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Wire reports

NOTE: Welcome, Jawa Report readers! And thanks for the link, Rusty.

I want to emphasize that I don't claim to know for sure whether Haj Ali was given electric shocks. We have the Taguba report saying the wires were dead, and Haj Ali saying they were live. One of them is wrong, but which one remains unproven. However, PBS does not appear to even acknowledge the contradiction, instead taking Ali's claim that the wires were live at face value.

Via LGF, notes that the PBS newsmagazine show "Now" is running an interview with Haj Ali Shallal Abbas, a former member of Sadaam Hussein's Baath party. He claims to be the man in the infamous Abu Ghraib photo of a prisoner wearing a black hood, standing on a box and holding wires in his hands:

"I remember the box, the pipes, even the two wires," Haj Ali says in reference to the photo which, with others like it, showed the world how U.S. soldiers were abusing Iraqi inmates.

"They made me stand on a box with my hands hooked to wires and shocked me with electricity," Ali recalls through an interpreter in his first in-depth American TV interview. "It felt like my eyeballs were coming out of their sockets. I fell, and they put me back up again for more."
Sounds horrifying, but CBS and the Associated Press reported, when the Abu Ghraib photos were first aired on "60 Minutes II" a year ago, that the wires were not hooked up to an electrical source:
One of the photos showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands. CBS reported the prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, although in reality the wires were not connected to a power supply.
Indeed, U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba's 53-page report on Abu Ghraib, despite listing numerous specific examples of extreme inmate abuse, including beatings, sodomy, and dog bites, nevertheless found that the wires shown in the photo were used only "to simulate electric torture."

And Haj Ali's story has evolved over time. In an August 8, 2004 interview with ABC News, he never mentioned the hood photo, or being electrocuted. Then, in January 2005, he told Vanity Fair that he was the man in the hood, and was given electric shocks as well. As the Daily Mirror noted, that was the first time he had made such a claim.

Abu Ghraib was bad enough without piling false allegations on top of what actually happened. So, were CBS and Taguba mistaken? Is Haj Ali telling the truth?

Apparently it doesn't matter to PBS, as long as his story reflects badly on the U.S. occupation. That may be why Ken Ferree, the new head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, thinks PBS could stand a little improvement.


Anonymous said...

This amazes me. You have CBS and PBS delivering opposing reports on the same issue: one saying the wires were live, one saying the wires were dead. There are obviously two possible scenarios here: either CBS's report was correct and Haj Ali is lying on PBS, or CBS's report was incorrect and Haj Ali is telling the truth on PBS. So either way, some part of That Godawful Liberal Media(tm) is reporting a truthful account of what happened, and some other part of That Godawful Liberal Media(tm) is reporting an incorrect account of what happened. (Or maybe Abu Ghraib doesn't exist at all, but I'm not going there.)

So your conclusion is that PBS is reckless. Of course, it could also be that CBS got the story wrong the first time. What if the wires were live? How many reporters do you think were watching when the prisoners were being tortured? Do you think Taguba wrote his report in the first person?

Anyway, maybe the early reports got it wrong. Maybe the early reports got it right. I don't know, and you don't know, so let's figure out who's got it right before we start attacking journalistic credibility.

If it were a crime to make the U.S. look bad, both political parties and every news channel would have been banned a long time ago. 

Posted by Joe

Anonymous said...

Of course CBS and Taguba could have been wrong. That's why I specifically asked, "So, were CBS and Taguba mistaken? Is Haj Ali telling the truth?" 

It's worth noting that at the time CBS reported the wires were dead, Haj Ali had not yet claimed that they were live.

But now, at the time of the PBS interview, we have two conflicting stories: Taguba's, and Haj Ali's. PBS's journalistic is affected less by who is ultimately right or wrong than by the fact that it completely ignores the question. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would PBS want to make the U.S. look as bad as possible? This sounds like something Anne Coulter would write. 

Posted by Bojack

Anonymous said...

PBS would want to make the U.S. look bad (particularly as regards its presence in Iraq) in order to weaken support for Bush and his Iraq policy.

Perhaps it would have been more direct to say "as long as his story makes the Bush administration and its decision to occupy Iraq look as bad as possible." But I was counting on you to draw the inference.

I've revised the sentence, changing "makes the U.S.look as bad as possible" to "reflects badly on the U.S. occupation." 

Posted by GaijinBiker



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