More on Qana and the Question of Staged Photos:
I'm not sure of what I make of the evidence David mentions
that the photographs of Qana were staged (for reasons suggested in the comment thread), but I think it's worth pointing out that the reporters at the Qana site included both still photographers and video cameramen. So if the photographs were staged, I would imagine that there is video of the staging that can either confirm the reports or show they are false. You can find some video of the events that morning at YouTube
, although based on my quick check, I didn't see video of the exact episodes covered by "EU Referendum". If someone finds video of the events that were alleged to have been staged, send me the link at my law.gwu.edu account and I'll post an update.
That Was Quick:
In my last post (linked below), I wondered whether the MSM would seriously investigate allegations that some of the photos taken by photojournalists at Qana, including a few that appeared in major newspapers around the world, were staged. Answer--No!
The AP said information from its photo editors showed the events were not staged, and that the time stamps could be misleading for several reasons, including that web sites can use such stamps to show when pictures are posted, not taken. An AFP executive said he was stunned to be questioned about it. Reuters, in a statement, said it categorically rejects any such suggestion.
"It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor.
Carroll said in addition to personally speaking with photo editors, "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described."
Photographers are experienced in recognizing when someone is trying to stage something for their benefit, she said.
"Do you really think these people would risk their lives under Israeli shelling to set up a digging ceremony for dead Lebanese kids?" asked Patrick Baz, Mideast photo director for AFP. "I'm totally stunned by first the question, and I can't imagine that somebody would think something like that would have happened."
Indeed, Little Green Footballs reports that the AP has already given its "Lebanese Team" its "Beat of the Week" Prize.
I'm a little surprised, though not shocked, by the arrogance of the answers. Carroll's answer is ridiculous. We know that photojournalists have been caught staging (and beyond that, faking) photos in the past. For example, local Palestinian stringers, including some working for major news agencies, have been known to assist in "creating" news photos and video. The idea that photojournalists are somehow beyond reproach and never engage in staging defies credulity. Moreover, it's possible the photos were staged by the locals, with the photojournalists unwitting accomplices.
Also, Carroll, apparently criticizing Rush Limbaugh, who attacked the photos for abeing staged, says: "It's hard to imagine how someone sitting in an air-conditioned office or broadcast studio many thousands of miles from the scene can decide what occurred on the ground with any degree of accuracy," said Kathleen Carroll, AP's senior vice president and executive editor. Right. That's why, Ms. Carroll, you don't really know whether the photos were staged until you investigate thoroughly. Aren't you sitting in an office thousands of miles from the scene?
Baz's response goes to the conspiracy theories around whether the Qana deaths were really caused by an Israeli air strike, but say nothing about whether the photos were staged. We don't have a quote from anyone at Reuters, but, if anything, my presumption would be against trusting anything Reuters says that relates in any way to the Middle East. Without further evidence, I trust Reuters denials as much as Al-Manar television. [I have one link above, but to get a full flavor of the tenor of Reuters' mideast coverage, google "al reuters".]
There is no indication that any of these agencies have investigated why the "rescue worker" holding the baby in the most famous photos (including one lavished with praise by the AP's bigwigs that appeared on the front page of 33 newspapers worldwide) was also filmed holding a dead baby for the cameras 10 years ago. (He's identified in some news reports as civil defense worker Abu Shadi Jradi [update: who by the way lied about finding the bodies of at least 27 children in the wreckage--see link below, only 28 bodies, 19 of them children, have been found as of almost two days later]; despite being on the scene ten years ago, and also after an explosion in Tyre last week, neither Google nor Lexis have any other record of his existence under that name, or at least that spelling--any Arabic speakers out there want to Google the name in Arabic?). Nor are the agencies releasing the time-stamped photos that would remove doubt about chronology.
Meanwhile, EU Referendum continues its investigation of the photos.
I'm not saying the photos in question were definitely staged. I'm saying legitimate questions were raised about the possible staging of some of the most influential news photos of the year. For the news wire agencies to simply pooh-pooh the claims does not suggest a serious commitment to transparency.
