Friday, April 13, 2007

Questions for Time magazine

Friday, April 13, 2007

(This is an expanded version of an earlier post called "Questions for Time magazine"; the material relating to Time is down in the second half of this).

The Islamic State of Iraq has posted claims of responsibility for the Green Zone bombing, (thanks to veteran chat-site navigator Abu Aardvark for calling attention to that) which the ISI says was carried out by a suicide bomber. These claims, which can be found among other places on the "news" forum of, are signed by something called the Fajr Media Center, and there isn't any question they have been issued by the ISI organization. The following comments have to do with a different question: Assuming ISI responsibility, there are reports about a relationship between the attack and the emerging dispute between AlQaeda/ISI on the one side and the domestic resistance groups apparently led by Islamic Army in Iraq on the other.

Al-Hayat says there was a video announcement yesterday by someone known as Abu Suleiman al-Atibi who calls himself the "lawful judge of the Islamic State of Iraq", and the paper has this to say about it, after describing the events of the bombing:
The AlQaeda organization had threatened yesterday to "cut off the head of those who resist [us], and [he said] in a video message, "I warn the tribe of those among the proprietors of party and politics, who make a weapon of double-dealing..." and he added, tacitly referring the differences that have widened recently between AlQaeda and Iraqi armed groups, "we will cut off their hands and we will strike them in the neck".
The Al-Hayat reporter then refers to recent interview statements by the head of the Islamic Army in Iraq that have been taken loosely to mean a degree of openness to the idea of negotiating with the occupation. But at least for English-speaking readers it is worth noting what the Islamic Army person actually said (in an Al-Jazeera interview), because the reports in English having passed from hand to hand, have gotten a little distorted. Here's the relevant quote from the interview:
We do not reject in principle talks with the Americans or others, and we have laid out many times in official and other media our conditions for such talks, and we have emphasized that there are two conditions for successful talks, first that the American congress issue a binding decision announcing a complete withdrawal by a fixed date, and second, recognition that the resistance is the legitimate and sole representative of the Iraqi people.
(This interview was published April 10, so the Awni Qalamji piece in Al-Quds al-Arabi, summarized in the prior post, was probably at least partly a reply to this, warning against thinking there is any possibility of any voluntary American withdrawal. Qalamji is associated with the domestic resistance. I'm sorry I'm reporting these out of chronological order).

In any event, if the statement by the "judicial officer" cited by Al-Hayat this morning is authentic, and the paper's acceptance of it suggests it is, then apparently the the hard-line domestic resistance represented by Qalamji wasn't the only group alarmed by even this conditional suggestion of negotiations.

Still, there is something considerably fishy about what Time magazine is reporting on its website about this.

In its article yesterday on the Green Zone bombing, Time said this:
Within an hour of the explosion, a message from the al-Qaeda-controlled Islamic State in Iraq was posted on a prominent militant website,, calling the blast a "message" to anyone who cooperates with "the occupier and its agents." It said ominously, "We will reach you wherever you are"
And Iraqslogger printed what it said was a screenshot of the item referred to, which you can see here. The text in red says: "This (referring to the GZ bombing) is a message of the Islamic State of Iraq to the Islamic Army: Anyone who is going to negotiate with the occupiers and their agents, we will find them wherever they are".

But notice the light blue strip at the top, right above the yellow exclamation point. In an authentic posting, that light blue strip is a little wider, and serves as the background for a couple of important pieces of information printed in black. At the right-hand side, there is always the screen-name of the poster, and a button next to that name, triggering a pull-down menu with two items: You can look at all of the postings of this particular individual (even if you are not a registered user); or you can look at his personal information (for which you have to be registered). And at the left-hand side, also against the background of the light-blue bar, there is the date of the poster's registration as a user, and the number of his "participations", which means either postings or postings and comments. This obviously serves as a rudimentary or entry-level check on reliability, because it shows how long the person has been posting, and what he has been posting.

Anyone with the expertise to find a posting like this would obviously first check the name of the poster and his posting history, to see if he is a known quantity or not. Iraqslogger said it wasn't taking this as necessarily an Al-Qaeda message. "The statements" of the Islamic State of Iraq, it said, "are usually more detailed with more verifiable information, often containing florid prose and multiple references to the Quran." But really, the first question is where Iraqslogger got this screenshot, because it would seem if they went to the site and saw it there themselves, the light-blue bar would in fact be the background for the name of the poster and the other information to be found there. And if they got it from Time, then the same question: Where exactly did Time find it, and where is the basic information one looks for printed on that light-blue bar?

The solution, of course, is to go to the site and find the posting ourselves. But I do not see it there, and as far as I am aware, no one else has found it there either.

This is not just a question of the authenticity of a posted message, if in fact there was one, because unless there is some explanation, this would be a question of Time magazine relying on an obvious, clearly recognizable forgery to anchor a news story. The lead to its story yesterday went like this: "In an assault apparently aimed at chilling negotiations between the Iraqi government and a faction of the insurgency, the Iraqi Parliament, located in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, suffered a bomb attack." The phrase "apparently aimed at chilling negotiations..." refers to the supposed posting in question.

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