Friday, June 16, 2006

Mission accomplished

A search of Google News for "Haditha" on June 15 returned a result of 158 references.


Sgt. Sharon Johnson
Pajamahadeen Reserve Unit

Thanks again

This has been a memorable thirteen days. On June 4th, I started a blog with the hopes of contributing in a microscopic way to the knocking back of premature reporting and even misreporting of the story of Haditha. Here's what I said:

As much as I like reading blogs, I don't want to be a blogger. I have one mission, that is to prevent "Haditha" from becoming the next "Abu Ghraib." Of course, I know one woman in flyover land sitting at a computer cannot accomplish this alone. I'm just one grunt in the Pajamahadeen many of whom are already well out in front of the issue.

Then, I started sending links to my e-friends - one by one. I didn't ask for links, but just asked them to stop by. I felt it was a more efficient method of communicating than writing up emails one by one.

And how.

Soon after, some leaders in the blogosphere started linking here - Cam Edwards, Lorie Byrd, Lucianne Goldberg, The Anchoress, Edward Morrissey, Jim Geraghty, and Michelle Malkin. Only half of these folks even received a little note from me. In the blogosphere it's all about links.

Thanks to everybody. Thanks to all who linked - including many smaller blogs. Thanks to everyone who sent me information in the first few days of the blog when we were trying to sort out the facts of the story. Thanks to my "regular readers" and everybody who sent me an "atta girl."

The website Sweetness & Light was the epicenter of the blogosphere's pushback on the Haditha story. Nice job.

And most of all - Thanks to our troops who answer the call of the American public; who through their elected representatives, and with a declaration of support from Congress in March 2003, were sent on a military mission to Iraq. Godspeed to you all.

A mom's motivation

Yesterday, an e-friend asked me what my connection was to Haditha. He wrote this after I had sent him a link to SpiritBuilders. I guess the answer to his question is "none."

Except for this:

When the Abu Ghraib photos hit the press in April 2004 and then the media went wild with coverage through May (and the months following) my son was early into his service as a prison guard at Camp Bucca in Iraq. Unless you are the parent of a soldier, I don't know if you can imagine what it was like to see those photos on the front pages of the newspapers day after day.

My first response was to write up an email that shone a light on the good things that the soldiers were doing. I then took that email and I forwarded it to everybody who was on the distribution lists of folks who would send me jokes or profound thoughts they had found on the internet. Basically, I just hit "reply to all" to the emails I received and then sent my own email to my friends and their friends. This is an excellent way to reduce the number of distribution lists on which you are included.

Since then, I've written to newspapers, and television networks. I've called ombudsmen and quietly spoken with reporters. And I've written emails - lots of them.

When the Haditha story started picking up steam, I started writing my e-friends one by one and asking them to keep their reporting and commenting in context of the hundreds of thousands of troops who quietly and honorably do their jobs.

One journalist with whom I exchange cordial emails wrote back to me saying that the chips would have to fall where they may. Here is an excerpt from my note back to him:

I thought a lot about your words, especially these: "this is one (like Abu Ghraib) where the chips have to fall where they may." I don't know how to say this gently, [name], but that rings somewhat cold with me. With Abu Ghraib, "the chips" not only fell on the soldiers who are pictured in those photos from November 8, 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison, General Karpinski, and to some extent others in the chain of command. "The chips" were slung at President Bush and SecDef Rumsfeld, and ended up hitting my son and countless other prison guards who were jerked around by a chain of command that overreacted to the politics and the media hyperventilation. "Abu Ghraib!" was one twelve hour shift carried out by seven stupid soldiers in an environment that was made worse by the missteps of Gen. Geoffery Miller. In the two years since "Abu Ghraib!" came to the nation's consciousness, it has received now an incalculable number of references - magnifying it to a factor of thousands beyond the seriousness of the acts on that night.

Haditha appears to have been bad. And as you know, bad things happen in war. We have sent human beings to war, not angels. We had a choice when facing the terrorists - fight an imperfect war or do nothing. It is still my belief that it was better to fight an imperfect war than to do nothing.

My connection to Haditha is simply not wanting any other soldiers and their families to have to go through the aftermath of media hyperventilation over an incident that is isolated and not even completely investigated.

My usual method of communication was inefficient.

So, I started a blog.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I was wrong

In a post on Monday, I pointed out that Al Jazeera was using an inflammatory and incorrect photo in connection with a story on Haditha. I said: "I suppose we won't be seeing an apology soon."

Al Jazeera has apologized.

Just one of the hundreds of thousands of troops that have cycled in and out of Iraq

As revealed in the post below, my son was wounded when he was in Iraq. He is fine, but it was severe enough that he had to go to Kuwait for treatment and then return to Camp Bucca after a day or so. The only lingering effect is some shrapnel that remains in his right cheek. That would be the cheek on his face, not the other cheek.

Here's a story from our local paper that details how my son interacted with the Iraqi people.

From the article:

"During his time in Camp Bucca, Johnson learned the Iraqi language by getting to know the interpreters, who acted as liaisons.

Although he learned the language without the knowledge of leadership, Johnson felt that it would help the mission and make communicating with detainees easier.

