked Multi-National Corps-Iraq and the PAO liaison to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior to investigate.

I published their preliminary findings as they came out in Bring Me The Head of Kim Gamel.

This morning, MNF-I PAO published an official denunciation of this story:

June 30, 2007 Release A070630c

Extremists using false media reporting to incite sectarian violence

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Friday, news media reported a mass killing in a village near Salman Pak where 20 men were allegedly found beheaded. It now appears that the story was completely false and fabricated by unknown sources.

Upon learning of the press reports, coalition and Iraqi officials began investigating to determine if the reports were true. Ultimately it was concluded the reports were false.

Anti-Iraqi Forces are known for purposely providing false information to the media to incite violence and revenge killings, and they may well have been the source of this misinformation.

“Extremists promote falsehoods of mass killings, collateral damage and other violence specifically to turn Iraqis against other Iraqis,” said Rear Admiral Mark Fox, spokesperson for MNF-I. “Unfortunately, lies are much easier to state, the truth often takes time to prove,” said Fox.

Not all media reports can be immediately substantiated by Government of Iraq or Coalition Forces. They must go through a process to verify such claims, to include checking with various Iraqi Ministry’s, local police and security forces. Meanwhile, extremists have achieved their goal of spreading false information aimed at intimidating civilians and destabilizing Iraqi security.

Ultimately, media reporting based on verifiable sources will reduce the possibility of misinformation unnecessarily alarming citizens.

The Associated Press, Reuters, and Voices of Iraq should immediately apologize for publishing this completely false story, and push for immediate retractions. The Associated Press should admit full responsibility for not following good journalistic practices of verifying a story though legitimate responsible sources, as they were in a headlong, reckless rush to publish.

Update: Something somewhat related, from StrategyPage:

...the Japanese psychological warfare effort during World War II included radio broadcasts that could be picked up by American troops. Popular music was played, but the commentary (by one of several English speaking Japanese women) always hammered away on the same points;
  1. Your President (Franklin D Roosevelt) is lying to you.
  2. This war is illegal.
  3. You cannot win the war.

The troops are perplexed and somewhat amused that their own media is now sending out this message.

(Thank Ace for the title of this post)

Update: AFP is now carrying the story.

The US military accused the international media on Saturday of exacerbating Iraq's violent tensions by reporting false claims of massacres which it said were deliberately fabricated by extremist groups.

This week several newspapers and agencies reported that Iraqi police had found 20 beheaded corpses in Salman Pak, just south of Baghdad.

AFP did not carry the report after its sources were unable to confirm the rumour.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Associated Press had those same standards?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 30, 2007 09:23 AM

You mean the Jihadis would lie to foment violence?

I'm confused. I thought it was only Americans and their toady cohorts who were the liars in this war.

Posted by: wjo at June 30, 2007 10:23 AM

CY, just a note on your opening paragraph, here. The news report was 20 men, aged 20 to 40. You've had it right elsewhere.

Posted by: Dusty at June 30, 2007 11:23 AM

Thanks Dusty. Fixed.

Such are the perils of posting before your first cup of coffee.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at June 30, 2007 12:00 PM

They have very high standards -- their manual is titled On The Art of Speaking to the World

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 30, 2007 02:10 PM

Commendable as always. Keep spreading the news!

I know we will.

Posted by: Tully at June 30, 2007 04:25 PM

Great catch, Confederate Yankee!
What an unbelievable world we live in where the media would rather quote terrorists than the military.
This is a classic!

Posted by: Jim Hoft at June 30, 2007 04:35 PM

NPR reported this on June 28th too:

It's at 4:57+ on the audio:

Posted by: Ann at June 30, 2007 04:44 PM

But..but...but, the MSM has all of those "multiple layers of fact-checking". How can they be wrong? Could it be that they have an agenda?

Posted by: GarandFan at June 30, 2007 05:30 PM

Ah, the Press Rules really do need to be expanded for Al Press... hopefully those can be spoken from the press side so we can learn just how little in the way of ethics they have.

