:: Saturday, 17 July 2004 ::
Paul McGeogh of the SMH has interviewed 2 Iraqi blokes.
And between the two of them those blokes allege the following:
On or about the third weekend in June 2004, three weeks after he came to the role of Iraqi Interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi was in the courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block at the Al-Amariyah security centre in Baghdad's south-western suburbs. He had made a surprise visit to the security centre and he was with Iraq's Interior Minister together with about 12 Iraqi policemen and 4 Americans in Allawi's security detail (plus another 5 or 6 Americans, I think, frankly this is unclear and there were also Iraqibodyguards for Allawi but it is not clear whether they were in the courtyard) when he took his pistol which he wears on his hip and shot 7 inmates who were lined up against a wall or 3-4 metres in front of it, killing 6 by shooting them each one time in the head, and wounding the 7th in either the head or the chest. The inmates were youngish men. They were alleged to have committed crimes involving substantial deaths (50 each) of Iraqis. The bodies were put into a Nissan 4wD by Iraqi members of Allawis security detail. The bodies were buried in the desert. The police chief told all the Iraqi policemen present that they were not to speak of the incident.
McGeogh has conducted two separate interviews, one with each bloke. One of the blokes is a dishdashah wearing Iraqi. The other is definitely an Iraqi because of the kind of language used- pure wog. Neither bloke has been paid for the interviews. Both were happy with what they say they saw too. All they asked from McGeogh was that he not reveal their identities. McGeogh has respected their wishes.
From the article McGeogh says he found the blokes not the other way round. McGeogh must have heard the rumours - they were referred to on Zeyad's blog so lots of folks had heard them - and he has put the feelers out to see if there is any substance to them.
And he says he found these 2 blokes and interviewed them.
That must mean that the rumours are fairly precise - not just, as Zeyad said, that Allawi has been killing folks. But that he did it at that security centre.
Otherwise how could McGeogh find his 2 blokes? 2 blokes how happened to be at the shooting?
McGeogh asserts (and I mean that cos he asserted to us all that the US did not control the airport when they clearly did) that "up to" 30 folks "may have been" in the courtyard, and that The SMH has established the names of 3 of the 7 blokes said to have been shot in that courtyard.
Allawi denies the allegation and says he has never visited that security centre and one of his minders has said Allawi visits lots of security centres because he is PM. I guess the two positions could be in conflict but they equally might not be. Allawi says he does not wear a pistol and his minder backs him up on that.
Now, Allawi has declined to allow McGeogh any access to the security centre. And a bureaucrat called by McGeogh has declined to give information about the state of the 3 named inmates - living or dead.
So McGeogh has not got anything more than the words given to him by the 2 blokes.
They must have been in the courtyard to see what they say they saw. Both blokes said they think the 7 blokes killed deserved to die because they were terrorists who kill policemen. So the interviewees are 2 out of the 12 Iraqi policemen working at the security centre and in the courtyard. I think that is a fair conclusion. General Raad Abdullah, the officer in charge of the complex knew what had happened and had told his boys not to speak about the incident. So I think that places Raad in the courtyard. He could possibly be one of the McGeogh interviewees, but, jeez, you'd have to presume he has not broken his own directive of silence to talk to exclusively to a journalist.
Are there holes? Oh Yah. The interviewees do not agree on when it happened. In fact they are not clear about that critical information - why use the phrase "third weekend in June"? Why not njust write Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 June? They cannot agree on where the 7th inmate was shot - head or chest. And then there is the pure hearsay of the burying of the bodies in the desert. Neither bloke says he was there doing the burying and only one of them says the bodies were even driven away in Nissans.
This is McGeogh at his worst. A cheap Abu Graib shot that he should have edited out but he simply couldn't resist. It is what makes all of his reporting so suss.
I reckon McGeogh has some problems. This story seems to me to have gone to press prematurely. McGeogh's only evidence is 3 names of the 7 supposedly dead guys but how did he get them? He does not say they came from his 2 interviewees. He says "The SMH has established the names...". What the heck does that mean? How did The SMH "establish the names" if they did not come from the interviewees? And if they did come from the interviewees why not just write that so it is clear?
