August 08, 2007

Ho-Hum: Yet Another False Media-Reported Massacre In Iraq

On Sunday, Reuters reported that the scene of a large massacre had been discovered near Baquba:

BAGHDAD, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Iraqi police said on Sunday they had found 60 decomposed bodies dumped in thick grass in Baquba, north of Baghdad.

There was no indication of how the 60 people had been killed, police said. Baquba is the capital of volatile Diyala province, where thousands of extra U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have been sent to stem growing violence.

Why did the police have such a hard time providing an indication of how the 60 people had been killed? Probably because there were no bodies to examine.

Via email from Major Rob Parke, U.S. Army:


This story is false. We have had coalition soldiers looking for the last two days at the locations that IPs reported these bodies. We've asked all the locals in the area and they have no idea what we are talking about. We've gone to areas that might be close, gone to suspicious locations, all turned up nothing.

Most of the news stories all say the report stated decomposing bodies which would indicate if it was true, it happened before we arrived. Considering we discovered an Al Qaeda Jail, courthouse, and torture house in western Baqubah, it wouldn't surprise me if there were 60 bodies buried out there somewhere. Bottom line is we have done some extensive looking and found nothing.

This is the second large-scale massacre reported in major wire services in less than six weeks that seem utterly without merit; both Reuters and the Associated Press were duped by insurgents posing as police officers who claimed 20 beheaded bodies were discovered near Um Al-Abeed on June 28.

That was also false.

As I noted at the time:

..reporting in Iraq is very dangerous work, and insurgent groups and terrorists do target journalists for assassination.

But it is equally true that insurgent groups and terrorists also use the media to plant false stories, and that media organizations consistently fail to find credible, independent sources to verify alleged atrocities and attacks before presenting an alleged story as fact.

Further, it appears that some news organizations, through a combination of questionable news-gathering techniques, insufficient editorial practices and indifferent -perhaps intractable- management, are more susceptible to running false and fabricated stories than others, with the Associated Press and Reuters being among the worst offenders.

Throughout the Iraq War, and with seemingly increasing frequency over the past year, these media outlets have become increasingly reliant upon anonymous sources and questionable sources hiding behind pseudonyms to deliver "news" with no apparent basis in fact.

In some of these instances, these wire services have been forced to retract days later, as they have with the false Um al-Abeed beheading story. Sadly, the international and national news outlets that often carry the initial claims as "page one" material fail to do so with the refutations, leaving most media consumers with the impression that the original account was accurate.

Remarkably, these news organizations continue to employ the same reporters and editors that have published multiple erroneous or highly suspect claims, or who have consistently cited discredited or disreputable sources.

Further, these wire services continue to employ newsgathering techniques that rely upon anonymous sources with little or no direct involvement with the story being reported, and often publish these claims as absolute fact, without any indication they are publishing what is often, at best, hearsay.

The MNF-I refutation of the Um al-Abeed decapitation story states that the claim was "completely false and fabricated by unknown sources."

That isn't exactly true. Both Reuters and the Associated Press presumably know precisely who their sources were for this story, as they know who their sources were for other discredited stories.

They just as they certainly know, or should know, which of their indigenous reporters—"stringers," in industry parlance—have been providing these suspect or discredited stories, and which editors have allowed these stories to press based upon the flimsiest of evidence, which often does not meet the service's own stated reportorial standards.

To date, these wire services have consistently failed to visibly enforce standards of reporting, and in some instances, have promoted employees involved in using questionable sources and printing false claims. Once promoted, these same employees only further degrade editorial standards, leading to the public's increasing distrust of these news organizations.

Wire services are only as valuable as the amount of trust readers can invest in their reporting.

With now two debunked massacres and the continued slow-roasting of The New Republic for their refusal to deal honestly with the Scott Thomas Beauchamp articles in the last weeks alone, we're forced to realize that the Weekly World News is not closing their doors on August 27 because mock journalism is unpopular, but instead because larger news organizations crowded them out of the market.

(h/t to Michael Yon, who alerted me that he smelled a rat in this story all the way from his current location in Indonesia).

Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 8, 2007 01:28 PM

Funny how the MSM is perfectly willing to run with fake massacres/mass graves but completely ignore real ones like Yon documented.

Funny, as in maddening, not ha ha.

Posted by: Dick at August 8, 2007 02:46 PM

Why trust Army sources that are actually there? We need to get someone like Scott Thomas Beauchamp to find the graves!!

New Republic--The new Al-Reuters!

Posted by: fourpointer at August 8, 2007 02:48 PM

The media is always content to show the "worst of the worst" whenever and however they can. The sad reality is that the majority of the newspaper reporters and journalists and 'sensationalist media' to include "GungaDan" Rather and Geraldo "On Sacred Ground" Rivera (who I had the distinct pleasure of giving a nastypaw to.... another story for another time) are more than likely going to make up any BS they can without leaving the safety of and comfort of their digs in the Green Zone or MNF-I HQ (Victory/Liberty) and actually get 'ass in the grass' with the boonie troops. The reality is they sit in their air conditioned bunkered rooms and make up all the crap they can as they go along... they especially LOVE being able to 'harsh on' the military, for the fact that their own personal cowardice is glaring in the light of true bravery.
They truly are the bottom feeders of the planet, and some day soon there will be a price to be paid... after all... this is the "Columbine Generation" thats fighting this war... and the majority of the soldiers I've met personally in the past 4 years have said they'd have no problem wasting a reporter if given half a chance... is it any wonder that this war has had so many press casualties?
Its probably why "GungaDan" never had the sac to go to the front line in this war... he knew his life wasn't worth a plugged nickel.

Posted by: Big Country at August 8, 2007 03:04 PM

It's almost as if the MSM wants us to lose...

Posted by: Exurban Jon at August 8, 2007 04:01 PM

Every time I see a report of large counts of dead bodies reported by the police and hospitals, I wonder whether or not we possibly get a DOUBLE count.

Posted by: Buford at August 8, 2007 04:16 PM

It's not that the MSM is anti war it's just that they're on the other side.

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at August 8, 2007 04:34 PM

The beauty about it is that by the time the M$M realize that they've shot themselves in the foot, their cred will be gone. It'll be too late and they'll have to rebuild from the ground up if they can. People won't remember what it is that gives them a bad feeling about the media, they'll just have a bad feeling.

Posted by: Mike H. at August 8, 2007 06:30 PM

Funny as in how Major Rob Parke, U.S. Army has the time to email a partisan blogger but doesn't have time to tell Reuters that the report was incorrect?

If he's a PAO he's doing a pretty piss poor job.

Posted by: Ed at August 8, 2007 06:44 PM

Ed, he no doubt realizes that asking for a correction from Reuters would be like asking you for ten good heartfelt words about George W. Bush.

He's being efficient and improvising. That makes him a very good soldier.

Posted by: Jimmie at August 8, 2007 06:46 PM

Dear Exurban Jon,

"It's almost as if the MSM wants us to lose..."

There's no "almost" to it. The MSM does want us to lose...and that's why we must, and shall, win.

Once this is all over, and we're victorious, I imagine this little chat will go on in Pinch Sulzberger's office:

"You have to answer for Al Qaeda, Pinch. Sit down. Get him a drink. Bin Laden is gone. So are Zarqawi, Zawahiri, Al-Sadr, the Iranians, CAIR, and the entire Saudi royal family. Today we've settled all family business. Now who approached you? Bin Laden or Zawahiri? Good, that's what we thought. Your punishment won't be death: it'll be worse than that--you'll be irrelevant. You're finished, through, out of the nation's business. There's a car outside which will take you to the airport. Just don't tell me you're innocent. It insults our intelligence and makes us very angry...

Posted by: MarkJ at August 8, 2007 06:46 PM

I missed the part in the story where Reuters either contacted the Major (or anyone in the army) to confirm or deny their story or where the Major (or Reuters for matter) said the Major didn't try to clear up the story. If Ed could point that out for me, that would be great.

