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[infowar.de] Guardian 02.04.03: War Watch
Claims and counter claims made during the media war over Iraq
Annie Lawson, Lisa O'Carroll, Chris Tryhorn, Jason Deans
Wednesday April 2, 2003
"Fog" is the watchword of this war, with the lines between fact and
propaganda being blurred on a daily basis. The demands of round-the-clock
news means military claims are being relayed instantly to millions without
being confirmed or verified only to be refuted later by reporters on the
ground or by fresh military updates.
In due course, questions will be asked about the clashing interests of the
military and the media and the role of war propaganda in the pursuit of a
swift victory against Saddam's regime.
An early example of false claims relates to the battle to take control of
Umm Qasr, the southern Iraqi deep-sea port and one of the key targets in
the early war. By the first weekend of the conflict, it had been reported
"taken" nine times, despite continued ugly skirmishes between coalition
forces and irregulars loyal to Saddam Hussein operating out of the old
town. Umm Qasr was not, in fact, taken until three days later.
Here MediaGuardian.co.uk charts the contradictory claims and counter claims
made so far.
Anyone who can point to other war claims that don't bear scrutiny, please
email <mailto:editor -!
- mediaguardian -
- mediaguardian -
Monday March 31 10.55pm
US troops open fire on a car at checkpoint near Kerbala, killing seven
Iraqi women and children and wounding two. Four other women or children
were huddled in the vehicle, unhurt, according to a Central Command
spokesman in Qatar. He claims the driver had ignored warning shots fired by
troops at the checkpoint. "As a last resort the soldiers fired into the
passenger compartment of the vehicle," the spokesman said.
Tuesday April 1, 1.49am
Military officials insist driver failed to heed a signal to stop and that
the soldiers had followed correct checkpoint procedures. In a statement
released soon after the incident, US troops are said to be edgier following
A suicide bomb attack that killed four soldiers at another checkpoint. "In
light of recent terrorist attacks by the Iraqi regime, the soldiers
exercised considerable restraint to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,"
the statement said. Pentagon promises to investigate the incident.
Tuesday April 1, 4.45am
The Washington Post, whose reporter William Branigin is embedded with the
3rd Infantry, reports on its website that 15 people were in the car and 10
were killed, including five children under five. The report quotes 3rd
Infantry Division Captain Ronny Johnson as saying the checkpoint crew did
not fire warning shots quickly enough despite ordering them to do so
earlier. Troops pepper the car with cannon fire shots after it failed to
stop. Johnson orders them to cease firing and shouts to the platoon leader,
"You just fucking killed a family because you didn't fire a warning shot
Tuesday April 1, 1.04pm
Pentagon officials insist their initial account of the incident is correct
and that warning shots were fired. "I'm sure that these soldiers were doing
a good job," said one official. "It's very tragic, but they acted in an
HUMAN SHIELD BUS ATTACKS
Tuesday April 1 12.52pm
Iraq reports that US warplanes attack two buses bringing American and
European peace activists to Baghdad from neighbouring Jordan. The
information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, tells a news conference the
injured are being treated in a hospital near the Jordanian border.
"Yesterday an American warplane attacked two buses on the highway between
Amman and Baghdad with foreign passengers, among them Americans," Mr Sahaf
says, adding Europeans had also been on board. "These were human shields
who were coming to Baghdad to be deployed... many of them were injured and
taken to hospital at Rutba," he adds. "The brave Americans start shooting
Tuesday April 1 3.05pm
US brigadier general Vincent Brooks claims he knows nothing of the attacks
during a news conference at Qatar central command headquarters. Three
Jordanian men at the Iraq-Jordan border, who said they had travelled from
Baghdad on Tuesday, claim they had not seen any buses that had been hit
recently. They say the only charred bus along the route was Syrian and had
been bombed some time ago.
Thursday March 27 12.59am
US President George Bush says US troops had destroyed a terrorist camp in
northern Iraq but fails to elaborate during a briefing about the progress
of the Iraqi invasion. "Day by day, Saddam Hussein is losing his grip on
Iraq," Bush said.
Sunday March 30 5.07pm
More reports that allied forces secure much of north of Iraq and overrun a
notorious terrorist camp alleged to be a haven for al-Qaida militants.
Washington accuses the Ansar al-Islam group, believed to be behind the
camp, of working to make chemical weapons with help from Osama bin Laden's
Monday 31 March
Papers report that US forces seize the chemical weapons training camp in
Ansar al-Islam, in northern Iraq. Sun splashes with the story and says war
justified now that Saddam Hussein's weapons of horror had been discovered.
Veteran UK intelligence expert Chris Dobson says the deadly poison ricin
found recently in London most likely came from the camp and was evidence of
Saddam's links with terrorists intent on striking Britain.
