Andrew Sullivan smears US troops; Update: Kaus unloads on Sullivan; Update: with a response to Sadly, No!; Updated one last time

Excitable Andy hosts the same video Allah posted the other day–the one in which Iraqi Army troops give captured insurgents the business end of their boots and rifle butts a few times. Not to defend the beating, but don’t we live in interesting times when it’s perfectly fine to kill a bad guy in war, but it’s an unpardonable sin when troops of a Third World army knock a bad guy about a bit if American troops are anywhere nearby?

If Americans aren’t nearby, of course, no one gives it a second thought. Unless we all think the Ethiopians invaded Somalia with their kid gloves on.

Anyhow, Sullivan calls the captured insurgents in the video–and we know that they’re insurgents because they had mortars in their car–“civilians.” They’re every bit as much “civilians” as Mohammed Atta was a “civilian” on 9-11. They are working to destroy their country or take it over by force, and the mortars they were captured with would have been used to that end. These “civilians” intended to kill Iraqis, most likely civilians, or American troops. Those mortars could have been used as such, lobbed against targets some distance from the insurgents, or they could have been modified into an IED and used on some road against a US Hummer. But Excitable Andy is all worried that the fellows caught transporting the mortars might have gotten a goose egg or two when the IA captured them.

As an aside, we heard the dulcet tones of mortar fire one night at Camp Justice. Sunni insurgents like to launch them from their side of the Tigris at the Shia enclaves on the other side, without regard for whether those mortars land on an IA outpost or a kindergarten. Maybe those IA troops in the clip know someone who had the misfortune of catching some of the insurgents’ spray and pray mortar fire? It wouldn’t justify the beating if that were the case, but it might explain it.

I wonder, does Sullivan realize that the insurgents operating in Iraq don’t walk around in candy stripe uniforms? Does he get this war at all, nearly four years after the invasion he once supported? Evidently, he does not, or he wouldn’t call those men “civilians.” They were wearing the uniform favored by the enemy–street clothes.

Excitable Andy goes a step farther and blames the Americans for the incident. Because they were there. Even though the one American in contact with he IA troops tried to get them to stop. And all in the space of fewer words than I have written here in response. The Excitable One packs quite a bit into a short graph once in a while, mostly when he’s slamming the US for one thing or another.

Sullivan long ago passed from reasonable pundit to wild-eyed zealot, and over an issue that is unrelated to the war (we all know what that issue is). He’s become such a clown that I hardly ever pay attention to him anymore, but one thing that I can’t let pass is the kind of mindless smear of the troops that he trots out in that post.

Andrew Sullivan has no idea what’s going on in Iraq. He has no idea how complex the battle is or how our troops conduct themselves day to day in that fight. He doesn’t understand that our troops are trying to turn the IA from being the strong arm of a despot to a professional force that can fight the insurgents on its own. He evidently doesn’t understand that war, including the very war he cheered for so loudly a few years ago, can get ugly at times. People break a nail now and then. They get out of line. They have a bad hair day. They smack a guy around when they probably ought not (though how you scare insurgents straight without physically impressing upon them the error of their ways eludes me at the moment). He has No. Idea. What. He. Is. Talking. About. when it comes to Iraq. None. Zip. Nadda. And he has shown zero intellectual capacity to step outside his lode star issue and re-acquaint himself with the war he once supported but now misses no chance to denounce.

I’m not one to deploy the chickenhawk argument, but there really is something to the notion that unless you’ve seen a thing with your own eyes you may have a hard time understanding it. If you’re writing about a thing as often as Sullivan writes about the war, especially if you spend the bulk of your writings denouncing that thing, it’s irresponsible to stay as far away from that thing as possible. You have to, at some point, examine it for yourself. Especially if you’re as strident a critic as Sullivan is. Yet Sullivan, who slams the troops whenever he can, hasn’t been within thousands of miles of the war they’re fighting.

It’s easy to hurl insults from a safe distance. And Sullivan has certainly kept his distance from the thousands of men and women whom he smears without it twitching his conscience. These are the same men and women now in harm’s way thanks in part to his advocacy. He owes them more than just turning his back on them, insulting them and trashing them.

