September 4, 2010

AP Internal Memo: ‘Combat in Iraq Is Not Over’

APlogo0409What follows indicates that at least one limit has been found to the establishment press’s willingness to serve as this government’s official apologists.

Not surprisingly, it relates to Iraq. The press obviously and bitterly opposed the war from the start, to the point of doctoring photographs, making stuff up, pretending that its sources knew what they were talking about when they didn’t, and ignoring enemy atrocities and Saddam Hussein’s mass graves for years, while often having their journalistic failures and biases exposed by milbloggers and bloggers. So if one were to have guessed ahead of time where a clear break might occur, Iraq would have been a leading choice.

That break comes in an AP email to staff from “Standards Editor” Tom Kent. He must have or at least should have known that its contents would get out. Jim Romenesko at Poynter Online (HT Legal Insurrection) appears to have posted it first, about 16 hours after Kent hit the “send” button:

Subject: Standards Center guidance: The situation in Iraq


… we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.

To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country’s future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.

As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that “the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”

However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.

Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.

Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can’t predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.


William Jacobsen’s reaction at Legal Insurrection: “AP Calls Obama A Liar.”

Well, it’s clear that AP is asserting that Obama is at least not telling the truth in this instance. Whether it becomes a more global assertion about the President himself based on the plethora of dishonesty the wire service is still willing to swallow from this President and his apparatchiks on domestic as well as foreign policy matters remains to be seen.

Cross-posted at


BizzyBlog Update, Sept. 7: An organization undeserving of linkage claims that yours truly “approved” of the AP’s posture.

I have done no such thing. I have observed that the AP has broken with the President and the administration on whether to consider combat operations in Iraq over, and that it represents “at least one limit has been found to the establishment press’s willingness to serve as this government’s official apologists.”

My personal view is that if a news organization is going to start picking differences with a U.S. administration, was coverage should be about the last place to do it — especially while the wire service involved routinely relays this administration’s fabrications about its stimulus spending and characterizations of its opposition, to name just two off the top of my head, without any hint of skepticism.

But my personal view was not part of the post, only observations, plus a belief that the AP’s first major break with the administration has come in an oh-so-predictable area.


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