UPDATE (Moved up from Comments): Just to be clear, I don't think the question of whether or not the photos were staged has any bearing on one's view of the Israel-Party of God conflict (even if they were actually faked, not just stage,that would be the least of Hezbollah's sins). It also doesn't change my view of the overall situation if 60 (original reports) 28 (more recent reports of how many bodies the Red Cross actually found there; of note that the reporters at the scene quoted the higher figure basd on pure hearsay;) or zero (conspiracy theorists) civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Qana. So long as Israel has taken reasonable precautions to limit civilian casualties, as it has, the moral responsibility for any death lies with the Party of God for using Qana as a staging ground for attacks on Israel, knowing (far better than Israel) that civilians had remained in the village and were at risk. So why care if the photos were staged? Well, if that's your attitude, why not just have Oliver Stone recreate the scene and spread those photos around the international media?
Mystery Deepens--Who is "Green Helmet'?:
"Green Helmet" is moniker EU Referendum has given to the mystery man who appears in the most famous photo to come out of Qana, of a grieving man identified as a rescue worker holding up the body of a dead baby. He was also photographed holding up a dead baby for the cameras in 1996 in Qana dressed in fatigues, and mysteriously in Sreefa the day after the Qana incident (when rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble at Qana) [you can see the photos here--warning, disturbing images]. Oddly, he was also photographed in Qana holding a dead child while in full rescue worker gear in one picture, and in another holding the same child dressed just in a t-shirt, sans flak jacket, flourescent jacket, radio and helmet.
The AP interviewed a rescue worker identified as Abu Shadi Jradi at the scene, who claimed that the bodies of at least 27 children were pulled from the wreckage (even though only 28 bodies total were ultimately found, according to the Red Cross). This may or may not be the same person.
"Green Helmet" is identified in this Arabic news video as one "Abdel Qader" (I have this from two Arabic speakers). He says in the video that fifteen bodies have been pulled from the wreckage, and he estimates that there were 210 total victims. (My Arabic-speaking sources had trouble understanding much of the rest of the dialogue, as Mr. Qader is speaking extremely quickly and crying). Who is Abdel Qader? Is he the same fellow as Abu Shadi Jadri? Is he just a beleaguered relief worker? A Party of God propaganda agent? Both?
UPDATE: IsraelInsider makes the case that Qader and Jadri are the same person, and that perhaps he is in charge of the hospital morgue in Tyre. This could provide an innocent, or sinister, explanation, for some of what occured; IsraelInsider prefer sinister. If Qader lied about the 27 bodies, that's some evidence for sinister. But it's also possible that he said something like "at least 27 casualties" (which is how many there turned out to be) and the reporter wrote down, or remembered, "27 child casualties".
Revealing CNN Transcript:
While I'm on the subject of media coverage of the Israel-Party of God war, here is a very revealing excerpt from CNN's Reliable Sources, July 23rd:
KURTZ: All right. I want to go now to CNN's Nic Robertson, who joins us live from Beirut.
Nic Robertson, we were speaking a moment ago about the way journalists cover Hezbollah and some of these tours that Hezbollah officials have arranged of the bomb damage in the areas of Southern Lebanon. You, I believe, got one of those tours.
Isn't it difficult for you as a journalist to independently verify any claims made by Hezbollah, because you're not able to go into the buildings and see whether or not there is any military activity or any weapons being hidden there?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Howard, there's no doubt about it: Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operations. In fact, beyond that, it has very, very good control over its areas in the south of Beirut. They deny journalists access into those areas. They can turn on and off access to hospitals in those areas. They have a lot of power and influence. You don't get in there without their permission.
And when I went we were given about 10 or 15 minutes, quite literally running through a number of neighborhoods that they directed and they took us to.
What I would say at that time was, it was very clear to me that the Hezbollah press official who took us on that guided tour — and there were Hezbollah security officials around us at the time with walkie-talkie radios — that he felt a great deal of anxiety about the situation. And they were telling him — I just listened to an explosion going off there, coming from the southern suburbs. They were — they were telling him — a second explosion there. They were telling here — rumbling on — they were telling him get out of this area, and he was very, very anxious about it.