Posted by: buzz at August 8, 2007 08:24 PM


You fool tool.

The story was on the wire and the military had to go look at the facts which took a while.

Even if he told the newsies and got a retraction the idea was already in the wild and accepted wisdom and a correction probably wouldn't even register.

Posted by: YardBird at August 8, 2007 08:26 PM

Even if the wire guys corrected or retracted their stories the end user editors would chunk it because they would not put up a headline basically saying hey subscribers we told you trash a few days ago with the same amount of placement or space the original story got.

Posted by: YardBird at August 8, 2007 08:31 PM

Ed said: Funny as in how Major Rob Parke, U.S. Army has the time to email a partisan blogger but doesn't have time to tell Reuters that the report was incorrect?

If he's a PAO he's doing a pretty piss poor job.

Funny as in how Reuters reporters/editors are too lazy to pick up the phone or send an email to the PAO in the area to seek confirmation and/or additional details for the story before they publish fiction.

Seems some newspaper folk are doing a piss poor job.

Posted by: Dogwood at August 8, 2007 08:34 PM

I understand exagerating stories, or even believing a stringer's story, to get a story to my boss. But eventually, I am an American, ( or a westerner) and I have a conscience. And I would at least start checking my stories, so as not to lie to my own country.

Posted by: plainslow at August 8, 2007 08:34 PM

But you see, plainslow, many reporters consider themselves "citizens of the world."

Posted by: Jeff Medcalf at August 8, 2007 09:11 PM


Perfect comeback to the dope. I only wish I had thought of it first.

Posted by: Brian at August 8, 2007 09:19 PM

"Funny as in how Major Rob Parke, U.S. Army has the time to email a partisan blogger but doesn't have time to tell Reuters that the report was incorrect?"

Ed: Parke responded to a query from an outside inquirer. That's part of his job. You have no way of knowing whether he attempted to contact Reuters to correct their report. Since you are an interested party, I suggest you write to him and ask. You can share his reply with us; I'm sure it will be interesting.

Posted by: Brown Line at August 8, 2007 09:34 PM

It doesn't come down to a political byass but a 24 hour news cycle to be filled.

Posted by: Adam the Great at August 8, 2007 10:34 PM

They're not on the other side. They're way beyond the other side.
They're seriously mentally ill.
And it maybe is even worse than that, being as how it appears to be an absolute willful mental illness.
That's gotta be incurable.

Posted by: organshoes at August 8, 2007 10:50 PM

I fail to see why the military should waste any time protecting "journalists" like these. Let their natural allies, al Qaeda, take care of them.

Posted by: Ken Hahn at August 8, 2007 11:10 PM

Their insanity stems from their reaction to last November's elections. After the Dems took back congress, the anti-war crowd leapt beyond "hoping" and convinced themselves the war HAD BEEN LOST. They didn't reckon on a new counterinsurgency strategy. Now they're desperate to RE-lose it.

I've always had a hard time understanding people like that. But watching this war, I've come to realize that they seem to honestly believe "if there were no armies, there'd be no wars". Yeah, and beggars would ride.

Posted by: JeanneB at August 8, 2007 11:13 PM

Maybe it would save time if we just started keeping track of the reports by the mainstream media that aren't full of crap?

Posted by: Rickbert at August 9, 2007 01:30 AM

I think they will have to exaggerate the counts more and more to get attention.

Twenty to sixty. Next will be 200.

Posted by: M. Simon at August 9, 2007 02:35 AM

The eager acceptance of such horrible fictions by the formerly mainstream media (fMSM)isn't hard to figure: for the last couple of years, bad news from Iraq has been easy to find. The biggest challenge the fMSM faced was finding new antiwar metaphors and cliches, as the old ones were used to death.

Now, suddenly, the tide has turned. The fMSM is desperate - it needs its fix of bad news for America in Iraq. So it readily and unquestioningly accepts the fictions which fit the predetermined profile, no matter how slanderous of American military personnel they may be.

The results of the favored leftist strategy of retreat and defeat are well known, having been writ in broad bloody strokes across Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia shortly after American troops departed. Unlike Macbeth, the blood on their hands doesn't bother them a bit.

