Poor Michelle Malkin.
When I wrote last year that warbloggers like her would have to find a new Iraq-based media conspiracy to chase in light of how spectacularly their then-beloved controversy surrounding the Associated Press and its allegedly fictitious source, Jamil Hussein, had imploded, I never thought she'd take my advice literally. I was making a rhetorical point.
But lo and behold, she and her press-hating warblogger friends did go chase another media conspiracy out of Iraq. They did target an innocent Iraqi: Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Bilal Hussein. They did lob wild, unsubstantiated allegations against the AP (again). They did reveal their hatred for hard-working journalists trying to cover the extremely dangerous war in Iraq. And they did make collective fools of themselves.
Two colossal, Iraq-based media embarrassments in just over one year. Michelle, you're en fuego! And I'm not even going to mention how you Swift Boated that 12-year-old boy a few months back. (You're welcome.)
To be precise, warbloggers promoted the Bilal Hussein story in earnest following the collapse of the Jamil Hussein story in January 2007. But in truth, Malkin and her friends have been waging war on Bilal Hussein for nearly four years. (Very Captain Ahab/Moby Dick-ish, don't you think?) For four years they called him a terrorist sympathizer and much, much worse, and condemned the AP in every imaginable way for sticking up for Hussein. And now -- poof! -- it's all for naught because there was nothing to the warbloggers' endless claims.
So now Bilal Hussein joins the ranks of Jamil Hussein (no relation), and the two names, I hope, will be permanently linked to the warbloggers' sad brand of mob rule-style pseudo-journalism.
What's so amazing -- and truly frightening -- about the Bilal Hussein story is that the U.S. government may have actually turned to warbloggers for information. At least one source even allegedly credited the laughable Jawa Report blog for helping put Bilal Hussein behind bars for two years while the U.S. military in Iraq pondered his fate. That warbloggers are right less often than a stopped clock is one thing. That CENTCOM officials have apparently deputized the clueless Inspector Clouseaus in the War on Terror represents a national embarrassment.
Of course, Bilal Hussein and the AP now deserve detailed apologies from the warbloggers. But trust me, those are not going to materialize. As I noted when I performed the autopsy on their phony Jamil Hussein saga (for the details on that caper, click here, here, and here), being a warblogger means never having to say you're sorry. (See Glenn Greenwald's epic takedown on the collective lack of right-wing blogging standards, here.)
The photographer Bilal Hussein first gained notoriety in December 2004 when he snapped real-time images of four masked insurgents pulling two Iraqi election workers from their cars on Haifa Street in Baghdad and assassinating them in broad daylight. The vivid wartime portraits, which served as a reminder of the rampant lawlessness inside Iraq 21 months after the U.S. invasion, became part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning package by AP photographers.
For the warbloggers, the photographers were too good. Based on nothing more than a press-hating (and Muslim-hating) hunch, they accused Hussein of being in cahoots with terrorists; of being tipped off by them about the pending execution and having no fear of the terrorists. (i.e., He was an accomplice to murder.) It was all part of some sort of master plan the insurgents had hatched to use the Western press to spread the word about the chaos unfolding inside Iraq. (As if the death and destruction there were some kind of state secret.) And treasonous journalists were playing along, the warbloggers cried:
- Bilal Hussein: Terrorist operative posing as AP Photographer [Infidels are Cool]
- Bilal Hussein-Terrorist on the Payroll of the AP [Federal Way Conservative]
In April 2006, Bilal Hussein was taken into custody and held as a security risk for being linked to a terrorist group, although the U.S. military pressed no charges and over the years, according to the AP, provided only vague, elusive reasons from detaining Hussein. (For more details and background on the Hussein case, read this very thorough piece by American Journalism Review's Charles Layton.)