But there's no doubt about it. They had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn't have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.
So what we did see today in a similar excursion, and Hezbollah is now running a number of these every day, taking journalists into this area. They realize that this is a good way for them to get their message out, taking journalists on a regular basis. This particular press officer came across his press office today, what was left of it in the rubble. He pointed out business cards that he said were from his office that was a Hezbollah press office in that area.
So there's no doubt that the bombs there are hitting Hezbollah facilities. But from what we can see, there appear to be a lot of civilian damage, a lot of civilian properties. But again, as you say, we didn't have enough time to go in, root through those houses, see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, taxi driver there...
KURTZ: So to — so to what extent...
ROBERTSON: ... of access, Howard.
KURTZ: To what extent do you feel like you're being used to put up the pictures that they want — obviously, it's terrible that so many civilians have been killed — without any ability, as you just outlined, to verify, because — to verify Hezbollah's role, because this is a fighting force that is known to blend in among the civilian population and keep some of its weapons there?
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. And I think as we try and do our job, which is go out and see what's happened to the best of our ability, clearly, in that environment, in the southern suburbs of Beirut that Hezbollah controls, the only way we can get into those areas is with a Hezbollah escort. And absolutely, when you hear their claims they have to come with — with a — more than a grain of salt, that you have to put in some journalistic integrity. That you have to point out to the audience and let them know that this was a guided tour by Hezbollah press officials along with security, that it was a very rushed affair.
ROBERTSON: That there wasn't time to go and look through those buildings. The audience has to know the conditions of that tour. But again, if we didn't get all — or we could not get access to those areas without Hezbollah compliance, they control those areas.
ROBERTSON: And I think to bring the audience the full picture of what's happening in Beirut, you have to go into those southern suburbs.
KURTZ: All right.
ROBERTSON: Because that's where the vast majority of bombs were falling.
KURTZ: I understand.
ROBERTSON: Again, they come with a health warning that we cannot vouch for everything that Hezbollah is saying. And I think the audience is sophisticated enough to appreciate that, Howard.
UPDATE: For those who may be curious, below "the fold" is the report Robertson gave after his tour. He makes it clear that Hezbollah organized the tour, and implies that Hezbollah controlled access to the relevant neighborhood, and doesn't mention that he wasn't permitted to walk around on his own, only that he was given "exclusive access" to the neighborhood "with security". I also don't see the "health warning" he mentions above. I wonder to what extent, if any, other correspondents have made any of this clear in their reports.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And thank you all for being with us.
Tonight, an exclusive in our top story coverage — for the first time, we're going to take you into Israel's top priority target, the Beirut neighborhoods where Hezbollah is now in control.
Before we go in depth, though, here's where the crisis stands at this hour.
Just into CNN, word of a major change in policy for Americans stuck in Lebanon — CNN has just confirmed that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has decided that all evacuees will not be asked to sign a promissory note to reimburse the government before they will be evacuated.
Only 350 of an estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon have helicoptered out so far. Two cruise ships are expected to dock tomorrow.
Israeli jets continue hitting Beirut — the latest explosions lighting up the skies just a short time ago. Israeli leaders say they're prepared to fight Hezbollah for weeks, and may even send in ground troops into Lebanon.
Hezbollah is vowing to keep fighting as well. Rockets are still thundering across northern Israel, hitting, among other places, the city of Haifa.
President Bush and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah spoke just a short time ago, both expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in Lebanon.
In our control room, we have correspondents on the front lines, in Beirut, along the Israeli-Lebanese border.
And, on the home front, Deborah Feyerick joins us from Dearborn, Michigan, tonight.
The most dangerous place in the world tonight is probably southern Beirut. That's where our top story coverage begins.
For the first time in the fighting, Hezbollah is allowing a CNN crew into this tightly controlled area, literally the top priority for Israeli attacks.
Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins me from Beirut with his exclusive report — Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, there have been explosions here.
