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Friday, January 05, 2007

The Story of Jamil Hussein -- How Chickenhawks May Have Gotten a Whistleblower Killed

It all started November 24, with an extremely short wire story from Iraq. Associated Press reported a horrific attack in the Sadr City slum area of Baghdad -- a Shiite stronghold. The mosques were Sunni, suggesting that ethnic cleansing had become a weapon in Iraq's sectarian civil war. The details were brutal:

Shiite militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near Iraqi soldiers who did not intervene, police Capt. Jamil Hussein said.

So much for police. If the three paragraphs that made up the original story where true, Baghdad police had either felt unwilling to risk confronting the gunmen or had already chosen sides in the unfolding civil war. Way back then -- nearly a month and a half, now -- the most partisan warheads still felt they could deny there was anything to worry about with Iraq. For them, the violence was the fault of foreign terrorists. Iraqis wanted only peace and their purple finger democracy. It wasn't the broader cultural conflict that could be described as civil war.

Immediately, they doubted the story. Hadn't they spotted an incredibly bad photoshop job by Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj (see photo)? Right wing bloggers found this photo from the israeli/lebanese conflict and hooted that it proved media bias, somehow.

Clearly, this Capt. Jamil Hussein -- the source for AP's Sadr City story -- wasn't telling the truth or, worse, didn't actually exist at all. I've written before about the tendency of the right to only consider two possibilities at any given time. Either the media were always telling the truth or they were always lying. The warbloggers had caught one inconsequential lie, therefore, every story was a lie. The media was helping the terrorists.

It's hard to see how a photographer altering his photo to make it more compelling and, thereby, more likely to be picked up by wire services would have any affect on anything. Hajj just added more smoke -- the smoke was already there. For warbloggers like Michelle Malkin, however, it was proof positive that the media was on the side of the terrorists.

Malkin put up a long post collecting comments from other warbloggers, explaining why and how the photo was faked. These people are amazingly obsessive. Where, "Hey, look how fake this photo is!" would've sufficed, she piled up comment after comment after comment. It's tempting to take that as evidence Malkin realizes her audience is sharp as Nerf. Again, look at the photo -- what do you really need to explain?

Having proved the media is always lying, the warheads moved on to the AP story. They began to call AP "Associated (with terrorists) Press." They did a little digging and found what they thought backed up their assertions -- no one could find this ' Capt. Jamil Hussein.'

What a scoop! Capt. Jamil didn't even exist! "This is not just one story," Malkin wrote, "It is at least 61 [with Hussein as a source]. And all of these. And this big one. It is not about conservative bloggers ignoring the bona fide, grim realities on the ground. It is about the credibility, veracity, trustworthiness, and accountability of the world's 'essential global news network'--more important than ever in a time of war."

Yikes! AP was making stuff up! Making matters worse, US Central command denied that four mosques were burned.

Multi-National Force -- Iraq:

Contrary to recent media reporting that four mosques were burned in Hurriya, an Iraqi Army patrol investigating the area found only one mosque had been burned in the neighborhood.

Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a patrol in Hurriya Friday afternoon in response to media reports that four mosques were being burned as retaliation for the VBIED attacks in Sadr City on Thursday.

The Soldiers set up a checkpoint near the Al Muhaimen mosque at approximately 2 p.m. and found the mosque intact with no evidence of any fire at the location.

CENTCOM also disputed AP's assertion that men were burned alive or that Capt. Jamil Hussein even existed.

CENTCOM (via Jawa Report):

We at Multi-National Corps - Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

"We gotcha! " the warheads thought. At this point, it's really hard to blame them for not thinking Jamil Hussein existed. 'Definitively' is pretty final. I'd have done the same. But I would not have taken that and assumed that the media had sided with the terrorists or that they wanted the US to lose the war. That's one helluva leap of logic. Disproving one story would only disprove that one story -- that's what ya call yer 'logic.' But the warbloggers seemed to think that if they could disprove Jamil Hussein, they could somehow save Iraq. Call it sympathetic magical thinking. There was no reason to obsess over this one story when the broader conflict was so obviously violent.

Here's were things get really fun. It turns out that Iraq is pretty much chaos and any information coming out of there is suspect.

There is a Capt. Jamil Hussein. Worse, he's facing charges for talking to the media.

Associated Press (via Editor & Publisher):

The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press.

The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.

Khalaf didn't explain why the ministry denied Hussein's existence, but the fact that he now faces charges might be a clue.

E&P quotes a few of the warbloggers as an addendum to the release.

As recently as yesterday, Michelle Malkin, the best-known blog critic of Hussein's existence, stated flatly "the fact that there is no police captain named 'Jamil Hussein' working now or ever in either Yarmouk or al Khadra, according to on-the-ground sources in Baghdad. Late this afternoon, she posted part of the AP dispatch above with the comment, "Checking it out. Moving forward...."

She later sent a note to the blog of another Hussein doubter, Allahpundit, stating, "Just to clarify, I’m not apologizing for anything."

"I see Allah is apologizing tonight for taking his readers on a wild goose chase. But I don’t think he’s done anything to apologize for," wrote Patterico of Patterico's Pontifications. Seeing a trend here?

Dan Riehl posted, "Fascinating. But let me be the first to say to the Left, before they lose themselves in glee, I don't see that bloggers have anything to apologize for, nor do I see this story being at an end."

The Jawa Report is in complete denial. "Of course, the alternative to believing he might not exist is to be thoroughly convinced that he does exist despite the conflicting evidence. Anyone who thoroughly convinced themselves of Jamil Hussein's existence despite the controversy is a credulous fool." Remember what I said about only seeing two alternatives?

But the prize for complete idiocy goes to Curt at Flopping Aces. Responding to this-

Hussein told the AP on Wednesday that he learned the arrest warrant would be issued when he returned to work on Thursday after the Eid al-Adha holiday. His phone was turned off Thursday and he could not be reached for further comment.

-Curt wrote, "His phone was turned off? Interesting.....why would his phone be turned off all of a sudden? Would this mean he will once again NOT be produced for questioning?"

Golly, why on earth would someone who's been told he was going to be arrested by the murderous police he'd ratted on have his phone turned off the same day he was supposed to turn himself in? There's a real stumper.

The best case scenario is that Hussein is packed and gone. I hope so, anyway. If this story teaches us anything, it's that it's incredibly easy to lose yourself in the chaos of Iraq. The worst case scenario is that Michelle Malkin and these right wing chickenhawks may have just gotten a whistleblower killed.


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