Nonetheless, warbloggers crowed about their work in cracking the big Hussein case. Here's Malkin last November bragging about her unique brand of gum-shoeing:
In April 2006, I broke news about our military's detention of Associated Press stringer Bilal Hussein -- who sources in Iraq told me was captured by American forces in a building in Ramadi, Iraq, with a cache of weapons -- and continued to follow the case here, here, here, here, here, here, and here
By all means, click through Malkin's archives and behold the evil that Bilal Hussein represented, and learn all about how "The Associated (with terrorists) Press" had "waged all-out war on the military," and was "in denial" about the truth.
Over at the Jawa Report, warblogger Rusty Shackelford was similarly impressed with all the great work he and Malkin had done in unmasking the AP terrorist:
Had Michelle Malkin, who was really at the forefront of this, and other bloggers -- like us -- not been so outraged by photos, then our reader may have never even heard of Bilal Hussein. ... And as far as we can tell, Hussein would have eventually been let go only to return to his propaganda duties for the terrorists.
The Jawa man gushed, "It's stories like these that make it all worth it!"
Am I right, or is there no thrill quite like the one you get by sending an innocent and essentially powerless man to prison while publicly denigrating and dehumanizing him based on bogus allegations, and while also simultaneously assaulting his employer for having terrorist sympathies?
As the Hussein story unfolded, and the military kept the AP's lawyers mostly in the dark about what kind of evidence actually existed against the photog, aroused warbloggers typed up every military morsel about the case with feverish delight. Like last November when U.S. officials finally detailed their allegations and signaled a Hussein trial was finally in the offering, claiming, "We believe Bilal Hussein was a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP," adding that the Pentagon "possesses convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to security and stability as a link to insurgent activity."
Warbloggers became increasingly stimulated with each taste of Pentagon spin because it a) matched what warbloggers had been claiming for years, and b) could not be refuted because military spin was, by definition, the unvarnished truth.
Warbloggers understood that the pending trial of Bilal Hussein would simply be a formality because the U.S. military command center in Iraq had spoken. (As Malkin teased: "Bilal Hussein's day in court should be illuminating, to say the least.") Denials were of little interest, and introspection even worse. That's the warblogger mindset, and that's one of the reasons they detest journalists so much -- because journalists simply interfere with the preferred direct line of communication coming out of Iraq, which is from the U.S. military straight to American citizens.
The military talked tough about the Hussein case in November, claiming it was going to file formal criminal charges against him. Then this month, like so many other high-profile U.S. War on Terror prosecutions, it all fell apart. On April 9, when news broke that an Iraqi judicial panel had dismissed proceedings against Hussein under a so-called "amnesty" law, Malkin quickly assured her shaken readers: "There is more to this story, believe me. Amnesty does not equal absolution." Knowing that the Iraqi acquittal did not automatically mean that the U.S. Army would release Hussein, Malkin told her readers, "Stay tuned -- and do not just rely on the conflict-of-interest-addled Associated Press for the news."
But the following week when news came that the U.S. military was in fact going to following the Iraqi court's lead and cut Hussein loose, I did stay tuned to Malkin site for news updates, which in the past had been regular and frequent. But guess what? Crickets from Malkin regarding the story (the hoax?) that, for years, she had bragged about owning.
The number of items posted on Malkin's site in the seven days after news of Hussein release broke? 66.
The number of those 66 items, according to Malkin's own search engine, that contained any mention of Bilal Hussein? 0.
And Malkin wasn't the only warblogger who was suddenly hit with a colossal bout of amnesia, as a collective "Bilal who?" enveloped the right-wing blogs last week. For instance, the site Flopping Aces excitedly covered the public charges leveled against the "scumbag" Hussein last November. But then, in the 48 hours surrounding Hussein's release, Flopping Aces forgot to update readers about the photographer's freedom. How queer.
The same was true with right-wing hotbeds such as Riehl World View, Hot Air, Stop the ACLU, Sister Toldjah, and Jules Crittenden's Forward Movement.
They all dutifully typed up the military's dark claims about Hussein and pounded their chests about how warbloggers had uncovered a terrorist inside the AP. But when the Army decided Hussein no longer posed a threat, the warbloggers all played dumb. (Trust me, it's an art form for them at this point.)
