Thursday, July 12, 2007

You must read beyond the headlines

Okay I have been following the reporting of some fighting taking place in the Iraqi village of Sherween and it is very interesting the different ways that this story has been reported. Here it is on the MSNBC web site which is actually a regurgitation of an AP news story.
Headline: American among 3 killed in Green Zone barrage
Story: Losing control of village
An Iraqi army officer in the Mansouria region close to Sherween confirmed that insurgents appeared to be in control of the village. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni radicals took control of much of Diyala last fall after Sunni tribesmen in western Anbar province began turning against them.

So let’s see if we can get the AP story.
Headline: Sunni extremists put village under siege
Story: BAGHDAD - Sunni extremists have seized control of a remote village northeast of Baghdad in a fierce battle with residents who pleaded for rescue by Iraqi army and police as they tried to defend their homes, the deputy provincial governor said Tuesday.
The reported fighting in Sherween, located in Diyala province on Baghdad's northern gates, underlines the continued struggle in the area where militants believed to be from al-Qaida in Iraq have reportedly left graves of victims in areas under their grip.
It also points to a critical problem facing U.S. commanders: the lack of enough fully trained Iraqi soldiers and police to provide security in areas beyond the scope of American military operations. The weaknesses of Iraqi security forces — and questions over how soon they could control the country on their own — have complicated the war debate in Washington as domestic pressure mounts for an American withdrawal.

Today we have this story on CNN:
Headline: 20 dead, 20 arrested in raids on al Qaeda hub
Story: BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Civilians helped coalition and Iraqi forces conduct a massive raid on an al Qaeda hideout in the town of Sherween, leaving 20 suspected terrorists dead and 20 more in coalition custody, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
The militants were caught off guard when U.S. aircraft dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs and 14 quarter-ton bombs on river crossings and a bridge in the town northeast of Baghdad, said Staff Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem.
Kareem, who commands the Iraqi Security Forces in Diyala province, said the bombings isolated the terrorists who had infiltrated Sherween. The town's residents fought alongside the Iraqi forces during the raid, helping them kill and capture the terrorists, a U.S. military news release said.

In all of the stories they make reference to a dispatch by Michael Yon, an embedded reporter who has provided some of the best reporting on Iraq that you have probably never heard. The difference between Michael and the other mass market media, he uses quotes from people who will go on the record, not the dubious He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, that is used in some many other reports. Michael is on the ground, the other not so much. Michael doesn’t have an agenda, the others maybe not so much.
The real point of this exercise is to point out how most stories are not well resourced or confirmed, are always presented either with a headline of use a tone of absolute gloom and despair, so much so you think you are watching a replay of the old “Hee-Haw” tv series with the guys sitting on the porch singing their gloom and despair song.
The bottom line. The AP originally reported the story and threw in bits about how this points out the failure of Iraqi security forces, other mass market media simply regurgitate stories from AP or Reuters and maybe add a little more opinion in to it and when the final story gets around to be reported in full all of their dire assumptions more times then not turn out to be wrong.

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