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If you're read the chapter on propaganda on Flat Earth News (or even if you haven't), read the following AP story and judge for yourself a) whether this might be another example of US military and intelligence people injecting a fabricated story into global media; and b) whether it contains a single fragment of evidence which would entitle AP, or anybody else who runs it, to conclude that it is true....
* Sunday February 10 2008
By LAUREN FRAYER
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD (AP) - A diary and another document seized during U.S. raids show some al-Qaida in Iraq leaders fear the terror group is crumbling, with many fighters defecting to American-backed neighborhood groups, the U.S. military said Sunday.
The military revealed two documents discovered by American troops in November: a 39-page memo written by a mid- to high-level al-Qaida official with knowledge of the group's operations in Iraq's western Anbar province, and a 16-page diary written by another group leader north of Baghdad.
In the Anbar document, the author describes an al-Qaida in crisis, with citizens growing weary of militants' presence and foreign fighters too eager to participate in suicide missions rather than continuing to fight, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. military spokesman.
``We lost cities and afterward, villages ... We find ourselves in a wasteland desert,'' Smith quoted the document as saying.
The memo cites militants' increasing difficulty in moving around and transporting weapons and suicide belts because of better equipped Iraqi police and more watchful citizens, Smith said.
The author of the diary seized near Balad wrote that he was once in charge of 600 fighters, but only 20 were left ``after the tribes changed course''- a reference to how many Sunni tribesmen have switched sides to fight alongside the Americans, Smith said.
The switch by the Sunni tribes, whose resulting U.S.-backed groups are often referred to as awakening councils, has been credited with helping reduce violence across the country.
The councils were key to helping push al-Qaida out of Anbar province, once one of the country's most violent. The terror group's top leaders are now based somewhere in northern Iraq, Smith said, having moved out of Anbar and into Diyala province last year.
The U.S. military described both documents, but allowed reporters to see just four pages from them, citing security reasons.
The documents tell ``narrow but compelling stories of the challenges al-Qaida in Iraq is facing,'' Smith told reporters in Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone.
``This does not signal the end of al-Qaida in Iraq, but it is a contemporary account of the challenges posed to terrorists from the people of Iraq,'' Smith said.
He said the documents are believed to be authentic, Smith said, because they contain details that only al-Qaida in Iraq leaders could know about battlefield movements and tactics.
And, while you're at it, you might ask the same questions of the following tale, which went all around the planet a few days earlier. In this case, there is at least some picture evidence to support some of the story, but do we know why the children in the pictures were doing whatever they were doing; and do we know that al Qaeda was involved with them?...
Friday, Feb 08, 2008
This image is from a video released by the US military in Iraq which it claims shows an al-Qaeda training operation. The video shows young boys being trained to kidnap and kill civilians, US and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday.
Boys in soccer jerseys don black masks and grab weapons. They scramble over mud-brick walls, blast down doors and hold guns to the heads of residents inside.
The US military said videos seized from suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq hideouts show militants training children who appear as young as 10 to kidnap and kill. It's viewed as a sign that the terror network -- hungry for recruits -- may be using younger Iraqis in propaganda to lure a new crop of fighters.
"Al-Qaeda in Iraq wants to poison the next generation of Iraqis," said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, a US military spokesman. "It is offering children as the new generation of mujahidin," he added, using the Arabic term for holy warriors.
The video, shown to reporters on Wednesday, depicted an apparent training session with black-masked boys -- ammunition belts draped across their small chests -- forcing a man off his bicycle at gunpoint and marching him off down a muddy lane.
An off-camera voice, speaking with an Iraqi accent, instructs children how to take firing positions with assault rifles.
At one point, the boys huddle in a circle on a cement floor, solemnly pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda.
US and Iraqi officials said they had no idea how many children have joined the insurgency.
Young children are rarely behind insurgent attacks in Iraq, though they have been used as decoys. In March, police said children were used in a car bombing in which the driver gained permission to park in a busy shopping area after pointing out that he was leaving his kids in the back seat.
The children were killed along with three Iraqi bystanders.
The military said the videos -- seized in a December raid in Khan Bani Saad northeast of Baghdad -- were filmed in Iraq and depicted Iraqi children, but offered no definitive evidence. Smith said the adult trainer's voice had an Iraqi accent. It could not be determined when the videos were made, he said.
The scenes included boys mimicking the violence and aggression that have become familiar to Iraqi children since the 2003 US-led invasion. The footage also appeared to show organized militant training sessions, suggesting an effort by al-Qaeda-inspired insurgents to train ever-younger -- and perhaps less conspicuous -- militants. The raw footage was likely to be incorporated into propaganda films for al-Qaeda or other militant groups.
"We believe this video is used as propaganda to send out to recruit other boys ... and to send a broader message across Iraq to indoctrinate youth into al-Qaeda," Smith said.
In a Dec. 8 operation in Muqdadiyah, north of the Iraqi capital, US troops found an Arabic movie script with scenes of terrorists training children, and children interrogating and executing victims, Smith said.
Both the videos and film script were found in Diyala Province, a hotbed of Sunni militant activity.
Smith said the US military decided to show the videos of children to expose al-Qaeda's "morally broken ideology" and encourage Iraqi opposition.
"Iraq's democratic and elected government is building schools ... and offers the children of Iraq hope for a peaceful and prosperous future. Al-Qaeda in Iraq sends 15-year-old boys and mentally handicapped women on suicide missions, builds car bombs and is trying to teach children how to kill," Smith said.
In one scene, young trainees -- toting guns as long as the children are tall -- pile out of a van in military-style formation. They surround a car and force out the mock driver. One hauls along a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Another clip shows a young boy wearing a suicide vest and posing with automatic weapons.