Historian and Army infantry officer Robert Bateman, using the latest AP
scandal over its six burning Sunnis report as a hook, has a must-read reminder in the NYPost today about the botched war reporting of the Associated Press:
The most powerful media institution in all of human history is the
Associated Press. Its news feed is ubiquitous – used, directly or
indirectly, by every U.S. newspaper and TV news program and a vast
number of foreign ones, too. AP maintains the largest world-wide
coverage, and its reader base is nearly immeasurable. Unfortunately,
and repeatedly of late, this behemoth has not only been getting it
wrong – but increasingly refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
Instead, acting more like a politician or the mega-corporation that
it is, the AP crew spins, obfuscates and attacks. Now they’re at it
again in Iraq.
I have got direct experience of this – from challenging the AP’s
seriously flawed 1999 “scoop” about the masssacre near the South Korean
village of No Gun Ri during the opening days of the Korean War.
Bad things did happen at No Gun Ri, of this there can be no doubt.
My own research and other historians’, as well as the joint U.S.-Korean
government investigation, confirms that a tragedy occurred – there were
civilians who were killed there, by our side, and that was wrong.
But the AP’s sensationalistic story painted it as a deliberate massacre, done with machine guns at extremely close range.
The most sensational account started in the 57th paragraph of the
3,448-word story, sourced to one Edward Daily. As AP told it, Daily was
the only soldier at No Gun Ri who directly received orders from his
officers to turn his water-cooled .30 caliber machinegun on the
civilians and shoot them down in cold blood at point-blank range.
Daily’s account was chilling. It was also – as AP should have known – a fantasy.
The AP story took at face value Daily’s claims that he was a combat
infantryman who won a battlefield commission just a few days after the
events at No Gun Ri, and had been awarded the Distinguished Cross and
In reality, he was an enlisted mechanic in an entirely different
unit, nowhere near No Gun Ri. He had fabricated his biography and
credentials as well as his entire account of the events at No Gun Ri.
When I later confronted AP editors with the facts and records that
showed their source Daily to be a fraud, they blew me off. What would a
historian know about this topic after all, or a soldier?
The AP didn’t issue a retraction, or even attempt to reinvestigate;
and it certainly didn’t withdraw the story from the Pulitzer
competition. Instead, it attacked the messenger.
Bob Owens looks at the magnitude of the AP’s Jamilgate:
This developing Associated Press implosion may go back as far as two
years, affecting as many as 60 stories from just this one allegedly
fake policeman alone. And Jamil Hussein is just one of more than a
dozen potentially fake Iraqi policemen used in news reports the AP
disseminates around the world. This does not begin to attempt to
account for non-offical sources which the AP will have an even harder
time substantiating. Quite literally, almost all AP reporting from Iraq
not verified from reporters of other news organizations is now suspect,
and with good reason.
Instead of affecting one show on one network watched by 14 million
viewers as Rathergate did, “Jamilgate” means the Associated Press may
have been delivering news of questionable accuracy to one billion
people a day for two years or more. In this evolving instance of faux
journalism, “60 Minutes” is now potentially 60 billion false
impressions, or more.
A principled, professional news organization owes its consumers the
truth. To date, the Associated Press, as voiced by comments from
officers international editor John Daniszewski and executive editor
Kathleen Carroll, has refused to address the rampant inconsistencies in
the “burning men” story, produce physical evidence proving their
allegations, or produce star source Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein.
Arrogantly, they attack the messenger (both U.S military and Iraqi
government sources and bloggers), and insist we must believe them, even
though they give us no compelling reason to do so, and many reasons to
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