Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?

Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?

Filed under: General, Dog Trainer, War — Patterico @ 9:11 am

Is the L.A. Times reporting unconfirmed enemy propaganda from an Iraqi stringer with ties to the insurgency? Or is the paper simply misreporting the facts, and failing to seek out and report the military’s side of the story?You be the judge.

On November 15, the L.A. Times ran an article titled Iraqi residents say U.S. airstrike kills 30. The article emphasized that 30+ people, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike. A headline proclaimed: “Victims include women and children, witnesses in Ramadi say. The military has no immediate comment.” The story began as follows:

BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

The aerial attack, which took place late Monday, brought the number of violent deaths reported in Iraq on Tuesday to at least 91, according to military sources and witnesses.

. . . .

A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.

Last Friday, my reader Tom Blumer sent me a link to an interesting blog post, by a blog called “One Oar in the Water,” which attacked the L.A. Times story about the Ramadi airstrike. The post quoted what purported to be an e-mail from a soldier who was involved in the Ramadi incident. The e-mailing soldier claimed that the “Times correspondent in Ramadi” has ties to the insurgency, and is knowingly repeating enemy propaganda:

The [L.A. Times article] is an example of why you simply cannot believe most media reports coming out of Iraq. The LA Time[s] reporter, Solomon Moore, is not in Ramadi. He relies on an Iraqi stringer here who has ties to insurgents. In this article, Moore repeats almost verbatim, insurgent propaganda we have intercepted. The fighting in question occurred in my battle space within Ramadi and I was personally and intimately involved.

The soldier then disputed certain assertions made in the L.A. Times article. The soldier said that there had been no airstrike, and that only a few insurgents had been killed, by small-arms fire and tank fire. The solder concluded the e-mail with a slap at the L.A. Times:

Every target engaged was well within what our restrictive rules of engagement authorize. I am disgusted by the editorial slant of this article, by what passes from journalistic integrity at the LA Times, and by their complicity with our mortal enemies. My Soldiers fight with great precision and skill on a very difficult urban battlefield. The LA Times dishonors them and give aid and comfort to my enemies.

Assuming this alleged e-mail from a Ramadi soldier was genuine and accurate, it made an explosive allegation: that the L.A. Times is relying on a stringer with ties to the insurgency, and is repeating enemy propaganda.

But was it true? I decided to check into it.

My investigation, which I detail below, has revealed that the soldier’s account of the events in question appears to be accurate in most respects. For example:

  • The soldier claimed that there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indicated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong.The military flatly denies that there was an airstrike — a denial that the L.A. Times has failed to report to this day. Several other media reports state that civilians died from small-arms fire and tank fire, and not an airstrike.
  • The soldier claimed that only insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the L.A. Times claimed that women and children were killed. Once again, the soldier’s claims appeared to be true, and the L.A. Times claim false.Other than the L.A. Times report, there is no evidence that women or children were killed in the attack. The available evidence, including other media reports and information through a contact at a Ramadi hospital, indicates that the bodies brought into a Ramadi hospital were all adult males. This fact is suggestive of the possibility that those killed were insurgents, not innocent civilians.
  • The soldier claimed: “No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged”; by contrast, the L.A. Times stringer claimed that “at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment.” There are no media reports with reliable firsthand accounts of pulverized homes.Indeed, I found only one story (published by Reuters) in which a journalist claims to have been on the scene to report observations of the damage firsthand, and he said: “One small structure was burnt out in that street.” Once again, the objective evidence seemed to favor the claims of the soldier.

I also learned that one of the doctors quoted in the L.A. Times story has been quoted in other stories over the years — always telling the media that the U.S. killed women, children, and innocent civilians. Apparently, this doctor has never seen a terrorist or insurgent killed by U.S. forces — or if he has, the media isn’t interested.

I learned one fact that didn’t gibe cleanly with the soldier’s account: most news reports, and my own independent investigation, tended to corroborate the allegation that 30+ people died in Ramadi that night. However, according to all accounts (excepting that provided by the “Times correspondent in Ramadi”), those killed were adult males, killed by fire from tanks — not women and children killed in an airstrike. The fact that 30+ people died, if true, does not necessarily demonstrate the soldier’s account is false. Rather, it suggests that he may have been unaware of the full extent of the carnage caused by the shelling from the tanks.

