May 20, 2003


Instaman keeps gnawing at the Lynch story... he's starting to overstate just a little, he's so jazzed.

A 'thorough investigation" that involved unnamed sources making charges that were not checked out, and people saying that the U.S. forces fired blanks, credulous repetition of unconfirmed facts by parties with an interest in lying, and obvious ignorance of matters military, as well as misrepresentation of the coverage at the time, and that has been contradicted by other reports from the scene.

"Unnamed sources": Glenn should read the original story, in the Toronto Star and British Telegraph, that his link links to. There are no unnamed sources: that's a blogger allegation not supported by facts.

"Firing blanks": Only one source says anything about blanks, in the BBC scalp of the Star/Telegraph story, Dr. Anmar Uday to be precise. The original story said nothing about blanks... Uday only elaborates on his story in the BBC retelling. This was obviously a misunderstanding of some kind, and the BBC was rightly called out by Glenn and others originally for airing it without comment.

"Ignorance": Glenn cites Laughing Wolf, who actually believes the original story was more likely a result of Mitch Potter's anti-Americanism than any ignorance on his part. To be clear, we're talking at least three reporters by this point (the Toronto Star's Mitch Potter, the Telegraph's Inigo Gilmore, who is co-writing with him, and the BBC's John Kampfner.) The Potter-Gilmore team, it should be remembered, was also the pair that found those documents linking Al Qaeda to the Hussein regime, which may give some hint as to their bias and experience.

"Misrepresentation": Glenn cites, which claims, without evidence, that all the erroneous stories about Lynch having been shot had already been properly retracted by mainstream media, so the BBC didn't have anything new to say. Funny, I must have missed those retractions... and they must not have made it to the websites, either. For instance, on the Fox news site, the first story that explicitly states that Lynch was not shot is dated May 8... three days after the Potter/Gilmore story appeared. Other sites are similar. So Potter and Gilmore did have a scoop of sorts, it seems.

"Other reports": Glenn cites Salam Pax, whom I'm glad to see he believes in, again... I don't see anything in Salam's cryptic last sentence that can be taken as a flat contradiction of the Potter-Gilmore story... in fact it corroborates it by saying the Iraqi commander had already left the hospital when the Americans came, just as Potter-Gilmore reported.

Bottom line: the BBC rehash was sloppy. But the Potter-Gilmore original is still standing up, despite some pretty fervent efforts at the moment to knock it down. All its major new facts, about Lynch getting good care in her last couple days of captivity, having not been shot, about a previous attempt to hand her over, about the hospital being taken without resistance, have all been grudgingly conceded or corroborated. There's more to come on this story, to be sure, but it's hardly a smear job to produce the first Iraqi eyewitness accounts of an already famous incident.

Glenn also takes the BBC to task for backtracking, claiming that the BBC first claimed the entire rescue was faked, and now that it's just claiming (as I and Glenn both believe) that the Americans maximized their PR return on investment. I just don't see where in the original BBC story that fakery is claimed at all, only "news management"... other than by implication, again, in that one deluded Iraqi doctor's quote. With that exception, Kampfner's story and his "retraction" seem perfectly consistent to me, in fact. Can someone explain to me the retraction Kampfner has supposedly made, again?

UPDATE: Wilbur's blog rises to my challenge, pointing out in an email that the actual transcript of the BBC show was more careless about its choice of words than the BBC internet summary of it that Glenn linked to (NB: in fact, a different witness has the "blanks" quote attributed to him in the longer version). Kampfner's actual lead-in is "This was a script made for Hollywood. Made by the Pentagon." That is, obviously, simply an indefensible statement. I was basing my previous comments above on the summary, which is somewhat more soberly drawn, and doesn't contain those words. So I have to agree now there's been some backpedalling here, in that Kampfner is not standing by that one statement any longer. I still think it's possible to refute the BBC media critic's reporting on Lynch, though and still respect the print work it's based on.

