Thursday, November 14, 2002

Can We Believe DebkaFile?

I have been reading DebkaFile for years, and have found that their reports have mostly been correct, but a little edgy. I am loath to accept things that I read there unless they are confirmed in other, more mainstream, sources. But they have been consistently reporting, for weeks now, the presence in Iraq of American and British forces. In recent posts here and here you can read about battles raging in the Tigris and Euphrates valley, and their coverage of this and similar actions go back to September 20th. Items such as this
One Iraqi response to heightened US-UK-Iranian military activity in the southeast has been to set fire to the marshes. The flames seething under the surface have produced belching black clouds that are carried by wind south and east to threaten an ecological disaster on a scale recalling the Kuwaiti oil well fires Saddam set in 1991.

The black haze limits visibility for US spy satellites and reconnaissance planes tracking Iraqi troop movements, impedes US-UK aircraft and helicopter bombing sorties against Iraqi forces and obstructs airborne support for the US-led ground forces in the field.

Our sources in Tehran report that the black smoke has reached Iran’s southern oilfields and is slowing down production.
are typical. What are we to make of such reports? Debka is shielded by references to "our sources in Teheran" and "Debka's military sources" so they have plausible deniability (has that statement become a cliche already? Thanks, Ollie.) and can not be taken to account for what they say. Other sources, such as Strategy Page point to the "operation Early Victor '02" exercise, which allows that 1400 U.S. troops are in the region, but seem to account for their location as being within Jordan. The mainstream media cover this subject not at all (if I missed something, let me know. So, what are we to believe?

For one thing, Debka accurately revealed the presence of American and British special ops troops in Afghanistan long before anyone else had the story. But they also had Chinese soldiers fighting on the side of the Taliban, and foresaw a million man Russian Army prepared to enter Afghanistan. If the Chinese were there, I have not read of it elsewhere, and if a million Russians were planning to be peacekeepers, they ended up staying at home.

What is clear is that Debka is either a source for intelligence, disinformation, or misinformation. Take your pick. probably all three are true from time to time on this site. Still, it can make for interesting reading....