Monday, November 27, 2006

Who is Capt. Jamil Hussein?

Curt at Flopping Aces has been all over the story of AP's reportage from Iraq. He should get free beer in perpetuity for his work.

Briefly, here's the chronology in case you've missed it:
  • Associated Press has been distributing news fast and furious for the past few months depicting Iraq's descent into complete chaos/anarchy/civil war (depending on which of their outlets you read).
  • Last week, AP issued reports of some particularly heinous acts in the Baghdad Shia neighborhood of Hurriyah. Four mosques had been burned or blown up, and worst of all, six Sunni civilians had been dragged from Friday prayers, dowsed with kerosene and burned alive. AP's source for much of their reporting was one Iraqi police Captain Jamil Hussein.
  • Later patrols of the Hurriyah neighborhood revealed one burned mosque, and no evidence could be found of the burned Sunnis.
  • Suspicious, Curt starts dredging the Internet for stories citing Capt. Jamil Hussein as a source. It seems whenever there's a horrifying story coming from Iraq involving Sunni victims, the sole source of that story is Capt. Jamil Hussein.
  • Curt requests info from CENTCOM on Capt. Jamil Hussein. His contact there replies they're trying to verify Hussein, and informs him that nobody below the level of Chief in the Iraqi police is supposed to be talking to the media.
  • CENTCOM confirms that Capt. Jamil Hussein is neither a police officer nor an employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. In fact, nobody seems to know who he really is.
So, the gist of it is this: Associated Press, whose news product is likely the most widely distributed worldwide, has been sourcing their news from someone who's at best questionable, and more likely a member of the insurgency in Iraq. They've been distributing news from a single, highly suspect source without any verification, and the antique media like NYT, WaPo, etc. have been running with it to spread the hysteria.

I'm not naive enough to believe that things are peachy in Iraq. But I'll bet you a beer things are nowhere near as bad as you think.

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