Thursday, July 27, 2006

The LA Times Fails to Tell the Full Story About the Death of the UN Observers In Lebanon

The Los Angeles Times headline seems to tell a grim story of Israeli heartlessness and intentional mayhem: "Under Fire for 6 Hours, U.N. Peacekeepers Pleaded for Help Before Being Killed, U.N. Says." The story of course trumpets the accusation by UN Secretary General that the airstrike that hit the post was "apparently deliberate." Bolstering that conclusion, Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin writes, "The nearest known Hezbollah activity was more than three miles away, although in the past there have been Hezbollah weapons caches in the area, a senior U.N. official said."

Little Green Footballs provides what Paul Harvey calls "the rest of the story." Because one of the slain UN Observers was a Canadian citizen, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked about Kofi Annan's charges of a deliberate Israeli attack. As reported by the AFP wire service, to his credit, Harper said that the incident was was a “terrible tragedy” but not likely deliberate. The AFP wire story continues:
At the same time, he questioned why the UN had manned the outpost in Lebanon near the Israeli border as bombs exploded all around.
“We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals,” he told reporters.
Asked about UN head Kofi Annan’s statement suggesting Israel had targeted the outpost, Harper said: “I certainly doubt that to be the case.”
For some reason (perhaps the Times' anti-Israel bias), the Times did not consider this statement by the Prime Minister of one of the countries that lost a citizen in the incident to be newsworthy enough to mention in its article today.

But there is still more information from Little Green Footballs that the Times did not think you needed to know. As noted above, the Times story included a statement by an unnamed "senior UN official" that the nearest Hezbollah position to the UN post was more than 3 miles away. However, the Canandian Broadcasting Company interviewed Retired Retired Canadian Major General Lewis Mackenzie, who had been in e-mail communication with the slain Canadian peacekeeper in the days prior to his death. General Mackenzie told the CBC:
We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.
Finally, although the Times did not think it noteworthy, UN Observers are caught in a crossfire in two directions. Once again Little Green Footballs fills in the story, this time quoting a UNIFIL press release from yesterday! The United Nations official press release stated:
Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah side last night. The round did not explode, and there were no casualties or material damage. Another 5 incidents of firing close to UN positions from the Israeli side were reported yesterday. It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri. All UNIFIL positions remain occupied and maintained by the troops.
All of this information was available on the internet yesterday, as Ms. Rubin was writing the Los Angeles Times story. It does not come from blogs, but from the AFP wire service, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and UNIFIL itself. It would have been relatively easy to independently verify the information, if for some reason the Times did not consider those sources impeccable. It seems to me at least that good journalism demanded that those lines of inquiry be followed in order to tell the whole story. Apparently, however, those lines of inquiry would not have contributed to the story that the Times wanted to tell. KNX, a Los Angeles news radio station, uses the jingle, "All you need to know." Perhaps the slogan of the Los Angeles Times should be "All the news we think you need to know."

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