Posted by: ajacksonian at June 30, 2007 06:35 PM

And we should take as gospel truth whatever the U.S. military says, shouldn't we? I suppose we ought to just forget about that whole psyops operation about planting stories in the Iraqi media and passing them off as the work of independent Iraqi journalists. They were all true stories I'm sure, so why the bother?

In the news today there was a report on an operation in Sadr City, where as reported by the MNF, 26 "terrorists" were killed. They state that all 26 were combatants who were all shooting back at our soldiers. Mind you, this account is completely at odds with reports from residents, hospital officials, and Iraqi police, who report that eight civilians were killed in their homes and that the U.S. went in firing indiscriminately. I myself find it a bit hard to believe that not a single civlian in that densely packed area was not killed in the crossfire.

You can talk about Afghanistan, where civilian deaths reported by residents and the Afghan government itself, up to Hamid Karzai, routinely and vociferously dispute the accounts given by the U.S. military in its operations there. They can't both be right.

I guess my point is, if you're largely relying on the U.S. military for the ultimate veracity on these things, I think history has shown that they are far from being an unbiased observer. They have their own axe to grind in wanting to portray events there in a positive light.

Posted by: Arbotreeist at June 30, 2007 08:56 PM

should take as gospel truth whatever the U.S. military says, shouldn't we?

As opposed to planted jihadi propaganda, right?

Posted by: Purple Avenger at June 30, 2007 10:05 PM

And the fact that the U.S. military has an axe to grind disproves CY's point about AP's bias...... how?

The problem is not that AP, Reuters, and the rest of the lame-stream media are biased. The problem is that THEY ARE NOT HONEST about their bias. They feed us BS and pretend it's truth.

Until the LSM stops mindlessly printing BS, the U.S. military is the best we've got. Just remember they're human and will shade the truth their way.

Posted by: Hale Adams at June 30, 2007 10:59 PM

Reuters is now running a story headlined, "US says report of 20 beheaded bodies in Iraq false." Mind you, the headline of the original story was "Iraqi police find 20 beheaded bodies near Baghdad," not "Iraqi police say other Iraqi police miles away find 20 beheaded bodies."

And the new Reuters piece comes with its own punchline:

"Verifying reports in Iraq is very hard for journalists, who have been systematically targeted by different militant groups and rely extensively on local sources for information."

No such language appears in the original story, natch. Because when reporting some sensational piece of violence to weaken Western morale, why remind people that you're reporting unverified anonymous hearsay? Those who don't want to buy the US military statement must admit that at least Rear Admiral Mark Fox was a named source in the statement. Not that you would know this from the Reuters story, who leaves his name out.

Posted by: Karl at June 30, 2007 11:24 PM

Good points, Hale. One quibble. The military is held accountable by the media, and derivatively by the people. As a result they are very responsive to questions, followup and correction.

Application of this kind and degree of accountability for the media itself had not existed until blogs became popular and became involved in doing so. What has been uncovered is just as bad and often worse than the what the left paints the military's reputation as, based on it's long history and not on it's current conduct, yet the MSM demands to be free of that accountability because their's is a freedom of speech not bound by questions of ethical conduct and, it appears, not by their professional standards, either. Hence, their equivacations, dissembling and outright lies.

I find it hard to see Arbotreeist's attack on an accountable military and defense of a largely unaccounable press, here, as anything other than caring more about the meme than the truth.

Posted by: Dusty at July 1, 2007 12:05 AM

I just saw this story via the USA Today with an AP byline.

The time stamp currently reads 2hrs. 28min which means it was posted around 11pm Eastern on June 30.

Do they want everyone to miss it?

Posted by: Teresa at July 1, 2007 12:25 AM

Did you say it would be great if the AP acted like AFP?

Careful what you ask for.

