Friday, April 20, 2007

Et tu, "Stars and Stripes"?, or, the credibility gap widens

Stars and Stripes is a newspaper for soldiers, published by the Pentagon. But it's not just an outlet for puff pieces from the service PR offices. They actually do some real journalism. Like this article from the Mideast ediiton: Soldiers building wall separating Sunnis, Shiites: Three-mile structure in Baghdad is a disputed part of security plan by Joseph Giordono, and Monte Morin 04/19/07. They start off reporting about a wall under construction since last week:

U.S. soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division in a Baghdad district are “building a three-mile protective wall on the dividing line between a Sunni enclave and the surrounding Shiite neighborhood,” according to a U.S. military press release issued Wednesday.

Troops with the 407th Brigade Support Battalion began constructing the wall on April 10 and will continue work “almost nightly until the wall is complete,” the release read.

"The area the wall will protect is the largest predominately Sunni neighborhood in East Baghdad. Majority-Shiite neighborhoods surround it on three sides. Like other religiously divided regions in the city, the area has been trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation," according to the release.
Then they report on the chief PR officer in Iraq for "coalition" forces just bald-faced denying they were doing such a thing:

But after a regularly scheduled news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the top spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, said he was unaware of efforts to build a wall dividing Shiite and Sunni enclaves in Baghdad and said that such a tactic was not a policy of the Baghdad security plan.

"We have no intent to build gated communities in Baghdad," Caldwell said Wednesday.
When even a military paper finds itself holding up the chief military PR guy in Iraq as a blatant liar, then probably "credibility gap" is just the wrong term. "Credibility abyss" would be more like it.

Caldwell's statement reminded me of an infamous statement by East German Communist leader Eric Honeker, just days before they started building the Berlin Wall in 1960, "No one has any intention to put up a wall".

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