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May 08, 2006

NY TimesWatch: Silencing The Lambs

4 am, a nest of covers somewhere in Western Maryland: The blissful slumber of the half-vast editorial staff is rudely interrupted by the sound of an oncoming freight train. The World's Loudest Coffee Pot is calling for us to wake up and assemble the Spousal Sandwich. Wisely recognizing normal folks will remain wrapped in the arms of Morpheus for several more hours, we pull the covers over our shell-like ear and snuggle into the sheltering arms of the oversized footwarmer snoozing next to us.

Would that we had stayed there:

By the time filming begins, the condemned woman has been blindfolded with a white bandage.

...First she was stripped to the waist, a humiliation for any woman but particularly so for a pious Muslim who concealed her hair, arms and legs from men other than her father and brother.

Then her arms were bound behind her back. A golden locket in the shape of Iraq that became her glittering trademark in front of the television cameras must have been removed at some point — it is nowhere to be seen in the grainy film, which was made by someone who pointed a mobile phone at her as she lay on a patch of earth in mortal terror.

...She is moaning, although whether from the pain of what has already been done to her or from the fear of what is about to be inflicted is unclear.

A large man dressed in military fatigues, boots and cap approaches from behind and covers her mouth with his left hand. In his right hand, he clutches a large knife with a black handle and an 8in blade. He proceeds to cut her throat from the middle, slicing from side to side.

Her cries — “Ah, ah, ah” — can be heard above the “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) intoned by the holder of the mobile phone.

Even then, there is no quick release for Bahjat. Her executioner suddenly stands up, his job only half done. A second man in a dark T-shirt and camouflage trousers places his right khaki boot on her abdomen and pushes down hard eight times, forcing a rush of blood from her wounds as she moves her head from right to left.

Only now does the executioner return to finish the task. He hacks off her head and drops it to the ground, then picks it up again and perches it on her bare chest so that it faces the film-maker in a grotesque parody of one of her pieces to camera.

The voice of one of the Arab world’s most highly regarded and outspoken journalists has been silenced. She was 30.

In her final moments, did Atwar Bahjat console herself with the thought that her fellow journalists would raise a ruckus over her brutal murder? Did she count on them to reveal that her body was riddled with holes from an electric drill? That her right and left arm, legs, navel and her right eye had been savagely punctured? If so, she was sadly mistaken:

NY Times: One report, of her abduction and death in February. No updates.

Washington Post: 0 references found.

LA Times: Other than the initial report of her death, nothing.

I am reminded of another journalist kidnapped and tortured in Iraq: Steven Vincent. Vincent had written a piece for the NY Times just a few days before his death, yet the Times did not find his death particularly newsworthy. Other than a perfunctory mention of his abduction, his fellow journalists felt no outrage that he was tortured for five hours before his bullet-riddled corpse was dumped in the road.

The Washington Post likewise did not mourn a fellow journalist slain in the line of duty. They found Vincent's murder and torture uninteresting: 0 references found.

What does it take to arose the investigative instincts of a New York Times reporter? The unjustified ridicule of Abu Musab al Zarqawi:

An effort by the American military to discredit the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by showing video outtakes of him fumbling with a machine gun — suggesting that he lacks real fighting skill — was questioned yesterday by retired and active American military officers.

The Times can't wait to inform its readers (and the world) that Mr. Zarqawi has been unfairly "targeted" by the American military:

The American military, which said it captured the videotapes in a recent raid, released selected outtakes in an effort to undermine Mr. Zarqawi's image as leader of the Council of Holy Warriors, formerly Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and suggested that his fighting talents and experience were less than his propaganda portrays. But several veterans of wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as active-duty officers, said in telephone interviews yesterday that the clips of Mr. Zarqawi's supposed martial incompetence were unconvincing.

The weapon in question is complicated to master, and American soldiers and marines undergo many days of training to achieve the most basic competence with it. Moreover, the weapon in Mr. Zarqawi's hands was an older variant, which makes its malfunctioning unsurprising. The veterans said Mr. Zarqawi, who had spent his years as a terrorist surrounded by simpler weapons of Soviet design, could hardly have been expected to know how to handle it.

And who does the Times produce to debunk our own government's attempts to fight the terrorists with their own weapons? An active-duty officer who was graciously "granted anonymity" because he is doing something he knows he is not supposed to do:

An active-duty Special Forces colonel who served in Iraq also said that what the video showed actually had little relationship to Mr. Zarqawi's level of terrorist skill. "Looking at the video, I enjoy it; I like that he looks kind of goofy," said the Special Forces officer, who was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on military matters. "But as a military guy, I shrug my shoulders and say: 'Of course he doesn't know how to use it. It's our gun.' He doesn't look as stupid as they said he looks."

