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July 3, 2004
LA Times Lacks A Research Department -- Or Even Google

The Los Angeles Times breaks the "big" story this morning that the American military engineered the destruction of the Saddam Hussein statue in the Baghdad square as the city fell into American hands, and used Iraqi civilians to make it look more spontaneous:

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel who was not named in the report selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member. ...

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.

Yawn. Whatever reporter David Zucchino recalls, at the time the statue fell, media outlets widely reported the fact that Army soldiers and equipment pulled the colossus down, and in fact received criticism for it. It was considered a heavy-handed and clumsy attempt to win hearts and minds, and the faux pas of putting an American flag over Saddam's head was trumpeted as a clear indicator that the event was initiated by the Army.

Interestingly, Fred Kaplan of Slate happened to be in Firdos Square at the time, which Zucchino and the people who wrote that report cannot claim. His story, filed on April 9th, 2003, differs somewhat, and as Kaplan could never be confused as an apologist for the Bush administration, perhaps his narrative might be instructice:

As I write this, 100 or so Iraqis are gathered in Baghdad's Firdos Square, trying to tear down an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. Three men have set up a ladder, climbed up the pillar, and draped a long rope, noose style, around the statue's neck. Now they have climbed down, and a few others, including one very beefy fellow, are swinging away at the pillar with a hammer. The task seems futile. The pillar is about 30 feet high and 6 feet or so in diameter. The statue stands about 30 feet on top of it. A couple of American Abrams tanks are loitering about; they could topple the thing in a minute, but they seem disinclined, for the momentleaving the task, as they should, to the Iraqis. ...

The crowd is still milling around Firdos Square, but they have stopped trying to topple Saddam's monument. And now, here comes the American tank. The Iraqis are now tying a steel chain, no doubt U.S.-supplied, to the statue, and the Abrams M1 will serve as the toppler. Oh, no; it's getting worse. Marines are getting up on the statue to pull it down themselves. One of them has draped an American flag over Saddam's head. What a moron! The very picture of neo-colonialism, which will make front pages all over the Arab world. Now he's taking off the American flag. No doubt, someone from Centcom, watching CNN, phoned the officer on the scene to chew him out and remind him of the orders against such displays.

A big sigh. Is this scene a sad symbol of the Iraqi people's helplessness, after 30 years of brutal dictatorship, to master their own fate? Is this an equally sad symbol of America's inability to liberate without conquering? Will the Iraqis need outside forces to oust not merely Saddam but the figments of his rule? Will the Americans help them without too strong a stench of arrogance?

Yeah, it sure sounds like Kaplan was nothing but a tool of the American military/industrial complex that day, doesn't it? I'm sure that Zucchino characterizes the Army report accurately, and I'm just as sure that someone in the PsyOps department decided to inflate their resume. It's fairly obvious that the rope didn't work and the people in the square (which the BBC reported at the time as "dozens") had given up trying. After that, the Army decided to do it instead, to Kaplan's dismay. Perhaps they rounded up some children for the photo op, but even Kaplan reported that there were plenty of people already in the area for some good pictures.

Zucchino and the LA Times didn't even bother to research the claims in this internal analysis, which is why the Los Angeles area would be better served with a competing newspaper that does its homework rather than follow its ideological bent. It took me ten seconds to find a first-hand account by a reporter on the scene, and the first one I got easily demolishes the entire thesis of the Times' story. I'm not sure what they're teaching in J-school these days, but maybe they should add a semester of Google to their curriculum. Most reporters, at least at the LA Times, appear to be completely ignorant of it.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 3, 2004 8:01 AM

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» They’ll split your pretty cranium, and fill it full of air from Twisted Spinster
Oh, what a surprise: another journalist tells more lies! This is what I mean: read how the account (by a reporter on the scene who could by no stretch of the imagination be called a shill for the Bushitler Imperalist Hegemon) of the toppling of a statu... [Read More]

Tracked on July 3, 2004 10:57 AM



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