By learning the language, he was able to carry on conversations with the Iraqi police regarding weapon caches and area security without having an interpreter.

It also helped him develop working rapport with the people, said Johnson."

Not all military prison guards in Iraq abuse the detainees and not all (if any) Marines are ready to shoot women and babies. Most Americans know that. That the American press continue to obsess over Abu Ghraib simply serves to diminish their reputation with the public they hope to serve. Maybe the media's hasty retreat on the Haditha story signals that they are finally wising up. As to the newspaper industry's declining relevancy and profitability, it's not a minute too soon.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mind if I blog a bit?

Although the number of references to "Haditha" in a Google News search rose a little on Wednesday - I'll post a final number later - the major newspapers have, for the most part, dropped the story. All that's mostly left are the anti-war folks squeezing Haditha for all it's worth before it falls into the memory hole - and the pro-war folks using this as another example of media bias.

This blog will end when the number of references to "Haditha" in a Google News search drops to below 200 for the previous day.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think that is going to happen very soon.

In the meantime, I'm going to blog my little heart out.

A journalist who sought the truth in Iraq

On the plane tonight between New York and Houston, I listened to this interview of Steven Vincent that I saved on my iPod. (I originally found the interview on either SCSU Scholars or Shot In the Dark.) Steven was a brilliant writer who understood the soul of Iraq and was optimistic about its future, even with the sense that conditions were not going to improve soon.

If you have eighteen minutes to spare, listen to Steven as he spoke with the folks at the Northern Alliance Radio Network just a few days before he left for Iraq. He was murdered two months later in Basrah on August 2, 2005.

A report from the field

I ran across this USA today article from a reporter, Kimberly Johnson, who is in Iraq. She gives a detailed view of a marine's life in the theatre of war. It's all there...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Good for her.

The article is long, but here's how it starts out:

BAGHDAD — As the 1st Marine Division moved across the desert into Iraq on March 19, 2003, each of the 25,000 leathernecks got a letter from their commander.

Although Maj. Gen. James Mattis was known as a tough, blunt warrior — he'd later say at a panel dicussion in San Diego that "it's fun to shoot some people" — he told his troops to treat civilian non-combatants with "chivalry and soldierly compassion." "Engage your brain," he instructed, "before you engage your weapon."

If only it were that easy.

Three years later, the Marines face an allegation that, if proved, would constitute one of the worst scandals in their history: that members of a squad killed as many as two dozen civilians last year in the city of Haditha in retaliation for a roadside bombing that killed one Marine. The military is still investigating the Haditha case, as well as the possibility of a cover-up. There are two contrasting, if not contradictory, versions of what happened Nov. 19 in the city on the Euphrates River in rebellious Anbar province.

For proper context, you have to read the whole thing.

Mom of wounded Iraq war vet finds nearly naked man in New York hotel room

There. That should divert a few journalists' attention from Haditha for a few seconds.

And it gets major points on one's hotel loyalty membership account.

Almost there

The number of references to "Haditha" in a Google News search for Tuesday, June 13 was 228.

Skimming through the headlines, it looks like as many stories are directed at pushing back on the story as are about the story itself. This Washington Times editorial: "Time's massacre" is just one example. Here's an excerpt:

"With Marines being accused of war crimes, the blogosphere is doing what it does best: scrutinizing the reporting. In this case, the site Sweetness & Light has been on Time magazine's case for what appears to be justifiable concerns over its reporting of the Nov. 19 Haditha incident, in which Marines are under investigation for killing two dozen innocent Iraqis."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

You know what to do

In the comments to this post, reader "Crosspatch" leaves the following message:

The Marines need you. I don't know how to put this act into words. Go look for yourself.

Remember that it's said the pen is mightier than the sword. I think that goes for keyboards, too.

If you'd like to contact the Arizona Republic, you may use this form.

Read this

Almost every day, after reading the morning posts at RealClearPolitics or Lucianne, an article sinks in deeply with me and I'll send a link to an e-friend or two. I've done this one email at a time. It is very inefficient.

But now I have my own blog.

For a few days yet.

From my favorite article of the day:

Zarqawi's Death Goes Beyond Spinning, By David Warren

"Like Osama bin Laden, and other Islamist leaders, Zarqawi cultivated the mystique of a djinn, with superhuman abilities to avoid capture. As Osama, his secret was to take many precautions and few risks. Others were sent to die, while Zarqawi hid out. That was his limitation as a military leader: he was seldom in a position to communicate prompt orders. But it was his strength as a propaganda leader, commanding forces dependent on momentum and morale.

So much of the credit for his murderous successes, and those of other terrorists like him, must be given to the mainstream media -- both East and West. Journalists assiduously advance the terrorist cause, by reporting almost exclusively on allied setbacks and mistakes, and by their ceaseless improvisation of destructive criticism against "Bush" and other Western leaders and allies. Heroic, and largely successful reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been ignored; instead we have an endless spool of meticulously-reported terror hits. The Western media attention to, and celebration of, such unstable characters as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg, make their alliances obvious. The New York Times has been the bellwether for this. Almost every news item touching Iraq is spun to maximize its demoralizing effect on the allied war effort. And across America itself, editors look to the Times nightly front-page line-up for clues on how to slant their own coverage."