In the end, I was unable to determine whether the e-mailing soldier was correct when he claimed that the L.A. Times is relying on propaganda supplied by a stringer with ties to insurgents.

However, I can say this: the journalists at the L.A. Times 1) have utterly failed to report the full extent of the military’s side of the story; 2) very likely got some basic facts about the incident wrong; and 3) have done an extremely poor job of explaining the possible limitations on their knowledge — what I like to call “telling the reader what you don’t know as well as what you do know.”

In addition, after talking with numerous sources who are knowledgeable about Iraq, I came away depressed about the poor quality of information we are getting out of that country. Embedded writers and bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael Fumento, and Bill Ardolino will continue to be absolutely critical to understanding what is going on in Iraq, and I encourage you to support embedded bloggers as much as possible.

The full details of what I learned are below, in the extended entry.

[Extended entry]

As I mentioned, there are two significant factual problems with the L.A. Times story, based on the evidence I uncovered. First, it appears that there was no airstrike. Second, it appears that those killed were adult males, not women and children. Let’s start with the lack of an airstrike.

NO AIRSTRIKE

The Military Denies There Was an Airstrike . . . and the L.A. Times Never Reports It

Although the L.A. Times story describes an airstrike on November 13, the military flatly denies that there was any airstrike. In an e-mail, Capt. J. Elaine Hunnicutt (USAF) at CENTCOM told me without qualification that “there were no air strikes on Ramadi Nov. 13 and 14.” Similarly, Major Megan McClung, a Public Affairs Officer with the Marine Corps in Ramadi, said in an e-mail:

Thank you for your interest in setting the record straight on the events of Nov 13 -14. . . . There were no CF [Coalition Forces] air strikes that day.

Despite these clear denials, the L.A. Times has to this day never reported that the military denied that there was an airstrike.

The original L.A. Times story on the alleged airstrike said: “U.S. military officials had no immediate comment on an airstrike in Ramadi.” The use of the word “immediate” suggests that the military press officer had very little time to respond to this new allegation being raised by the reporter.

Did reporter Solomon Moore ever follow up later, to see whether the military confirmed that the story was true? I sent Mr. Moore an e-mail and asked him that very question, along with several others. He never responded.

Other Media Reports Say Nothing About an Airstrike

Are there any other reports of an aerial attack on Ramadi on November 13 or 14? I didn’t see any — but I did find several other reports of Iraqis killed by tank fire.

For example, the Turkish Press reported:

Meanwhile, medical sources in the restive western city of Ramadi reported they had received 32 bodies believed to be of men killed in a tank bombardment by US forces.

A US officer in Ramadi, however, said these were not civilian casualties and were caused by clashes with insurgents planting a bomb.

(One wonders whether that U.S. officer is the same individual who wrote the e-mail quoted earlier in this post, decrying the coverage of the incident by the L.A. Times.)

The AP had this report:

Meanwhile, Ali al-Obaidi, a medic at Ramadi Hospital, said those killed were civilians who died in shelling by U.S. tanks. A police spokesman said 20 people were killed, but gave no information about their identities or how they died.

The U.S. military said it had no information on fresh Ramadi clashes.

Reuters reported:

Iraqi medical officials said at least 30 people were killed in violence overnight in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in what local police described on Tuesday as a US military raid.

. . . .

Local residents, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said U.S. tanks had fired into the area and that those who died were not militants.

There was one media source that apparently reported the possibility that there were airstrikes: Iraqi television. Commenter steve notes a Deutsche Presse-Agentur story that appears to be based on Iraqi TV reports:

In Ramadi, 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, a US military raid killed at least 30 Iraqis and wounded 17, Iraqi television reported Tuesday.

Iraqi police said US military carried out ground and air raids Monday night and Tuesday morning, destroying more than 20 houses. Both Iraqi authorities and the US military refused to comment.

A source who is knowledgeable about Iraq (about whom more below) independently confirmed in a chat that their sources said Iraqi television had given various explanations for the deaths. My source said: “Some channels said tank fire, others said airstrike, [and] others said artillery.” The source added: “You can’t rely on what locals say to reporters. The locals would say what pleases the insurgents.”

