What Fresh Hell Is This?

April 6, 2008

Jack Kelly Sunday

My friends, Jack Kelly is at it again.

In this week's column, his spin is suble and is built (like many others) on the premise that no one will dig into his story to check the facts. He begins with a baseball metaphor:

In the opening game of the baseball season between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics in Japan, 11 runs were scored.

That lead would be unsatisfying to most sports fans because it doesn't indicate which team won. But it is very like most of the reporting of battles in Iraq:

"The deadliest clashes were in Basra, where at least 47 people were killed and 223 wounded in the two days of fighting," wrote the AP's Kim Gamel. [emphasis added.]

Here's the AP article from which Jack takes the quotation. His column this week is about how, with quotations like Gamel's, the MSM is not telling us who won. But take a look at the date of Gamel's article. It was Wednesday, March 26. Operation Charge of the Knights was just beginning. It wasn't possible to tell who "won" yet.

Looking back, the baseball story is a little odd, doncha think? Jack must've felt so, too, as he rushes through a clarification (while hoping you won't notice it) in his next paragraph:

Ms. Gamel was writing about the opening clashes of Operation Knight's Charge, the effort by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take control of Iraq's second most populous city from Iranian-backed militias, chiefly the Mahdi Army nominally headed by the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Fighting subsided after Mr. Sadr called for a ceasefire last weekend.

The battle began on March 25 and a ceasefire took place on the 30th. So why use Gamel's article to complain about not learing the outcome? Couldn't he have found a better example to use?

And what about that ceasefire? John McCain certainly thought it came entirely from Sadr:
Asked if the Basra campaign had backfired, he said: “Apparently it was Sadr who asked for the ceasefire, declared a ceasefire. It wasn’t Maliki. Very rarely do I see the winning side declare a ceasefire. So we’ll see.’’
Note the penultimate sentence. Jack says basically the same thing later on in his column:
It is rare in the annals of war for the side which is winning to seek a ceasefire.
Here's where we get to the good part. Here's how Jack describes the formulation of that ceasefire:

Mr. Sadr offered the ceasefire after two Iraqi parliamentarians traveled to Iran to meet with the head of the Quds (Jerusalem) force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, McClatchy Newspapers reported. The lawmakers urged Brig. Gen. Qassem Suliemani to lean on Mr. Sadr (who is in Iran) to offer the ceasefire.

If true (Mr. Kazimi's government source in Baghdad described it as a "naive fabrication"), the McClatchy story indicates the Mahdi army is under Iranian control.

So it's the Mahdi army that is under Iranian control, says Jack. But this is how the McClatchy article Jack references describes things:

The backdrop to Sadr's dramatic statement was a secret trip Friday by Iraqi lawmakers to Qom, Iran's holy city and headquarters for the Iranian clergy who run the country.

There the Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said.

Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.

Notice anything? No mention by Jack about how the "parlimetarians" who went to Iran were either from Maliki's own Dawa party or from Iraq's most influential political party, a party that was itself founded in Iran. Don't believe me? McClatchy says so:
Iraq's most influential political party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq , was founded in Iran

So it was Maliki who was looking for the ceasefire, he sent friendly representatives to Iran and then Sadr called for the ceasefire. Can we now reapply Kelly's dictum of how the winners never call for a ceasefire?

And anyway, who was that Kazimi fellow Jack quotes? He only says that Kazimi's a visiting scholar for the Hudson Institute. However, according to the bio at their webpage, "directed the Research Bureau of the Iraqi National Congress in Washington DC and Baghdad, and was a pro-bono advisor for the Higher National Commission for De-Ba'athification, which he helped establish and staff."

The Research Bureau for the INC? In the run up to the war, can anyone remember what about Iraq did the INC got right? And is Jack Kelly really quoting the guy who helped establish the National Commission for De-Ba'athification?

Did he think no one would check?

But one last thing. Jack writes with utter confidence:
Why might Mr. Sadr have sought a ceasefire? "Sources in Basra tell TIME that there has been a large-scale retreat in the oil-rich port city because of low morale and because ammunition is low due to the closure of the Iranian border," TIME reported.
Failing to add TIME's very next sentence:
TIME has not yet been able to confirm those reports with U.S., Mahdi Army or Iraqi government authorities.
Again, did he think no one would check?

With so much smoke and mirrors, it's nearly impossible to see any clear factual information in Jack's column - you just have to suspend your disbelief to follow his story.

I think that's been the plan all along.


Anonymous said...

From what I can tell about this, it appears that Maliki was trying to defeat the Madhi army (Moqtada al-Sadr's force) so that the Badr Brigade would have no opposition. It further appears that the Badr Brigade is much closer to Iran than Moqtada al-Sadr's Madhi Army is. Who exactly are we supporting in Iraq? Sometimes it feels like we are supporting Iranian interests. It is hard to get the straight scoop. Thank you for your well-analyzed post.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Brilliant tear-apart. Maliki ordered the cease-fire because he was the one firing. Sadr accepted the ceasefire as would any general withstanding a siege. Siege withstood.

Maliki's "postponed" dealine for Sadr forces turning in their weapons was cute, as well.

I had heard that the TIMING of the strike against Maliki was due to two things: it was to provide accomplishment in advance of Patraeus & Crocker's testimony on Capitol Hill, and it was to soften support for Sadr's party in upcoming local elections. Either way, the wisdom of throwing American support behind this particular endeavor is ... well, I don't think it was / is very wise.

Bram Reichbaum said...

"I had heard that the TIMING of the strike against Maliki was due to two things..."

Against SADR. By Maliki / the Americans, against Sadr. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Well, coming on the heels of Jack's most recent "We Already Won the Iraq War" column, it isn't surprising that Jack Kelly would write a blind assessment.

What is surprising is that the PG runs this week after week. I mean, you already run Krauthammer.