This must stop

While some people have sweet dreams, and some people have nightmares, and some people dream of, well, you know... I woke up after dreaming about linking.


This blog will be discontinued when the number of references in a daily Google News search drops to below 200. The number for Monday, June 12 is 270.

Hopefully, we'll be done here in a few days.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Now, if we could just send a few of the Pajamahadeen to the Middle East

Remember when the UK Times erroneously showed a photo of slain and bloody men with their hands tied behind their backs? The photo was actually of Iraqis who had been killed in May 2005, but the UK Times attached it to a story about Haditha. At TimesOnline, the following apology appears:

"Note: This story originally appeared with a picture of slain Iraqis whose caption erroneously described the scene as being related to the alleged incidents in al-Haditha. The image was in fact from a separate incident in the area in which Iraqi insurgents are believed to have massacred local fishermen. We apologise for the mistake."

The Chicago Sun-Times then used the same photo as a basis for a cartoon. Here's an excerpt from their apology:

"A cartoon by Jack Higgins in Tuesday's Chicago Sun-Times incorporated inaccurate imagery to make a statement about the allegations that U.S. Marines killed Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Jack Higgins and the Sun-Times deeply regret the mistake and apologize to the U.S. servicemen, especially those in the Marine Corps, and to our readers who were understandably offended by the cartoon."

Well, Al Jazeera's article on Haditha today shows that same photo.

I suppose we won't be seeing an apology soon.

UPDATE: Al Jazeera pulled the article from the link above. It is replaced with this version. However Michelle Malkin captured an image of the original article.

No large spike of Haditha stories on Sunday

The mission of this blog is to see that "Haditha" does not become the next "Abu Ghraib." I am tracking the number of references on Google News and posting the results on the side bar on the right.

Many bloggers have been putting countless hours over the last few days in trying to poke holes in the reporting of the Haditha incident. Some think the whole thing is a hoax. Personally, I don't think so. I also don't think it was a result of uncontrolled Marines gone wild in a rage over the loss of Lance Cpl. Terrazas. I think the truth is somewhere in between. In any event, the military is completing a thorough investigation and if it is found that Marines acted improperly, military justice will be served.

In the meantime, it appears the story is losing steam in the media rather than gaining it as "Abu Ghraib" did through May of 2004.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Democrats to lose a talking point soon

From a Salon interview of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:

"Salon: Between the capture of Zarqawi and the formation of an Iraqi government, Bush might be able to make an argument that 2006 has become a "period of transition" in Iraq.

Reid: I don't think he has any argument until we have a plan for bringing the troops home.

We're spending $2.5 billion a week; we have 2,500 dead Americans; we have 20,000 wounded; wherever you watched TV this week, you saw the terrible injuries we've got coming in from Iraq. We've got Haditha, we've got Abu Ghraib, and we've got Guantánamo. So I don't think the stage is subject to having cheerleaders out for him."

Umm, Harry, your party played Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo for all it was worth. Haditha? Not this time.

And lest you think all journalists are out to simply smear the military

Here's an unsolicited link received from a Washington Post reporter. It is to an opinion piece titled "Morals in A Combat Zone" by a major in the U.S. Army appearing in today's Washington Post. The Washington Post takes much criticism for liberal bias in reporting on the Global War on Terror. It is also one of the best sources for stories that give an accurate picture of military life in a war zone.

In the past two years, I've written back and forth with many reporters and columnists. I will never forget holding my breath as I linked to a headline on Drudge that announced an American reporter was killed in Basra[h]. Or watching a reporter who had become an online friend having to appear on TV to fight back the skepticism that arose after reporter Jill Carroll was released in Iraq. Or not being able to control my tears at church while thinking of an Iraqi journalist and singing an African spiritual song "O Healing River" with the following lyrics:

O healing river,
send down your waters,
And wash the blood
from off the sand.

The reporters have a tough job. They possess the same human frailties as we all do...and as the troops do.

Now, can't we all just get along?

Think before you say something stupid

Welcome to the most popular place on the internet for finding out about thinking before you say something stupid!

This page was originally created in 2006 when I was in the middle of a campaign with other bloggers to fight back a story of an alleged massacre by U.S. marines in Haditha, Iraq. We were determined not to let the media and Rep. John Murtha turn this story into a lingering narrative of abuse by the U.S. military.

Somehow, it ended up being the number one site on Google when you type in words to the effect of "think before you say something stupid."

Go figure.

Stop a while at my home page, won't you? Please.

This post was originally written at 8:37 p.m. on June 9, 2006 with the following text:

As the Pajamahadeen find more and more holes in the reporting of the Haditha incident, may we say just one thing to the Mainstream Media?

We are not going through "Abu Ghraib!" again

And this is why.


