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Saturday, March 18, 2006

The New York Times is used like an old snot rag 

Editor's Note Appended


The New York Times has retracted an anti-American cover story only a week after it was published. Captain Ed examines the Times' retraction and is merciless. Deservedly so, since the Times thought it plausible to defend its error by claiming reliance on PBS and Vanity Fair.

In other words, the Times didn't bother to do its own research; it relied on the "independent" reporting of PBS and Vanity Fair -- wait, I can't even write that with a straight face -- to identify Qaissi as the man in the photograph.

Indeed, it sounds like something a blogger would do.

But actually, the Times had correctly reported the essential fact in dispute -- the identity of the Iraqi in the famous "hooded scarecrow" photo from Abu Ghraib -- two years ago.
But the worst part of this correction comes when the paper blames the military for not doing the reporter's research for them. "The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it." It then says it should have been "more persistent" in getting an answer from the Pentagon, but in the same paragraph notes that the military named the correct detainee two years ago -- and that the Times reported it!

Is it the Pentagon's fault that the original reporter, Hassan Fattah, is too incompetent to do a search through the archives of his own newspaper? (emphasis in original)

Ouch. Apparently the "paper of record" has so little confidence in its, er, record that it would sooner rely on Vanity Fair and PBS than its own archives.

The original story was, as Power Line writes, gripping:
Almost two years later, Ali Shalal Qaissi's wounds are still raw.

There is the mangled hand, an old injury that became infected by the shackles chafing his skin. There is the slight limp, made worse by days tied in uncomfortable positions. And most of all, there are the nightmares of his nearly six-month ordeal at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004.

Mr. Qaissi, 43, was prisoner 151716 of Cellblock 1A. The picture of him standing hooded atop a cardboard box, attached to electrical wires with his arms stretched wide in an eerily prophetic pose, became the indelible symbol of the torture at Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad.

Thing is, Qaissi wasn't there. [See note below. Qaissi was at Abu Ghraib, but not in the "scarecrow" photo.] Somebody was there, but it wasn't the man who told the Times' credulous Mr. Fattah that he "never wanted to be famous, especially not in this way." Whoever it was who suffered so, it wasn't the lying weasel about which the Grey Dufus wrote this:
In all, there were about 100 cells in the cellblock, he said, with prisoners of all ages, from teenagers to old men. Interrogators were often dressed in civilian clothing, their identities strictly shielded.

The prisoners were sleep deprived, he said, and the punishments they faced ranged from bizarre to lewd: an elderly man was forced to wear a bra and pose; a youth was told to hit the other adults; and groups of men were organized in piles. There was the dreaded "music party," he said, in which prisoners were placed before loudspeakers. Mr. Qaissi also said he had been urinated on by a guard. Then there were the pictures.

"Every soldier seemed to have a camera," he said. "They used to bring us pictures and threaten to deliver them to our families."

The Times has now published a legend at the top of the first page of the original article that says "Editors' Note Appended." You have to read through the whole article to realize that Qaissi is a fraud, one who the Times was so eager to believe that it did not even do a simple computer search of its own archives.

I have one final observation that the other esteemed righty bloggers have not yet proposed: Mr. Qaissi is a moral cretin. He is claiming that suffering he did not endure confers moral authority that he does not have. He has done a grievous disservice to everyone involved in Abu Ghraib. His fraud needlessly hurts the credibility of the Iraqis who really did suffer there, it trivializes the crimes of the Americans who should be punished, and it slanders the soldiers who did nothing wrong.

And the Times bought it hook, line, and sinker. Because PBS said it was true. Can you imagine any excuse more humiliating? Probably not, but it is instructive that the Times obviously thought the "PBS said it" defense would fly. Sheesh.

CWCID: Instapundit, who has more.

UPDATE (5:30 a.m. Sunday): Editor's Note

Tom Maguire -- more gently than necessary -- notes in the comments and on his blog that the Times did in fact make it quite clear in its story on the subject yesterday that Mr.Qaissi was at Abu Ghraib during the relevant period and did suffer at least some documented mistreatment. Therefore, it was incorrect to write that he "wasn't there." It was also probably unfair -- or at least overkill -- to describe him as a "moral cretin." He has some genuine Abu Ghraib cred, and we have to reserve the phrase "moral cretin" for people who are much worse than Mr. Qaissi. But he still hurt his cause, rather than helped it, if we say that he "embellished" his story rather than lied about it.

But Qaissi
did use the New York Times like an old snot rag.

14 Comments:

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Sat Mar 18, 07:20:00 PM:

Mr. Qaissi is a moral cretin. He is claiming that suffering he did not endure confers moral authority that he does not have. He has done a grievous disservice to everyone involved in Abu Ghraib. His fraud needlessly hurts the credibility of the Iraqis who really did suffer there, it trivializes the crimes of the Americans who should be punished, and it slanders the soldiers who did nothing wrong.

You make an interesting point, one that "esteemed righty bloggers" should of course stress. But there's no reason to suppose that intellectually honest lefty bloggers shouldn't make that same observation as well.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sat Mar 18, 10:16:00 PM:

"intellectually honest lefty bloggers"

I thought those were extinct.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Mar 18, 10:24:00 PM:

Thing is, Qaissi wasn't there. Somebody was there, but it wasn't the man who told the Times' credulous Mr. Fattah that he "never wanted to be famous, especially not in this way."