Just a little over an hour ago, two very large, huge, thunderous explosions sounded as if they were bunker-buster-type bombs. There have been attacks all over Lebanon today. We were given exclusive access by Hezbollah, by their media office, with security, into an area of southern Beirut where they were expecting the possibility of Israeli airstrikes at any time.
They wanted to show us that their civilians are being caught up in this conflict. When Israelis say that they are targeting the leadership of Hezbollah, when they say they're targeting the military of Hezbollah. Hezbollah wanted to show us, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, densely populated, that this area is an area where civilians are getting caught up in the conflict, that the bombing has been all over Lebanon today.
ROBERTSON: Where are we going now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we are moving to where Israeli jet fighters bombed what it called Hezbollah headquarters. I am going to show you on the ground that this is — these are buildings inhabited by civilians, innocent civilians.
ROBERTSON: We are moving around very quickly here, I noticed. Are you concerned that there could be strikes at any times?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never know when Israeli jet fighters come and hit any target in this area. So, now we are objected to any fire from Israel.
ROBERTSON: It could come down right here at any moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, right here. There's now jet fighters in the sky.
ROBERTSON: There's jets in the sky right now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. So, you never know when they hit this area.
ROBERTSON: And what happened here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of the bombs that fell. And look what happened to this building, which is all, like, inhabited by innocent civilians living there, people who are just working, like everybody else, no military bases, nothing, no anti-aircraft fire, just building, people living there.
ROBERTSON: How many people were — were killed and injured in this particular attack here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks God, people evacuated these buildings early. And, luckily, no one was killed in this — in such attacks.
But I want to tell you something. Where is the international community? Where is the Security Council? Where is the United Nations? Where is the whole world? We are under fire.
ROBERTSON: You are really worried about another strike here right now, yes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, of course.
ROBERTSON: How dangerous is it in this area at the moment?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very dangerous. It's — we are now the most dangerous place in the most dangerous moment.
ROBERTSON: In civilian housing.
Well, what — what — what was here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just look. Shoot. It is civilians, buildings. Look at this building. Is it a military base? Is it a military base, or just civilians living in this building?
ROBERTSON: Now, that tour we had was a very brief tour.
But, in that time, all the evidence that we saw, everything we saw around us, looked like civilian buildings. We didn't any military hardware lying around. We didn't go into the buildings and look. But all the belongings that you could see pouring and strewn out of the buildings into the rubble all looked like that they were fallen out of regular, normal civilian housing — Paula.
ZAHN: Extraordinary pictures. None of us have seen anything like that before, clearly, Nic.
Now, at the top of your report, you were reminding us that, just about 20 minutes before you went on the air with us here, there were more airstrikes. Can you give us an update on what you think was being targeted then and how far those strikes were away from where you are standing right now?
ROBERTSON: You know, what we saw in southern Beirut were areas of civilian housing that had been targeted, collapsed buildings that have been leveled to the ground. Those big booms that we heard a little earlier sounded like bunker busters. And I say that because there was a sort of a — an initial thump, and, then, after, a huge boom right behind it.
It is not clear exactly where those bombs were striking. We heard the Israeli aircraft overhead a little bit before. It won't be until daylight, I think, that we can get a — a better analysis of what has been hit. But, again, the Israelis say they're targeting the military infrastructure of Hezbollah. Hezbollah doesn't have barracks. It doesn't have places where it — it houses its — its armed wing. It makes it very, very difficult for anyone wanting to target that military infrastructure — Paula.
ZAHN: So, how much did you trust the man who was taking you on the tour, if, in fact, Hezbollah blends in so seamlessly into this civilian infrastructure there?
ROBERTSON: The area we were in was absolutely deserted.
The — the houses that we could see that were broken apart and the — and the belongings strewn out of the side of the buildings into the road, all were civilian possessions. I — I have been in bombed- out areas where there has been military equipment before.
It gets lying — it's laid around in the road, in the rubble. Nobody had been tidying up this area. I was also very struck by the fact that the people we were with, despite the fact that they said morale was very high, that they would fight to the end, that they weren't afraid of dying, were very concerned about being in that precise area, very, very concerned.