Posted by: Kevin at July 1, 2007 03:20 AM

I'm shocked - shocked I tell you, to read this. I haven't heard of such a thing since the last time the news reported a bogus headless bodies story.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Separate groups of gunmen entered two primary schools in Baghdad on Wednesday and beheaded two teachers in front of their students...


"We sent a crew and they spoke with witnesses in front of the school, and they say nothing happened. We spoke to the guard at the school who says 'I was here from early morning until they (the kids) left, and nothing happened," said a representative of one of the agencies.

"We went to both schools and no one confirmed it. We even went to the local police station and they denied it happen. This thing you can’t hide. The kids saw nothing,"

Or the time before that...

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 26 (NY Times) — The bodies of 30 beheaded men were found on a main highway near Baquba this evening, providing more evidence that the death squads in Iraq are becoming out of control.


Q: About, on the news that we heard this week of a number of headless bodies being found along a road in Baghdad. I was wondering what more you could tell us about that, what you know about the victims, and who the perpetrators were?

GEN. THURMAN: Okay. I did understand that question, and what I would tell you -- we have not confirmed that report. We went to multiple sites to look for the 32 headless bodies that was reported to our headquarters, and we did not find anything; nor did any of the local citizens that were in these areas could verify that anybody had ever been in there. So I look at that report as completely false right now.

Posted by: Greyhawk - in Baghdad at July 1, 2007 05:00 AM

As someone who has been to Expeditionary Information Operations school in which Pysops planning was part of the curricullum I can tell you the first rule of psyops is always tell the truth, can the same be said of the MSM?No I don't thionk so. I find it disheartening how many American citizens would rather give the benefit of the doubt to MSM outlets which have been shown over and over again to be passing jihadist propaganda off as truth than their own military. As for the Sadr city story I can tell you from first hand experiance the IP is almost wholly corrupted by the JAM and other Sadrist organizations and cannot be trusted.

Posted by: Oldcrow at July 1, 2007 06:23 AM

Pretty near every soldier in Iraq wants to get their name, and hopefully their picture, in a newspaper so the folks back home can see that they are well. To this end, they will cooperate with the reporters that they occasionally find nearby on their FOB. Conversely, nearly every soldier believes that the reporters they do see will lie about them, their fellow soldiers, their mission, or their actions in order to forward an agenda based mostly on BDS. I've sat in DFACs around Iraq and watched as soldiers laughed at reports out of Iraq; reports on actions that these scoffing soldiers had taken part in. Or heard them comment on, or made comments myself on, the ridiculous reports based on one lying Iraqi government official or another. In the end, the soldiers understand the need for a reporting from the war; but having seen the cowardice, distortions, and outright lies of reporters in Iraq, and the reporting of enemy propaganda by editors here in CONUS as legitimate news, they will carry a very healthy skepticism of the reporting of the MSM for the rest of their lives. That's not a bad thing.

Posted by: Diggs at July 1, 2007 08:14 AM

I sent an e-mail to the "corrections" mailbox at NPR showing them the USA article.

I'm not holding my breath!

Posted by: Ann at July 1, 2007 10:44 AM

Arbortreeist As OldCrow notes, there is a "small" difference that you have glossed over.
The PsyOp group was going to have publicized TRUE stories that were underpublicized. And offer rewards for independantly publicized TRUE stories.
Kind of like the space "X-Prize" for Iraqi journalism, it was hoped that positive TRUE stories would be told in the hopes that Iraqi journalists would compete with each other to search out and tell TRUE stories positive to the American (or at least Coalition) military interests.
A virtuous cycle I have heard it called.
Instead of the current cycle of stories harmful to American military interests, true or not (mostly not) that are the sole rewarded stories told by the various Western and Arab MSM now.