Later in the post I’ll discuss a little more about the pitfalls of relying on randomly selected Iraqi civilians. For now, let’s just say that I’m not putting a lot of credence in a press report about something shown on Iraqi TV, repeating the claims of civilians or police who (for all we know) may be terrified by insurgents and terrorists. I’ll place a lot more credence in a reporter on the scene . . . even one from Reuters!

The Military *Did* Say There Was Tank Fire

Why should the reader care whether it was a tank battle or an airstrike? There are at least two reasons.

The first reason is this: we know from the story that the apparently false report of an airstrike originated from an unnamed Iraqi stringer — the mysterious “Times correspondent in Ramadi.” Remember what the Times story said:

A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.

Apparently, the correspondent was wrong. We know nothing about this stringer — his name, his background, or his possible motivations. I asked the reporter for details about the stringer and received no response. If the stringer got this very basic fact wrong, it calls his other reporting into question.

The second reason that it’s important that the deaths were caused by tank fire is this: a tank battle is exactly what the military said had happened — and what the anonymous e-mailer to the One Oar in the Water blog said had happened.

If it was a tank battle, it makes it more likely that the dead were insurgents, killed in a battle that was described by the military in some detail.

The military does not deny that there were deaths that day; it merely says that the dead were anti-Iraqi forces, not civilians, and that they were killed by tank fire and small-arms fire, not an airstrike. The military described the scenario in a November 14 press release, which is available here. Here is how the press release describes the events of Nov. 13:

Coalition Forces killed 11 insurgents in three related incidents in Ramadi.

On Nov. 13, Coalition Forces observed a small number of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device. The insurgents were engaged by Coalition Forces with small arms fire, killing two. The three remaining insurgents returned to the emplacement site and Coalition Forces fired one tank main gun round, killing all three insurgents. There were secondary explosions, and the remains of the IED continued to burn for about an hour.

Following an IED attack on a Coalition Vehicle four hours later in the same vicinity, four insurgents were killed after they attempted to take mission essential equipment from the vehicle. Two of the insurgents were killed by small arms fire and two were killed with one main gun tank round.

This event occurred during curfew hours.

In a separate incident Nov. 14 in the same vicinity, three insurgents were observed emplacing an improvised explosive device. They were engaged with small arms fire and a main tank gun round. Two insurgents were killed.

This sounds a lot like the description of events in the e-mail reprinted by the One Oar in the Water blog:

There were no air strikes anywhere in Ramadi on the day in question. Through two different means, we acquired a group of[]AIF [Anti-Iraqi Forces] emplacing a large IED on a neighborhood street. After I was sure they were enemy, I ordered one of my tanks to engage. Its cannon fire killed the enemy and set off the IED. Shortly afterwards, one of my Bradley crews engaged and killed two more AIF emplacing an IED on a nearby street.

In both cases, we continued to observe the area and the locals left the dead lying in the street; this is a sure sign that they are AIF because the Iraqis normally pick up dead civilians in the street quickly. Later that night, I had a route clearance team move through the area. We found the bodies and removed multiple hand grenades off one of them. During that same operation, one of Bradleys escorting the route clearance team was attacked by an IED. The IED set the Bradley on fire and wounded the three Soldiers aboard. One of those brave men now clings to life with burns over 93% of his body.

We established a security perimeter around the burning vehicle and over-watched it until it burned out and we were able recover the hulk. While over-watching the burning vehicle, we had multiple tank main gun and machine gun engagements against AIF who were desperately trying to steal ammunition from the vehicle (a fool’s errand if ever there was one) or emplace additional IEDs to attack the recovery mission they knew would follow. No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged.

The L.A. Times reported this skirmish in the story — but made it sound like a separate incident, unrelated to the one that killed 30+ people. By reporting the 30 deaths as resulting from an airstrike, the L.A. Times made it sound as though two entirely separate incidents had occurred that day: 1) an airstrike that killed 30+ civilians, and 2) a smaller set of skirmishes involving small-arms fire and tank fire that killed 11 insurgents.

To the contrary, virtually every other media outlet to report on the 30+ deaths said that they occurred from a tank bombardment. This makes it likely that the deaths reported by the media all resulted from the very same tank battle with insurgents described by the military. It is possible that the military mistakenly undercounted the number of people killed in its fight with the enemy.

