The Qana Case

It's unquestionable that something bad happened in Qana, Lebanon recently. Was it a massacre of innocent civilians, collateral damage, or a Hezbollah set-up?

It's starting to seem as though it was a combination of all three. The Washington Post's Jefferson Morley, Aziz P, and Ace are some of the bloggers beginning to raise this point. I've excerpted some of their arguments below. If you see any counter-arguments, post them as a comment or email them to me so I can include all sides.

UPDATE 14:25. Dan Riehl theorizes on how Hezbollah might have staged the casualties. Read on past the jump for an excerpt.

UPDATE 14:48. Power Line argues further that Arab stringers for MSM organizations are staging photos.

UPDATE 15:17. Ace has more possibly staged pix, including a mannequin improbably standing upright sporting a wedding dress.

Morley:

The Qana "conspiracy theory" poses this question: If Israeli shells landed near the building that collapsed between midnight and 1 a.m., why didn't reports of the collapse emerge until about 8 a.m.? One site pushing this question on Tuesday was the Israeli Insider, published by a Tel Aviv company that bills the site as a "an independent, nonpartisan online publication that aims to provide an 'inside perspective' on the latest news, analysis and commentary from and about Israel."

Israeli Insider's Ruben Korvet contends that the Qana story has the hallmark of a Hollywood ending and called for the "revelation of the improbable and inconvenient truth." Citing news images of the event, Korvet said the bodies of 57 civilians "looked like they had been dead for days" and suggested that Hezbollah operatives planted them there. [...]

Confronted with photographs of dead children, Israeli Insider's Korvet insisted they must be something else: "The victims were non-residents who chose to shelter in the building that night," he writes. "They were 'too poor' to leave the down, one resident told CNN's [Jon] Wedeman. Who were these people?"

That question has been definitively answered in the mainstream press. Almost all of the victims belonged to two extended families, the Hashems and the Shalhoubs, who lived in the area, according to the independent accounts of The Washington Post's Anthony Shadid and the Daily Star's Nicholas Blanford.

Nevertheless, the Qana conspiracy theory is apparently being taken seriously in the blogosphere and in Israel. The American Thinker, a popular conservative site, says unnamed major media photographers were "willing" tools of Hezbollah. The EU Referendum blog claims its stories on the subject attracted 115,000 page views in a day, more than 50 times the average. YNet News, Web site of the country's largest newspaper, reported the story under the headline: "Blogs: Hizbullah 'Milked' the attacks."

The follow-up questions for the bloggers touting the alternative theory are obvious:

Who killed the Hashems and Shalhoubs, if it wasn't an Israel bomb? Korvet and the other bloggers don't offer any theories.

How did Hezbollah truck in bodies to the Qana site without the pervasive Israeli aerial surveillance catching it on film? Israel has released footage of what it says are Hezbollah fighters firing rockets from the area. Presumably, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is not covering up the story.

Ace:

The Lebanese have a quite plausible reason for the initial claim of, I think 56 dead, despite only 28 or so bodies being recovered from the rubble. They say (no link, not sure where I read it) 56 people were checked in to, or otherwise believed to be inside, the makeshift basement bomb shelter; that's why they first guessed 56 casualties. It appears that not all of those first believed to be in the shelter were there. Some may have wisely fled the area; the adult or near-adult men may have been "checked in" to the bomb shelter while they were actually out firing rockets for Hezbollah.

Similar stuff happened with the WTC massacre. It takes time to verify that all persons believed to be in a destroyed buidling were, in fact, there.

So, I went out on a limb suggesting the theory that the bomb site had been "sweetened" with additional corpses. Or, rather, linking other bloggers making that suggestion, with my endorsement.

The Green Hat Guy's constant media availability, and the likely repeated parading of corpses for photographers, does suggest this was a Hezbollah propaganda effort, but a propaganda effort based, more or less, on the actual truth, simply milked and milked again for maximum impact.

There's a criticism of the media to be had there -- the media's eagerness to be used by America's enemies for propaganda -- but that's not nearly the same as speculating about trucked-in bodies and "controlled demolitions," as the JPost noted.

I should have known from my own ridiculing of the Truthers that just because you suspect someone is a liar doesn't make everything they say, no matter how well documented, a lie. And just because you generally support someone, like the Israelis, you shouldn't go too far afield in postulating, or lending credence to, farfetched theories that completely absolve them of even making an understandable mistake in the fog of war.