Posted by: Jim Addison at August 9, 2007 02:49 AM

If I'm an Iraqi I'd keep my head down. Enough of this crap will give AQI ideas. This is beginning to look like an "if wishing could make it so" kind of approach by the MSM. A 'Directorial' approach if you will. Who knows, perhaps by take 4 or 5 the AQI bastards will get the message and as any good character actor would, learn to 'live' the part. I can hear it now: "All right everybody and !ACTION!" "Pan over the bodies slowly" "CUT, CUT" "O.K. where are the bodies?" "Look Al you just don't get it." "I need those bodies for this scene" "That's right. I need a really gruesome scene here to get the feel that I want for this meme. So come on guys get with the program" "We need more bodies. All right everybody, !PLACES! and !ACTION!" Signboard: "Massacre in Iraq, Take 6"
Who knows, maybe if the hired Oliver Stone?

Posted by: John Fingr at August 9, 2007 04:48 AM

Its pathetic how invested the Democrats, the media, and the jihadis are in a bringing about a US defeat in IRaq.

Posted by: TMF at August 9, 2007 07:09 AM

JeanneB, I agree. The Anti-war crowd thinks our military creates an enemy, so in their pipe dream, if we didn't have armed forces, there wouldn't be people killing us. I think the lefty crowd might kill some Al Qaeda operatives, they might die from laughter!

Posted by: Tom TB at August 9, 2007 07:20 AM

Mike H: "The beauty about it is that by the time the M$M realize that they've shot themselves in the foot, their cred will be gone. It'll be too late and they'll have to rebuild from the ground up if they can. People won't remember what it is that gives them a bad feeling about the media, they'll just have a bad feeling."

I share the sentiment, but that's not actually something to be happy about. Most people don't and won't trust blogs for their news either. Remember that some 80% of the US population still doesn't use the internet regularly. They'll be left with no news that they trust. Rumors and prejudice will take over and public opinion will go from being distantly related to reality to being completely divorced from it. Like in the Middle East.

Posted by: Stacy at August 9, 2007 07:21 AM

When I was a kid, I watched professional wrestling on TV. That it was fake was obvious to me even at that early an age. One particularly enjoyable event in every match was to say the villain hold the ringrope (an illegal move) while pummeling the good guy. The crowd would go crazy yelling at the ref while the ref looked everwhere but at the foul. No one in the crowd seemed to understand why the ref couldn't see the foul. I would yell into the TV, "its because he's in on it you idiots."

Time has changed nothing. AP and Al-Reuters keep falling for the same planted stories by the terrorists while we yell foul from the audience. Folks, get your head in the game. There is no unseen foul. This is not incurable bad editing and inexplicable lazy reporting. They are in on it you idiots!

Posted by: willis at August 9, 2007 10:42 AM

but doesn't have time to tell Reuters that the report was incorrect?

Of course you can show he never did right?

Its a pretty sad commentary when the military, in addition to all their other responsibilities, is now responsible for enforcing factual content on the media...because apparently the media is prone to just "making shit up" and they can't be trusted to tell the truth.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at August 9, 2007 11:00 AM

Two quick points. I side with you, Mike H, but the fact remains (unfortunately): The only folks who have a bad feeling are those who know why. You and I. The remainder are either complacent, don't care or refuse to face the fact by way of interference with the success we enjoy. How long will people (we) be fooled into thinking it will correct itself or just go away? It's back in our laps (yours and mine). Make someone understand. Keep up the good work. To Exurban Jon: ... and they are not the only one. Dig out the old John Stormer books and re-read them. You will see that 'None Dare Call it Treason' and that 'The Death of a Nation' is pending if we don't lose the couch potato attitude. There is a single power behind and under it all. Rots a ruck. Don't we still owe N. Korea for the USS Pueblo? How did we ever let that one go so (this) far?

ps I refer to 'we' as one because it's about time this Nation stands as a single individual and begins to shepard the herd rather than be one of. Someone needs to start dropping the us and them (and it won't be them). We may not succeed together, but we will fall together.

