It’s (Un)Just War

A few headlines to sleep on:

The highest ranking U.S. military officer to be charged with prisoner abuse in Iraq was convicted of killing an Iraqi general by stuffing his head into a sleeping bag but will face no jail time.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer could have faced a life sentence if found guilty on a more serious charge of murder, but instead will take a slap on the wrist and a 60 day vacation.

“The military is a family when you get right down to it,” Welshofer told Denver television’s 9News following the sentencing. “I can’t thank them enough for their support.”

What a warm fuzzy feeling, no?

Two German engineers kidnapped in Iraq (Reuters) — makes me wonder exactly how smart these Iraqi kidnappers are… Germany under Angela Merkel is not only likely to offer a large sum of money to free these hostages, but it will undoubtedly add to the contention between the U.S. and the EU.

Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz is in Washington to further humiliate Bush and Rumsfeld for the recent surprise bombing that killed several women and children.

Tuesday’s headlines that you swear you’ve seen before…

NYTimes: Iraq Rebuilding Badly Hobbled, U.S. Report Finds
Wash. Post: White House Got Early Warning on Katrina
and: Bush Defends Domestic Spying

… and will undoubtedly see again — perhaps the media is protecting us against our super-short-term memories.

Coverage of the NSA Scandal

A must read from retired first amendment litigator (and recipient of the 2005 best new blog award) Glenn Greenwald:

The media need not take sides in the NSA debate or in any other. But it is failing in its primary purpose if it continues to allow the Administration to blithely make false statements without informing their readers that the statements are false. Allowing the Government to make false statements is not neutrality; it is an abdication of the principal journalistic responsibility.

Read the whole thing here.

Jill Carroll Update

Jill CarrollMy finger’s are crossed for kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll. Reuters reports Sunday morning:

Iraq?s Justice Ministry said on Sunday it still expects U.S. forces to release six Iraqi women prisoners this week, despite U.S. comments to the contrary.

U.S. NGO Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is negotiating for Carroll?s release according to Sunday’s Washington Post.

Iraqi Bloggers Continue Posting at TimesSelect

The four young writers that the New York Times scooped off of the blogosphere, three from Baghdad and one from Mosul, are still providing well-written posts about everything from health care to education to bombs to Eid celebrations at http://iraq.page.nytimes.com/.

This is yet another bonus for TimesSelect subscribers ($50/yr, but free if you subscribe to even just the Sunday Times).

In a week that saw a despicable display of editorializing by Washington Post ombudsperson Deborah Howell, topped with the mass deletion of reader feedback at post.blog, it has been revealed that the New York Times has ordered its editors to remove e-mail addresses from their print and online op-eds, thereby enabling only TimesSelect subscribers to e-mail as well as to access the truthiness of the likes of Frank Rich, et al. Worseover, American Thinker busted The Times last week for mis-captioning this photo, alleged to be from the site of the recent U.S. airstrikes in Pakistan.

Howell, wholly disregarding and abusing her ombudsly responsibilities failed to clear up false claims in her Abramoff report last week and the melee that followed, allowing that she did print wrong information, but encouraging readers to “stay tuned…”

Lame. Sunday talk shows of note include Sen. Kerry on Stephanopolous, Obama on Russert, and Sens. Lieberman and Roberts on Face the Nation. The coming week, on the other hand, is setting up to be quite newsworthy, what with French PM Chirac dropping his own nuclear bombshell, and news of Israel planning to attack Iran should diplomatic efforts to halt their nuclear projects fail.

AND NOW, AFP reports from Tehran:

Iranian officials have held talks with radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, a prominent opponent of US forces, with Tehran using the visit to repeat its call for foreign troops to quit Iraq.

Details of U.S. Airstrikes Unclear; al-Zawahiri Probably Alive

I sincerely hope that the still unconfirmed worldwide reports of Ayman al-Zawahri’s demise following Friday’s airstrikes near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are true. But just in case, I’ve decided to go out on a limb with this exclusive, unconfirmed report.

I can find no more reason to believe that al-Zawahiri has been killed than I could find to believe Dr. al-Zawahri when he stated “you have been defeated” in a video message to President Bush last week.