Kampfner's problem is he's using the Lynch story as his centerpiece for a much longer discourse on the new army public affairs. The Lynch reporting is sloppy, and overstated, but I'd say his central thesis still stands up... American military PR is doing things that have never been done before by militaries. It's adding new distortion to some parts of the picture, and clarifying the picture in other ways. As an ersatz military PR pro myself, it's something I've thought long and hard about, and I won't go so far as to wholly condemn Kampfner's rather populist summary. I just wish he'd taken the same care on the Lynch stuff that he did on his main thesis. (NB: Inigo Gilmore, the Telegraph writer, is listed in the credits as being on "camera.")

Once you get past the Lynch stuff, the actual body of the BBC piece is rather valuable, though, particularly British PR chief's Group Capt. Lockwood's unforgettable statement, one that I'm thinking of getting framed for the office: "You've got an upstart woman there who wants to make a bloody name for herself within the television community by grilling an easy victim, which is a military officer. I refuse to be an easy victim." Been there, thought that. And Kampfner makes a good point when he documents how Umm Qasr was reported to have finally fallen on five consecutive days, and Basra on 17. (I was saying the same thing at the time, as a matter of fact.)

This has to be a scoop of some kind:

Kampfner: Simon Wren, Number Ten [Tony Blair]'s man in Doha, has written a confidential note to [British government PR head] Alistair Campbell complaining that the American briefers weren't up to the job. He described the Jessica Lynch presentation as embarrassing.

And this...

Group Capt. Lockwood: The [British] media advisor here was an expert in his field. His counterpart on the US side [Jim Wilkinson] was evasive, was not around as much as he should have been when it came to talking to the media, and in reality what happened was you had two different styles of news media management...

This is good PR-postmortem stuff. A couple careless throwaway lines at the beginning don't change that.

Posted by BruceR at 08:59 PM


The Television Bureau of Canada (TVB) has denied the HomeFront Society of Calgary approval to run the two public service announcements because they were deemed too graphic under Telecaster guidelines...

In the ad titled Boardroom, a female worker corrects a figure given by a male co-worker during a boardroom meeting. The man responds by yelling at the woman, calling her a "stupid bitch" and an "ignorant cow" before grabbing her by the hair and repeatedly slamming her head on a tabletop.

A second ad, called Restaurant, shows a family of four dining at a restaurant. A female waitress accidentally spills coffee while filing up the father?s cup. The father grabs the waitress by the throat, slams her to the table and pours the rest of the coffee in the pot on the screaming waitress while cursing at her.

From the Globe and Mail. You can see the ads yourself here. NOTE: They are realistic and graphic.

McNichol said he hopes posting the commercials on-line will help remove the stigma of talking openly about domestic violence.

So, in other words, the group is trying to mobilize people to work against women getting brutalized by engaging our vicarious thrill at watching a woman getting brutalized. Now, I'm no shrink, but it seems to me you either fall into one of two groups in life. Either you oppose scalding women and making them scream in agony, in which case you can only be angry at this commercial appeal that just forced you to watch the equivalent of an Iraqi torture video in your own living room... or you are in favour of women-beatings, in which case you think the ads in question are just dandy, thanks very much for the violence-porn, keep up the good work.

I can say they didn't change my feelings on domestic violence. I would however, like to beat up a couple ad executives now, if the opportunity presents itself.

UPDATE: No, wait, I'm not finished yet. What's truly offensive here isn't the images themselves, but the appalling subtexts. The woman-brutalizers are both obviously affluent white males, notably. The language of the message is directed straight and exclusively to them, "you don't do this at work, so why do it at home?" In other words, wife-beating is so incredibly common that we felt a need to reach out to the abusers and convince them that in a different setting they would see their actions as obviously socially embarrassing. (Not wrong, just inappropriate, really.) It's not directed at those people who might intervene when they witness or suspect abuse (everyone else in the commercials just stands around gawping) or even at the victim (who just takes it). There's no call to change one's ways to anyone but the abuser, the assumption therefore obviously being that such abusers are so common we can benefit as a society from this kind of direct appeal to them alone to be nicer. (Nor are there any implications that the brutalization is criminal, or would have consequences for them... they just go back to what they were doing before while the women whimper.)

