Monday, December 08, 2003

Guardian Gaffe 
First, look at this passage from a recent article in the UK daily The Guardian:

US army spokesmen initially claimed 200 guerrillas had been killed when they tried to ambush two armoured convoys on Sunday, in a strike that triggered the biggest battle since George Bush declared an end to the war in Iraq seven months ago.

Point one: George Bush never declared an end to the war. I defy anyone out there to pop me a link from a reputable news agency that he declared an end to the war in Iraq. He declared that ‘major combat operations are over,’ essentially marking a transition from a high-intensity conventional war to a low-to mid-intensity counter-insurgency. The Fedayeen never formally surrendered, and combat operations against the Fedayeen never ceased. This is very different from declaring an end to the war. So the declaration that Bush did so is a glaring factual error.

Point two: The writer, Claire Cozens, doesn’t refer to a press conference or provide anything to source her claim, so that the reader can check things out for himself. So it’s not clear to me if she’s relying solely on the claim of ITV correspondent Julian Manyon, whom she quotes from Spectator magazine:

The US military spokesman, who caused an excited ITV news desk to wake me at 1am, claimed that they had defeated co-ordinated attacks by about 200 'terrorists', some of them wearing the uniform of the feared Saddam Fedayeen

Now, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but there’s a big difference between claiming to have killed 200 guerrillas and claiming to have defeated them. You don’t have to annihilate a force in order to defeat it.

Now, I was reading the official action reports from the 1-66th within hours of the fight on a secure internet connection. No one anywhere was claiming a body count of 200 guerrillas. One possible explanation: Claire Cozen’s violated the first commandment of journalism: Thou Shalt Rely On Thine Own Reporting. Cozen’s not even relying on second hand reporting; she's actually passing third-hand reporting along as truth. Julian Manyon never even talked to the military spokesman. It was an unnamed figure at the ITV news desk! And the editors just let this go?

Guardian, you’re busted!

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