Allawi’s “shootings,” Jacobsen’s “terrorism” story — rumors or truth?

Tim Blair seems ready to dismiss the story that emerged yesterday of Iraq’s new PM Allawi shooting 6 prisoners to death as nothing more than a silly rumor. And it may be.

However, The Age is sticking to its story, and if they aren’t telling outright lies, I have to believe the story is credible (not certifiably true, but definitely worth learning more about). Is the following an outright lie?

The witnesses did not perceive themselves as whistle-blowers. In interviews with The Age they enthusiastically supported Dr Allawi for the killings. One justified the alleged killings and said: “These criminals were terrorists. They are the ones who plant the bombs. Allawi said they deserved worse than death; that they didn’t need to be sent to court.”

The two witnesses were independently and separately found by The Age; neither approached the newspaper. Nor were they put forward by, or through, others. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told that the other had spoken.

A condition of the co-operation of each man was that no personal information would be published, but others known to The Age have vouched for their credibility. Both interviews lasted more than 90 minutes and were conducted through an interpreter – with another journalist in the room for one of the meetings. The witnesses were not paid for the interviews.

….

Neither witness could give a specific date for the killings. But the number of days that each said had lapsed since the shootings narrowed the time frame to on or around the third weekend in June – about a week before the rushed handover of power in Iraq and more than three weeks after Dr Allawi was named interim Prime Minister.

They said that as many as five of the dead were Iraqis, two of whom came from Samarra, a volatile town to the north of the capital, where an insurgency attack on the home of the Interior Minister had killed four of Mr Naqib’s bodyguards on June 19.

I really don’t know. It’s certainly very specific, but it may turn out ot be a well-orchestrated deception. But the question I need to ask is this:

How come some conservative bloggers seem so eager to swallow Blair’s explanation and write it all off as a rumor, while just yesterday they were standing up and declaring Annie Jacobsen a national hero for telling her “frightening story” of watching possible Syrian hijackers/bombers as they….went to the toilet? If any story qualifies for the rumor award, it’s Annie’s.

InstaPunidt posted an email he received from a pilot that provides some clarity:

There are a lot of details in the article such as those involving crew actions that are either flat out wrong or that she couldn’t possibly have known enough about to assess things as she did. Based on subsequent news (like Malkin’s confirmation of some aspects of the incident), I’ll accept that the gist of her story is valid but embellished with uninformed speculation and conventional wisdom.

And it was the many speculations that made the story so maddening.

Maybe it says something about our willingness to accept what we want to and reject what we don’t. But it seemed so flat-out obvious to me that the Jacobsen story was fishy, I was dumbfounded that it gained so much traction. The Allawi story may turn out also to be an invention, but it at least appeared to provide enough evidence to make the story believable. Whether that evidence was all a hoax remains to be seen.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

Richard,

As a journalist, I must say that an old generic adage applies here: When there is this much smoke, there is a fire somewhere.

Based upon the detail, the structure of the story, the use of detail, the effort to gain credible, identifiable sources, etc., tell me that at least the editors of a very fine newspaper believe they have enough of the goods to run with a story this combustible. Whether every fact will in the end be verified is an open question.

There must be further journalistic digging into this story, because neither the interim Iraqi government or the United States have any interests in getting to the bottom of it. It is clear that something happened, and even if only parts of the story check out, it damages the march toward “democracy” and the rule of law in the “new” Iraq.

Joseph

July 17, 2004 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Joseph, I am completely with you and my prediction is that this story will seep into the US press. There’s something here, even, as you say, if only a fraction of the story is accurate.

July 18, 2004 @ 10:59 am | Comment

Richard,

Yes, we will see where this goes; as you say, much depends on whether the U.S. press picks it up.

By the way, after a respite of a few days when I was able to post almost at will, Blogger is back to its it-is-there-but-no-functions-work mode so I haven’t been able to post for the last two days.

I am not blocked from anything, I can get to my site directly, with ease, I can comment to commenters on my site, I can get to my Blogger post app with all of its fine new bells and whistles, it is just that every clicked command results in a DNS page. It is so frustrating. In just the few days when I was able to post, my traffic came back and even increased. That amazed me since aside from an occasional “excuse me dear readers” posts, I had basically not been blogging for a couple of weeks or more. Argh!!!

Oh, I had a great visit at Jeremy’s shop on Friday. He’s a super guy! Ben was busily working away. His spoken English has improved significantly.

