Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sixty Four Dollars

Salon claims that "conservative bloggers suggested Monday that an Associated Press photographer was complicit with militants who executed three Iraqi election workers on Baghdad's dangerous Haifa Street on Sunday." A picture taken by the Associated Press photographer is posted on the Salon site. The photo itself raises more questions than any conservative blogger ever could. It shows traffic backed up behind the killers, afraid to proceed further. The attack, according to the Associated Press's own account was carried out by "about 30 armed insurgents, hurling hand grenades and firing guns", but the photograph itself is taken from a fairly elevated position, as from a standing person. Here are excerpts the account of Abdul Hussein Al-Obedi of the Associated Press:

In Baghdad, dozens of gunmen-- unmasked and apparently unafraid to show their faces-- executed three election officials on Sunday, part of their campaign to disrupt next month's parliamentary ballot.  ... The deadly strikes Sunday highlighted the apparent ability of the insurgents to launch attacks almost at will, despite confident assessments by U.S. military commanders that they had regained the initiative after last month's campaign against militants in Fallujah. ... Meanwhile, in a message passed on by lawyers who visited him in his cell last week, Saddam denounced the elections as an American plot. ...

During morning rush hour, about 30 armed insurgents, hurling hand grenades and firing guns, swarmed onto Haifa Street, the scene of repeated clashes between U.S. forces and insurgents. They stopped a car carrying five employees of the Iraqi Electoral Commission and killed three of them. The other two escaped. The commission condemned the attack as a "terrorist ambush."

It was the surely the most amazing of coincidences that placed an Associated Press photographer in a position to openly photograph an execution, where we are reliably informed, no less than 30 armed men were firing guns and hurling hand grenades. The AP photographer is not in a situation comparable to a defendant in a criminal case, who is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He is not in any court at all. But like the situation involving Dan Rather and the infamous Texas National guard memorandum, readers are entitled to wonder about the provenance of the evidence served up to the viewers. Asking how the photographer happened to be there and take those photographs in a shooting situation is not unlike Buckhead wondering about the Times Roman font in the 'typewritten' memorandum. (Buckhead was the internet poster who first spotted the discrepancies in Dan Rather's supposed evidence.) They are legitimate questions, which as Dan Rather proved, the Associated Press is not compelled to answer. There may be a perfectly plausible explanation for everything, but for the record let me wonder:

  1. How the Associated Press photographer happened to be at the attack site at the time. Was it on his route to home or work?

  2. How he photographed the execution sequence in the midst of an attack by 30 persons from the middle of the major road (see the photo provided by Salon).

Just asking. We need to go the "country mile" to reach the standard of proof that any responsible reader would need to form an opinion on the issues. The best way to do that is to ask questions and though one may wait in vain for the answers, one must ask them all the same in the same manner that Salon is asking questions about "conservative bloggers" who "suggest" that an "Associated Press photographer was complict". You can hardly do one and not the other.