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LA Times Buries Lead on ‘Errant’ Airstrike


The Los Angeles Times picked up a bit of scoop Monday concerning what it called an "errant US airstrike" in Iraq that killed civilians and members of the so-called Concerned Local Citizens paramilitary outfit backed by American occupation forces. This was a major oops that much of the major media doesn’t have a peep about.

Perhaps that’s because the US military was intentionally hiding the incident, in which nine people perished, one of them a child. Buried neatly in the middle of the Times article (right before a sentence beginning, "In other news…":

Mohammed Ghrairi, the local citizens commander in the area, said a U.S. military colonel immediately visited him to issue an apology. News of the incident was not released to the media, however, until the military was contacted by The Times.

It would seem that while killing noncombatants and allies should be big news, more revealing is the fact that US commanders didn’t come forward with what they readily admitted was a strike gone awry. But the Times fails to ponder whether the US would have admitted the incident without media oversight, or how many such incidents go completely unreported. Remember, most "accidental" massacres kill ordinary Iraqi civilians, not allies who need to be officially soothed by a hard-to-hide visit from US brass. Perhaps the media has just accepted that it’s the US’s job to hide news that puts it in a bad light…

And "errant" seems like a poor choice of words, used here in both the headline and the lead. An errant missile is one that accidentally flies off course (Errant means deviating from the regular or proper course; erring; straying). But from what we can gather through news sources, this was an intentional strike on the wrong target. So even when the US admits it aimed at and hit a bad target, the supposedly liberal LA Times feels the need to soften the rhetorical impact?

Of course, this article and others (NYT, AP) that failed to deviate from the America-first (i.e., shoot-first) perspective, mark only a slight variance from the standard media approach, which is to focus mainly on the spectacular killing of "innocents" by official bad guys, when really an American audience should be far more concerned about the death toll dealt by its own military. Reuters was the only outlet to tie the incident in with something of a string of such slaughters, but even that piece did not note US deceptiveness or wonder aloud just how many go unreported.

My guess is this story will get roughly the same Western media attention as today’s suicide bombing that reportedly killed eight Sunni paramilitaries (but no noncombatants), since the killers aren’t Americans. And the corporate media will continue to fawn over the "patriotic" Sunni paramilitaries that the US is backing, for the moment, precisely because the US is backing them — even in surface-skimming pieces that fail to mention the US is accidentally slaying those same forces.

For its part, the LA Times followed up its buried-lead piece with more about US forces killing civilians in Iraq. Unfortunately, all such incidents are presented as mistakes, with no hint of another perspective allowed. And a significant portion of the article consists of US apologetics and excuses (five out of 12 paragraphs, including those afforded to describing two separate incidents over three days). That’s what we get instead of the feet-to-flame reporting on these atrocities that we need to be reading.

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