On December 26 and December 27, I linked to a photo publicized by radio talker Scott Hennen and Power Line of Sen. John Kerry in Iraq. Milblogger Ben of Mesopotamia, an Army Captain in Iraq, had posted the photo and recounted on Dec. 18:
On Saturday night, a colleague emailed me and told me to bring my camera, as Senator Kerry was scheduled to give a press conference here in the Palace. At 2100, he entered a conference room wearing his leather flight jacket. Unfortunately, there was no media there, except for the enlisted soldiers from AFTN (Armed Forces Television Network) who had to be there. His aide looked around, saw that this just wasn’t happening, and quickly escorted Kerry out before I could take a picture.
Finally, the next morning, Senator Kerry ate chow at the Dining Facility. Normally when a Senator/Representative visits, he is joined by a contingent of soldiers/Marines/airmen from his home state. Despite the fact that the MP unit responsible for Green Zone security is an Army Reserve unit from Massachusetts, not a single soldier went to sit with him. (By contrast, Bill O’Reilly, host of that terrible shoutfest on Fox, had over 400 soldiers waiting in line to meet him on Saturday).
After TPM Muckraker wrongly accused milbloggers and conservative bloggers of faking the photo, TPM Cafe’s Greg Sargent published a heavy-breathing investigative report on the context of the photo:
…it turns out that Kerry was at that table to conduct an off-the-record breakfast discussion with two reporters, so there would have been no reason whatsover for troops to be sitting with them. In fact, Kerry and the reporters even sought out empty seats, I’m told.
The two reporters who met with Kerry that morning are Marc Santora of The New York Times and Mark Danner of The New York Review, The New Yorker and other publications. Both Santora and Danner confimed to me that they met with Kerry — on the morning of Dec. 17, according to Kerry’s office and to Danner. (The person who posted the photo also confirmed that it was taken that morning.)
Danner confirmed to me that he’s the guy with his back to the camera, saying his jacket and the back of his head looked the same as in the photo. He added that his position in relation to Kerry was the same as the photo showed. And here’s what Danner had to say to me about the empty seats: “If there were empty seats it’s because we sought them out. We wanted an empty table so we could talk. It’s that simple.”
In this particular instance, it appears, Kerry was not spurned by the troops. I stand corrected and apologize for the error.
I do not apologize, however, for linking to milblogger Ben’s first-hand account of Kerry’s visit or for printing letters I received offering other accounts of Kerry’s visit like this one:
My brother is an Air Force Col. serving on Gen. Casey’s staff in Baghdad. I emailed him yesterday to ask if he had seen the picture of “Mr. Lonely.” He had seen the pix and the following is what he wrote back: “The picture on the website of the Senator is from the same chow hall I use. We call it the DEFAC (Dining facility). The night prior I was in the chow hall with the Senator, he came in just behind me and sat a few tables over. Everybody avoided him like the plague.”
These accounts from the unedukated troops in Irak may explain why Kerry was huddling in a safe, off-the-record cocoon with New York journalists in a Baghdad mess hall in the first place.
Dan Riehl reacts to the TPM Cafe report:
The Distinguished Gentleman from Massachusetts traveled halfway around the world on tax dollars, allegedly to support the troops he ticked off with a poorly crafted joke – and rather than spend just a little bit more time with them, he opted to have breakfast with reporters from the New York Times and The New York Review, instead.
Scott Johnson responds:
Our emailer comments that Senator Kerry’s off-the-record breakfast meeting on December 17 may have taken place “because no one showed up at [Senator Kerry’s] press conference the night before.” I add only that, despite his being a serial defamer of the American military in the course of a long public career, Senator Kerry is actually admired, popular and sought-out by the troops, just like Bill O’Reilly!
Little Green Footballs corrects:
Consider this a correction, and a note that it now appears the original report was inaccurate; if Sargent is correct, Kerry was talking to some reporters and deliberately sought out an empty spot. We’ll just agree to forget about the numerous weird theories thrown out by the left-wing blogs on the way to this proof.
Now, if only TPM and the fevered left-wing blogosphere would hold, say, the New York Times–has anyone seen a correction yet for the Carmen Climaco debacle?–as accountable for its errors as the rest of us.
I relayed information from multiple sources–CPATT, Centcom, and two other military sources on the ground in Iraq– that the Associated Press’s disputed source, Jamil Hussein, could not be found. As I noted on the 4th, the AP reported that the Ministry of Interior in Iraq has now said a Captain Jamil Hussein does work in the al Khadra police station. I regret the error. But no blogger should apologize for raising legitimate questions about AP’s transparency, its reliance on local foreign stringers of dubious origins, and information that sources such as Hussein have provided the AP. I will continue to pursue some of the unresolved issues related to this.