The scenarios also completely downplay the complexity of relationships. No, this is not an apologia for abuse, but living together is just more complex than that. Yes, the ostensible reason for the fight when it gets on a police blotter could be spilling the coffee, but we all know there was a lot of history leading up to that. No one, kids or no kids, stays with someone whose only memorable characteristic is they go batshit for no reason and inflict severe burns on strangers. So the entire picture of the abuser is unrealistic, absent all the other co-indicators of violence: alcohol, poverty, infidelity, family history. (Only maleness remains.) Unlike drunk driving ads, many of which successfully convey the message, "this could be you," NO sane person could possibly identify with the men in these ads, or see their own potential for committing the same kinds of actions in their own, possibly borderline abuses of their spouses, if they don't straighten up first. No one, tonight when the temperature rises in some living room in Calgary, is ever going to stop and hesitate, thinking, "wait a minute; I'm acting just like that white guy in the family restaurant on the internet."

FURTHER UPDATE: Colby chimes in. He actually thought they were funny. I didn't, but I could see how they'd be smile-inducing (if I'd seen them before I heard about them, I might even have giggled, myself). That's a symptom of the same unrealism and lack of identification with the character I'm talking about, actually... they're so far out and absurd the only proper response could be to laugh. I'd say that's exactly the wrong response you want to associate with this societal problem, though.

Posted by BruceR at 06:56 PM


Charles Johnson is getting close to the point of needing a major vacation. The recent spate of Middle Eastern bombings has had the effect of slowly turning the Little Green Footballs site into exactly what its critics always said it was.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I just can't do the "oh, maybe there's hope for them after all!" thing any more.

Like the Greek myth of Cassandra, those who try to tell the truth about the danger [of American Muslim organizations] are accused of lying and bigotry. (Actually, Cassandra was accused of being insane -B.).

And where is this creature getting the funds to pursue the [Florida drivers license] suit? (Creature? -B.)

Another mass murdering Palestinian Arab animal struck today, at a shopping mall in Afula.

THIS MUST STOP... It's time to deal with it on their [the Palestinians'] level and give them the war they want.

Posted by BruceR at 05:22 PM



The Instaman's being a little hard on the BBC, don't you think? In taking on the story on saving Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital, the focus has been on an allegation the Americans were firing blanks. This is, of course, crap, for all kinds of reasons, but it's important to remember that the BBC is just repeating the allegation of an Iraqi doctor in the hospital at the time. I don't know squat about surgery, and this doctor obviously knows squat about firearms. So that would make us even.

What goes unrefuted (detailed in the more sober stories on this topic by the Star/Telegraph team that the BBC was scalping), and seems ever more clear with time, is that Lynch was in fact no longer in imminent danger, and the "rescue" was overdramatized somewhat in the official accounts, for obvious reasons. As Special Ops outings go, it was basically an unnecessarily robust walk in the park. What's still not known is how accurate the Americans' recce picture of the situation at the hospital was. It's fair to say, though, that they took no chances, and were probably prudent to do so. And then the army public affairs officer attached to the whole tableau did the best he could with what he was given. As I likely would have, too, in their place. It'll make a very interesting army PR operational case study some day.

Current army manager of the PR file Bryan Whitman (he's got a fun job) sums it up best:

"If we had good knowledge we could drive in and take her out, we certainly would have done that rather than a joint operation. We don't look to do them in a more difficult, complex way," he said... "It's not up to me to second guess, but I can't imagine we would have done anything differently."

It's not exactly overstated, but if you read carefully Whitman also sets the record straight that Lynch wasn't, in fact, shot, and did not, in fact, expend all her ammunition fighting the Iraqis being captured. So why aren't Sullivan, Instapundit, Blair, and the rest, taking the journalists who told those mistruths to task just as aggressively? You know why as well as I do. It's more fun to pick on the Beeb.