Something's up with that.
I reckon he has been fed a bunch of information from 2 blokes who support Allawi. And McGeogh has got some extra stuff too - the stuff he needed to find the 2 blokes, and the 3 names - from other sources.
Maybe he is doing the good journo thing of always holding something back for later. In which case this story will grow.
Or maybe he has shot his load.
I would like to know one way or the other.
In his more detailed piece for the SMH McGeogh says he first heard the rumours in the Palestine Hotel at Bagdah - jounalist central, and super negative journalist central at that. He says his interviewees are courageous to have given the interviews and they were reluctant to speak until McGeogh guaranteed anonymity. No matter about that guarantee, though. The men are in fear for their lives. He explains their inaccuracy about the date because of traditional wog haziness - if it doesn't happen on a religious festival day then no one can pinpoint the real date. He places great store in the absence of "convincing denials" by Allawi - now, that's a bit subjective isn't it Paul - and, get this, the fact Allawi did not bother to respond to a Seynour Hersch hit piece in the New Yorker magazine.
That last characteristic - the ol' absence of evidence means evidence of absence - is the bullshit cannard pedalled by every anti-war leftie jackass, from WMD now to this.
McGeogh does his story no credit by making this central to his thesis.
Now I have just seen on SkyNews that McGeogh has left Iraq fearing for his life. Christ. The piece only went to press today. This stinks. He seems to me to be acting completely in concert with his own thesis that Allawi is a killer.
On Saturday 19 June Allawi was in Musayyib looking at a sabotaged pipeline from the poweplant, according to The Guardian and The Australian. The powerplant is 110 kilometres south of Baghdad. Al-Aramiyah is in the south west of Baghdad. A 110 km round trip is doable pretty quick in normal worlds but who knows in Iraq - not me that's for sure. Maybe some Iraqi experienced folks know about the movement potential from the Musayyib powerplant. In any case, Allawi also met briefly with three US Senators.
On Sunday 20 June he was in Baghdad negotiating with Al Sadr to end the Madhi Army rubbish, negotiating into the night about the handover of Saddam Hussein into Iraqi custody and announcing the possibility of marshall law. And giving a phone interview to The Telegraph. In the zone of Baghdad, therefore in the zone of Al-Aramiyah security centre.
Thursday 17 June was the bad army recruitment bombing in Baghdad that killed 35 Iraqis with the second bombing north of the city that killed another 10. Allawi was at the scene of the first bombing with the Interior Minister and Paul Wolfowitz was in town at the same time. You would think that, as an Iraqi policeman - part of Iraq's security apparatus -that would be a day you would remember. You would also think it is the sort of disgraceful event that might make the man in charge of the country shoot some criminals in the head, either on the same day or some time in the following three or four days.
Hmmm. That rather trite observation has gotten me precisely nowhere.
Friday 18 June Paul Wolfowitz is still in town. Presumably Allawi spends some time with him. Can't find much online about this day except that the Fallujah bombing to get Zarqawi happened. The news online is therefore mostly ab out that incident and not following Allawi around. But Friday is super Muslim prayer day, right? So, the policemen would have to remember if it was a prayer day because, as McGeogh pointed out, religion guides memory. Right?
How about Monday 21 June? Plenty going on involving disgusting acts of violence by the Brave Iraqi Resistance. But nothing concrete about Allawi's movements. That is, nothing that I have found on a superfast search.
My point? McGeogh should have done this linky legwork before going to press. He has published really explosive claims and he has not got enough to back them up. He published with so little supporting information for his claims that he does not have a lay down misere hand. Now he has fled the country so he cannot finish his story properly. He has fled because, he says, he is afraid for his life. This is now all about Paul and not about Allawi - Paul's halfway work has been done.
I think the timeline shows that something could have happened around 19 and 20 June. It is not like Allawi was in London for a week, you know?
Whatever. We'll be hearing more, and more and more from McGeogh.
:: WB 1:49 am [link+] ::