Tuesday, June 24, 2008

American Soldiers Gun Down Iraqi City Councilman While Neighbors Look On

Technically, that's accurate, but it isn't the whole story. This post is going to discuss how a story can be accurate, as far as it goes, and still leave a false impression.

Here's the real headline, and first paragraph:

" Officials: Iraqi councilman kills U.S. soldiers"
CNN (June 23, 2008)

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- An Iraqi city council member opened fire on U.S. forces outside Baghdad on Monday, killing two soldiers, U.S. officials said."

Oh, wait: it's American officials who make that claim. It must be lies, to cover up the murder of a city councilman.

Keep reading:

" Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a small arms fire attack near Salman Pak early Monday afternoon, the U.S. military said in a statement. Three others soldiers and an interpreter were wounded, the statement said, which added that soldiers killed the gunman.

"The attack happened as the soldiers were leaving the Salman Pak Nahia Council building, the military said.

"An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said the incident happened after U.S. soldiers and local officials had attended a ceremony to open a park in al-Madaen, also known as Salman Pak.

"After the soldiers entered al-Madaen's city council building, a city council member opened fire on the soldiers with an AK-47, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

"The U.S. forces returned fire, killing the city council member, according to two Interior Ministry officials.

" 'The attacker came out of his car with an AK-47 rifle in his hand and started firing on the American soldiers until he was killed by the return fire,' said Hussein al-Dulaimi, 37, who owns an agricultural machine shop across the street, according to The Associated Press.

Al-Madaen is located about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Baghdad's city center....

The rest of the article is a digest of recent violence in Iraq, including a mortar attack that killed 10 members of Awakening Councils.

I think the description of Awakening Councils is interesting: "... U.S.-allied predominantly Sunni fighters, known as the Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq. ... Awakening Councils, also called "Concerned Local Citizen" groups, are comprised of mostly Sunni fighters who have turned on al Qaeda in Iraq."

Now it's "predominantly" and "mostly" Sunni fighters. Last week, CNN claimed that they were "Sunni" - and left it at that. I prefer my news to be a little more accurate, when it comes to details.

Now, Awakening Councils as "mostly Sunni Fighters." Okay. But that gives the impression that the Awakening Councils are primarily a set of military units.

I've discussed Iraq's Awakening Councils before, including While respectful of the militant spirit of these sheiks who got tired of Al Qaeda ruining their country, I think that their position in Iraqi society is more that of administrators and consultants, than warriors.

Of course, the Awakening Councils have armed members: as cautious analysts have pointed out. But to characterize all members of Awakening Councils as 'mostly Sunni fighters' seems to be at best an oversimplification.

It's In the News, It Must be True, Right?

I don't think that news services publish outright lies. Not usually, not intentionally, not in the western world.

However, I think that for whatever reason, some facts are brought to the surface of some stories, others left deep in the barrel, and some removed entirely.

What's left is true, as far as it goes, but may not give an accurate impression.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.