This sounds about right

This morning when I checked in at Sweetness & Light, I found a link to this Washington Post article:

It begins: "A sergeant who led a squad of Marines during the incident in Haditha, Iraq, that left as many as 24 civilians dead said his unit did not intentionally target any civilians, followed military rules of engagement and never tried to cover up the shootings, his attorney said.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, told his attorney that several civilians were killed Nov. 19 when his squad went after insurgents who were firing at them from inside a house. The Marine said there was no vengeful massacre, but he described a house-to-house hunt that went tragically awry in the middle of a chaotic battlefield."

SSgt Wuterich details the death of Lnc Cpl Terrazas, the killing of the young men in the taxi, the chaos surrounding the Marines entering the first two homes where men, women and children were killed, and then the killing of four men in the third house where one man was earlier reported to have had a gun. These details mesh with the stories that were reported in the Washington Post and New York Times and were based on interviews with Haditha residents.

How are we doing?

A search of Google News' sources for "Haditha" for June 10 brought back a result of 298 references. We are pretty close, I think, to seeing Haditha put into its proper perspective. That is, a horrible isolated incident likely involving U.S. Marines and resulting in dead Iraqis - some of who were completely innocent and some of who may have been supportive of the forces that killed a U.S. Marine earlier in the day. Nothing more, nothing less.

This story has had a few runs at gaining momentum. It was first reported on November 20, 2005 by Reuters. Then, Time picked up the story in their March 19, edition. Representative John Murtha accused U.S. Marines of killing Iraqi civilians "in cold blood" and on May 17, this story started getting legs. It wasn't until May 25, on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend that more than 200 references to "Haditha" appear in a Google News search. The feeding frenzy peaked on Friday, June 2, with 2,210 stories coming back with "Haditha" in them.

Over the last week, there have been countless opinions in the media with handwringing on both sides of the political spectrum about the potential damage to the Administration and the war effort over the fallout from this story. Some of the hand wringing was done with hidden glee - as you might see in a poorly acted movie and the villian is about to strike his prey. Some of the hand wringing was not really over concern for the Iraqi people or the troops, but for some politician's own career. Then there's the media, who seem to wring their hands over every little thing. (The last link is to a story that was the lead story on CBS News the night that Sandy Berger was discovered to have stuffed classified documents into his pants and socks during a visit to the National Archives. CBS' news director must have thought the other story was more important.)

I have a feeling that this Haditha story will hang on for a few days and then fall off dramatically. When the military investigation is completed, it will be quietly reported and then mostly forgotten in America except for by the families of the Marines who suffered because of the hysteria of this press coverage.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Stuck on stupid

Off topic:

Here's a story linked from a CNN Breaking News page with the headline "E-mail alleges Bush glad to dodge Katrina blame."

The news as breathlessly reported:

The September 2005 e-mail reads: "I did hear of one reference to you, at the Cabinet meeting yesterday. I wasn't there, but I heard someone commented that the press was sure beating up on Mike Brown, to which the president replied, 'I'd rather they beat up on him than me or Chertoff.' "

The sender adds, "Congratulations on doing a great job of diverting hostile fire away from the leader."

CNN has been unable to verify the authenticity of the e-mail, but the White House designation "" is part of the sender's e-mail address, indicating it came from the Executive Office of the President.




Oh, and take a guess how many references there are to "Haditha" in a Google News search around noon EDT today?


The MSM may have indeed lost interest. No My Lai. No Abu Ghraib.

So, what do we know today?

In my post below, I listed the details of the Iraqi's killed according to the Washington Post and the New York Times. In the WaPo story, there are fourteen men killed, two or three women, and seven children. In the NYT story, there are fourteen men killed, four women, and six children.

The difference comes down to the second house where an unnamed one year old baby in the WaPo story is replaced with an adult woman named Huda in the NYT story. This is not an insignificant detail.

Surely, if the American public is paying the Washington Post and the New York Times to report on the events of the world, they should be held accountable for getting their facts straight.

And if they don't know the facts, then maybe they shouldn't print them as such.

BTW - The U.S. military deemed there to be sufficient evidence to investigate this incident. We do not know what happened. The Washington Post does not know what happened. The New York Times does not know what happened. John Murtha does not know what happened. Lots of people have been sending me links; I'm very grateful. I'm reviewing them and then linking to them after I've had a time to distill what I've read. We have to keep in mind that it's possible that some of these links may take us on a wild goose chase, too.

The U.S. military will likely investigate this at least as well as a bunch of bloggers in pajamas. If there were crimes committed, military justice will be delivered.

Something to keep in mind

In more than one analysis of Haditha reporting that I've read, bloggers question the testimony of a young girl (Safa Younis) (WaPo, NYT, ABC ) who is reported to have survived the shooting in the second house where eight others were killed.

One thing to keep in mind is that the news reports we are reading now are based on witness accounts gathered in late May, six months after the incident occurred. There are naturally going to be inconsistencies. If you've ever been the source for a newspaper story or have been closely tied to a story, you know what I mean - ages of persons mentioned in the story are slightly off, an address is incorrectly stated, etc...

A young girl, traumatized by war, is not going to be able to recall precisely the events of six months prior. Can we criticize the media for relying on the unchecked testimony of such a victim? Yes. Should we be calling the little girl a liar? No. The distinction needs to be made clear.

