Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Alive and still dying
Sunday's issue of The Observer had a story suggesting that Saddam Hussein and at least one of his sons were transformed into soup somewhere near the Syrian border by an American Hellfire missile. The story cited "military sources". The damage was such, the story reported, that U.S. forces had to conduct DNA tests to determine if those killed were indeed the Hussein Al Takritis.

One passage read: "Despite previously unfounded US claims that Saddam had been killed during the bombing of Baghdad before the invasion by America and Britain, the sources indicated that they were cautiously optimistic that they had finally killed the target they described as 'the top man'."

Now the New York Times and the Washington Post are saying the whole thing was crap, with the Times reporting: "American officials said they had no reason yet to believe that Saddam Hussein or his sons were among the Iraqis killed in the strike. Several senior American officials said today the possibility that Mr. Hussein or his sons, Uday and Qusay, were among the Iraqis traveling in he convoy had been seen as small from the outset."

More importantly, the Times reveals that in the attack against what is now much more vaguely termed "a convoy suspected of carrying fugitive Iraqi officials", missiles may have hit their targets on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Iraqi border, injuring several Syrian border guards. The Post reports: "A Bush administration official said last night, however, that U.S. forces followed the convoy into Syrian territory and attacked it there. The Americans, the official said on condition of anonymity, were 'in hot pursuit and wound up crossing the Syrian border.'"

This leads one to wonder whether The Observer wasn't fed hogwash to cover for what was surely a more serious matter, namely a U.S. military attack against a sovereign country. Confusing the issue is the fact that, allegedly, according to Saddam's henchman, Abed Hammoud, the Syrians might have sheltered Saddam and his brood for a time, before expelling them.

That the Saddam story might have been a cover-up for the Syria attack is a big jump, but it will teach newspapers to fall for anonymous "military sources" hook, line and sinker.

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