Tuesday, January 17, 2006

New York Times: You've Been Propagandized


John at the Castle believes he's located the type and maker of the round. It ain't ours.

Another commenter, Donal, notes that this photo appears to show the same kinds of rounds being policed up by the paramilitary after raids near the Paki-Afghan border. See the caption for details. Oh, and it is taken by the same gentleman that took the questionable photo below: Thir Khan

You may have missed this yesterday, but since this blog is associated with the Castle, arguably the home of the military ordnance and equipment experts, I thought I would bring it to your attention and get a little more perspective on it as well as make my own observations.

The caption of this photo originally read:

Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.

A number of people noticed that this was not a missile, but, in fact, an artillery shell, starting with American Thinker, then LGF and, another excellent website, Winds of Change who drills down the farthest to the identification of the shell:

However, this object is not a missile nor a missile's remains.

What is it, and in light of these facts, why did the New York Times decide to run it with such an inflammatory and false caption?

As a retired artillery officer, it's easy for me to see that the blue object in the photo is an artillery projectile. Do you see the golden-colored stripe running horizontally around it near the bottom? That is called a rotating band. The rotating band is what seals an artillery projectile tightly inside the cannon tube. When fired, the band does two things: it seals the propellant gases behind the projectile so that they don't blow by the projectile as it travels down the barrel, and it expands into the grooves of the rifling of the cannon tube to start the projectile spinning, like a rifle bullet does, vastly increasing the accuracy of the firing.

Winds and another commenter go on to say:

There seems to be a consensus among artillerists who have commented that the projectile pictured is either a 152mm (that is, Russian manufacture) or 155mm (used by US, NATO and other countries). Retired artilleryman William Krulac says

    the round has been fired, and was probably a training round that does not explode, a base-ejection round (base ejection is used to deliver illumination flares or sub-munitions over a target) or, a dud. U.S. artillery training rounds are blue, but do not have a yellow band. The evidence that the round was fired is the grooves in the rotating band near the bottom of the round.

Read the rest. He comments about the size and the fact that the "rifling" on the copper band looks like its clockwise so not a Russian round. Yet, another commenter noted that maybe the photo was flipped because of the buttons. A primer is here and the yellow band could indicate one of several possibilities including HE:

Table F-3:

8) Yellow band put on when the ammunition contains explosives used to fracture the projectile.
9) Yellow band put on to indicate HE burster.

NYT did take the picture off their front page of their website with this note:

Correction: A picture caption on Saturday with an article about a U.S. airstrike on a village in Pakistan misidentified an unexploded ordinance. It was not the remains of a missile fired at a house.

But, I think it's worse than that. I am not an expert by any means, but this looks photo shopped. (Click on picture for larger image)

1) Look at the edges. While this shell has some white chalky marks on it, the edges show obvious straight white lines, particularly between the yellow stripe and the copper band. The most telling are on the left, the area where the off colored patch on the wall in the background meets the shell and lower where the shell meets the gray of the boy's jacket. You can see similar straight white lines on the right edge. Even on the top right hand side you can see where the shell has a little "crooked" flaw that is obviously digital and not a matter of damage to a fired shell.

2) Look at the size. While Winds makes a note that the size seems a little off, but he's not sure, I'm more than positive that the size is all wrong for the photo, particularly since we can look at actual artillery shells with men (and here, here, here, and here)in the photos and know that I have never seen an artillery shell as tall as a man in modern warfare (maybe "super guns" of the past WW but I don't know of modern artillery shells that are that big; maybe an artillery guy would know better). Second, below the copper band, the shell is tapering. That usually signifies the bottom of the shell is coming up quick. So, either this shell is sitting on something behind the wall, or it's been added. Third, looking at the copper bands on similar artillery shells, they seem to only be about an inch and a half, maybe two inches tops. In this photo it appears to be about four inches or more. Whoever did this not only didn't know the difference between a missile and a shell, but they have no experience with shell size or they wouldn't have made such noticable errors in size context.

3) Look at the people in the picture. They are all looking at the cameraman, not the big "ordnance/missile" that is directly in the line of site of several of the boys. Everybody seems like they don't even notice this big thing in the middle of the picture.

Other issues of "staged" photo seem pretty evident as well. I would even question if this house was the house that was allegedly hit by "American" fire power.