As I read the story, Qaissi was there, amd was even photographed in a hood - he just wasn't *the* guy in a hood:

Certainly, he was at Abu Ghraib, and appears with a hood over his head in some photographs that Army investigators seized from the computer belonging to Specialist Charles Graner, the soldier later convicted of being the ringleader of the abuse.

However, he now acknowledges he is not the man in the specific photograph he printed and held up in a portrait that accompanied the Times article. But he and his lawyers maintain that he was photographed in a similar position and shocked with wires and that he is the one on his business card. The Army says it believes only one prisoner was treated in that way.


Tom Maguire  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Mar 18, 11:22:00 PM:

Dawnfire82, extinct would imply that they once existed.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 19, 12:56:00 AM:

Oh yes, let's all divert ourselves with the fact the Times got who it was wrong, and forget it was a human being being TORTURED! THAT is what really was wrong...  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Mar 19, 02:08:00 AM:

That story is over. The perpetrators are in prison and/or dishonorably discharged from the military or whatever other various and sundry punishments were meted out. I don't have a log book on it, unfortunately.

However, this is recent and relevant. Explain again how you justify not focusing on it? If you want to dwell on past events, there are far worse ones. The burning of Atlanta, for instance.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 19, 08:22:00 AM:

What remains unclear, to me anyway, is whether as a prisoner at Abu Ghraib he was among those "tortured" on the nightshift at the cell block in question. A lot of Iraqis were at Abu Ghraib.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 19, 08:23:00 AM:

"That story is over." Are you kidding? SecDef and our president condone Torture and our VP defends them, and it should be swept under the carpet because a newspaper who pushed Bush lies on Iraq WMDs and Saddam-OBL links gets it wrong again? Why should you consider this a new story then?

"intellectually honest lefty bloggers"
I thought those were extinct.

"Dawnfire82, extinct would imply that they once existed."

Well, dear "esteemed righty bloggers", I think you are esteemed only by your little coterie of similarly small minded hypocrites.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Sun Mar 19, 09:32:00 AM:

Anonymous:

The point you are missing here is that if Mr. Qaissi was less than honest in one respect this calls his credibility into doubt. It does not disprove what he says but it makes us doubt it.

If you trouble to read the Times' retraction, it is curious that he never mentions the electric wires or the box until the fall of 2004 despite being interviewed and signing a formal complaint prior to that time.

Surely this is the type of thing that would not slip one's mind?

And having a hood on your business card really makes me wonder. Sorry, but there it is.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Mar 19, 02:43:00 PM:

*sighs* Ok 'Anonymous.'

Reconcile these two statements...

"SecDef and our president condone Torture and our VP defends them"

and

"The perpetrators are in prison and/or dishonorably discharged from the military or whatever other various and sundry punishments were meted out."

Pretty strong punishments for people who carried out a practice that was *condoned*, wasn't it?

While your brain grinds, I'll continue.

Torture, or even mildly harsh interrogation techniques are neither taught nor tolerated at the US Army Interrogator school. I promise.

Here, take a look. http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/policy/army/fm/fm34-52/

The only people in the entire governmental national security apparatus who perform anything even remotely close to torture are JSOC and the CIA. (not counting SERE school, where our own troops get abused to show them what to expect if they are captured)  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 19, 05:01:00 PM:

Isn't the problem, Dawnfire, that in many cases we had soldiers charged with interrogation who did not know the first thing about it? See the article on the front page of today's New York Times, for example (writing this on a train, so no link). Lots of what seems to have been done is not only unlawful, but counterproductive. Now, whether the SecDef or the White House is respopnsible is both a factual question and a philosphical one. It is clear, though, that senior civilian leadership at some high level took an interest in interpreting the law as expansively as possible and then put tremendous pressure on the military - as opposed to the CIA or the FBI - to do what was at bottom police work. Finding Zarqawi, for example. Since when does the military have the skills necessary to huntg specific individuals? Not its core competency, at least. So some of them turned to interrogation techniques that in their inexperience they imagined would produce intelligence. That's how I see at least some of this stuff.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Mar 19, 05:03:00 PM:

That last comment was me...  

By Blogger sirius_sir, at Mon Mar 20, 02:41:00 PM:

I think most reasonable people are willing to accept that Abu Ghraib represented an unfortunate aberration, and can reject and condemn what happened there without needing to assert the false equivalence "that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management" and then take this example and extrapolate to the treatment of all detainees elsewhere--say, in Guantanamo, for instance.

For those who still labor under Senator Kennedy's mistaken perception, perhaps a quick introduction to what Saddam did on a daily basis might disabuse them of that notion.  

By Anonymous NoLunatic, at Mon Mar 20, 03:23:00 PM:

The unspoken aspect here is that we get a LOT of info from those who THINK they will be tortured.

Thanks to all the hoo-hah terrorists may learn that they won't be tortured, so withhold the info.

Thank you, NYT. et al.  

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