Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MSM - Be Careful of What You Sensationalize

At TPM Muckraker, Paul Kiel points to a New York Times column by Michael R. Gordon and Scott Shane, leading us to understand that there were tactical rather than practical reasons for having called the infamous press briefing (about Iranian made explosives, also known as EFPs) in mid-February 2007. [See Spencer Ackerman's blogpost]. The NYT column takes us back to July 2005, when the U.S. sent a diplomatic complaint to Iran over the use of allegedly Iranian-made explosives being used against coalition troops in Iraq by Shiite groups. Kiel says that the Bush administration clearly made a choice to focus on the evidence that Iranian manufactured weapons were being used in Iraq - but they stayed silent on the crucial detail of who they were being used by. The vast majority of U.S. casualties come at the hands of Sunni insurgents, not Shiite.

The NYT article mentions that this particular kind of press briefing [in Feb 2007] was something new for then-top commander Gen. George W. Casey Jr., since military officials have historically been reluctant to highlight the effectiveness of the weapons for fear of encouraging their use. Kiel reminds us that the claim that Iran is the only possible supplier for EFPs in Iraq has been debunked.

Notwithstanding the fact that EFPs are dangerous and the complaint was warranted, this knowledge certainly rips every bit of sensationalism from the original media storyline. My mind goes back to the unwarranted sensationalism in the media headlines in 2002 about the late (not great) Saddam Hussein and his connections to 9/11...his possession of WMD. It makes you wonder what the mainstream will buy into next.....