1) Man on the left. Look at his hands. His hands are "city" hands. They don't show any roughness or indications of manual labor. On top of that, he either has a nice white shirt sleeve that goes into a brown suit (his shaw and hat seem like token observations of local fashion) or that's a big silver watch on his wrist. If this guy belonged to a "village" he was the richest man in the neighborhood.

2) The wall in the rear of the picture. Look at the top edge of the wall. Except for the small imperfection in the middle and the little patch in the middle, the wall appears to be undamaged. Worse, based on that top edge, it doesn't even appear that a roof was attached to it. It's possible that the wall is some sort of outer wall, but it seems odd in context to the "destroyed" wall and door in the front.

3) Where's the rubble? If the house is as big as the back wall seems to indicate and it was struck by a missile, there would have been huge amounts of debris lying around inside and out. Look at the boys and the men standing there. Does it look like they are standing on a lot of debris? Wouldn't they be much higher in the photo or even standing differently? Particularly the old man behind the broken wall in comparison to the door he seems the right height. Where's the debris?

4) The door. It doesn't look like it suffered any damage from an explosion. The wall next to it is "destroyed", there is no roof, yet the door attached to what appears to be two by twos is barely leaning out, still in it's frame, the frame not warped or broken. The door itself is not warped or showing damage from a high explosive or fire, assuming that it was closed at the time of the alleged bombing. The bolt lock is not damaged (look at the left hand side of the door, right in the middle). The door is still on its hinges. An explosion destroyed this house enough to take the roof off and the door is still standing?

5) The shell. If it is not photo shopped (which I believe it is), we would not have used it or the artillery necessary to lob it, to take out a house in Pakistan. We would have used a hellfire missile on a UAV which looks nothing like it or a tomahawk missile from a sea born ship. An air asset because that would have had the correct accuracy for a one shot explosion at a house. Artillery can be very accurate, but is typically more than one shot to insure the target is hit at the right coordinates and would have required an observer to direct fire. On top of that, looking at the top, as one person noted, this thing looks like it's missing its top screw on fuse and there certainly would not have been that much of the shell left to identify it.

In short, the photo and the story stink, not only should the NYT put it out front and apologize for running this bad piece of propaganda (not just a correction about "ordnance" v. "missile"), but the AFP should as well since it is fake and their "stringer" is probably in the pay of the AQ. These groups should both advise the public that they have been victims of propaganda because it isn't the first time it's happened (Ramadi photoe of "insurgents" supposedly taking over the city anyone?). They are so busy looking for to appear "objective" that they are printing any BS propaganda from the "others" and not using their supposedly superior editorial skills to evaluate it.

I think that the media would be better served by putting this out front themselves and not let it become and underground issue since either way they are going to be discredited. The question will be whether they are the witting or unwitting dupes of propaganda (something they are so afraid of that they won't report anything that even vaguely appears optimistic about Iraq, particularly if it comes from the military, without making any sort of "yeah, but" comment and here they let themselves be had by the enemy). The American people should know that such photos may be the work of sympathizers or propaganda machines of AQ and its fellow travellers.

The media should tell people how difficult it is to evaluate all the images and stories coming from the places where they cannot go and warn them that they cannot verify the information or the relationship of the source. They should also try to get some experts on military matters on board because they keep screwing it up. Or, at least be as sceptical about information from places they do not have their own known people at. Maybe, amazingly, use that cool internet tool to look up and evaluate things before they print it.

As for "Thir Khan", I'd be taking anymore of his photos with an entire lick of salt, forget the "grain".

Last, I believe the Pakistani government needs to get real and investigate this thing before they start demanding "apologies" because somebody is full of $#*%. Not that I don't suppose we wouldn't take out an AQ operative even in Pakistan, particularly if it was Zawahiri, but the story has changed from "maybe Zawahiri was there" to "Zawahiri was supposed to be there but sent deputies instead" (as if he had some sort of sixth sense omnipotent capability to smell out danger and avoid it; sounds like the enhancing of a myth) to "look at this missile used" to "oops, it's an unexploded "ord[i]nance" (their spelling not mine) and now to the probability that this photo is photoshopped.

News flash NYT, AFP, Americans and news consumers around the globe: You've been propagandized.

How's that feel?

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