The young man we were with seemed very agitated. There were other people around who were clearly in touch with a situ — with a bigger situation, who were telling him: You know, get out of this area. Get out now very quickly.
So, I — I believe that what we saw there was civilian housing. And, again, we did not see any sort of military infrastructure whatsoever in that brief time — Paula.
ZAHN: Nic Robertson, thanks so much for the update.
UPDATE: Kudos to Richard Engel of MSNBC, for actually doing some investigative reporting. Strata-sphere has some more photos from Qana that appear staged, and a generally reasonable perspective on the matter.
Some More Details About Qana:
Early reports: Israel struck a four-story building in the early morning hours; or, according to CNN's Ben Wedeman on July 30, the bomb hit "right next" to the building. Wedeman also reported that the building was supposed to have been the sturdiest in Qana, which is why the victims hid there!
The next day, CNN's Brent Sadler reports that the the locals (who certainly aren't trying to get Israel off the hook) told him that the building was not struck, but that a target 20 to 30 meters (65 to 100 feet) was hit, with the blast causing the building to collapse. And according to the July 31 Lebanon Star, the building was not a sturdy four-story apartment building, but a "half-finished," three-story house, which may explain why it collapsed. Also according to the Star, the refugees were not hiding in the basement, but on the ground floor, behind a pile of dirt and sand that they hoped would protect them.
The later reports seem more reliable, as the reporters in question actually seem to have done some investigation, and questioned locals. None of this changes the basic outlines of the story: Hezbollah is firing from civilian areas, Israel warns the residents to leave, some residents don't/can't leave, and get killed in an Israeli strike that collapses a building. But it does change some of the details. Conspiracy theorists relied on various discrepancies in the early reports to charge that Qana was a total Party of God setup. It turns out that many of these discrepancies were just sloppy reporting (besides the above, some media outlets gave an incorrect timeline of the building's collapse, and others accepted estimates of body counts as facts, even though they were not yet substantiated, and turned out to be wrong). The nearby pile of dirt and sand also explains how the victims could have easily been asphyxiated, ruining another element of the conspiracy theories (claiming that the lack of blood and bruises is evidence of sham). On the other side of things, if Sadler and the Star are right, it's wrong to speak of an Israeli "attack on an apartment building." An under-construction home is not an apartment building, (nor is it the most likely place to think refugees would be hiding, for those who claim that Israel intentionally "murdered" civilians), and if the bomb landed up to 100 feet away from the building, the actual target may have been an entirely different building, a nearby missile launcher, etc.
The lesson from all this is that it's a mistake to rely on initial journalistic accounts of an event, especially when the journalists in question don't speak the language, and haven't had the time to investigate in any event.
More on the Media and Lebanon:
Remember the AP's Kathleen Carroll's response to questions regarding whether AP photos taken at Qana were staged? "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described." Via EU Referendum, here is a group of these competitive journalists, all struggling to outcompete each other by investigating what happened at Qana: how many dead and wounded? why are none of the reported victims men? did the Party of God (Hezbollah) fire missiles from the building that collapsed or from the close vicinity? use that building or one nearby as a headquarters or a hiding place? were there overt signs of civilian habitation that Israel should have been aware of?
Oops. Actually, these "competitive journalists" all appear to be standing at about the same spot near some especially stark rubble (from what appears, if you look at other photos, to be from an entirely different building) waiting, as EU comments "for the next photo-opportunity to be presented to them." EU also provides a great deal more seemingly damning context that suggests staging, and I'd be interested to see a response from the news wires.
Meanwhile, remember Israel's attack on a "hospital" in Baalbeck Tuesday night? That's how I heard it reported in several newscasts. You may have missed this paragraph in the Washington Post (hat tip to EyeonthePost):
Halutz said the hospital building was being used as a Hezbollah logistics base and storage site for weapons. Hezbollah fighters prohibited reporters from approaching the hospital, which they said had been emptied of patients at the beginning of the war. Local officials said a number of Hezbollah fighters and guards were inside.
