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Another Right-Wing Smear Campaign Snuffed

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Bob Geiger

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I wrote an article on November 27 about how the Iraq war had endured longer than World War II and described the worsening conditions there, characterized by hundreds of Iraqis being killed in bombings over the previous weekend and a horrifying episode in which the Associated Press (AP) reported that six Sunnis were burned alive by Shiite militiamen. What followed the AP's reporting on this story was a feeding frenzy on the part of right-wing bloggers in which they, in a nutshell, accused the AP of making up the story to make conditions in Iraq appear worse then they are. Specifically, they called into question the very existence of the reporters' corroborating source, an Iraqi police captain named Jamil Hussein. Many conservative bloggers strongly implied or wrote directly that the Sunni immolation had never occurred and, when the AP released a follow-up story citing eyewitnesses to the incident, I wrote another piece in which I called on the blogs involved to apologize to the AP. These bastions of journalistic integrity include Michelle Malkin -- big surprise there, right? -- Powerline, Newsbusters, The Jawa Report and a small blog called Flopping Aces, which made its big break into the right-wing nutosphere by pushing this non-story to the hilt. Iraqi officials and the U.S. military, wanting also to squash the AP's story, decided to spin the tale that Hussein did not even exist. This led to days of me being bombarded with e-mails and hounding comments from at least a hundred wingnuts who called my ethics into question and accused me of being complicit in spreading fabricated news. Other Progressive bloggers were also in their faces, which I'm sure caused them to be the target of much the same treatment. After it looked like the AP had substantiated its story as well as one can in an active war zone, I slammed the bloggers and their readers for, among many things, wasting so much time trying to prove just one of thousands of hideous stories coming out of Iraq was untrue while not seeming to give a damn about our almost 3,000 war dead -- at the time -- based on our country being lied into this pointless war by their main boy, George W. Bush. Malkin was so rabid in chasing ghosts on this fictional story (about a fictional story) that she claims she was in the process of planning a trip to Iraq "to investigate the Associated Press/'Jamil Hussein' story." No, I'm not kidding. Which brings us to last night, when what should show up in my e-mail inbox but a note from Linda Wagner, from the AP's Corporate Communications Department, telling me that -- what the hell do ya know? -- the Iraqi Interior Ministry now admits that Captain Jamil Gholaiem Hussein is not only a real, live human being, but he's now facing arrest for speaking to the media. Here's an excerpt from the AP story yesterday:
Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press. The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque. The U.S. military and the Iraqi Interior Ministry raised the doubts about Hussein in questioning the veracity of the AP's initial reporting on the incident, and the Iraqi ministry suggested that many news organization were giving a distorted, exaggerated picture of the conflict in Iraq. Some Internet bloggers spread and amplified these doubts, accusing the AP of having made up Hussein's identity in order to disseminate false news about the war. Khalaf offered no explanation Thursday for why the ministry had initially denied Hussein's existence, other than to state that its first search of records failed to turn up his full name. He also declined to say how long the ministry had known of its error and why it had made no attempt in the past six weeks to correct the public record.
Of course, now that they've been caught for the umpteenth time writing nonsense and smearing people using "facts" that turn out to be utter rubbish, most of the conservative bloggers are either shrugging their shoulders or continuing to spin outlandish excuses for why their bizarre quest is still righteous. And I guess that's to be expected. I've often heard that the best liars are those who can deeply delude themselves into believing that they are actually telling the truth and I'm sure that, while a few of these characters may have a nugget of reality-laced guilt deep in their psyches, most of them will simply find a new justification to make everything hunky dory in their twisted world. This is the last I will speak of this episode because, to a large extent, discovering that a bunch of conservative bloggers and their pathetic readers have been smearing a person or organization based on total fiction is hardly news. This is what these people do -- it's part of their lifestyle. To push that issue is like asking a Republican Congressman to use a computer with his pants on. Next month, it will be something else and, once the presidential campaign heats up, get ready for a tsunami of unsubstantiated slime. I'm guessing it will be that Hillary Clinton is carrying Jamil Hussein's love child, but who knows what they'll come up with next time? John Edwards' mind controlled by space aliens, anyone? And no word from Malkin yet on whether or not her deeply-serious investigative road show to Iraq -- which I'm sure would have been played out from the confines of the Green Zone Ritz Carlton -- is canceled or if she's simply going to make her next big story a trip to Capitol Hill to see if these so-called "Nancy Pelosi" and "Harry Reid" people do indeed exist. But I'm sure we'll hear a lot about it soon. You can read more from Bob at BobGeiger.com.
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Bob Geiger is a writer, activist and Democratic operative in Westchester County, NY.
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