Posted by BruceR at 10:32 AM


The Toronto Star had an editorial cartoon over the weekend, saying Toronto city councillor and now failed mayoral hopeful "Lying Tom" Jakobek had just got a new job as a writer for the New York Times. Not exactly original or funny, but I've held no brief for the contemptible Jakobek, who I always secretly suspected was Art Garfunkel's evil twin (or, on other days, vice versa). But the Star, with conspiro-loons Antonia Zerbisias and Michele Landsberg on its slate of columnists, leading another dozen or so lesser known lights, probably shouldn't talk about the Times so jocularly.

For once again, this weekend, we have Landsberg criticizing NORAD response to Sept. 11. We've been here before. She concedes that Al Qaeda destroyed the WTC and airliners... her accusation now, when you cut through the crap, is apparently that the American high command knew of the plot, and did nothing to stop it, for some unknown reason.

She cites as her authoritative source Paul Thompson's timeline at, which, for all its flaws, at least makes some pretensions towards relevant citations, and completeness. I have a certain patience for anyone, like Thompson, who at least claims to be trying to lay out the facts for others to draw conclusions. (And I do feel that the Americans never got around to the proper headrolling that such a massive intelligence and airport security failure deserved. Not one resignation. Not one.)

Of course, Thompson's timeline has its problems... it fixates for instance, in its 8:46 a.m entry on the fact that F-16s (probably Air National Guard) stationed at Andrews AFB were doing air-to-ground training in North Carolina that morning, and didn't make it back in time, either. Given that they were configured air-to-ground, it seems unlikely they would have had any live ordnance loaded that could have contributed to the air defence situation, so the point's moot. (And as we've said before, the Andrews F-16s are manned by part-time pilots and have never been part of the Washington defence picture.) In another, it obsesses about F-15 top speeds... it's an unlettered analysis, and we've discussed that before in another context, too.

But what I find really confusing is that Landsberg then proceeds to ignore Thompson's timeline, almost completely. Indeed, she more or less discredits it by citing it saying things it doesn't even say:

On that fateful morning, the first pictures of the burning tower were broadcast at 8:48 a.m. By then, according to a carefully documented timeline... the Federal Aviation Administration, NORAD (joint U.S.-Canada air defence), the Pentagon, the White House and the Secret Service all knew that three commercial passenger jets had been hijacked.

There is no reference in the timeline that matches this statement that I can see. In fact, the timeline correctly cites 8:50 a.m. as the first indication that a third plane is non-responsive and possibly hijacked.

Just two days after the catastrophe, on Sept. 13, Gen. Myers was confirmed as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On that day, he told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that no Air Force jets got into the air until after the attack on the Pentagon [9:38 a.m.].

Myers' quote, again is actually accurately given in the timeline: "After the second tower was hit, [9:03 a.m.] I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft."

Landsberg also cites the Boston Globe's Sept. 15 story on the NORAD response, which quotes a NORAD spokesperson saying that no fighters had been scrambled until 9:40 a.m. Given that Myers had testified as to the time above, and given the utter lack of corroborating evidence (the two F-15 pilots from Otis AFB who went wheels up at 8:52 a.m. have been extensively quoted by now, for instance), this was certainly a misstatement or a misquote, and was not mentioned in the Globe's first major investigative piece on the disaster, heavily relied on in the timelines, dated eight days later. Apparently the Globe didn't think it was an accurate statement, by that point: it only lives on now in the conspiracy corner of the internet. Even Thompson's timeline doesn't cite it.

Quibbling over Thompson's timeline would be a profitable expenditure of time. But when Landsberg cites it as her main source for her newly ratcheted-down doubts about Sept. 11, and then doesn't even read it or quote it correctly, what are we supposed to conclude? Again, I ask, where is this woman's editor when she needs them?

PS: Landsberg, for the full-disclosure record, is the mother of TV talksthingy Avi Lewis, wife of former NDP leader Stephen Lewis, and hence mother-in-law of my former colleague Naomi Klein (and, just coincidentally I'm sure, sister-in-law of WTC replacement architect Daniel Libeskind). No, I've never met her.

Posted by BruceR at 09:57 AM