Hmm, a "hospital" with no patients? And with Party of God terrorists inside instead? And that reporters aren't allowed to approach?
Meanwhile, here is a report by an AP employee, who reported the Party of God's lies about the "hospital raid" without any qualifications. Does it not occur to reporters that a totalitarian terrorist movement that keeps a very tight leash on reporters in the territory it controls may lie to them occasionally? And if you think that sloppy (at best) reporting has no effect on how the conflict is perceived, note the first comment under this article, by an equally credulous reader: "I guess it goes with a true democracy's right to self-defense to attack hospitals. I am sure that there must have been a rocket launcher parked in the operating room of that hospital. No way Israel, being a model democracy, would attack a hospital over 100 km from its border unless its citizens were being threatened by patients in their hospital gowns!"
UPDATE: In the comments below, VC readers Fisk and destroy a column by one Tom Clonan, circulating around Leftist Internet news services, that makes wild claims about Party of God missiles and alleged Israeli intentions to purposely kill civilians. One additional point: What are Clonan's qualifications to make broad pronouncements on military hardware in Lebanon, and Israel's military strategy? "Dr. Tom Clonan, a retired (Irish) Army captain, lectures in the political economy of communications in the Institute of Technology, Tallaght." Three of his years in the army were spent as a press officer. His PhD thesis is on the roles and status assigned female personnel in the Defence Forces. You know the pro-terrorist side is getting desperate when they need to trot out stuff like this. Next up: a home economics teacher reveals that Israel is poisoning Lebanese muffins.
More Media news from the Israel-Party of God War:
By popular demand (lots of emails): Reuters has pulled a photo of Beirut doctored by one of its "photojournalists" to make damage from Israeli air strikes look worse than it was. This photographer was one of the photographers who took somne of the most dramatic of what appear to be staged photos in Qana. Kudos to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs for discovering the fraud. And remember how the various news agencies, including Reuters, were shocked at the very suggestion that some photos in Qana might have been staged? Certainly, photographers willing to doctor photos would be willing to stage them.
Meanwhile, according to the IDF, it has destroyed missile launchers that launched the missile that collapsed a building today in Haifa. The launchers were based, according to the IDF, in Qana. One of the sillier, and oddly popular (even among those you would expect to know better), attacks on the IDF I've seen regarding Qana, is that the IDF apparently has acknowledged that no missiles were launched from Qana on the day that the IDF bombed what it believed to be Party of God positions there; as if there is some rule of war that if your enemy fires from a position on Saturnday, you are only allowed to strike back on Saturday.
Finally, I've been checking Informed Comment here and there, and while, as long time readers know, I've never been a Juan Cole fan, he seems to have really lost it lately. Just for example:
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday rejected European criticism of Israel's massive bombing of Lebanon and its killing of hundreds of innocent civilians. He pointed to Kosovo as precedent for what he was doing.
Olmert also said he thought he might just murder Hasan Nasrallah.
Uh, Ehud, you're supposed to be playing NATO in this interview, remember? Not Milosevic. You're getting your precedents for murder, mass or otherwise, mixed up.
Besides, the whole analogy is wrong. Milosevic's forces were ethnically cleansing the Kosovars. NATO was protecting the latter (and the Israeli government of the time supported this effort, given its alliance with Turkey). Who was Hizbullah ethnically cleansing in early July? In fact, it is the Israelis who have behaved in the past two weeks like Milosevic's Serbian troops, who systematically attempted to displace the Kosovars during the war. And then the NATO estimate is that their campaign killed 5000 Serbian military personnel and at most 1500 civilians. Israel's war has killed nearly 700 (maybe 900) civilians and many fewer Hizbullah fighters. So, the argument fails on all counts.
First off, "murder" is Cole's word, not Olmert's, who apparently said that Israeli forces might assassinate Nasrallah. Does Cole really think that targeting the head of a terrorist organiztion that has killed many of one's countries civilians would be "murder?" In the midst of a war against that organization? Bizarre.