It all depends on how you connect the dots

Thanks to all who have been sending links. Most are to websites that are attempting to do what I started to do last night, look for connections between witnesses in the stories included in mainstream media's reports.

For instance, as Dan at Riehl World View pointed out on June 8:

From the AP today: "At about the same time, a man who stepped out of his nearby house to see what was happening at Ayed Ahmed's home was shot and wounded, according to al-Hadithi. Aws Fahmi, 43, was left to bleed on the street for about two hours before a female neighbor dragged him to safety, al-Hadithi told the AP. Fahmi's family was not able to take him to a hospital until two days later, al-Hadithi said."

Someone must have forgotten that Aws Fahmi was quoted ten times in this WaPo piece from May 27, as a witness. Not once did he claim to be involved, let alone shot. Are we to believe he forgot? Or that the WaPo wouldn't tell the story of a man shot and left to die in the street by our Marines?

"Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families ... After the killings, Fahmi said, more Americans arrived at the scene. They shouted among themselves. The Marines cordoned off the block; then, and for at least the next day, Marines filed into the houses, looked around and came out."

I'm going to put up a section on the side bar that quickly summarizes the collection of dots.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Knocking the story back

If you're looking for healthy doses of skepticism about the media reports of the incident at Haditha check out these links:

Riehl World View (HT Papa Ray)
IAVA - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Both offer calm perspectives that are backed up by great research.

Please bear with me

As a brand new blogger, I'm still trying to figure out how to juggle a full time job, marriage, other family members, and oh, sleep, while sifting through links that are coming in at a rapidly increasing rate.

I am happy to get all the information that is coming in and to help in sorting through the details.

Please be patient with the lack of hat tips and links for now. I will post acknowledgements and links as soon as possible.

I would imagine that we all want to be the next Buckhead. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't.

Let's take the time to make sure we get this right. If the story of Haditha has been horribly misreported, the truth will come out in good time.

Let's wait and see

A few people have emailed me regarding this piece in the American Thinker. It refers to the work being done over at Sweetness & Light.

The article starts: "Evidence accumulates of a hoax in Haditha. The weblog Sweetness & Light has done an estimable service gathering together the articles which cast substantial doubt on the charge of a massacre of civilians at Haditha . Because the blog is too busy gathering and fisking the news, I offered and the publisher accepted my offer to put what he has uncovered in a narrative form.

Having done so, I can tell you that the story has a whiff of yet another mediagenic scandal like the TANG memos or the Plame “outing.” While the Marines quite correctly will not comment on the case pending the outcome of their investigation, I am not bound by those rules, and I will sum up the story for you."

Based on interviews that are the basis for these New York Times and Washington Post articles, we can be pretty sure that up to 24 Iraqi's were killed on November 19, 2005. We are not certain who did the killing, but it is alleged that it was U.S. Marines. A military investigation is underway.

There was evidence enough for the military to check it out. Let us hope that the investigation will show the evidence points not to the U.S. Marines who are accused of this terrible crime but to the terrorists who populated this tragic city.

Media Alert

My friend, Lisa Ramaci, is appearing on Fox News Channel around 4:00 p.m. EDT today. Lisa is the widow of Steven Vincent, a journalist who was killed in Basrah, Iraq last August. Steven and I started corresponding when he was writing a blog to compliment his book "In the Red Zone."

Lisa will be giving an opinion somewhat different than that of Michael Berg whom we've been seeing again since the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Please tune in to watch Lisa. And please remember both Lisa and Michael in your thoughts and prayers. They have both suffered loss in the Global War on Terror.

I am a link-oholic

Five days after the start of this blog, I can't stop linking.

A place to find a great balance of writing from throughout the political spectrum is Real Clear Politics. This article, written by Jonathan Gurwitz, has some points to ponder:

"Something very bad happened in Haditha. And it is very possible that some or all of the allegations against the Marines regarding those 24 deaths will be borne out by impartial investigation.

But ask yourself if you have ever seen a leading news story, let alone a series of news stories, about the genocide in Sudan.

Ask yourself how the Islamic world can be so enraged about 24 deaths in Haditha and the indignities of Abu Ghraib, while there is no outcry about the death of 400,000 Muslims and the atrocities in Darfur.

Ask yourself why Lynndie England is the most recognizable name from the war in Iraq, while you may never have even heard the name of Paul Ray Smith."

As they say, go read it all.

The survey says:

Via Lucianne, a new AP poll shows U.S. backing for troops steadfast.

Some results from the poll:

Some 76 percent of those questioned said they were following reports about allegations that U.S. troops killed unarmed Iraqi civilians. (Ed. note: not all the civilians were unarmed.)

Regardless of whether the allegations turn out to be true, 63 percent of those surveyed said they thought the killings of civilians were isolated incidents.

The former number seems a little high and the latter seems a little low to me.

In any case, when I read polls, I always keep this one in mind. It's a Gallup Poll with the following question:

In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

The result?

A great deal: 13%

Thursday, June 08, 2006

This is kind of interesting

Reader Charles Henkel sent a link to a Reuters news story on the Haditha incident. It is dated November 20, 2005 - one day after the incident.

