Coming off news Monday that the U.S. military falsely reported the cause of death of at least seven U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the Washington Post today published an article about a soldier who died in an ambush involving local police (you know, the ones we’re training to stand up, so we can “stand down”). The story fails to note, however, that the Pentagon initially - and willfully - falsified the cause of death in its statements to the press and the soldier's family.
As reported by Editor & Publisher’s Greg Mitchell:
The Post story by Amit Paley visits the Sholeh police station in Baghdad, where posters "celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls.” One rainy night this month, it seems, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., 20, said to be a “budding journalist.” At the time, Paley writes, Stanton and other members of the unit “had been trailing a group of Sholeh police” escorting known Mahdi Army members.
"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion.
We can’t. And that appears to be what's driving this cover-up.
The Bush administration’s latest effort to bolster support for the war hinges on the Iraqi military and police force being fully trained in 12 to 18 months. News of our troops being ambushed and murdered by the very people they’re training would be a devastating PR blow to the White House. A cover-up of this news even more embarrassing.
So E&P’s Mitchell did some digging and uncovered exactly how Stanton’s death was originally reported.
Here’s the Los Angeles Times account of Oct. 22: “While patrolling Baghdad on Oct. 13, Stanton was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his Humvee just two weeks after his 20th birthday. Two others were injured.” Nothing about an ambush by our U.S.-funded and trained police allies.
Here’s how the Press-Enterprise in Riverside described it: “Pfc. Kenny Francis Stanton Jr., 20, of Hemet, died Oct. 13 in Baghdad from injuries he suffered after a bomb detonated near his armored Humvee, U.S. Army spokesman Sheldon Smith said Monday.
“Smith said the incident occurred about 9:10 p.m., Baghdad time, while Stanton was inside the vehicle on patrol. He said it's uncertain if the bomb was set off after the vehicle ran over it or if it was set to explode remotely.”
The Pentagon officially records it as a "hostile fire--IED attack" fatality, occurring in "southwest Baghdad."
For the victim's hometown Valley Chronicle, Lt. Col. Lee Packnett of Army media relations added the detail that Stanton was wearing body armor “when an improvised explosive device -- or IED, one of the weapons most commonly used against U.S. forces -- detonated under or near the vehicle.”
All of the many accounts describe the incident similarly.
So even if it really happen that way -- ambushed by IED, not gunfire or grenade -- the official military story (and therefore the official press story) leaves out one rather key fact: that Stanton was killed not by insurgents or terrorists or “foreign fighters,” but by the Iraqi police.
How many other such deaths have occurred – and been falsely related and reported?
We may never know the answer to that question. But while the White House ratchets up specious campaign-season accusations of Democrats not supporting our troops, one thing is certain: in light of such cover-ups of our soldiers’ deaths, Bush administration hypocrisy has risen to new heights and, like the mayhem in Iraq, shows no sign of letup.
U.S. Soldier Murdered By Iraqi Police -- And Then the Cover-up
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher