Decapitations, Fictitious and Real

We’ve written about the fact that the wire services employ stringers in Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East, who are of doubtful reliability at best. Worse, these stringers sometimes have a political agenda. As a result, the “news” that the Associated Press reports as fact has sometimes turned out to be based on little more than rumor, or to be fabricated altogether.
The latest example comes from Bob Owens, who sums up the story at Pajamas Media. On June 28, the AP reported that 20 decapitated bodies had been found in a village near Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad. If you read the fine print, though, it turned out that the story was based on reports from two anonymous “police officers”–one from Baghdad and one from Kut, some 75 miles from the scene of the alleged atrocity. It was apparent on the face of the AP story that these officers’ claims were hearsay, at best.
Owens details how the story was re-told in subtly different ways by news outlets that picked up the AP account. The Washington Post, for example, “actively obfuscated the distant locations of the anonymous police sources, and instead merely allowed that the came from ‘separate commands.’ The Post account also rewrote the story in such a way that it appears that there were three anonymous police sources.”
Owens was no doubt reminded of the infamous “Jamil Hussein,” the Baghdad policeman (if such he was) who long served the AP as a “source” for events all over Iraq, some of which never happened. So Owens decided to investigate by contacting the Multi-National Forces-Iraq (MNF-I) Public Affairs office, and liaisons with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT) Public Affairs Office, to ask what they knew of this incident. The upshot was a definitive statement by those agencies that the beheading story was

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