Friday, February 22, 2008

When the facts catch up with the headlines

At around the beginning of the month there was much rending of garments led by various media outlets who ran with headlines designed to... enrage you.
There is nothing they won’t do if they think it will work in creating carnage and the political fallout that comes from that.

Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq

... shows that al Qaeda has no political programme here that is acceptable to a civilised society and that this is the most brutal and the most bankrupt of movements

Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State
That was brought on by news reports like this one and this one describing the horrendous attacks on February 1st on the pet market and bird market in Baghdad. At issue was the assertion that the insurgents in Baghdad had employed two women with Down's Syndrome as suicide bombers. Headlines across the news media rang out the same story. They even had a US Army major general to support the story.
Senior American military officials produced photographs Saturday they said showed the bodies of two female suicide bombers who a day earlier attacked two popular pet markets, causing Baghdad's deadliest blasts in months. The photographs showed the lifeless faces of two dark-haired women with oblique eye fissures, a wide gap between the eyes and a flat nose bridge -- characteristics consistent with Down syndrome. "There are some indications that these two women were mentally handicapped," said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad. "From what I see, it appears that the suicide bombers were not willing martyrs. They were used by Al Qaeda [in Iraq] for these horrific attacks." Hammond showed the classified photographs to a few reporters, including one for The Times, but he declined to release the images "out of respect for the deceased." "These two women were likely used because they didn't know what was happening and they were less likely to be searched," Hammond said.

Except that it wasn't true.

The reason the severed heads of the two women were so badly deformed had more to do with the blast than it did with any birth defect. And now, the US military has had to admit it.

The women were identified and case files indicate they had been treated for depression and schizophrenia.
“We know that we got their complete records, their case files, and we know they had in-patient treatment as recently as the last month or two,” Admiral Smith said. He said they had been treated for “typical kinds of psychiatric problems — depression, schizophrenia.”
Nor could the US military establish a link back to al Qaeda.

BAGnewsNotes has more.

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