Posted by: J'hn1 at July 1, 2007 12:19 PM

Until we hear from a more reliable source - perhaps from someone hire up in the Iraqi Police hierarchy,like Captain Jamil Hussein, or someone of that stature- I would not rely on the MNF 1PAO report, nor would I demand of the AP to retract their story. However, if this massacre does prove to be false, I would agree with you that some heads should start rolling. I would also demand that the AP see to it that those 20 men get their heads returned to them as soon as possible. The AP is the agency responsible for the removal of those heads and they should do whatever is in their power to make sure those heads are returned to their rightful owners. I just can't imagine what it must feel like to live life completely headless - nor am I interested in trying it out myself.
Once again, I'm still not sure who's playing the head games over there, but at least I'm glad to see that you're checking in to authenticity of this story. We should all follow your example and use our heads just a little bit before we accept the veritability of these head-twisting stories, which apparently also have no legs to stand on.

Posted by: Peter Headlessman at July 1, 2007 05:20 PM

Arbotreeist has violated the rule of excluded middle. Probably intentionally.

Posted by: brando at July 1, 2007 07:48 PM

With the Magick Apparatus of Conspiracy, True Believers can confirm the negative. Despite the words of Terrorists themselves, they adhere to the Foreign Policy Principle to cast blame in every direction at their true enemy, the US.

Posted by: DirtCrashr at July 2, 2007 12:19 PM

The Japanese propaganda machine was blaring the 'this war is illegal' poison? I did not know that; that is very interesting.

Whose permission did they grovel for before bombing the hell out of Pearl Harbor?

Good job on this, CY!

Posted by: Cindi at July 2, 2007 03:02 PM

Shades of the Newsweek Koran-toilet-flushing tripe… The more sensational, anti-American, and anti-military it is, the better. Somewhere, Joseph Goebbels is smiling.

Posted by: SFC MAC at July 2, 2007 03:09 PM

The PsyOp group was going to have publicized TRUE stories that were underpublicized.

That's the problem in a nutshell. The left, historically, has a large problem with truth.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 2, 2007 04:34 PM

"That's the problem in a nutshell. The left, historically, has a large problem with truth."

Lessee, trying to remember... who's side is it again that believes that humans walked with dinosaurs, that the earth is 6000 years old, and that Noah filled up his ark with pairs of all the animals in the world and a flood covered the earth? Oh yeah...that would be the conservative side. But we're the ones with the truth problem. Got it.

Posted by: Arbotreeist at July 2, 2007 06:40 PM

Yes you do have a problem with the truth and you prove it with your last post, nice ignore all the points made and stereo type all people of faith and conservatives, can you say straw man? Or how about close minded fool?

Posted by: Oldcrow at July 3, 2007 03:15 AM

Oldcrow, he doesn't know the difference between a belief, and an outright lie. He is either a college boy who needs some instruction from an adult, or he is a tool. Yep, close-minded fool just about covers it.

Posted by: templar knight at July 3, 2007 03:19 PM

He was talking about his "side" on thread about terrorism. Roger that. It's nice to see people fess up to it sometimes.

Posted by: brando at July 3, 2007 09:25 PM

"Yep, close-minded fool just about covers it."

Anyone have a chainsaw handy? I'll need it to cut through the irony of that comment.

Posted by: Arbotreeist at July 4, 2007 09:34 PM

I am always searching for information on the current war in Iraq and have become very leery of what the USA is putting out. Recently they shut down several military sites that were critical of either the tactics or the lack of equipment. Most of the posters were either active duty or retired military comparing notes to find out what is going on. I don't trust what the US military claims, because they have consistently been pollyannish on their successes and in denial about their failures. In the same manner, I consider news coming from FOX,CNN and their rivals to be completely untrustworthy, with a good example of the reason for that the nonsense of getting reports from sources which are actively trying to kill our guys. The only thing that one can do is to read everything and try to read between the lines. The difference in listening to what the guys coming back are saying and what is coming from the official US military sources should set off claxtons of alarms that something is seriously wrong with what the military is attempting to pass off as news.

Posted by: persimmon at July 6, 2007 12:09 AM