WashPost Stirred Up Green-Zone Food Crisis Using Questionable Memo

Washington Post John Mooore getty images

Update from Baghdad at bottom 14:17: EST:

Update II 05/28 13:45 EST:

May 24, the Washington Post wrote an article describing a “theater-wide delay in food shortage," “especially for (f)resh fruits and salad bar items” which quoted a “memo” reportedly issued by an official Green-Zone organization. It is identical in wording to a “memo” posted on a blog belonging to harsh anti-war critic and former CIA and State Department employee Larry Johnson, who is known for claiming in July 2001 that “terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way.”

The memo was posted in a PDF on Johnson’s blog, No Quarter, and according to Ace of Spades, used a Lenox china flag-cluthing eagle collectible figurine  on tan emblem for the header's graphics. Little Green Footballs also questioned its veracity, stating it was “not a scan of a printed original,” but typed directly from Microsoft Word “two days after the date on the so-called ‘memo.’ ” I noticed a lack of any official identifiers like group affiliation, phone numbers, job titles or logos. Even Johnson now admits in an update that a “journalist buddy” said a US military Public Affairs Officer in Baghdad called it a fake (more after jump).   

The Post didn’t report that and may be unaware of it or have had a different source altogether. Tied rebuttal of its own cl*aims to convey a food crisis that it admits isn't happening(my emphasis throughout):

Virtually every bite and sip consumed there is imported from the United States, entering Iraq via Kuwait in huge truck convoys that bring fresh and processed food, including a full range of Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavors, every seven to 10 days.

But mouths turned dry Monday when an internal embassy e-mail announced a "Theater-Wide Delay in Food Deliveries." Due to an unspecified convoy problem, it said, "it may not be possible to offer the dishes you are used to seeing at each meal. Fresh fruits or salad bar items will also be severely limited or unavailable."

If the delays continue, the message said, "DFACs [dining facilities] will be required to serve MREs for at least one meal out of the day."

That wording is careful in what it doesn’t say. Note it doesn’t say that the military will suffer shortages, just unnamed eaters’ vague descriptions of eaters responsible for “every bite and sip consumed” and whose “mouths turned dry.” Not “the military,” which is what seemed to be implied here and stated in the Lefty blogosphere. The Post explained how the supplies would affect those living in the Green Zone and continued with quotes from Dan Sreebny, the “embassy spokesman” who in this part of the article, which appeared to confirm the memo’s assertion of a delay, claiming that the entrees like turkey rice pilaf (with two cookies) and some fresh fruits have run out, " ‘We've run out of some things,’ Sreebny said. ‘I miss my yogurt in the morning and my fresh-cut melon.’ ”

Here’s the contradiction.  After 11 paragraphs in the article devoted just to the impending doom of a food shortage, the Post then explains in the very last sentence that there is no immediate crisis:

"This has happened beforec, in terms of convoys," Sreebny said, although "this one may be a little bit longer than in the past. Then the food comes and we all gorge ourselves on apples and oranges and bananas again."

In an e-mail update last night, Sreebny reported that the looming crisis was at least partially averted. "Some trucks have arrived at our embassy and are being unloaded even as I write."

The night before publishing, the Post knew that this article misrepresented the current conditions and was aware the “looming crisis was at least partially averted.” The potential for a dangerous food shortage in Iraq is still there, but this article just misrepresented the “crisis” of this situation and used a document that could be another case of a weird “fake but accurate” mock-up of a real memo, or an outright fraud.

Update from Baghdad 14:17 EST:

Someone living in the Green Zone emailed me with some interesting insights. He confirmed some of the statements in the WaPo article, telling me that there was a sufficient store of food to use if needed. They still had a wide selection of meats; it was mostly the fresh produce that was lacking.

As the media have explained elsewhere, many resources are being redirected to find the missing soldiers. Based on this email, those men and women in the military who are stationed in the Green Zone care more about finding those lost men than having a sliced banana with their corn flakes, and the article would have been better with those inclusions.  

Update II From Flopping Aces 05/28 13:45 EST:

Flopping Aces has confirmation from the Baghdad Embassy (contacted by Ace of Spades HQ commenter Chad) that the content of the memo is real. Also confirmed was what I blogged here, which was the shortage was minimal and quickly rectified and not the "theater-wide" shortage described in the Post. Flopping Aces agreed with what I blogged here that the real story was how the Post spun the memo into a monumental break down of basic services. A minimal shortage is not the impression that all but the last two paragraphs of the article gave about the "looming crisis." The Post knew the night before that there was no "looming crisis," yet insisted on crafting a story that implied there was one. 

Contact Lynn at tvisgoodforyou2  AT  yahoo DOT com