Could it be the Times is unaware that they are deliberately sabotaging the war effort? Not likely:

The release of the captured video reflected the dueling public relations efforts between the American-led forces fighting in Iraq and the terrorists and insurgents. It also reflected increasing interest by the military and civilian strategists in trying to ridicule Mr. Zarqawi.

"In Arab and Muslim societies, pride and shame are felt much more profoundly than they are in Western culture," said J. Michael Waller, a professor at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington. "To find video like this that can cut him down to size and discredit him is a real way of fighting terrorism." A paper written by Professor Waller advocating the use of ridicule against the insurgents has been circulating at the Pentagon and among military commanders with experience in Iraq recently, according to several military officers.

Well we can't have that, can we? Readers of the Times can expect to hear a balanced presentation of the facts:

But the retired and active officers said the public presentation of the tape did not address elements that were disturbing, rather than amusing: the weapon was probably captured from American soldiers, indicating a tactical victory for the insurgents. And Mr. Zarqawi looked clean and plump.

"I see a guy who is getting a lot of groceries and local support," said Nick Pratt, a Marine Corps veteran and professor of terrorism studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. "You cannot say he is a bad operator." He added, "People should be careful who they poke fun at."

Indeed. Poke fun at a known terrorist who targets innocent civilians, and the Times will defend you, even if it means knowingly soliciting active duty military personnel to break the rules and speak out against their own command. After all, these men must be trustworthy: they are Speaking Truthiness to Power.

Poke a fellow journalist more than twenty times with an electric drill, strip her and humiliate her before a camera before slitting her throat, however, and the Times is silent.

They have their standards. And after all, as my brother loves to remind me, if he didn't read about it in the mainstream media, it never happened.

Update: Turns out the video is not of Atwar Bajat, but another hostage.

Posted by Cassandra at May 8, 2006 06:58 AM


Now, Cass, you wouldn't want the Times to jeopardize it own reporters' chances of landing that exclusive interview with Zarqawi, would you?

Posted by: spd rdr at May 8, 2006 09:21 AM

Indeed. Who would tell Zarqawi's story, if the Times were not available?

I am sorry. For once I can't see the humorous side in this - I am just sickened beyond belief.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2006 09:49 AM

Cass, I read the story last night on Michelle Malkin and Greyhawk. It sickened me...the things that she suffered, but the silence is even more horrific. For once, I found myself shaking with rage and itching to turn Iraq into a parking lot and the insurgents into road pizza. But I know our guys are over there to keep this from happening. At least someone had some sort of a sick sense of history to make sure that it was documented, but no, we have to worry about the naked Iraqi men in jail being stripped in private, while a woman is humiliated, tortured and killed in public.
Damn them all.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 10:10 AM

Isn't that the same Eason Jordon who accused the AMERICAN military of targeting journalists? Glad to see he could recuse himself and finger the real culprits...the regime of Saddam.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 10:18 AM

It is indeed. I'm glad you made the connection. That's why I included the link.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2006 10:25 AM

I'm the kind of person who can not watch "Animal Kingdom" because it makes me ill to see the lion kill the gazelle.
I had the same reaction reading the account of her murder. Visceral. Nauseated. And then angry.
The white hot kind.

That poor woman.
I would call the "people" that did this animals but that's unfair to animals. Animals kill to survive (threat, hunger, etc.). These things don't have that justification.
Perhaps sub-human soulless monsters is a better description.

And then there's the journalists.....

Posted by: Carrie at May 8, 2006 10:35 AM

Children of hell.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 10:48 AM

On a previous thread, Cassandra asked whether we wouild ever win a war, and I posited an answer near the end of the thread (I'm a real threadkiller, so what?), about the cost of LOSING would make us more focused on WINNING.

I happened to catch "Master and Commander:The Far Side of the World" the other day on FX, and there is one scene when "Captain Jack Aubrey" (Russel Crowe) is trying to motivate his gunners to load and fire faster.
"Do you want them to erect a guilloitine in Picadilly?" he shouts.
"No!" reply the gunners.
"Do you want your children to sing the 'Mareseilles'?" Yells Aubrey.
"No!" reply his gunners.

Imagine, if you will, a twilight zone where the people described above have a knife to the throat of the whole world?
Think it can't happen here?

I read an interview at NRO this moring with a British journalist describing the happenings in 'Londinistan'. Apparently the blood has run pretty thin in the England that 'Jack Aubrey' defended against Napolean 200 years ago.

Re-read what Cass has written above and think about the cost of losing this 'War on Terror'.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at May 8, 2006 10:51 AM

Since our pols in both parties refuse to do what the Constitution says and ass kiss our enemies we can't count on them.I think it is time to remind the left of what the meaning of "We the people" really means.