Charles includes these comments: "This article published on the ABC (Australia) News Online website, , attributed to Reuters and published contemporaneously with the alleged Haditha massacre, states the following:

'A cameraman working for Reuters in Haditha says bodies had been left lying in the street for hours after the attack. '

Any footage filmed by this cameraman may provide exculpatory evidence for the Marines accused in the civilian deaths. Particularly if one of the victims filmed outside was later found inside a house. "

As they say in sports - let's go to the tape.

If Reuters has tape of the incident, it will be surely be made available for the military investigation. Right?

UPDATE: In the comments section - "The credit for finding the article actully goes to poster "SBD1" at the Free Republic web site in this thread where you can find additional discussion."

He supports the troops

One of my favorite blogs to visit is QandO Online Magazine. Over there, McQ regularly posts to a series called "Project Hero" that details the stories of individual heroes in the Global War on Terror.

Today, McQ wrote a post entitled "Keeping Haditha in Perspective." In it, McQ links to Michael Yon's blog entry called "Hijacking Haditha."

Here's what McQ says of Yon's blog post: "Read it. Remember it as the feeding frenzy concerning Haditha builds politically and in the press. Remember that no one is condoning murder if that's in fact what happened. Nor is anyone saying that punishment isn't appropriate if indeed that is what is proven in a court martial."

Let's hope that we can head that feeding frenzy off at the pass.

This will get their attention (at least for a few days)

Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi is dead! That should reduce the focus on Haditha for a few days.

Thank you

This a temporary blog which will be retired when the number of references to "Haditha" in Google News for one day falls to less than 200. There will be no site meters or other methods to track traffic. This isn't about me, it's about helping the troops and their families not having to experience what happened after the media hysteria following Abu Ghraib.

That said, I am extremely grateful to some veterans of the blogosphere who have linked to this site:

Cam Edwards
Lorie Byrd
Lucianne Goldberg
UPDATE The Anchoress
UPDATE Captain's Quarters
UPDATE Michelle Malkin

God bless you and all the other soldiers in this Global War on Terror.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

It's all a matter of priorities

It is my hope that the short attention span of the mainstream media will be our greatest ally.

For instance, in regard to the arrest of 17 suspected terrorists in Canada, we can find the following number of references in a Google News search of "Canada 17 arrested."

Today (June 7, 2006) - 341 (Day 5)
June 6, 2006 - 645 (Day 4)
June 5, 2006 - 809 (Day 3)
June 4, 2006 - 512 (Day 2)
June 3, 2006 - 397 (Day 1)
June 2, 2006 - 5 (this was the day before the news of the arrests broke)

See what happened? By day five of this news story, the mainstream media is already bored.

I was counting on that same restlessness to bring down the references to "Haditha." Unfortunately, this AP story just was picked up by 73 news sources on Google, bringing today's count to 719 for the day. That's up from 584 from yesterday. Drat!

Hey MSM, I know where you can find a picture of Brangelina!

What we think we know

Warning - this is a long post but an important one. It points to inconsistencies already in the reporting on Haditha. For more readable and shorter posts, skip down the page.

The following gives details of the Iraqis who are reported to have died in Haditha on November 19, 2005. When finished reading this, remember that children did indeed die tragically. War is Hell...for our troops and for the Iraqi people.

In reading news accounts of the Haditha incident, a few points are found over and over. These are the abbreviated talking points:

  • U.S. Marines killed (or massacred)
  • 24 Iraqi citizens (often including the words "innocent" or "unarmed", sometimes only mentioning women and children)
  • in their homes

Really? According to this Washington Post article that gives details gathered from witness accounts to a Washington Post special correspondent and U.S. investigators:

  • Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, 76, and his wife - Khamisa Tuma Ali, 66, three middle-age males, and a child - Abdullah, 4, all died in the first house. The report alludes to an additional daughter-in-law that would have been in the house and did not survive. (Six or seven deaths)
  • Younis Salim Khafif, 43, his wife - Aeda Yasin Ahmed, 41, a boy, 8 and girls aged 14, 10, 5, 3, and 1 were killed in the second home. (Eight deaths)
  • Four brothers, Marwan, Qahtan, Chasib and Jamal Ahmed were killed in a third house. Marine officials said that one of the brothers had a gun. (Four deaths)
  • The final deaths were of four male college students -- Khalid Ayada al-Zawi, Wajdi Ayada al-Zawi, Mohammed Battal Mahmoud and Akram Hamid Flayeh, and their taxi driver, Ahmed Khidher, who were all killed inside the taxi. (Five deaths)

Eighteen or nineteen deaths occurred in three homes. Five deaths happened in the taxi. Seven of the deaths were of children, two or possibly three were of women, fourteen were of men. One man is reported to have had a gun.

Now, in the New York Times' detailed account (already reserved as TimesSelect or available for purchase):

  • Abdul Hamid Hassan Ali, aged 77 and his wife - Khumaysa Tuma Ali, 66, Rashid Abdul Hamid and his wife, Asma, two adult males - Jahid Abdul Hamid Hassan and Walid Hamid Hassan and 4 year old Abdullah Walid all died in one home. (Seven deaths)
  • Younis Salim Nisaif and his wife, Aida, and Aida's sister, Huda, and five children, 3 to 14 years old were also killed in the second home. (Eight deaths)
  • Four brothers between the ages of 20 and 38 were killed in the third home.
  • Five men - four students and a taxi driver between the ages of 18 and 25 died in a taxi.

