The newspaper business is sinking rapidly, and as it goes under, editors and publishers are becoming more dependent on wire services to cheaply fill their pages. Unfortunately what seems like a life preserver is really the ballast that dragged them down in the first place; and they are holding on for dear life to the very thing that makes them irrelevant.
Even the Washington Times, which has a history of great national security reporting, can fall into this trap—particularly during the holidays. This week, they ran with an AP story that illustrated both how liberal assumptions often rule the day in the world’s most prominent wire service.
Under the headline, “Iraqis Outraged as Blackwater Case Thrown Out,” the Washington Times ran an Associated Press story by Rebecca Santana with input from AP reporters Katharine Houreld, Saad Abdul-Kadir and Bushra Juhi, that began with this paragraph
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqis seeking justice for 17 people shot dead at a Baghdad intersection responded with bitterness and outrage Friday at a U.S. judge’s decision to throw out a case against a Blackwater security team accused in the killings.
With the assumption inherent in the first 3 words, “Iraqis seeking justice,” the AP establishes the bias for the whole story. Who could be against “seeking justice?” People “seeking justice” must have good motives, and whoever they are opposed to must be the bad guys, right?
Would “Iraqis seeking justice” ignore Iraqis and foreign fighters with an established practice of using human shields and only go after the people who returned fire in an ambush?
I don’t know. And the AP never asks the question as to whether only “Iraqi seeking deep pockets” or “Iraqis seeking to damage American efforts in Iraq” would make Blackwater their sole focus.
In fact, the AP story gives the most credence to the idea that the Blackwater employees– who are usually ex-American Special Forces operatives, and therefore among the best trained soldiers in the world—just started shooting at an intersection with no provocation whatsoever, and killed 17 Iraqi civilians… for the heck of it? This is an assertion, they say, that is alleged by “many Iraqis.”
Way to source your story!
From the completely fictional Jenin “massacre” in Israel, to Marines being rushed to prosecution for the firefight at Haditha—and exonerated in slow motion—it seems that every time civilians are killed in a crossfire in this part of the world, there are witnesses willing to line up and call it a massacre of civilians by evil Americans or Jews.
And with monotonous regularity, American or Israeli soldiers are proved innocent—but not until the press has breathlessly reported “the next My Lai.”
But that doesn’t seem to lead to a skeptical press the next time. I have not studied this case in detail; but the story of the prosecution and the “Iraqis seeking justice” certainly seems incredible enough to at least merit questions.
In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina smacked the Justice Department prosecutors around pretty hard. Admittedly, he dismissed the case on technical grounds—that federal prosecutors obviously used the voluntary statements of the Blackwater security operatives against them in violation of a legal agreement. But in cases where judges are forced to let what they believe to be cold-blooded killers go free because of prosecutorial mistakes, they usually do so with great stated reluctance. Such sentiment was noticeably absent from Urbina’s dressing down of the federal prosecutors.
In a story the day before by the Washington Times’s Eli Lake, it was reported that Judge Urbina called the government’s case against the Blackwater employees, “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility,” and said of their methods in the investigation, “…the court declines to excuse the government’s reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights as harmless error…”
It’s worth noting that while the Justice Department could care less about the Constitutional rights of American citizens doing a dangerous job their country needs done; they were extending undeserved civil rights to Abdulmutallab the Nigerian Christmas airline bomber—and making sure they were strictly followed.
This weekend, after some pretty bloodless statements about “bringing to justice those responsible, blah blah” for the attempted murder of nearly 300 Americans, President Obama finally used “war” in his description in the fight against al Qaeda.
Talk is cheap.