If he weren’t so unreliable as a thinker, so overwrought as a writer and so nauseating as a human being I’d suggest that Andrew Sullivan go spend time with the troops in Iraq and see what they’re up against and what they’re doing about it, and I’d say that he really ought not write about or opine on the war again until he has been there and seen it for himself. But the troops have enough on their hands without having to deal with insurgents and a pundit who has become an apologist for the insurgents at the same time.

Update (AP): Five schoolgirls dead in a mortar attack today in Baghdad.

Update (AP): Kaus tries to find the line where truth ends and excitability begins.

Update (Bryan): I see that our friends at Sadly, No! can’t distinguish between a mosque having a hole in an onion-shaped thing on top and that mosque being destroyed, as the AP reported on Nov 24. That failure to distinguish between such widely varying descriptions should guide you if you read anything else published there.

Would it matter to them if the hole they’re making such a big deal about was already there before Nov 24, the AP’s day of infamy in Hurriya? Because it was. Not that it should matter, since “having a big hole in a thing on the roof” =/= “destroyed,” and the latter was what the AP reported. Would it matter to them if there were no six Sunnis burned that day, and that the Iraqi Army that the AP accuses of watching the attack and doing nothing to stop it actually responded, helped put out the fire (to the mosque, not the Sunnis, since none of the latter were burned) and then tried to apprehend the attackers? Even though the attackers were Shia and, lo and behold, so were the IA troops on the scene? Evidently not. The Nov 24 attacks in Hurriya are actually an example of the IA doing what it’s supposed to do, yet the AP accused the IA of letting the attack happen, with the implication that sectarian interests drove the IA’s non-reponse. That’s either an eggregious error or a smear, and the AP has yet to acknowledge which.

And dwell on that for just a second–what else is the AP accusing the IA of that isn’t true? Might the AP’s stringers around Baghdad, most of whom are Sunni, have an interest in making the mostly Shia government and IA look bad? I think they just might. Would it serve the interests of the Sunni insurgents to make the mostly Shia government and IA look bad? Undoubtedly.

We’ve never reported here and Michelle doesn’t allege in her Hurriya wrap-up that no attacks happened at all on Nov 24. There were attacks that day. That’s what we reported. What we’ve said and proven is that the AP got the details entirely wrong, the AP falsely accused the IA of doing nothing about the attack, and in fact reported 24 sectarian kills that never happened (including the six non-burned Sunnis). We and others have also reported that the source for that wrong story has been the source for an additional 60 stories. That source–Jamil Hussein–appears now to be an unacknowledged pseudonym, which probably accounts for the confusion over his identity at the Iraqi MoI. He got this one story that we were able to check out entirely wrong, leading to reasonable doubts about everything else he has reported to AP. We stand by that.

Clarifications: The hole at the top of the Nidaa Alah mosque may have been there before Nov 24. I have a hazy memory of one of the officers a FOB Justice saying that it was there before Nov 24, Michelle doesn’t have that in her notes, and her memory is usually better than mine. She’s probably right. In any case, that mosque was abandoned prior to Nov 24, so there were no casualties there. And–large hole =/= destroyed. The AP reported the latter, not the former, as MK is tracking.

In the Army’s official report on the Nov 24 attacks, there is a mention of rumors of casualties (wounded) but nothing confirmed. The report is explicit in that there were no bodies burned, therefore no burned Sunnis. We have two FOB Justice officers on the record on that, in addition to the official report. The lack of confirmation, and the lack of detail or photos corroborating Jamil Hussein XX’s story leads me to conclude there were no fatalities as a result of the Nov 24 attacks. I’m dead certain that no six Sunnis were burned as the IA looked on and did nothing to stop it. No six Sunnis were burned at all.

Finally, if the hole in the top of that mosque was such a liability to our reporting, and if Michelle and I were as dishonest as the Sadly, No! folks seem to think we are, we could have pulled a fast one and just shown this photo from the Army’s official report:

nidaa alah

Look Ma, no hole!

