April 08, 2003

CHEMICAL ALI is gone, but

CHEMICAL ALI is gone, but Chemical Margo remains as powerfully hallucinogenic as ever. Today she's all worked up about News Ltd. coverage of the war:

Rupert Murdoch's vast newspaper empire has waged a relentless pro-war propaganda war before and since the war began.

Someone has stolen Chemical's thesaurus. She's particularly upset by these stories in the Daily Telegraph about an apparent death chamber near Basra run by friendly Saddam's men of hench. Here's a clip:

As US forces pressed further into Baghdad, their British allies uncovered an enormous charnel house containing the remains of hundreds of Saddam's torture victims.

Resembling an immense makeshift morgue, the warehouse near Basra contained row upon row of coffins - each with a skeleton - plus piles of reports and photographs documenting how each agonised soul had been executed.

Margo disputes the Telegraph's account:

I saw the vision of the find on TV last night, and noted the British officers remark that it was unclear what the building and its rows of simple coffins was all about. However, the remains were old, he said, and he showed documents and photographs also found on site, which did not scream out torture chamber but rather respect for the dead.

Saddam's soldiers are famous for their respect. Let's hear some more from those British officers; this is from a Sunday Times piece run in Monday's Australian:

Captain Jack Kemp, 40, of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, the first soldier to enter the warehouse, estimated it contained more than 200 coffins and many plastic bags filled with remains. "I wouldn't like to speculate, but the bones inside are obviously years old," he said.

Moments later, a younger soldier dashed over to him carrying a book containing the grimmest imaginable photographs of the dead. "Bloody hell," he whispered, "these are all executions. You can see the bullets, shots to the head."

Nothing says "respect" like punching a few rounds into some poor bastard's skull. "So," asks Margo, "where did The Daily Telegraph get its scoop information, and why was it so confident of the truth of its story? Who knows." Well, the scoop is that the story wasn't a scoop. The New York Times ran this on Saturday:

Soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery also found Arabic documents and photographs of men bearing head wounds and showing signs of torture or disfigurement in the warehouse.

The Independent had much the same, plus this:

Outside stood what one soldier described as "a purpose-built shooting gallery".

A tiled foot-high plinth stood in a courtyard, with the brickwork behind it riddled with bullets. Behind that lay a drainage ditch.

Margo cites CNN and NYT pieces filed after the Telegraph's Sunday night deadline, and that cast some doubt on the nature of the supposed death house, as evidence of the Telegraph's Murdoch-driven warmongering madness - a madness also shared by the BBC (which quotes a Human Rights Watch spokeswoman suggesting that the dead may have been military or political enemies of Saddam Hussein) and MSNBC.

The Guardian is part of the Murdoch conspriracy, too. In fact, the second Telegraph article that Margo links to and damns as an example of "Murdoch's war on truth in war reporting" appeared in Sunday's edition of The Observer, the Guardian's sister newspaper. Where did The Daily Telegraph get its scoop information, Margo? From Guardian reporters who were at the scene.

Declares Margo: "I can hardly wait for the correction tomorrow." Me neither.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 8, 2003 02:42 AM