Expect headlines like this: maybe not quite as tabloid-like, but with the same essential message.
Yesterday I posted "Of Snipers, Bait, and Really Stupid Ideas," about a reprehensibly stupid and self-destructive program that came to light during the murder trial of three GIs.
Allegedly, there is a mysterious group of snipers, aided by the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group, that has snipers drop ordinance in public places, and shoots Iraqis who pick it up.
I neither believed nor disbelieved the story at the time, accepting it as possible. Stupid, wrong, but possible.
True or not, this is a wonderful opportunity for propagandists.
In fact, from one point of view, it would be better if there were no such baiting program. That way, when the Army doesn't reveal the program and stop it, that will be "proof" of a cover-up.
Today, Jaguar b. p. posted a comment on the "Of Snipers..." post. It's worth repeating here:
"So it turns out that this war is less about 'religious fanatics who want their beliefs to rule the world," and more about the Crusaders bait-sniping Iraqis over invisible WMD"
I understand the sentiment.
- Three rogue GIs who allegedly planted evidence on the bodies of Iraqis they had killed are in trouble.
- A story about a wicked sniper program comes out: probably to bolster a 'but everybody's doing it' defense.
- The Washington Post publishes a story about the program.
The other shoe is beginning to drop.
It looks like the Washington Post is the paper that broke this story. The Washington Post article, "U.S. Aims To Lure Insurgents With 'Bait'," the Post tells where it got the information. Emphasis in the quotes is mine.
"In documents obtained by The Washington Post from family members of the accused soldiers, Didier said members of the U.S. military's Asymmetric Warfare Group visited his unit in January and later passed along ammunition boxes filled with the 'drop items' to be used 'to disrupt the AIF [Anti-Iraq Forces] attempts at harming Coalition Forces and give us the upper hand in a fight.'"
Didier is the commander of three snipers accused of planting weapons on Iraqis they had killed.
Aside from being immoral, that's illegal.
Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said, "The accused are charged with murder and wrongfully placing weapons on the remains of Iraqi nationals. There are no classified programs that authorize the murder of local nationals and the use of 'drop weapons' to make killings appear legally justified."
He also said, that "to prevent the enemy from learning about our tactics, techniques and training procedures, we don't discuss specific methods targeting enemy combatants." Given rules like that, he can't confirm or deny the existence of the alleged bait program.
That's enough of a topic for an article in the Washington Post and other news outlets.
BBC article is titled, "US forces 'lure Iraqis with bait'." The BBC article says "The classified programme is described in statements disclosed by lawyers for three US soldiers accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they had killed.
"It is unclear how widely the tactic may have been used in Iraq or how many people may have died as a result of it."
So, deep below the headlines, we learn that this shadowy legion of baiting snipers is a plot that's documented by "investigative documents" that come from either lawyers defending the accused soldiers, or relatives of the accused soldiers.
These documents seem to show that the soldiers' commander said, "'Baiting is putting an object out there that we know they will use, with the intention of destroying the enemy,' he said a sworn statement. 'Basically, we would put an item out there and watch it. If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item, we would engage the individual as I saw this as a sign they would use the item against U.S. Forces.'"
What struck me about the officer's statement was how conditional it was. In three sentences, he uses "would" twice. In context, I'd say that there's a good chance that he's describing a hypothetical situation. We don't know, of course, since the Washington Post decided not to clarify the point.
I'm sure that this story will receive wide attention. There are a great many people who would love to see the U.S. military's reputation be damaged, and this story is just the tool for the job.