This photo was taken from another angle during the Army’s follow-up incident reporting. They weren’t hiding anything, it’s just the angle they happened to snap of the mosque that the AP reported destroyed that’s still standing. We showed the hole. That’s the angle we happened to capture of the mosque that the AP reported destroyed that’s still standing. The hole is irrelevant to the AP story. But I’ll cut the Sadly, No! folks some slack–there are too many details in this story to master if you just stick to the surface and if you’re only looking for angles to attack us, as opposed to looking objectively at whether the AP got the story right or wrong.

And yes, those are bullet holes all over that mosque. It was abandoned, so no one was defending it, and the militias like to shoot at things that don’t shoot back. And as we reported, there were attacks in Hurriya on Nov 24. Some of those marks are from that day. Some are probably from prior attacks. And, we never said Hurriya is a nice place. It’s not.

Update (Michelle): Tellingly, the pathetic, attempted debunker fails to link to either my post at or my full report at the NYPost, which give the full details and nuance (plus more photos) of what we found versus what the AP reported (and didn’t report). There is now an all-too-predictable attempt to distort our reports. Read. Them. In. Their. Entirety. For. Yourselves. I have noticed an attempt by some of the AP apologists to deny that the wire service ever reported that four mosques in Hurriya were “destroyed.” They reported it. They were wrong.

On a related note, I followed up on Patterico’s question about the status of the “al-Qaqaqa mosque.” The AP reported that it was one of the mosques “destroyed” in Hurriya.

Capt. Aaron Kaufman at FOB Justice responds:

I remember asking that question about the al-Qaqaqa mosque based on the AP article. The IA officers did not recognize that name, and it was not in any other reports. It may exist, but it was not one of the mosques that was attacked in Hurriya.

Another unsolved AP mystery…

Last update (Bryan): Yes, kids, facts do matter. Fake but accurate won’t cut it anymore. That’s not even a new argument you’re deploying about the relevance of facts in a given debate, in the days after Rathergate. It’s been tried, and it didn’t work then and won’t work now.

Let me explain this one more time, though I understand the futility of arguing facts with the Goalpost Moving Company over there. The AP has sourced 61 stories to Jamil Hussein XX. He got most of the facts of this one dead wrong, which would lead any reasonable mind to wonder what else he got wrong and what else the AP gets wrong on a routine basis since they have been relying pretty heavily on him as the single source for multiple reports. Sorry for the bolding, but it’s done in the hope that it helps things stick. Put the Jamil Hussein XX stuff together with how the AP operates in Baghdad, using local stringers who may be sympathetic to the anti-US insurgents in Iraq, and you have the potential of a DEFCON 1 level scandal on the AP’s hands. Everything they have reported from Iraq is now open for examination, or should be if the AP could be stirred to examine its sources and methods in Iraq. Given the way they write their headlines to skew the impression their stories make, they do seem to have an agenda.

The IA responded to the attacks in Hurriya on Nov 24, both by helping put out the fires and by attempting to round up the attackers. The AP got that wrong. No mosques were destroyed in those attacks. The AP got that wrong. There were no six Sunnis burned. The AP got that wrong. Unless, that is, you guys at S,N! have any evidence that there were mosques destroyed and six Sunnis burned while the IA troops looked on and let it happen.

I didn’t think so, and those are the facts that the AP reported that we have definitively refuted. Those “facts” form the heart of the AP’s original story, the one they have yet to retract, clarify or even acknowledge as problematic. You folks keep linking to stories other than that original one as a way of lying to your readers and keep hope alive that you actually have something on us. It’s a dishonest game you’re playing, but you’re only fooling yourselves and your merry band of commenters each time you pick up the goalposts and move them to a new spot. So I feel no need to “Bring it!” We already went to Iraq and brung it back. If you folks have anything of substance to report, it’s incumbent upon you to bring it.

As far as I’m concerned, until you folks at S,N! prove that either six Sunnis were immolated in Hurriya that day, or that mosques were actually destroyed in the attacks in Hurriya that day, or that IA troops just looked on while the Sunnis who weren’t burned were burned, this discussion is over. I’m tired of trying to map out where you all will put the goalposts next.

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