Friday, December 08, 2006

The AP to Right-Wing Bloggers: STFU already!

In case you haven't heard about this controversy, after the Associated Press published a story about 6 Sunni men being burned to death in the Hurriyah district of Baghdad in November, several right-wing bloggers and the US military questioned the credibility of the story and the existence of AP's source, Iraqi police captain Jamil Hussein. The AP has written followup stories confirming what happened but that has not quelled the outcry against their organization.

Well, the AP has had more than enough and released its bottom line statement on Friday.

Here are some excerpts:

In recent days, a handful of people have stridently criticized The Associated Press’ coverage of a terrible attack on Iraqi citizens last month in Baghdad. Some of those critics question whether the incident happened at all and declare that they don't believe our reporting.

Indeed, a small number of them have whipped themselves into an indignant lather over the AP's reporting.

Indeed...and that's putting it nicely. That rabid lather has been dripping from their ugly mouths right through their pointy fangs of truthiness.

We have sent journalists to the neighborhood three different times to talk with people there about what happened. And those residents have repeatedly told us, in some detail, that Shiite militiamen dragged six Sunni worshippers from a mosque, drenched them with kerosene and burned them alive.

No one else has said they have actually gone to the neighborhood. Particularly not the individuals who have criticized our journalism with such barbed certitude.

Take that, kool-aid drinkers.

Some of AP's critics question the existence of police Capt. Jamil Hussein, who was one (but not the only) source to tell us about the burning.

These critics cite a U.S. military officer and an Iraqi official who first said Hussein is not an authorized spokesman and later said he is not on their list of Interior Ministry employees. It’s worth noting that such lists are relatively recent creations of the fledgling Iraqi government.

By contrast, Hussein is well known to AP. We first met him, in uniform, in a police station, some two years ago. We have talked with him a number of times since then and he has been a reliable source of accurate information on a variety of events in Baghdad.

No one – not a single person – raised questions about Hussein’s accuracy or his very existence in all that time. Those questions were raised only after he was quoted by name describing a terrible attack in a neighborhood that U.S. and Iraqi forces have struggled to make safe.

Because CSI: Bloggerville just couldn't accept what happened so they just had to try every trick in the book to tear it apart.

The story of the burnings has gotten far more attention in the United States than in Iraq, where vicious torture and death are sadly commonplace. Dozens of Iraqi citizens are gunned down in their cars, dragged from their homes or blown apart in public places every single day.

As careful followers of the Iraq story know well, various militias have been accused of operating within the Interior Ministry, which controls the police and has long worked to suppress news of death-squad activity in its ranks. (This is the same ministry that questioned Capt. Hussein’s existence and last week announced plans to take legal action against journalists who report news that creates the impression that security in Iraq is bad, “when the facts are totally different.”)

And finally:

The work is dangerous: two people who work for AP have been killed since this war began in 2003. Many others have been hurt, some badly.

Several of AP's Iraqi journalists were victimized by Saddam Hussein’s regime and bear scars of his torture or the loss of relatives killed by his goons. Those journalists have no interest in furthering the chaos that makes daily life in Iraq so perilous. They want what any of us want: To be able to live and work without fear and raise their children in peace and safety.

Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive.

It's awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.

In other words Malkin, freepers, little green footballers and all the rest of you flipping losers who think it's k3wl to drive your blog traffic up by manufacturing faux controversies against your so-called 'enemies' in the press: if you don't have the guts to fly into Baghdad and get out there to report on what's going on under threat of getting blown up, shot or tortured, just STFU already.

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