This proves that those who argue that mainstream news is "filtered" are sadly mistaken. There is no filter between the military and the media; it's a direct channel. In fact, all of the traditional obstacles have been meticulously swept away so the fairy tales that originate in the Pentagon end up on America's front pages, TV screens and airwaves with as little interference as possible.
In the present case, we were told that "hundreds of gunmen from a 'messianic cult' (Soldiers of Heaven) planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill clerics on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar." We are expected to believe that they put their wives and children in the line of fire so they could conceal their real intention to lay siege to the city.
How many men would willingly drag their families into battle?
According to the Associated Press: "Their aim was to kill as many leading clerics as possible, including the main ayatollahs, which would include Iraq's main spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. . . . Najaf government officials indicated that the militants included both Shiite and Sunni extremists, as well as foreign fighters."
What we know now is that there were no foreign fighters (or al Qaida, as was originally stated), nor were there any Sunni militants. It was a group of Shiites who were rivals of the Shiite-led government (the SCIRI and Da'wa parties which represent Muqtada al Sadr and Abdel Aziz al-Hakim).
So what really happened?
Apparently, a fight broke out at a checkpoint between government forces (Shiite) and the rival group. (who were also Shiites) Shots were fired, the violence escalated, and government soldiers were quickly overpowered. So, they called for backup from the US military saying that they were under attack by al Qaida and Sunni insurgents. It was all rubbish, but the military believed it, sent in F-16s and helicopter gunships and buried the group under a carpet of bombs. (It is expected that women and children were killed in the bombing)
In fact, many in the media celebrated the slaughter of the Iraqi pilgrims as though they were revisiting the "Battle of the Bulge." Here's a typical account from the AP: "US and British jets bombed and strafed the militants, the US Air Force said Monday. US F-16s and A-10 jets dropped 500-pound bombs on insurgent positions, the Air Force said."
Hoorah! More innocent people butchered!
Say what you will about the corporate media; they still haven't lost their appetite for carnage.
Neither has the decider-in-chief who, when asked about the attack, answered, "My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something."
What the Iraqis "showed" Bush was how easy it is to dupe the US military into carrying out their genocidal reprisals against rival groups. Just as the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias are "laying low" while the US military ethnically cleanses Sunni neighborhoods throughout Baghdad, so too, the Shiite-led Iraqi government is now using American firepower to eliminate their potential Shiite enemies.
Apparently, Bush is as happy with this new arrangement as the Shiite warlords who now run the country.
A spokesman from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense said that "200 terrorists were killed and 60 wounded," lowering the original estimates.
"Terrorist families" (including children) or just plain old terrorists?
Whatever the precise details may be, the official version is utter nonsense. That's why the survivors of the attack are being prevented from speaking to the press. Just like the bombed-out wedding party in Anbar Province, or the Jessica Lynch fiasco; the official version is "always right" as long as there is no competing narrative.
The bottom line is that the US military is now being used as an "enforcer" in tribal and clan-based disputes. This will make it even more difficult for Washington to prove that it's an honest broker that can reconcile the differences between the between the warring factions. With every reckless act of violence, the US becomes further mired in an "unwinnable" war in a hostile country. Only the American corporate media thinks that that's something to cheer about.