Surely you saw or heard the headlines yesterday: A pair of bloody suicide bombings carried out in Iraq by "mentally disabled" women who were tricked into wearing bomb vests detonated from nearby by "al-Qaeda in Iraq" operatives. Of course, this is all too possible -- but most of the media presented it as fact, rather than wild speculation. The Washington Post headline carried no qualifier: 'Mentally Disabled Women Used in Bombings."
So, it turns out on the following day, that the evidence for the mentally disabled part was that one of the alleged bombers' head recovered after the blast was deformed, suggesting Down's syndrome. Now the AP admits that the severed head may have merely been deformed by the blast (duh). Also, McClatchy's crack Baghdad bureau now reports that Iraqi officials "have made similar claims in the past" about mentally crippled bombers and a police official told them "that authorities were still investigating whether the explosion at the second market might have come from a bomb hidden in a cage or a box of eggs."
Update Sunday: Iraqi officials are sticking to the Down's syndrome claim, but McClatchy now reports: "However, Bob Lamburne, director of forensic services for the British embassy in Baghdad, cautioned that suggesting the two bombers suffered from Down syndrome based on photographs of their severed heads was 'dangerous.' He noted that the heads would have suffered massive trauma when the bombers' explosives detonated. 'The diagnosis would have to be more scientific than that,' said Lamburne."
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Print the headline, then let the facts catch up with it
is author of a dozen books (click on covers at right), including the new "THE TUNNELS: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill." He was the longtime editor of Editor & Publisher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GregMitch