Cherry Picking Coverage of Iraq Tragedy

It would seem obvious that in journalism, if something a source tells you turns out to be totally erroneous — especially if that source didn’t tell you how it arrived at its information — that would call into question all the information provided by that source. But that isn’t how the corporate (or the alternative) media generally operate.

Such was the case in yesterday’s reporting on terrorist attacks in Iraq. When two women exploded inside two different, crowded animal markets in Baghdad yesterday — killing scores of Iraqis and wounding hundreds more — CNN turned to the US military and Iraqi security officials to find out what had happened. They got two very different stories. The military told CNN the women were "suicide bombers."

U.S. military officials referred to the two attacks as suicide bombings, saying both women detonated the explosive devices.

The U.S. officials also gave a much lower casualty toll, with 27 civilians dead and 53 others wounded.

Well, it turns out, according to Iraqi officials who were not so quick to draw "obvious" conclusions, the women were not suicide bombers at all. Rather they were mentally disabled women to whom bombs had been strapped for remote detonation. And the casualty figures were much higher — even according to Iraq sources, which are not exactly prone to exaggerating such statistics.

The bombs killed at least 98 people and wounded more than 200 at two popular pet markets on the holiest day of the week for Muslims, [Iraqi] authorities said.

In both bombings, the attackers were mentally disabled women whose explosive belts were remotely detonated, Gen. Qasim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad’s security plan, told state television.

Okay. That seems to be the less-knee-jerk, more-plausible explanation, and the one that is now widely accepted by news sources. It appears the US military has poor or no sources on the matter, or just doesn’t care about the truth (at best). Which renders CNN’s next reference kind of puzzling.

The Pentagon attributed the attacks to al Qaeda in Iraq and made no reference to the mental conditions of the women.

So what was the Pentagon’s basis for blaming the attacks on Al-Qaeda in Iraq? Just that it was plausible? I mean, if the US doesn’t even know how many people died or how the bombs went off, how could it be a reliable source on who was behind the attack? Why aren’t we ever told how the Pentagon draws such conclusions? Why don’t reporters with access ever ask?

The coverage gets more deplorable. The Associated Press disgracefully referred to the women as "unwitting suicide bombers." Does that mean if someone hangs me, I’ve committed an "unwitting suicide"?

The AP even tried to turn this story into a success story for the year-long escalation of US occupation forces:

The coordinated blasts — coming 20 minutes apart in different parts of the city — appeared to reinforce U.S. claims al-Qaida in Iraq may be increasingly desperate and running short of able-bodied men willing or available for such missions.

Really? You really even want to spin this as a sign of US potency? So we know it was Al-Qaeda in Iraq? And we can somehow conclude that not wanting to waste plentiful able-bodied men was not motive enough for using expendible women with Downs syndrome?

Actually, this disgusting operation no more represents a switch in terror tactics than the AP’s disdainful reporting suggests that journalists are just now starting to fail in Iraq. But the AP doesn’t want us to remember that even at the height of terror operations in Iraq, unwitting noncombatants were used in a similar incident. And there have been other cases of remotely detonated bombs that didn’t cost any terrorist operatives their lives, dating back to at least 2004.

Thank goodness for all the unbiased reporting coming out of Iraq by the likes of CNN and AP. Without it, we wouldn’t have a clue what is going on there…

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