Shah Zaman lost his three children in the attack (AP)While there is more than enough irrational exhuberance in the blogosphere regarding this mirage, let us focus for a moment on Friday’s reporting on the story by The New York Times.

Mohammed Khan originally filed this report for the New York Times on Friday:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 13 — American planes crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal region and fired on residential compounds in a Pakistani village early this morning killing 18 people…. The planes targeted residential buildings in the Berkandi area of Damadola…. Witnesses from the village said that 14 of the dead belonged to one family.

Later in the day, the following account was published for the January 14, with Douglas Jehr added to Khan’s byline in a filing from Washington:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — An American airstrike carried out on a village in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest early Friday was aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri

Thanks for the timely update, alas, we WERE trying to kill a terrorist and not just some family gathering on the holy day. As the Reuters wire explains:

Major Chris Karns, a spokesman at US Central Command in Florida, the command responsible for the region, said there had been no official report of an attack in Pakistan.

Wonder if he’d be comfortable confirming that, whatever is was that occured was officially an attempt to kill, say, al-Qaeda’s #2?

(An earlier Reuters filing may have been most accurate in quoting the deputy chief minister of the northwest Pakistani province: “It shows a failure of foreign policy”).

FURTHERMORE, since the Pentagon would never miss its target (remember, Rumsfeld wasn’t even aware of the war plans), immediately the blame is placed on… you guessed it: “a Predator drone aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

courtesy NYTAs noted above, Khan leads with airstrikes from American planes killing 18 in a residential compound. Jehr’s update from Washington obscures the mention of deaths, attributing the report to Pakistani officials after leading with “American and Pakistani officials” saying that the strikes were aimed at Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Khan’s piece features quotes from a tribal parliamentarian from a nearby village, who claimed to have “a feeling that something nasty was going to happen” after seeing the drone hover over the area for three days.

If in fact it was a drone, “those are operational details that we don’t track,” according to Pentagon public affairs officer Maj. Todd Vichon who then proceeded to implicate the CIA, according to Khan’s original piece.

Jehr’s subsequent Washington filing provides a pedestal for this nonsense in the form of an asinine, most likely imagined statement phantom anonymous sources:

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment, but the attack was described by other American and Pakistani officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the operation.

The classified nature of WHAT operation?!?!? (Paging Mr. Calame….)
The cowboys cretins have the whole world so scared that, yeah, Al Jazeera is running the Times / ABC / CNN (apparently nobody wants credit for seeding this) story and NDTV.com of India even goes so far as to front with “Airstrike kills Ayman al-Zawahiri: Report

Jawa scours the Pakistani press for details, but comes up well short of anything AQ-related.

Still hesitating on cracking that bottle of bubbly? Never fear, as Andrew reports at the Counterterrorism Blog:

A reliable source with high-level U.S. contacts tells me that U.S. “really believes” we might have whacked him.

Our gullible subservience to an ignorant quasi-dictatorship may be even worse than revealed in Wednesday’s humiliating “death-to-democracy” Pew poll.

First, it’s conceivable to find innocent citizens guilty with no pretense… and now, everybody’s rushing to report a fallen enemy without so much as an eyewitness’ rumor to back up the story???

I’d prefer “innocent until proven guilty.” And I’m definitely sticking with “alive until proven otherwise.”

UPDATE (AP):

Two Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that the CIA had acted on incorrect information, and al-Zawahri was not in the village of Damadola when it came under attack.

Reaction: Capt. Ed — “…[T]he US would prefer to capture targets like Zawahiri alive anyway…. The forensic results should be announced by tomorrow on the bodies retrieved immediately after the attack. Hopefully they will prove to have been AQ leadership, especially Zawahiri or even Osama himself. If not, then the CIA has some explaining to do….”

With all due respect, the CIA has yet to even comment on the attacks and appear to be a victim of Pentagon swiftboating.

I also can’t help but note that in factual reporting of Al-Qaeda’s so-called #2 (i.e. the man in last week’s video), the madman/physician’s name is spelled/pronounced “ZaWAhri,” however, the fictional character often cited by the Bush Administration is universally referred to as “ZawaHIri.”

We really are being toyed with. Just Admit It (Nothing’s Shocking).