Lending further credence to that possibility is the fact that the 30+ dead appear to have been adult males, one and all — contrary to the L.A. Times’s suggestion that there were women and children killed. If this is true, it also suggests that the dead were insurgents.

All of this lends credibility to the e-mail published at One Oar in the Water.

I next discuss the evidence I found supporting the claim that the dead were adult males, not women and children.

THE DEAD WERE ADULT MALES, NOT WOMEN AND CHILDREN

Do you recall the lede of the L.A. Times story? It said that there were women and children among the dead:

A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

Who are these “witnesses”? You can read the story again and again, and you’ll never learn. Are we relying on the “Times correspondent in Ramadi” again? You don’t know, and The Times isn’t saying. This is one of the questions that I put to L.A. Times reporter Solomon Moore in my e-mail — the one he didn’t respond to.

All Other Available Media Reports Claim That Men Were Killed in the Attack

Let’s review the other media reports discussed above from Reuters, the AP, and the Turkish Press, with an eye towards whether they claim that women and children were killed.

The AP story says nothing relevant to this issue, so let’s start with the Reuters story discussed above. On this issue, the report says:

An Iraqi police source, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said US forces raided the al-Dhubat district late on Monday and several houses were destroyed.

In one part of the district, a Reuters reporter saw several bodies of adult men still lying in a street, some being placed in coffins by relatives, and a number of body parts. One small structure was burnt out in that street.

This description is critical, because it’s the only report I found from any news agency that claims to have actually had its reporter on the ground, reporting his observations first-hand, rather than taking them from people who might have a hidden agenda. The Reuters reporter didn’t see 15 houses “pulverized.” And he didn’t see dead women and children. What he saw was “several bodies of adult men” and one small burnt-out building. This account is completely consistent with the military’s account.

Recall also the quote from the Turkish Press story:

Meanwhile, medical sources in the restive western city of Ramadi reported they had received 32 bodies believed to be of men killed in a tank bombardment by US forces.

Not even a rabid anti-war journalist covering the story could bring himself to say that there were women and children among the dead. This story was co-written by a rabid anti-war journalist named Dahr Jamail, who has written for Mother Jones, and has given speeches claiming that torture is rampant at Gitmo and elsewhere, and that U.S. doctors and nurses are complicit in that alleged torture. You can find another example of his work at Truthout, titled Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq. The co-author of the article, Ali al-Fadhily, regularly writes with Jamail.

Jamail’s article purports to quote numerous people, including civilians, doctors, and a policeman, saying that over 30 innocent people were killed by tank fire. But it doesn’t say that there were any women or children among the dead.

If women and children were killed, you’d think Mr. Jamail, the anti-war journalist, would be eager to report it. Yet, while he is quick to quote civilians claiming that the men were all innocent, he never says that a single woman or child was killed.

Hmmmmm.

But there’s more!

A Hospital Contact Says All the Bodies Were of Adult Males

A contact that I trust, given the source, corroborates the assertion made explicitly in the Turkish Press and Reuters stories: that the bodies were of adult males.

Here’s how this came about. Through my blogger connections, I was introduced to someone who has been to Iraq and maintains a wide network of Iraqi connections. I’m withholding names, at the party’s request — which was made because of the concern that the party’s Iraqi connections might be identified through their connection and put at risk.

You can place any value on that you like. I’m not like the L.A. Times. I try not to attribute statements to unnamed witnesses without telling you as much as I can about them and why I trust them. I tell you what I know and what I don’t know — and you can use that information and make up your own mind.

For my part, I trust the person who connected us – and found his connection very knowledgeable. I have more confidence in the contact’s assertions than I do in the statements of some random doctor or civilian quoted in the L.A. Times. That’s not to say that I would blindly trust this contact, but I would give the contact’s statements appropriate weight, and examine them together with the other evidence.

The contact personally knows a doctor in a Ramadi who said that, indeed, 30+ bodies did come into the hospital there. They were all adult males, he said. The contact can’t allow me to publish the doctor’s name, because the contacts are maintained by adhering to a strict confidentiality. Doctors like the one quoted are fearful that if they say anything public against the insurgency or Al Qaeda, that their families will be killed.