Joseph

July 18, 2004 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

The Alawi story doesn’t pass the smell test. He showed up, there happened to be a half-dozen insurgents, who happened to be bound and hand-cuffed, against the wall and, on the spur of the moment, he dicided to execute them, on the spot. Personally.

Since there’s no evidence that Alawi has ever before killed anyone in his entire life, his transformation from peaceful, intellectual to stone-cold killer was, to say the least, unprecedented in the annals of psychology.

As for the Syrian passenger story, I discounted the whole thing as soon as she quoted Ann Coulter. the same reaction that I have when you cite Michael Moore. ๐Ÿ˜‰

July 18, 2004 @ 11:57 pm | Comment

Conrad,

Didn’t Alawi have clandestine “blood on his hands” as a CIA asset in the aftermath of the first Gulf War? I do not mean the quoted phrase as condemnation, because I believe it was against Saddam. It is only meant in exploration of a personal “precedent” for a “peaceful intellectual” tranforming under certain circumstances into someone who could do what is alleged in this incident?

I will say that the magnitude of the alleged act–seven murders in front of witnesses–is hard to swallow and does make it somewhat difficult to accept as largely accurate. Time will tell.

Joseph

July 19, 2004 @ 5:23 am | Comment

The author of the Allawi executions report is Irish/Australian journalist Paul McGeogh. He’s a very credible reporter who has been covering the Middle East for years, certainly not one to embellish or accept reports at face value.

I’m surprised other media outlets haven’t picked up on this.

July 19, 2004 @ 6:03 am | Comment

Paul McGeough is not your average correspondent who is given to flights of fantasy or conspiracy theories. He is one of Australia’s most respected journalist, and particularly reknown for his coverage of the Iraq conflict since the 1st Gulf War. He has been in Baghdad even before Rumsfeld ‘shock & awe’ assault, and reported live from there during the bombing.

He has recently written an article on Iraq titled “Mission Impossible – the Sheikhs, the US & the future of Iraq” for the “Quarterly Essay”, a magazine that seeks to present the widest range of political, intellectual and cultural opinions.
(See http://www.quarterlyessay.com)

The article makes very interesting reading.

I quote from “Quarterly Essay”, Issue 14, 2004, on Paul McGeough:
***
Paul McGeough is chief correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald. A former editor of the Herald, he has been a reporter for almost thirty years, covering international conflict since the 1990-91 Gulf War. McGeough’s work for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has earned Australia’s highest journalistic honours, including the 2003 Walkley Award for his coverage of the Iraq War.
***

For such a serious allegation by a respectable western journalist, the US has been virtually silent, and very tellingly so, on this murder allegation against Allawi, other than the curt comment of the US ambassador (to Iraq), John Negroponte: “If we attempted to refute each [rumour], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy’s press office is concerned, this case is closed.” (he hopes).

It has been breathtakingly ridiculous for two Australian Ministers to advise McGeough to take his information to the Iraqi Police. McGeough in fact had to flee Iraq to publish the incident. One doesn’t hang around a troubled and extremely violent country and make such an allegation against the most powerful man there. I would be very surprised if McGeough will take their advice.

Allawi was a former Baathist under Saddam Hussein, and was mentioned as being close to the dictator himself, until relationship soured. A former Iraqi diplomat mentioned Allawi as one of Saddam’s assassins. This allegation was echoed by a CIA operative.

July 19, 2004 @ 8:27 am | Comment

Jacky, you are correct — Allawi apparently was quite the killer once, and the reporter who wrote this story has an excellent track record. it’s inconceivable to me that he would risk destroying his career over one story.

Meanwhile, at least three separate US papers have now picked up the story, and an Iraqi agency says they are going to investigate it (though don’t expect much from that). The problem with the story, of course, is that it’s based on the eyewitness testimony, and the eyewitnesses are unanimous, so the only way reporters from other papers can do their own stories is to find other eyewitnesses.

Conrad, stop insulting Michael Moore. I’m sure you’ll see the light after you see F 9/11.

July 19, 2004 @ 5:36 pm | Comment

Richard:

I have a problem. I don’t buy pirated films and I won’t contribute to Michael Moore’s inflated bank account. Therefore, I have no way of seeing the movie.

Fortunately, being a blogger, I don’t have to have actually seen it to write about what crap it is.

July 20, 2004 @ 1:54 am | Comment

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