January 30, 2008

AFP Revises History

In an article previewing the possible damage to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a result of the Winograd Report into Israel's 34-day war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, AFP's Ron Bousso echoes a questionable claim about the 2006 Israeli War against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon:

It is expected to focus on Olmert's controversial decision to order a massive ground offensive in south Lebanon 60 hours before a UN-brokered ceasefire agreement was due to take effect on August 14.

Thirty-three Israeli soldiers were killed in the offensive launched just one hour after the final version of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was presented to Israel.

Major Tomer Buhadana was one of those wounded during the last 48 hours of war, which in all killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

The Lebanese killed were "mostly civilians?"

The Daily Telegraph noted during the conflict:

Although Hizbollah has refused to make public the extent of the casualties it has suffered, Lebanese officials estimate that up to 500 fighters have been killed in the past three weeks of hostilities with Israel, and another 1,500 injured.

Lebanese officials have also disclosed that many of Hizbollah's wounded are being treated in hospitals in Syria to conceal the true extent of the casualties. They are said to have been taken through al-Arissa border crossing with the help of Syrian security forces.

A UPI account noted that:

Israel failed to kill Hezbollah's top members, and the organization continued to function throughout the war.

But Hezbollah lost more than 500 men, even though it confirmed only some 60-odd killed. Israel identified 440 dead guerrillas by name and address, and experience shows that Israeli figures are half to two-thirds of the enemy's real casualties. Therefore, Amidror estimated, Hezbollah's death toll might be as high as 700.

Both of those links were pulled from a media analysis by Steven Stotsky of The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) which sought to provide an actual account of the Hezbollah and civilan dead, arriving at a rough estimate of 500-600 Hezbollah fighters among the roughly 1,000-1,200 Lebanese killed—roughly half of the total.

A December 2006 review of the July 12-August 14 conflict by the Boston Globe cited a total of "More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and combatants" killed, and of those, Hezbollah fighters comprised between 250 and 600 of that figure, depending on the source. The same Globe account also notes that the Lebanese government does not differentiate between civilians and Hezbollah fighters in their official toll of 1,086 dead, as it "can be difficult to tell a Hezbollah fighter because many do not wear military uniforms."

StrategyPage reported:

Hizbollah suffered a defeat. Their rocket attacks on Israel, while appearing spectacular (nearly 4,000 rockets launched), were unimpressive (39 Israelis killed, half of them Arabs). On the ground, Hizbollah lost nearly 600 of its own personnel, and billions of dollars worth of assets and weapons. Israeli losses were far less.

Instead of "mostly civilians," the conflict in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 created roughly 1,000-1,200 fatalities in Lebanon, and clearly a significant number of them, roughly half, were Hezbollah fighters.

Bousso's claim for AFP that "mostly civilians" perished as a result of the war is both technically inaccurate and editorially deceptive.

Update: Reports indicate that Bousso was wrong on the main contention of his article as well, that the report was likely to be "a damning indictment of his [Prime Minister's Olmert's] role in the 2006 war in Lebanon."


The final report into Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon concluded that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not fail in his handling of a key battle and that his decisions were reasonable, defense officials said Wednesday.

It doesn't seem that AFP gets much of anything right, does it?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 30, 2008 10:41 AM

In the Vietnam War the US lost 50,000+ troops.

The Vietnamese lost several million.

The US lost that war.

(I don't need to hear all the arguments about how the US didn't "really" lose...)

War is not about a balance sheet of casualties.

"It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can endure the most who will ultimately prevail."

Posted by: Max at January 30, 2008 12:36 PM

This post wasn't about who won or lost in Lebanon, it was about inaccurate reporting.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at January 30, 2008 12:47 PM

Fair point.

But if it's one thing the US learned from Vietnam, it was the importance of controlling the flow of information and influencing the media.

Posted by: Max at January 30, 2008 01:05 PM

"But if it's one thing the US learned from Vietnam, it was the importance of controlling the flow of information and influencing the media."

Max, as CY points out, accuracy would be nice. Reporting the Tet Offensive as a loss for South Vietnam was blatantly deceptive. The amount of prearranged photo shoots and fauxtography coming out of the 2006 Israeli/Lebanese war is well documented. Exposing those frauds is not a question of influencing or controlling information flow, it is a question of accuracy and journalistic standards. Do you have a problem seeing that?

Who are you imagining is controlling information flows in the current reporting environment?

Posted by: daleyrocks at January 30, 2008 01:22 PM

Lying's bad. 'Not needing to hear', might be part of the problem.

Posted by: brando at January 30, 2008 02:04 PM

Max, how can you control the media when the media is on the other side?

Posted by: Capitalis at January 30, 2008 05:25 PM

At the time of that war the right wing was universally proclaiming it a victory for Israel.

Posted by: John Ryan at January 31, 2008 09:20 AM

This posts comments on the war in Lebanon should be viewed within the shadow of the blogs own evaluation of that war.

Posted by: John Ryan at January 31, 2008 09:45 AM
...the right wing was universally proclaiming it a victory for Israel.

Drugs are bad, Mr. Ryan. Among other things, they can cause delusions, which is the only thing that would explain your daft claim.

I'm sure that some people might have provided that analysis (which you can cherry-pick at your leisure), but the overwhelming majority realized that Israel pummeled Hezbollah and injured them greatly, but did not achieve their strategic or tactical goals.

For example, I stated in one post at the time that there were three losers in that conflict:

Time may indeed show that there were actually three losers in the Israeli-Hezbollah War. Israel lost the political battle, Hezbollah lost the military war, and the media lost its most cherished asset, credibility.

To the best I can determine looking through my archives, I, at least, never qualified this war as a victory for Israel, and off the top of my head, can't recall anyone else (with much credibility) who did, either.

But at least you've got your delusions...

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at January 31, 2008 09:53 AM