Admission claim never verified
Tuesday April 1 1.39pm
A US commander in the Gulf, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, tells a news
conference that troops had yet to find any banned weapons of mass
destruction in captured Iraqi territory. US defence secretary Donald
Rumsfeld says Iraq's banned weapons are stockpiled in Baghdad and Tikrit.
EVIDENCE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONRY
Monday March 31 1.38pm
Chemical protection suits and decontamination equipment found among a large
Iraqi arms cache seized near the city of Nassiriya. "The 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force seized a large weapons cache, about 40 buildings worth,
containing ammunition, chemical decontamination equipment...chemical suits
and unidentified artillery munitions," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks
told a central command briefing in Qatar.
Monday March 31, 4pm
British Armed Forces minister Adam Ingram forced to backtrack on claims.
Queried about reports that troops had stumbled across firm evidence, he
initially said: "We have discovered stocks of chemical weapons and other
aspects related to nuclear, biological and chemical threats". Responding to
concerned rumblings from MPs, he modified his claims to say he was
referring to the discovery of protective suits left behind by Iraqi forces.
He said: "Well, OK, certainly chemical and biological threats in terms of
those particular suits.
"He has the capability. That is why we're there in the first instance and
it must remain our assessment that he has an intent to use those weapons he
has," he said. The suits were dated September 2001, a date seized upon as
evidence that Saddam was preparing for chemical warfare.
He was pressed by Labour's Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow), who asked: "How many
sites identified by US or UK intelligence as having stocks of chemical
weapons stored have so far been inspected and what has been found?"
Mr Ingram told him: "That type of verification is not yet available to us.
I just hope you share my views on this that Saddam Hussein has been
developing that capability. That was the conclusion of Hans Blix in the
document he produced on March 7 ... it is only a matter of time before we
find those weapons and verify accordingly."
IRAQI GENERAL CAPTURED
Sunday March 30, 11.21am
British forces claim they have captured an Iraqi general following clashes
with Iraqi units south of Basra. Group Captain Al Lockwood at central
command war headquarters in Qatar confirms this on Sunday. "I don't know
what unit [he was from]. I do know that we have a general," he said.
Sunday March 30, 1.05pm
Lockwood says the general, believed to be the highest ranking prisoner of
war caught so far, will be pressed for strategic information. "We'll be
asking him quite politely if he's willing assist us to continue our
operations against the paramilitary forces in Basra," he said.
Sunday March 30, 6.39pm
Qatar-based satellite television channel al-Jazeera later quotes
Lieutenant-General Walid Hamid Tawfiq, an Iraqi field commander in the
Basra region, as denying that a general had been captured and a colonel killed.
Monday March 31, 12.55am
Military officials in Britain retract their earlier claims. "We do not have
a prisoner of war of general rank," a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said.
British military spokesman Major Will MacKinlay blames the confusion on
"the fog of war" in an earlier interview on BBC television.
Monday March 31, 9.18am
A British military spokesman says the captured Iraqi was "just another
officer" and was "misidentified as a general". Asked how the mistake was
discovered, he said: "We just got feedback through the channel of command."
BASRA TANK COLUMN
Wednesday March 26 6.54pm
Reports emerge that a column of up to 120 Iraqi tanks and armoured
personnel carriers heading south out of the Iraqi city of Basra is attacked
by US-led forces. Major Mick Green, the officer commanding the 40
Commandos' battle room, said: "We have no idea why this column has come out
at the moment. Their intentions or motives are totally unclear but they
have adopted an offensive posture and do not want to surrender, so we have
here for original report
Thursday March 27 6.55am
Newspapers including the Guardian are filled with graphic accounts of the
battle between British tanks and Iraqi armour. A US forces official claims
"a lot of the column was repelled and destroyed". The Guardian among others
reports that the emergence of the column took British commanders by surprise.
More details and colour
Thursday March 27 8.51am
A BBC correspondent with British marines south of Basra estimates the size
of the convoy is up to 120 vehicles and says the battle raged through the
night. "Many tanks have been destroyed, many are on fire now," Clive Myrie
reports. "Every now and again the area here shakes with the thud of
missiles and bombs going into that column." Earlier British officials
dismiss as erroneous reports that the column involved 120 Iraqi tanks.
Thursday March 27 14.11pm
All the Iraqi tanks were destroyed in the fighting that followed. A
military source said: "It was 14-0." The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards also
overran two Iraqi infantry positions, the sources said. One officer said of
the contest between the T55 and Challenger 2: "It's like the bicycle
against the motor car." Brigadier General Vince Brooks, the deputy director
of operations, admits initial reports suggesting a convoy of up to 120
vehicles was erroneous. He put it down to a "classic example of the fog of
war" resulting from a wrong radar signal.
