Behind the looking glass in Iraq

On May 10, Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi, the newly appointed governor of Iraq’s Anbar province, was kidnapped by insurgents.

Five days later, according to news reports, he was freed.

But today, more than two weeks after he was freed, he was “found dead along with his militant captors after a clash with U.S. forces.”

Notice anything unusual in this chain of events? You do? No one in the media did. Not one report that I’ve seen of al-Mahalawi’s death mentions that, according to the Iraqi government, he had been freed by his captors 16 days previously. I wonder why. Why wasn’t one editor brave enough to print the following, “Raja Nawaf al-Mahalawi, the governor of Iraq’s Anbar province, was killed along with his kidnappers 16 days after they had released him.” After all, if you’re going to print statements of U.S. and Iraqi officials as legitimate news–that is, if you’re going to print absurdities–why try to hide them?

An examination of what else was happening in Iraq on May 15 explains the mystery. That was the day of Condoleezza Rice’s surprise one-day visit. Evidently, it was too embarrassing for Iraq’s putative leaders to have to meet with their boss while the governor of Iraq’s largest province was being held by the insurgents. So they ‘freed’ him. Simple as that. Reality? It’s no longer a limitation.

10 thoughts on “Behind the looking glass in Iraq”

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  2. While the story is curious enough, news reports weren’t quite as clueless as you suggest.

    The initial report came via Associated Press May 15:

    “Gunmen freed the kidnapped governor of Iraq’s western Anbar province Sunday after U.S. troops ended a weeklong offensive in the region, relatives and a government official said.

    Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi was kidnapped Tuesday ….

    The governor’s cousin, Safi Jalal, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the captive had been freed.

    “He was released and he is currently in the (village) of Obeidi,” he said. “People celebrated by firing shots in the air.”

    An official at Iraq’s Ministry of Provincial Affairs, Ahmed Hadi, confirmed that al-Mahalawi was released early Sunday, but he declined to provide any details. The governor’s cousin said he was released without conditions.

    After the governor’s body was found May 30, the AP ran the following report:

    “Officials said the body of Anbar Gov. Raja Nawaf Farhan al-Mahalawi was found Sunday after troops engaged in a fierce firefight with foreigners holed up in a house in Rawah, a desert village 175 miles (281 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad.

    Al-Mahalawi was kidnapped May 10 during an offensive by U.S. Marines to clear foreign fighters from a stretch of desert along the border with Syria. His fate had been shrouded in mystery since an announcement by relatives and a government official that he had been released two weeks ago.”

    Fair’s fair, guys. The media – or MSM, if you prefer – didn’t hide anything.

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  4. Dave in Texas,

    The May 31 AP report that you cite came out after I posted. Earlier reports that day did not mention al-Mahalawi’s ‘release.’ The question remains, why did the Iraqi government confirm his release on May 15 when, in fact, he had not been released? And why, in the intervening 16 days between his ‘release’ and his death, did the Iraqi government not correct their error? Didn’t anyone notice that he hadn’t shown up for work? I realize that the media have trouble finding sources in Iraq that are not Iraqi or American officials. My point is that we cannot trust the information coming from those officials as relayed by reporters who uncritically pass on that information.

    Eric Brewer

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