That's bad enough. And if warbloggers had simply ignored the Hussein news last week, that would have been one thing. Instead, those who did acknowledge the development tried to insist they were still right about Hussein's terrorist ties and that he'd simply been released on a technicality.
Let's go back to Malkin's suggestion that when the Iraqi judges acquitted Hussein on April 9, it didn't really mean he was innocent. That's important because last week, when the U.S. military freed Hussein, warbloggers clung to that amnesty fig leaf for cover. Watch how the warblogger daisy chain of misinformation worked.
For instance, when charges were dropped against Hussein on April 9, the warblogging site Wizbang explained what was really going on: "You have to look to alternate sources of information to get the full poop here -- the charges aren't being dismissed for lack of evidence, but because Hussein's actions fall under a new amnesty law."
To help educate its readers about the new amnesty law, Wizbang linked to Malkin's post about how there was "more to this story, believe me." But Malkin provided no facts about the amnesty law; no evidence to suggest Hussein was still guilty of any crime.
Sill, Wizbang pressed on:
As the story continues to unfold, remember this clearly: at no point was Bilal Hussein adjudged innocent of the terrorist-related charges he faced. Instead, he was freed by the same law that also set loose a lot of captured insurgents."
The same line appeared at Power Line, which insisted the Iraqi court "decided that Hussein was eligible for amnesty under a statute passed in February. His guilt or innocence has not been adjudicated."
That talking point was everywhere, including the Jawa Report, which announced, "Bilal Hussein wasn't set free because he was innocent, he was set free because his case was part of a general amnesty for insurgents." [emphasis in original]
Ditto for warblogging central, Little Green Footballs: "The Associated Press story about the release of photographer Bilal Hussein, strangely, does not explain that Hussein was released because of a new Iraqi amnesty law -- not because the charges were found to be without merit."
But where were the details about this amnesty law? Where were the facts that proved that Iraqi judges, in an extraordinarily high-profile case against a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and in a case the U.S. military was heavily invested in, never examined the evidence presented against Hussein and simply allowed him to walk free regardless of his guilt or innocence? Did warbloggers quote U.S. military officials? Did they research Iraqi law? Did they even cite news accounts? No -- they just liked the sound of the amnesty spin.
Still curious as to how LGF could be so certain in its April 16 item about the details of the amnesty law and how it represented Hussein's bogus, get-of-jail card, I went back and looked at what LGF wrote following the April 9 news that the Iraqi judges had dismissed charges against Hussein.
LGF posted this: "AP photographer Bilal Hussein has received amnesty from the Iraqi government, under a new law. I was unable to find any details about this 'new law,' but apparently it covers Hussein." [emphasis added]
Oh, my. Warbloggers maintain this fantasy that they were right all along about Hussein being a terrorist and it was only the creation of a new amnesty law that saved him from a certain prison sentence. But in truth, warbloggers have no idea what the amnesty law means.
And by the way, that amnesty angle was total BS, according to Scott Horton, an actual attorney was who was actually involved in the case. (He was Hussein's lawyer.) "When we [in the U.S.] say 'amnesty,' it's usually an executive act. This was a judicial amnesty based on a review of the complete court record," he told CJR last week.
Horton also wrote this in a Harper's blog entry on April 9:
An Iraqi Judicial Commission reviewing his case took ten days to reach a conclusion: No basis existed for the terrorism-related charges which had been brought against him. The conclusion was a sweeping repudiation of accusations U.S. military figures have brought against him, backed by no evidence, but by a handful of strangely motivated American wingnut bloggers.
Back in November when the military floated its evidence against Bilal Hussein and warbloggers were getting ready for their Trial of the Century, Captain's Quarters blogger Ed Morrissey announced, "In the end, the only real damage done will be to the AP, which can replace its Pulitzer it won with Bilal Hussein with a Walter Duranty award for Best Useful Idiots In Wartime."
Of course, we now know that the real damage was done to Malkin and her loyal squadron of warbloggers. So, for the second time in 15 months, they are free to collect their Best Useful Idiots in Wartime awards.