Posted by: Lisa Gilliam at May 8, 2006 12:20 PM

Don, Don, Don...

Remember: women were better off under Saddam. Just as they will no doubt be better off if we withdraw from Iraq and leave it to the folks who are trying to defeat democracy (notably, a democracy in which women will be allowed to vote and hold government positions).

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2006 12:57 PM

Pretty visceral stuff indeed...

Posted by: camojack at May 8, 2006 01:33 PM

As sickening and sad as this is, I have hope as a believer. I have read the end of the book, WE win. Of all the things I can not change, I have this hope. Judgement and justice will come.

Posted by: Peter Osmar at May 8, 2006 02:51 PM

I hope so too, Peter. With all my heart, I hope so.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2006 03:00 PM

Illustrating for me, once again, why I don't understand the left's refusal to say ISLAM IS BAD.


Posted by: April at May 8, 2006 03:12 PM

Another fine example of the "Religion of Peace". At least we can be gratified by the outcry from the "moderate" Muslims out there. I thought the condemnation of these acts by CAIR was particularly moving.

What did you expect from the journos? Didn't they previously cover-up Stalin's genocide of the Ukrainian Kulaks in the 1930s? I believe someone won a Pulitzer for failing to report those atrocities and instead praising Stalin to the hilt. I think the american people are starting to realize that the MSM are nothing but plitical shills trying to pursue a left-wing agenda. Their readership/viewership has been steadily declining for years. I would sooner believe Baghdad Bob than the MSM's take on current events. I triple guarantee it!

Posted by: a former european at May 8, 2006 03:25 PM

There's only one way that I want Zarqawi's image before me, and that's throught he scope of a Barret light .50...
Let's see...
Us: Panties on the head. A few embarassing pictures...

Them: Cutting throats, blowing up kids, using a drill on a live person prior to a humiliating and brutal murder...

And folks STILL can't figure it out...

Go figure...

Posted by: Sgt. B. at May 8, 2006 03:45 PM

I hope and pray that we never give up our right to carry arms. Diane Feinstein seems to think that she is entitled to carry a concealed weapon in California (of all places) but that the rest of us do not have a clue. If that is the case, I will hire her as my personal bodyguard once the Dems have undercut the military to the point where we are using paper airplanes, rocks and rubber band guns.

Is there some way the blogs can raise the hue and cry over this atrocious, vicious and horrific silence and shame the lamestream morons into admitting their bias?

I believe in God. I also believe in the statement of 'sealing their testimony with their blood.' The journalists who died while writing about what was happening are witnesses to the atrocities of
extremism. Their killers will be caught and punished in a manner befitting their lifestyle choice. Those who live by the sword will die by it.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 03:49 PM

I wasn't trying to be humorous, Cass. I was trying to be disgusted. But you knew that.

Posted by: spd rdr at May 8, 2006 04:29 PM

For the record - it is possible for anyone to get a CCW (concealed carry) permit in California, although it's a darn site harder than here in Washington. In theory, they are supposed to show cause, which is not hard for a public figure, and to take classes, etc. Here in WA we just walk in and ask for one - if nothing shows up in the background check, yer in (thus called a Shall Issue state).

FYI - Packing.Org is a site with great info by state. Interesting to note that Kansas (where the Armorer lives) is not a shall issue state, and only P.I.s can apply for permits. And New York requires a permit to even OWN one, but does have near Shall Issue rules in some areas. (but NOT in NYC - which doesn't even recognize NY state carry permits!).

But on the original topic - that poor woman's death is another fine example of why we can't afford to lose the war - either in Iraq or against those here who seem to be on the side of the terrorists.

Posted by: Barb at May 8, 2006 04:44 PM

There is now an update that the Times (Londonistan)
has been the victim of a hoax, that the video is of a young man killed in 2004. Well, I don't care if it was a man or a woman...it was a gruesome crime and whether or not it was her, doesn't lessen the enormity of what the killers are capable of doing in spreading lies.

Maybe that is why the MSM was silent on it...because the video was of poor quality and they couldn't be sure it was her. That still doesn't condone their usual ignoring of those who have done their jobs right and well.

See the Mudville Gazette for the updates.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 04:48 PM

Thanks Cricket - John just clued me in :)

The interesting question is why they didn't cover the story anyway and mention that the video could not be authenticated (or that there were doubts about it) as they've done before.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 8, 2006 04:56 PM

Which leads back to the original story and your premise. If they could not authenticate it, then maybe the video was either a warning to the 'enemies of Islam' or a way to confirm her death, since her friend identified so many details in spite of the poor video quality.

Posted by: Cricket at May 8, 2006 05:15 PM

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