Six children were killed. Four women were killed. Fourteen men were killed. Nineteen were killed in homes. Five were killed in the taxi.

What seems to be known from the above reports is:

  • Up to 24 Iraqi men, women and children were killed in an incident in Haditha. Fourteen of these were adult men.
  • One man is reported to have had a gun.
  • The killings occurred in three homes and a taxi.
  • U.S. Marines allegedly carried out the killings.
  • The military has not yet completed its investigation into the incident.

Journalists are paid to get the facts right. If you catch an error in a news report, point it out. Otherwise, details will expand (or contract) to fit the agenda as what happened here.

This time it will be different

The first article that I read this morning in connection with Haditha was this piece by Tony Blankley. What hits especially close is how he describes the fallout from the hysteria over Abu Ghraib.

From Blankleys' article:

"No other military force in history has been so tightly limited in its defensive actions. And probably no other military force has been sufficiently disciplined to maintain such restrictive rules in the heat of combat. God bless our troops -- if not necessarily the policy that so restricts them.

For the parents, wives, husbands and children of our young warriors who are killed because they followed the restrictive rules and didn't fire first, this is a damned bitter pill to swallow -- whatever the geopolitical wisdom of it.

But what further cuts is to listen to media people casually perpetrate libel against not just the still-presumed-innocent Marines but against our services more generally."

Blankley has obviously spoken with members of military families.

However, I don't share Blankley's assessment that Haditha will: "likely to do vast damage that may last for several years to the morale (and possibly recruitment) of our military. It will create a propaganda catastrophe of strategic proportions in our mortal struggle with radical Islam and its terrorist spear point."

Here's why...the public has become mostly disengaged to the Global War on Terror, save a passing interest about 17 alleged Islamic terrorists who were arrested in Canada this week. Having become inured by photos of burning humvees, dead Iraqi's, and Lynndie England pointing to naked Iraqi detainees, the general American public is not shocked by stories of Marines shooting civilians in Haditha. And sadly, they could barely care less.

I will make a prediction: within a few weeks, my hope - that the name "Haditha" will fall to less than 200 in a daily Google News search - will be fulfilled. At that time, this blog will be retired.

Let's watch how this plays out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Don't these folks have something else to do?

It looks like there are going to be Senate hearings into the Haditha incident. From a Reuters story today:

"Senators just back from a week-long recess blasted the Pentagon for taking months to start a probe of the incident first reported by Time magazine.

Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner wrote to Rumsfeld worried about its impact on U.S. relations “around the world, ongoing military operations, diplomatic initiatives and the struggle of the new Iraqi government to assume full responsibilities of sovereignty.”

The Virginia Republican asked Rumsfeld 'the earliest possible date' the Pentagon could provide witnesses."

Oh, yippee.

We can look forward to repeat performances from the Massachusetts senators.

War is a complicated thing

It is difficult for reporters in Washington, DC or New York to understand the context under which the troops must make life or death decisions. There have been terrific reporters working in Iraq - embedded and unembedded - who report the facts and provide valuable information to the American public in the Global War on Terror.

Here is a Knight Ridder story that gives the details of a raid last week that resulted in the death of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops. It is impossible to tell whether or not the citizens intended to harm the soldiers involved. The reporter simply transmits what is observed. As it should be.

From the article: "Be careful, Oliver told his men, not to get shot. And be careful, the company commander said, not to shoot any unarmed civilians.

Despite those warnings, last Thursday's mission would serve as a reminder that counterinsurgency is among the most complex forms of warfare, and sometimes the wrong people are killed.

While outrage gathers over the reported killings of 24 civilians by U.S. Marines in the western Iraqi town of Haditha, U.S. military units such as Oliver's Delta Company quietly go about the daily task of patrolling a very complicated battlefield."

He doesn't speak for me

On June 3rd, retired Army General John Batiste said on CNN's Late Edition:

"I, however, see a direct link between Haditha, the national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib, going on four years now of uncontrollable chaos in Iraq, with the bad judgment, poor decisions of our secretary of defense back in late 2003 and 2004.

I question his competency. And I speak for the American people. "

Not this American.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Never let a golden opportunity pass

In a recent article headlined "Views mixed on Haditha's effect on U.S.' bruised image" The San Diego Union-Tribune found it is necessary one more time to show us the hooded man on the box.

Here's a quote from the story:

"Two years after they first appeared in print, the images of Abu Ghraib still shock the eyes and the conscience, turning the Iraqi prison abuse into the Pentagon's scandal that won't quit."

Could it be that stories like this may be the reason that Abu Ghraib is the "scandal that won't quit?"

When did that happen?

