Accuracy in Media

The U.S. Government isn’t alone in getting burned by the use of forged Iraq documents. The Christian Science Monitor has now apologized to suspended British Member of Parliament George Galloway for using forged documents to charge that he was in the pay of the Saddam Hussein regime. The paper declared, “On April 25, 2003, this newspaper ran a story about documents obtained in Iraq that alleged Saddam Hussein’s regime had paid a British member of Parliament, George Galloway, $10 million over 11 years to promote its interests in the West.”

The Monitor, after an extensive investigation, had determined the papers in questions were “almost certainly forgeries.” But that doesn’t get Galloway off the hook entirely. The London Daily Telegraph used another document, whose authenticity has not been challenged, to make its charge that Galloway had accepted money from the former Iraqi regime. The Telegraph says it was offered the Monitor document and rejected it.

Galloway has threatened to sue the Telegraph but hasn’t yet done so. Galloway’s pro-Saddam statements were a matter of public record; his call for British troops not to fight in an “illegal” war against Iraq were a factor in his suspension from the Labor Party. Monitor reporter Philip Smucker obtained the forged documents from an Iraqi general who claimed to have found them in a house owned by one of Saddam’s sons. But after the British paper the Daily Mail published its own story questioning the documents, the Monitor opened its investigation leading to the apology.

It claimed that it “did not pay for any of the Iraqi documents in its possession, nor was any payment ever discussed.” But now it appears that the general who provided the documents may have gotten some money indirectly. Smucker got the documents after paying the general’s neighbor $800 to translate them, and Smucker says, “I had no knowledge that the general received any of the $800, though now that I know the documents are forgeries, I have my suspicions.”

This isn’t the first controversy for Philip Smucker. He was expelled from Iraq by U.S. forces for releasing sensitive material regarding the location of U.S. troops in the region. Media analyst Stella Jatras criticized Smucker’s reporting back in 1998, when he was a stringer for the Washington Times and claimed there was evidence in Kosovo of the Serbs conducting a massacre and dumping hundreds of bodies in a mass grave.

Smucker reported, “Stark evidence in the form of freshly turned earth and the overwhelming stench of death has exposed the presence of scores of bodies that were bulldozed into a garbage dump after a Serbian attack against ethnic Albanian rebels who tried to seize this town.” However, on the very same day, the Guardian of London reported that, “European Union observers found no evidence of mass graves reported in the town of Orahovac?” A day later the Times itself reported in a small story that NATO had said there were no mass graves in Kosovo. Smucker’s work has been questionable for quite some time.

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