Posted by: wwjpalmer at August 9, 2007 11:13 AM

As long as I hit on books, let me just refer an oldie I personally think EVERY AMERICAN should read. If ever there were a parallel ...

"Peace is Where the Tempests Blow"
Bravo Valentine Kataev, who in 1937 pointed out the potential path of America. The best way to avoid something is to know how it works.

Posted by: wwjimpreviouswwjpalmer at August 9, 2007 11:30 AM

I sent a copy of the response to the folks at iCasualties, they generally do pull casualty counts from false stories, but this one is still there today. I suspect it will remain in their count until Reuters or whoever made the initial report issues a correction. But, to be fair, that site doesn't claim to be accurate, they simply tally media reports and so are easy tools of people wishing to issue false reports in order to get counts up to influence public opinion.

Posted by: crosspatch at August 9, 2007 11:37 AM

The power plays on both sides of the line. It corrupts the ones it can't convince.

Posted by: wwjim at August 9, 2007 11:41 AM

Honestly, don't know who to trust on this one. Haven't heard of it, and Reuters didn't directly accuse anyone of starting the "massacre". Then again, the Army's told some lies, but so has the media.

In this case, seems that Reuters is wrong.

Posted by: the_velociraptor at August 14, 2007 10:24 AM

this has been compared to my lai and it got me to wondering if we have not been told the truth about my lai. the press hated the vietnam war and loved showing the u.s. as the bad guys. does anyone know if what the press reported on my lai was only partally true or even an out right lie.

Posted by: stunhaha7878 at August 14, 2007 06:30 PM

AP gets most of its stringer reports from a guy called "Khalil", who seems to be on very good terms with the insurgents. He's generated numerous discredited reports, but when Yon challenged his bona fides with AP, they gave him a song and dance which boiled down to saying they didn't have much choice because they had no other sources. No change being contemplated.

Yon had his correspondence with them posted at one point, but I can't locate it now.

Posted by: Brian H at August 16, 2007 03:19 PM

I, personally, have been to Iraq (Jan 2007), and have interviewed dozens of soldiers, marines, and airmen. I was also amazed that I was the ONLY American photographer at the 15 Jan 2007 press conference of Gen. Casey and the Iraq Ambassador, describing the "troop surge" and new "rules of engagement", which would allow U.S. troops to operate without restrictions anywhere within Baghdad, specifically within Sadr City. (Perhaps the main stream media only reports what it wants to report!)

I am also an admirer of Michael Yon and Bill
Roggio reports because they mirror what the troops told me. If I am allowed to, I plan to return to Iraq in either Dec 2007 or Mar 2008 to continue to report the "truth" as compared to the biased picture the main stream media "gatekeepers" choose to publish.

When I returned home, I submitted dozens of stories detailing Iranian and Syrian nationals involvement in attacks on our troops. However, no one would publish those stories because they were "too controversial" at that time. "Amazingly", these issues are NOW being reported by the MSM in August of 2007!

Andrew Kean, (author of "The Cult of the Amateur") , in a June 6, 2007 C-SPAN interview, dismisses the bloggers/independent journalists as working for little or no pay, in part because they have no "editor" to restrict or censor them: In fact, I think his main "problem" with "Web 2.0" is that the citizen journalists work for little or nothing, thereby threatening "pro" journalists livelihood. I feel that if the main stream media refuses to publish the FACTS from direct interviews of the people involved, regardless of the "lack of credentials: a degree, or paying their dues by working as an apprentice to a main stream media reporter", then intelligent people need to seek sources of information on the Web or from bloggers to get the facts. (I personally think that most high profile journalists are too scared to visit Iraq to interview the troops or Iraqi citizens to find out what is REALLY happening!)

As informed citizens know, there are many important stories that the main stream media chooses not to report, for whatever reasons. I appreciate the efforts of established, reputable bloggers (reporters) to give us the truth that the main stream media either refuses or ignores in its reporting.

Posted by: Greg Janney at August 19, 2007 12:33 AM