Attack on Abu Ghraib

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this story didn’t get more play in the press, since now that they’ve had their elections the Iraq story is over… (sigh)

Insurgents Attack Abu Ghraib Prison Complex

By all indications this was a significant assault involving at least 50 insurgents and including multiple RPG teams and at least one suicide car bomb. While the attack was eventually repulsed, over 40 U.S. soldiers were wounded in the fighting (thankfully, none appear to have been killed).

It’s also significant because the insurgent cell led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who joined his group up with al-Qaeda last year, has claimed credit for it. John Robb summarizes succinctly: “A calling card. Al Qaeda is now officially in Iraq.”

And yet, most stories I’ve seen about this so far in the US press note it only in passing while talking mostly about developments in the ongoing struggle to form an Iraqi government. (You did know that they still haven’t come to an agreement on what form the government should take, two months after the election, right? Right?) A consequence of reporters fearing to leave Baghdad, perhaps?

UPDATE: Robb elaborates: What the Attack on Abu Ghraib Means.

UPDATE (4/5/2005): Page A1 of today’s Washington Post: Zarqawi Said to Be Behind Iraq Raid.

“It was one of the more concerted attacks that we’ve seen,” said Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman.
Asked if there had been any other insurgent attack that surpassed it, Boylan said, “Not that I’m aware of.”

So I guess your choice is to read this blog and understand events as they happen, or read The Post and understand them two days later 🙂

In seriousness, this highlights one of my major problems with mainstream media reporting — the tendency to just pass along each side of a story, rather than give readers any context. The first stories that came out were probably just retyped CENTCOM press releases, so it’s no wonder they played down the significance of the attack. Then the insurgents come forward and claim Zarqawi was behind it, and the reporters announce the attack was more significant than previously thought. Never mind that the shift in tactics itself was significant enough to tip off even a yutz like me that this was a story, even before the insurgents said a word.

If The Post was doing its job, it wouldn’t need the insurgents to lead it by the nose to the story — it’d be on top of it from the get go. Are the insurgents always going to be polite enough to call the press and explain what they’re up to? Why should we be relying on them to do so?



April 4, 2005
10:52 am

Two words: Dead Pope.
I think it would be bigger news if it were otherwise a slow news day/week, or if US soldiers/marines had been killed. So I doubt it’s a question of “election, so everything’s good,” so much as a demonstration of the inability of the press to balance important stories when a huge one is on the front page. Then everything seems to become a page 12-a blurb.

Jason Lefkowitz

April 4, 2005
11:12 pm

Good point — though I’m not so much talking about its failure to make page A1 (war news isn’t gonna hit the front page unless there are fatalities, alas, as you correctly note — a guy just losing an arm or a leg from a wound isn’t “news”, I guess) as I am about the attack story being mixed in _the same story_ as the parliamentary story. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have run two separate stories on page A22 or whatever.