Take that for what you think it’s worth. If you give no weight to this statement, then look at the numerous published press accounts. The bottom line is this: the great weight of evidence says numerous adult men were killed by tank fire, as opposed to the L.A. Times version — that women and children were killed by an airstrike.

THE DIFFICULTY OF GETTING FACTS FROM IRAQ: CIVILIANS AND DOCTORS ARE INTIMIDATED BY INSURGENTS AND TERRORISTS

I talked to numerous people with experience in Iraq who emphasized to me that it’s just about impossible to get reliable information out of Iraq. Making matters worse, newspapers often don’t send their own reporters in country, and instead have them rely on doctors, civilians, and stringers with unknown agendas.

As you can see from this post, that is a very bad idea that results in the publication of information that you shouldn’t consider trustworthy.

The blogger’s contact I mentioned earlier summed it up this way: “EVERYONE there knows damn well you can’t trust a thing you haven’t seen with your own eyes.” Bill Roggio, who was kind enough to speak with me at length on the phone, said the same thing about doctors. He told me that Al Qaeda either pays off, intimidates, or has sympathizers among many doctors in Iraq.

I spoke to a press officer named Jeffrey Pool, who was referred to me by Bill Roggio. He has been to Iraq and told me:

Based off of my experiences last year I found alleged reports from doctors and “local residents” to be highly suspect. . . . Once you start searching their names you’ll find an all too common consistency in their quotes, “women and children killed”. There are hardly ever any males reported killed, and the doctors usually make the point of saying no males were killed. The number of killed always changes but the storyline doesn’t.

Maj. Pool suspected that this might be true of the doctors quoted with respect to this incident, and encouraged me to Google the names of the doctors in the L.A. Times story. Interestingly, this is also a suggestion that Bill Roggio had made. So I did.

They were right to make that suggestion.

One of the doctors named in the L.A. Times story, Dr. Barakt Mansi, has no Google trail except for stories about this incident. But the doctor identified only as “Dr. Kamal” in the L.A. Times story is identified in other reports about the Nov. 13 incident (such as the Reuters story) as “Kamal Al-Ani.” If you Google Kamal Al-Ani, you find stories like this:

Six Iraqis, including three women and two children, have been killed in a US air strike in the city of Ramadi in western Iraq, a doctor said.

Kamal al-Ani, a doctor at Ramadi hospital, said the bodies of six members of a single family killed in the attack had been brought in, before being released to relatives for burial.

and this story, about a separate incident:

Dr. Kamal Al-Ani, a local hospital official, said the attack wounded five civilians, including three children. Witnesses denied the house was harboring militants.

Don’t we ever kill insurgents or Al Qaeda in Ramadi or Fallujah? If we do, Dr. Kamal Al-Ani doesn’t seem to know about it — or the media isn’t asking.

Maj. Pool emphasized to me that media reports often contradicted things he had seen with his own eyes:

During my year, 2005-2006, I tried to work with Western journalists in Baghdad to verify the information they were getting. There were numerous occasions I watched the live feeds from our surveillance platforms and saw armed men in a field or on the side of a road killed only to see reports from “local residents” and doctors quoted saying the enemy were woman and children.

Maj. Pool, Bill Roggio, and others emphasized to me that many of the doctors and civilians are scared to death. Maj. Pool said:

In part I blame the practice of using unreliable sources. What is a doctor going to say to a reporter if he knows his life and the lives of his coworkers and family could be jeopardy? Extremists will not hesitate in killing someone they deem a threat and since media are vital to the gains of the extremists, control over the local population who speak to the media is essential.

It reminds me of the gang situation in L.A. So very often, everyone on the street knows who killed someone — yet somehow, nobody will speak to the police. When they do talk to police, it’s more common than not that they will deny it when they get to court — even if they said it on tape. You can’t really blame them. Gangs can and do kill witnesses.

It’s the same in Iraq, according to numerous people I have talked to who have been there. Yet where do we see this point of view reflected in Big Media reports like the L.A. Times one above? Rather, Big Media journalists simply regurgitate the claims of doctors and people on the street, as if they were gospel. You never hear the fact that many of them are terrified of insurgents and Al Qaeda.

SO: IS THE L.A. TIMES REPEATING ENEMY PROPAGANDA FROM A STRINGER WITH TIES TO INSURGENTS?