Friday March 28
Daily Star splashes with the "14-0" comment. Several other papers including
the Sun report the officers bicycle simile.
MASSACRE OF TRIBESPEOPLE
March 27, 2pm
Several hundred tribespeople are reported to have died at the hands of
Iraqi forces in a village near Kirkuk, says the BBC's Jim Muir in
Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
No further mention of the massacre - anywhere.
Thursday March 27, 17.42pm
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix says there is no evidence the Iraqis
had used banned weapons in the week-old war.
"So far we have not identified or heard from the allies that anything that
was proscribed would have been used," he said. Blix's comment contradicted
a statement by Kuwait's UN ambassador Mohammad Abulhasan in a letter to the
security council, which claimed that at least one of 11 missiles fired by
Iraq into Kuwait between Thursday and Monday was a Scud missile.
Thursday, March 20, 10.15am
An Iraqi Scud missile fired at US troops on the Kuwaiti border was
intercepted by Patriot missiles, the US military says. Reports of Scud
Sunday, March 23, 4.30am
US general Stanley McChrystal says: "So far there have been no Scuds
launched... We have found no caches of weapons of mass destruction to date."
BASRA UPDATE - HOW THE UPRISING EVAPORATED
Wednesday, March 26, 23.01pm
"Some people are saying there were demonstrations that were put down, but
others say parts of Basra are now controlled by the people," said Hamed
al-Bayati, Sciri's London representative, reports the Financial Times.
"We're not sure who is behind it." Pan-Arab television stations on
Wednesday showed footage from a quiet city.
March 26, 23.01pm
But Shi'ite officials said journalists were not free to roam the streets of
Basra and might have been shown areas that had indeed remained calm.
Claim and counter claim
Thursday, March 27, 8.51am
British officials insist there was an uprising on Tuesday but a spokesman
for Iraq's main Shi'ite exile opposition group said he would not go so far
as to describe the unrest in that way.
And British claim again
Thursday, March 27, 9.32am
British forces spokesman Group Captain Al Lockwood declares the city quiet
following the "popular uprising" on Tuesday.
BASRA UPRISING NUMBER 1
Tuesday, March 25, 5.30pm
Widespread media reports of a popular uprising against President Saddam
Hussein in Iraq's second city of Basra, believed to have originated from
military sources. Follows reports from GMTV pool reporter Richard Gaisford.
Tuesday, March 25, 6.10pm
British military sources say they are unable to confirm reports of any
popular uprising in Basra, but reiterate that they would do everything
possible to encourage and support any Iraqis planning to overthrow forces
loyal to Saddam."We don't know anything about a popular uprising," said one
British military source in Central Command in Qatar.
Tuesday, March 25, 7.44pm
Iraq's information minister denies the reports, calling them
"hallucinations". "I want to affirm to you that Basra is continuing to hold
steadfast," Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf told the Arabic language
al-Jazeera television network.
Wednesday, March 26, 2.27am
A British spokesman at US Central Command headquarters in Qatar says it
appears there has been an uprising. "We don't have a clear indication of
its scale or scope or where it will take us. But we will want to support it
to exploit its potential. It looks like this uprising is based on the
massive resentment of the population."
Wednesday, March, 7.40am
An Al-Jazeera reporter, who is stationed behind coalition lines in Basra,
says he has no evidence of an uprising. He says the city is crawling with
Iraqi military and the streets are littered with shrapnel.
Wednesday, March 26, 12.30pm
British prime minister Tony Blair says he believes there has been a limited
uprising overnight. "In relation to what has happened in Basra overnight,
truthfully reports are confused, but we believe there was some limited form
of uprising," he told the House of Commons.
BASRA, MARCH 25th WHEN AN HOUR IS ALONG TIME
Tuesday, March 25, 8.13am
Reuters: "British military spokesman confirmed on Tuesday British troops
were probably going to go into Basra to battle irregular fighters resisting
US-led invasion forces in Iraq's second city. "We are meeting resistance
from irregulars, members of the Fedayeen, who are extremely loyal to Saddam
Hussein's regime," group captain Al Lockwood told CNN television. "They are
lightly armed, and very small in number, but they are terrorising the
citizens of Basra and we will probably need to go in and meet any resistance."
Tuesday, March 25, 9.16am
Reuters: a British spokesman said on Tuesday British troops would not enter
the southern city of Basra to battle irregular Iraqi fighters -
contradicting an earlier statement. But the British did consider Basra a
military target. "We're not going into Basra, it's simply considered a
target," a British military spokesman at Central Command headquarters in
Qatar told Reuters. "The reason it is a potential target is because it has
an enormous political and military importance in the area."
