By MARC MCDONALD
Browsing news stories of the latest carnage from Iraq today, my eye caught this extraordinary sentence buried in an Associated Press report about U.S. forces claiming to have killed 49 militants in a dawn raid in Baghdad's Sadr City Shiite enclave:
"Iraqi police and hospital officials, who often overstate casualties, reported only 15 deaths including three children."
This sounds like the sort of wild-eyed, paranoia-fueled conspiracy claim that one normally would find only in the extreme fringe far-right blogosphere.
But that sentence didn't come from Little Green Footballs or Flopping Aces, or any of the other right-wing nutcase blogs that populate the outer fringes of the Web.
It came from the Associated Press.
And, frankly, it's an extraordinary claim--and one that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Note that this AP report isn't claiming that Sunni insurgents, or Shiite militias lie about their casualties. That wouldn't be anything new. In fact, we've heard claims like those before, (as the insurgency and the U.S. military continue their ongoing propaganda wars).
No, this is "Iraqi police and hospital officials," whose casualty claims, AP would have us believe, are no longer to be trusted.
Maybe I've missed it in previous AP coverage, but I don't recall ever seeing this extraordinary claim made in previous AP coverage. It seems like this bold claim would warrant a major, investigative story in and of itself.
There's a couple of major problems with AP's assertion that Iraq police forces and hospitals are liars.
First of all, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense. If we're talking about claims made by insurgents, then surely a dose of skepticism is in order (although, from what I've seen, insurgent casualty claims have been no more inaccurate than claims by U.S. military officials over the years in Iraq).
But this latest AP report is disputing the Iraq police and hospitals: a solidly mainstream source if there ever was one. If we can't believe fundamental, basic information released by the major institutions of the Iraq state, then, who, exactly, can we believe? Is AP now making the kooky right-wing blog-like claim that Iraq's own police and hospitals are conspiring against the U.S. military? That's surely what this sounds like.
The second major problem I have with AP's claim is that I really wonder how on earth AP would know if the Iraq hospitals and police were "overstating" casualty figures.
Like I said, this AP report looks like it could've been lifted from the pages of the Web's extremist right-wing nutcase fringe. The latter, after all, are always disputing anything and everything that comes out of Iraq (unless it's spoken by the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Rush Limbaugh---a group which, ironically has the worst track record of accurate information on anything Iraq-related).
Ever since 2003, when the Iraq War began turning disastrous (around the time Bush declared "Mission Accomplished"), the right-wing blogosphere has been casting about, looking for a scapegoat to blame for the fiasco. AP has been one of the main targets of the right-wing lunatic fringe, with "controversies" like the Jamil Hussein case. In the latter case, the right-wing nutcases claimed that Hussein, an AP source, didn't exist. When it was later determined that he did, in fact, exist, the right-wingers quietly tiptoed away from the story and dropped the matter.
Despite the fact that the Jamil Hussein "controversy" blew up in their faces and revealed them to be the uninformed Kool-Aid-drinking idiots that they are, the right-wing blogosphere has continued to slam AP repeatedly over "biased" war coverage over the years.
And now, it appears that AP is caving in to the right-wing blogosphere and is giving credence to the sort of wild-eyed paranoid claims that one previously had to scour the nutcase fringe blogs to find.