None of this definitively resolves the question I initially sought to investigate: is the L.A. Times is repeating enemy propaganda from a stringer with ties to Iraqi insurgents?

It’s not conclusive that the soldier who allegedly sent the e-mail making that claim appears to have a better grasp of many of the facts than the L.A. Times did. It’s not conclusive that he knew the deaths had occurred from tank fire, while the L.A. Times correspondent thought it was an airstrike. It’s not conclusive that he knew the dead were all adult males, while the L.A Times reported that the dead included women and children.

It’s not conclusive that he knew that there would be no evidence of widespread destruction of houses — and that a Reuters reporter on the scene saw no such evidence.

It’s not conclusive that one of the doctors quoted in the paper is always quoted as talking about women and children dying — but never about insurgents or Al Qaeda dying.

It’s not conclusive that Bill Roggio says the L.A. Times story sounds like “insurgent boilerplate.”

So I tried digging deeper. But I didn’t get anywhere. I tried checking the allegation by contacting people on both ends — the e-mailer and the L.A. Times reporter. Unfortunately, my efforts did not bear fruit.

I tried to get in touch with the soldier directly, by writing the blogger who had reprinted his e-mail, and asking that he pass along my e-mail address to the soldier in question. I never heard back. Although I had conveyed an offer for him to remain anonymous if necessary, the blogger told my reader Tom Blumer that he believed the soldier was concerned about possible negative repercussions.

I can’t tell you how distressed I am by the possibility that the military has evidence our media is being manipulated by a correspondent with ties to insurgents — yet won’t tell the public about it. It’s as if the military is fighting the P.R. war with both hands tied behind its back — and the military is the one which tied its own hands.

As I mentioned above, I also tried hitting the other end of the story, by giving Solomon Moore of the L.A. Times a chance to respond. I sent him an e-mail Monday morning, and asked numerous detailed questions about the story, such as:

  • How did he first hear about the airstrike, and who claimed it was an airstrike?
  • Did he personally speak to anyone quoted in the story? Did he do so in person or over the phone? How did he check the veracity of what they’d said?
  • Which witnesses claimed that women and children had been killed?
  • How did he determine whether the deaths had been caused by an airstrike instead of some other cause?
  • Who claimed that 15 houses had been pulverized? Did he have photos of the destroyed houses?
  • Did he ever check with the military after the story was published to see whether they could confirm or deny that there had been an airstrike? Did anyone from the military ever contact him to respond regarding whether there had been an airstrike?
  • Who was the Times correspondent on whom he relied? To what extent did he rely on that correspondent?
  • How did he ascertain the number of dead?

As I mentioned above, Moore never responded to my e-mail, which I sent out Monday morning. I copied it to the Readers’ Representative, who sent me her own response, which is fairly summarized as follows: “The answer to all your questions is right there in the article.” Of course, it wasn’t — which made the response even more amusing.

I also tried putting out feelers for people who are actually serving on the ground in Ramadi. That didn’t lead anywhere either, unfortunately. A few people wrote to say that they knew someone who was serving there. But I never heard back from any of them.

So I can’t tell you whether it’s true that the L.A. Times is repeating propaganda from a stringer with ties to insurgents.

But I can tell you this: I don’t have the resources of the L.A. Times. Yet in my spare time from my full-time job, using widely available resources on the Web and contacts built up through blogging, I probably got a more accurate picture of what happened in Ramadi on November 13 than the paid reporter for the L.A. Times did.

In doing so, I found I learned something important about reporting from Iraq in general. Big Media journalists often rely on sources that are unreliable. They don’t tell you the pressures these sources might be under from insurgents and terrorists. They refuse to tell you who their stringers are, so we can assess their motivations. They get quotes from doctors who seem to see only civilian deaths. If the military has been given insufficient time to respond to an allegation, these journalists don’t check with the military later, to verify that the story they’ve written is accurate. And sometimes, as here, their stories are completely at odds with numerous other accounts reported in other press outlets — and they seem to have no interest in finding out why.

It’s very sobering to realize that much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable. And it’s a bigger issue than whether the L.A. Times got a single story wrong on November 15.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit, Power Line, Hot Air, Captains Quarters, Winds of Change, Blackfive, and others for the links. You can bookmark the main page here and subscribe to this site via Bloglines by clicking this button and choosing the first feed:

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