Let's assume that Cole's casualty counts are correct (he's still exaggerating the death toll from Qana on his site--claiming without a stitch of evidence that 13 "missing" in Qana, are "almost certainly dead", even though local officials say the opposite--o I don't see any reason to trust him on the other figures.) NATO killed up to 1,500 civilians, and over 6,000 Serbs total. And that was because Serbia was threatening to wipe NATO off the face of the earth. No wait, that was Nasrallah making such threats against Israel, who is allied with Iran, which very much promises to do this to Israel. And as I recall, tens(hundreds?) of thousands of Serbs ultimately had to permanently flee from areas held by the Bosnians, despite NATO "protection," so it's not like NATO didn't exact a far worse price than Israel among "innocent" civilians. Apparently, Israel's big crime in Cole's mind was not to wait until Iran and the Party of God actually began to make significantly more progress on their threat to commit genocide.
UPDATE: I could go on about Cole, but will leave it with one more thought: Cole is trafficking in a conspiracy theory that takes the obvious fact that Iran is an oil-producing country of strategic interest to the U.S. and spins it into an elaborate, economically illiterate theory explaining U.S. and Israeli policy in Lebanon by reference to something called "peak oil." Why care? Last I heard, he was the most popular Mideast policy blogger on the Left.
FURTHER UPDATE: The New York Times online headline this morning blared that Israel killed 40 civilians in Lebanon in an air strike, sourced to Lebanon's Prime Minister. A few hours later, the headline changes to "Death Toll Was Incorrect, Lebanon's leader says." But we don't find out what the death toll actually was until the ninth paragraph of the article. The answer is, allegedly, one.
More Lebanon Media Notes:
I've got to hand it to Howard Kurtz and CNN's Reliable Sources. This weekly program has by far provided the best insight into press coverage of the Israel-Party of God conflict that I've seen (e.g., see this post). On this week's program:
(1) Party of God threatens to kill reporters. Richard Engel of NBC news admits:
"They've not tried to stop us filming other events while we're in the field, but they have, on several occasions, threatened reporters here in Tyre, south Lebanon. From the location where we're standing right now, we've been able to see, today and on other days, outgoing Katyusha rockets. And on more than one occasion people from Hezbollah have come and said, "Do not film the locations of these rockets when they're being launched."
At one time, when we were talking and having a conversation with this Hezbollah representative, he said, "Look, we're serious, we will kill you if you film these outgoing rockets." So it is a threat, but when we've been out in the field, we've not had situations where they told us to stop filming.
Combine that with previous coverage (see link below) that the Party of God has been taking the media on controlled tours of damaged areas, and also that "The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one," and a picture of an intimidated, at-least-somewhat controlled media in Hezbollahland begins to emerge.
(2) The only "compelling stories" in Lebanon involve besieged civilians. Engel again: "There are very few people left in the villages now. The only people, when we went recently, and found were just young military-age men, most likely Hezbollah or Amal Party fighters. So it is difficult to continue to find compelling stories, but every day the conflict is changing." Terrorists, apparently, are boring, or, at least, are not willing to appear on camera.
(3) Prominent reporter susceptible to loony conspiracy theory. The Washington Post's Tom Ricks, author a bestseller on the Iraq war, shows a susceptibility to incredibly loony hypotheses when he claims that "according to some military analysts, ... Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they're being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon." Governments do sometimes do crazy things, but this would be so against the Israeli ethos, and so hard to hide in a country with hundreds of thousands of reservists, most of whom are armchair (or real!) generals, that Ricks's repeating of this rumor tells us a lot more about Ricks than about what's going on in Israel. (For more on this story, see here).
(4) Repressed anger at the Party of God. Brett Sadler of CNN:
it's fair to say that many Lebanese have been exercising a form of political correctness here. In the interests of national unity they're trying to speak with one voice. That's why you're hearing the government rejecting, basically, the resolution, the draft resolution to end the conflict in a phase one resolution. But really now, people are beginning to talk out about the way the Hezbollah rocket fire and the eruptions of this conflict is destroying this country. I think we're going see far more people, if you like, coming out of the woodwork condemning those that don't agree with the Shia hard-liners, like those who don't support Hezbollah.