Even if it's true that the building did not collapse for seven or so hours after the strike, that's not a reason to believe the people inside were held there against their will by Hezbollah, waiting for it to collapse upon them. Not only is that pretty outlandish, but there's a pretty plausible explanation: the initial strike hit low on the building, collapsing the basement, killing or trapping most people inside. The building took a while to collapse, but those inside couldn't evacuate, because they were either already dead, or dying, trapped under rubble.

Why weren't the Lebanese rescue workers more prompt about trying to dig them out? Well, either because they were cowards and don't want to say so, or because the building was simply too dangerous to enter. American firefighters and cops were incredibly courageous during 9/11, but there comes a point when superiors will call off any attempted rescue missions, deeming it most likely simply to result in additional deaths of rescue workers with very little chance of saving anyone else.

Occam's Razor can keep you out of a lot of trouble, and I seemed to have misplaced mine during several postings on Qana.

I still think this was an exercise in propaganda, of course, but only in the "weak form," i.e., sweetening the story a bit, parading the bodies repetitively, etc., for maximum media effect.

Aziz P:

A Reuters photographer, Adnan Hajj, was found guilty of doctoring photos of Beirut. That's truly disgusting. Propaganda of the basest sort.

However, others now assume that because this photographer faked his photos, that the Qana massacre is somehow also suspect. This too is repugnant. Jefferson Morley has an important blog entry at the Washington Post that addresses the evolving blogosphere attemps to deny Qana.

It is important to note that most of the innocents killed at Qana were of two large families, the Hashim family and the Shalhoub family. The bulk of the arguments by the Qana-deniers have been definitively refuted by the doggged and diligent reporting in the mainstream press, especially Anthony Shadid of the WaPo and Nicholas Blanford of the Daily Star. [...]

Those who deny Qana, and attempt to relegate it to a hoax, are as guilty of propaganda as Adnan Hajj. It is the right-wing equivalent of the 9-11 conspiracy theories, and deserves as much scorn for its moral emptiness.

UPDATE 14:36. As mentioned above, Dan Riehl has been following the story with a skeptical eye about the claims of a large-scale massacre. I'm giving an excerpt but you should read his full post and watch the video he mentions. I'm reserving judgment still but want to give everyone the chance to see all sides.

If you read this post, view the images and watch the short slow motion video, I believe you will come to clearly understand how Hizbollah manipulated the scene at Qana. Also, quite possibly, you'll see how they succeeded in adding to the body count of dead children there.

How do you introduce new bodies into the scene of a bomb strike? The answer may be as simple as you bring them from around the corner. Where they ultimately came from, who can say?

I call the first image top right clean crew. And it looks like a motley, yet meticulously clean crew at that. Doesn't it? The block around the one man's face is a reflection on the movie camera lens.

The first question to ask yourself is how this spotless, unwrinkled crew managed to find multiple bodies of children, all dirty and dusty from being buried under tons of concrete, Clean_pantssomewhere around the corner. Then they would have had to extract them from that rubble, and all without getting a single spec of dust on any of them before carrying them up a hill to where the actual building strike widely reported in the MSM took place. You'll also see them making certain the press was precisely positioned, just as they wanted them to be when they arrived.

Note, their uniforms are, not only spotless, they don't have a single wrinkle and, for all intents and purposes, came right out of a bag, or off a shelf. To emphasize that point, I've included a small image of one of them from the waste down. (at Left) The images have not been brightened, or altered.

There is no dirt on the knees and any wrinkles look, as I said, as though they came as they would fresh out of a package similar to the kind in which such outfits are stored or sold. The obviously long dead children they carry are covered with cement dust and dirt just as the press was clear to point out to us all. Not a spec of which got on these men as they allegedly recovered them. And that's only the beginning, please hang with me here.

Call_out The second image from the top on the right is labeled call out. That's important to note, because with the glare and others moving about, it can be difficult to see what are signals being sent between our motley crew and our friend in the Green Helmet at the top of the hill. The purpose was to have the media right where they belonged.

The slow motion video is at one fifth speed - and there are other items you will see exposed. The video at bottom will make this all clear.

In essence, when the leader of the group came around the corner, first he called out to Mr. Green Helmet to let him know that they were there. That was acknowledged, as Mr. Green Helmet began to corral the press.

Unfortunately, some of the press weren't behaving as planned. Then you will see our leader in the orange vest briefly directing traffic on top of the hill he is approaching by waving his left arm.

He wants to make absolutely certain that there is nothing between him and the cameras as the spotless, yet allegedly hard working, hard digging rescue crew carries a child's lifeless body up the hill. And they do it more than once.

This will all be even more clear in a full length, full speed version I will link at lgf. But some of this stuff is hard to pick out if you aren't looking for it. But it's absolutely there.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013