Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"First" of the Day: The attack on Syria

In Washington an unnamed military official told the Associated Press the raid had targeted elements of a "foreign fighter logistics network", and that, due to Syrian inaction, the US was "taking matters into our own hands". It was the first known American attack on Syrian soil. —Ian Black and Ewen MacAskill reporting in "US forces kill eight in helicopter raid on Syria"

This was a "first" attack upon Syria only in a limited sense. As Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker were careful to note

The American military has on occasion mounted attacks on Syrian soil to support its military operations in Iraq, but they mostly have been cross-border missile strikes, and there was a rare case of ground forces briefly crossing the frontier in hot pursuit of insurgents.

So we must distinguish among missile attacks, ground force attacks in "hot pursuit" and finally ground force attacks that are admitted to have been planned and authorized by Washington.

It might just as well have been reported that "There has been an escalation in military attacks on Syria," but such a fact would probably not have been well received by a public eager to see American soldiers coming home from Iraq.

Instead the reporters simply turned the presentation of the matter over to the government. Here's their lede sentence in the NY Times

A raid into Syria on Sunday was carried out by American Special Operations forces who killed an Iraqi militant responsible for running weapons, money and foreign fighters across the border into Iraq ...

You had to be alert to catch the last four words of that opening—

..., American officials said Monday.

Am I the only person who thinks it remarkable that the NY Times allows the most important sentence of a news report to be turned over to the government?

Related posts
"Due to loss of self-control..." (7/22/05)
Graphic of the Day: Foreign fighters in Iraq (11/18/05)
Threat of the Day (10/09/07)


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