Andrew Sullivan has been a vocal critic of President Bush's Administration and continues to write extensively about what he calls "widespread torture" by U.S. troops. Here's a quote from his article yesterday that was posted at Times Online:

"If the men and women who tortured and abused and murdered at Abu Ghraib did not represent America, what did they represent? They wore the uniforms of the United States military. They were under the command of the American military. In the grotesque, grinning photographs they clearly seemed to believe that what they were doing was routine and approved."

According a recent Washington Post article, eleven soldiers have been convicted of crimes relating to detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. Seven soldiers were convicted for their actions in the events depicted in the famous photos from November, 2003. Two soldiers were convicted of scaring detainees with dogs, causing the detainees to soil themselves. One soldier admitted pouring water on naked detainees and making them crawl on the floor. One additional soldier pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mistreating prisoners. None of the soldiers were convicted of torture or murder.

Let's skip that pesky investigation

A widely distributed Los Angeles Times story gives Haditha the same status as Abu Ghraib.

In the article that produces the headline: Pentagon Plans to Dump Geneva Rules we read:

"Critics and supporters of US President George W. Bush have debated whether it is possible to prove a direct link between administration declarations that it will not be bound by the Geneva Convention, and events such as the abuses at Abu Ghraib or the killings of Iraqi civilians last year in Haditha, The Times said."

It takes so much extra ink to place "alleged" in front of the words "killings of Iraqi civilians" and besides, to be safe, no where does it say in this article that is was U.S. Marines that killed them.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

No politics here, move along...

Over the last few days, the name of Paul Hackett was included in several newspaper stories regarding the Haditha incident. Hackett, a former Marine, also appeared on NBC's Today Show on Saturday, June 3. He is now the lawyer for Marine Captain James Kimber whose name emerged during a criminal investigation of the events of Haditha. According to Hackett, Kimber was relieved of command because some of his subordinates used profanity and disparaged Iraqi troops in a British television interview. Hackett says that Kimber had no knowledge of the alleged killings at Haditha until after he returned from Iraq. On the Today Show Hackett referred several times to the "political" injustice of the actions against Kimber.

What was not mentioned in the news stories or on the Today Show is that Hackett was the Democratic candidate for Ohio's Second Congressional district in a special election in August 2005. This would provide valuable context. No?

How military justice works

These are the names of the seven soldiers who were charged in connection with the most famous episode of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison:

Former Cpl. Charles Graner - Graner is often referred to as the "ringleader" of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. He is serving a ten year sentence in a military prison. He offered no apologies or regrets at his sentencing.

Former Spc. Lynndie England - England is the woman shown with the cigarette hanging out of her mouth and pointing to naked Iraqi detainees. She was sentenced to three years in a military prison. In October 2004, she gave birth to what is generally reported as Charles Graner's child.

Former Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick - Frederick is the highest ranking soldier charged in connection with the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Prior to his deployment to Iraq, he was a corrections officer. He is now serving eight years in prison.

Former Spc. Jeremy Sivits - Sivits was the photographer of many of the photos that have become so familiar. He received a one year sentence and tearfully apologized to the Iraqi people.

Former Spc. Megan Ambuhl - Ambuhl pleaded guilty to dereliction of duty. She was dishonorably discharged. In October 2005, she married Charles Graner.

Former Spc. Sabrina Harman - Harman is seen in one photo posing with the corpse of an Iraqi man. She was sentenced to six months in prison.

Former Sgt. Javal Davis - Davis admitted stepping on the hands and feet of handcuffed detainees and falling with his full weight on top of them. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

Colonel Janis Karpinski - Karpinksi was demoted from Brigadier General for dereliction of duty, making a material misrepresentation to investigators, and failure to obey a lawful order.

Four other members of the military have been convicted of abuse in separate incidents at Abu Ghraib prison.

The acts of these few members of the U.S. military have been the springboard for increased anti-American sentiment and have resulted in "Abu Ghraib" being referenced 9,860 times in a Google News search today.

Some context

My own interest in the Abu Ghraib story began on April 29, 2004 – the day after CBS' Sixty Minutes II aired the now famous photos from one shift on November 8, 2003 at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. My son was serving at that time as a prison guard in another military prison, Camp Bucca, near Um Qaasr.

The ensuing media storm about Abu Ghraib engulfed not only the seven soldiers who were implicated in the abuse of that night and some officers in the chain of command, but also other guards at Abu Ghraib and all over Iraq. In the end, it is my opinion that the media’s interest in Abu Ghraib was not that some Iraqi’s were abused. Rather, this was the perfect stick with which to beat an Administration that provided disputed information to the media that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Unlike a more well-known military mom, I will not constantly invoke my son's service to promote my own point of view. As I write, I will attempt to stick to the facts and not play on emotions.

And so, here we go…

One mission only

As much as I like reading blogs, I don’t want to be a blogger. I have one mission, that is to prevent “Haditha” from becoming the next “Abu Ghraib.” Of course, I know one woman in flyover land sitting at a computer cannot accomplish this alone. I’m just one grunt in the Pajamahadeen – many of whom are already well out in front of the issue.

How will I know when the mission is accomplished? When a daily search of Google News for “Haditha” returns less than 200 stories, I will be satisfied that our media have realised that "Haditha" is neither "Abu Ghraib" nor "My Lai."