CHEMICAL WEAPONS FACTORY: NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T
Monday, March 24, 1.33am
Reports surface that US forces find first cache of Saddam's chemical and
biological weapons, seizing a suspected chemical factory in An Najaf. This
would be a significant PR coup for Messrs Bush and Blair who justified
their launch of war on the grounds that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Fox News and the Jerusalem Post, which had a reporter travelling with US
troops, both quote unidentified Pentagon officials who said the facility
was seized by US forces. About 30 Iraqi troops and their commanding general
surrendered as American forces took the installation, apparently used to
produce chemical weapons, according to the Jerusalem Post. It was not
immediately clear what chemicals were being produced at the facility.
Officials caution it is too premature to conclude that forbidden weapons
had been discovered but US central command says it is examining several
sites of interest.
Monday, March 24, 2.42am
General Richard Myers, chairman of joint chiefs of staff, claims US
commamdos found documents along with millions of rounds of ammunition on
Saturday, saying the discovery "might save thousands of lives if we can
find out exactly what they have".
We're not sure
Monday, March 24, 2.44pm
General Tommy Franks, head of the coalition forces, claims he "wasn't
entirely sure" that it was a chemical factory after all. Fox News forced to
back away from the story. Iraq denies it has chemical or biological weapons.
Thursday, March 20, 7.33pm
US-led troops have taken Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr, Iraq's only
deep-water port in the south, wires and TV report.
TV reporters, including Mark Austin on ITV's News Channel, challenge the
claims. They have it on Iraqi authority that Umm Qasr has certainly not
been taken. "Iraqi troops deny anyone has surrendered."
Friday , March 21, 11.35pm
Admiral Michael Boyce, chief of the British defence staff, confirms the
off-the-record briefings received by media in Kuwait and southern Iraq.
"Umm Qasr has been overwhelmed by the US Marines and now is in coalition
hands," he says.
Friday, March 21, just after midnight
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld says US forces have taken Umm Qasr.
The fog of war thickens.
Saturday, March 22, breakfast time
TV reporters on Sky and BBC say Umm Qasr have witnessed fighting and
dispute claims that the port has been has been "taken". They explain the
new town is under coalition control but the old town is putting up
resistance and therefore Umm Qasr cannot qualify as "taken".
Sunday, March 23, 05.53am
A heavy firefight breaks out between US Marines and Iraqi forces, witnesses
Tuesday, March 25, 9.53am
Reuters: "The southern Iraqi port town of Umm Qasr, where US and British
forces have faced Iraqi resistance for days, is now "safe and open", a
British commander said on Tuesday. Brigadier Jim Dutton, commander of the
British Royal Marines' 3rd Commando Brigade, told reporters he hoped the
first ship bringing aid to Iraq would arrive within 48 hours."
Saturday, March 22, 11.12pm
US forces have captured Nassiriya in central Iraq, according to wire
reports from Iraq.
Sunday, March 23, 1.30am
US forces say they have captured Nassiriya, international wire services report.
Sunday, March 23, 10.21am
US-led forces suffer heaviest casualties so far with stiff resistance at
Nassiriya, Najaf, Basra and Umm Qasr.
Exasperation begins to show
Sunday, March 23, 5.50pm
Defence analyst Francis Tusa says on Sky News: "We have now been told three
times that Nassiriya has been captured. How many more times are we going to
Battle goes on
Monday, March 24, 11.43am
US Marines were still bogged down early on Monday at the southern Iraqi
city of Nassiriya, the key to opening a second route north to Baghdad,
after taking significant casualties there on Sunday.
Friday night, March 21
Wires, TV and radio report official claims that coalition commanders have
accepted the surrender of the 8,000-strong 51st Iraqi infantry division
near the southern city of Basra on Friday.
Sunday March 23, 10.33pm
Reuters: "Iraqi officials denied US statements that the US commander of the
Iraqi divison had surrendered, which US officials said on Friday."
Counter claim number 2
Monday, March 24, 3.22am
New York Times wire service: "US officials were quick to announce the
surrender of the commander of the 51st Division. On Sunday they discovered
that the 'commander' of the surrendered troops was actually a junior
officer masquerading as a higher-up in an attempt to win better treatment."
Sunday, March 23, 12.10am
Ten US soldiers were wounded in an attack on Camp Pennsylvania, a military
base in northern Kuwait, a US military spokesman said, without giving
further details. Jim Lacey, a Time magazine correspondent who was at the
camp, told CNN two grenades had been rolled into the command tent in what
appeared to be a "terrorist attack". The report gives way to instant
discussions of al-Qaida terrorist cells operating in Kuwait.
Details of attacker change
Sunday, March 23, 12.40am
Sky News says the suspect for the attack is a US soldier, later revealed as
Asan Akbar, who was born Mark F Kools. But the information hasn't filtered
through everywhere. The BBC's Radio 5 Live still discussing the terrorist
attack on the 1.00am news on Radio 5 Live.
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