UPDATE: Party of God using hospital to fire rockets:
Sonia Verma reporting in the National Post:
When Dr. Fouad Fatah emerged bleary-eyed from the ruins of his hospital during a pause in Israeli air strikes last week, it felt like the first time in forever. He counted himself as the last living soul in the five-room clinic, the only hospital serving this devastated swath of Lebanon's south. His surviving patients had already been evacuated. The surgeon led a group of journalists over what remained: mangled debris, shredded walls and a roof punched through by an Israeli shell. "Look what they did to this place," Dr. Fatah said, shaking his head. "Why in the world would the Israelis target a hospital?" The probable answer was found a few hours later in a field nearby. Hidden in the tall grass were the burned remnants of a rocket-launcher. Confronted with the evidence, Dr. Fatah admitted his hospital could have been used as a site from which to fire rockets into Israel. "What choice to we have? We need to fight back from somewhere," he said, tapping his foot on the ground. "This is Hezbollah's heartland." .... During a pitched battle in his village of Bint Jbeil last Thursday, the 48-year-old dentist watched from his kitchen window as Hezbollah fighters dragged a rocket launcher across the torn street in front of his house. A few minutes later, he heard four successive blasts. Kareem barely managed to cover his four-year-old son's ears before the rockets were fired. His own ears are still ringing. "Five minutes after they fired the rockets, the Israelis started bombing," he recalled from the safety of a shelter in Beirut."They are making us magnets for the Israelis," he said. .... Anger boiled over last week when a shelter in Qana was hit, killing 29 people, most of them children. "What have they done to deserve this? Is this a military target?" wept Mohamad Chaloub, clutching the lifeless body of his daughter. Local officials said there were no weapons or rockets in the house where the children slept in Qana, no warning before the bomb fell. But the next day, the same Lebanese Red Cross team that dug out the children's bodies stumbled across the shreds of more rocket launchers in a village nearby. One was found deep inside a fruit orchard. Another was found wedged between two houses.
Those Resolute, Incorruptable Journalists?:
Kathleen Carroll, senior Vice President of AP: "I also know from 30 years of experience in this business that you can't get competitive journalists [note that she doesn't limit herself to AP photographers] to participate in the kind of (staging) experience that is being described."
Anderson Cooper of CNN, via The Corner:
While on the Hezbollah side, it's really interesting — I was in Beirut, and they took me on this sort of guided tour of the Hezbollah- controlled territories in southern Lebanon that were heavily bombed. They are much cruder, obviously. They don't have the experience in this kind of thing. But they clearly want the story of civilian casualties out. That is their — what they're heavily pushing, to the point where on this tour I was on, they were just making stuff up. They had six ambulances lined up in a row and said, OK, you know, they brought reporters there, they said you can talk to the ambulance drives. And then one by one, they told the ambulances to turn on their sirens and to zoom off, and people taking that picture would be reporting, I guess, the idea that these ambulances were zooming off to treat civilian casualties, when in fact, these ambulances were literally going back and forth down the street just for people to take pictures of them.
Looks to me like "competitive journalists" were participating in staging. [UPDATE: And if you look around the blogosphere, many bloggers are examining varioius Lebanon photos that show signs of staging.] I wonder if any news outlet actually ran these shots?
Now that the fraudulent photos at Reuters have been exposed, I hope Carroll and others take their heads of the sand, and not just regarding the Lebanon situation. From what I've read, a major problem seems to be reliance on local stringers who may sympathize with one side of a conflict, and who may face personal or familial consequences if they report something the local authorities don't like. Local stringers also seem to have little supervision, while at the same time needing to get good "shots" and stories if they want to get paid, which creates incentives for cheating.
UPDATE: Strong evidence that "Green Helmet" staged photos for the media at Qana here. Via EU Referendum, Stern magazine credulously indentifies "Green Helmet" as an innocent rescue worker name Salam Daher. But he called himself "Abdel Qader" on Arabic t.v., and the footage linked above hardly suggests a typical rescue worker. The mystery deepens.