This is the tale of two AP stories: one about Salim Ahmed Hamdan and another about Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi. Both are set to appear before a military commission in Guantanamo this week. Although both men are accused of working for Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, the news stories are very different.
Hamdan’s begins with a sob story. The poor man didn’t even get paid well:
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba “” Salim Ahmed Hamdan says he earned a pittance for his family as Osama bin Laden’s driver prior to the Sept. 11 attack. But U.S. officials allege he did more, serving as the al-Qaida leader’s bodyguard and delivering weapons to his operatives.
The 34-year-old Yemeni and Guantanamo terror suspect is to be arraigned Tuesday before a U.S. military commission that allows for secret evidence and no federal appeals, the first person to go before such a tribunal since World War II.
Then it highlights his defense attorney’s outrage with the procedure:
“This process goes against everything that we fought for in the history of the United States,” said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, Hamdan’s attorney who is likely to challenge the government’s classification of his client as an enemy combatant. Hamdan denies supporting terrorism.
Then it suggests that the defense has been rushed:
Depending upon what Swift has up his sleeve or what surprises the prosecutors hold, Hamdan could choose not to enter a plea and his attorney could ask for more time to prepare. It is also possible Swift will question whether the five-member commission panel’s presiding officer, U.S. Army Col. Peter E. Brownback, has the capacity to judge the proceedings fairly.
Then it lists Pentagon allegations, pointing out that there is no charge that he did anything violent or participated in the planning of any mayhem:
The Pentagon, in a charge sheet, alleged Hamdan, who is also known as Saqr al Jaddawi, was a bodyguard and personal driver for bin Laden between February 1996 and Nov. 24, 2001.
The Pentagon also alleged that he transported weapons to al-Qaida operatives, trained at an al-Qaida camp and drove in convoys that carried bin Laden. It does not say he took part in any specific acts of violence or participated in the operational planning of any attacks.
Then it suggests that Hamdan, haram, is too dense to understand what is being done to him:
With a fourth-grade education and few skills to interpret legal minutia, Hamdan doesn’t understand why he’s being charged as anything but a civilian, Swift says. Hamden has said he earned a pittance by driving bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks, but he denies supporting terrorism.
A bit later on it suggests that military officials are trying to get away with all this behind the backs of the human rights establishment:
Representatives from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First and the American Bar Association were offered seats as observers for the pretrial hearings, but military officials have refused to let them tour the prison.
The five groups said they will watch the hearings and will try to keep a representative present for all of the commission proceedings.
“The observers were invited for the military commissions,” said Col. David McWilliams, spokesman for the commissions and preliminary hearings. No other explanation was offered.
And not just them, but even the Red Cross:
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was weighing whether to send an observer to the commission hearings, the first such proceedings since World War II.
The Geneva-based group has been the only independent organization to have access to the 585 prisoners at the U.S. base accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban or the al-Qaida terror network.
And finally, the question of fairness stated openly, complete with sneer quotes around the word terrorists:
Human rights groups have criticized holding the men as enemy combatants, a classification giving them fewer legal protections than prisoners of war. They also have questioned whether the commissions ordered by U.S. President George W. Bush will be fair.
Bush, as well as senior U.S. officials, has repeatedly has called the men “terrorists.”
Now compare all that to the second AP story, about Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi. The two men’s stories are similar: both are not well educated, and both are described as Osama’s bodyguards and drivers. This one highlights how religious the man has always been — which to any reader knowledgeable about how radical Muslims recruit, will send up a red flag:
Growing up in a middle class religious family in Sudan, Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi spent most of his time in a neighborhood mosque, paying so little attention to his regular studies that he wasn’t able to get into university after finishing high school.
Then it goes on to highlight the charges, without stopping first to criticize the process:
He must have been good at math, though. As an adult, Osama bin Laden trusted al Qosi enough to make him al-Qaida’s accountant, paymaster and supply chief when the terrorist network was centered in Sudan and Afghanistan during the 1990s, according to U.S. military charges.
Eventually, al Qosi became bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver _ so trusted that he was with bin Laden and his inner circle “before, during and after” the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and helped them “evacuate” from Kandahar, Afghanistan, the military alleges.
Al Qosi, who is set to appear before a Guantanamo Bay military commission this week as a first step toward a trial, is among the more prominent detainees in Cuba.
Al Qosi has been charged with conspiracy as an al-Qaida member to commit war crimes, including attacking civilians and civilian targets, murder, destroying property and terrorism.
Then it explains how he got involved in Islamic radicalism, and details how the man is up to his eyeballs in involvement with Al-Qaeda:
He’s accused of training in bomb-making and assassination at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, but his introduction to Muslim extremism started at home in Sudan.
Al Qosi quickly attracted the attention of high-ranking al-Qaida figures he met after arriving in Afghanistan in 1989 the year coup leaders in Sudan declared they could bring prosperity, end civil war and solve all of the country’s other problems by instituting strict Islamic rule, say former militants and Middle East security officials.
Al Qosi arrived at the tail end of the Afghan fight against Soviet invaders, and well before Afghanistan’s Taliban began imposing a strict Islamic regime similar to what ideologues prescribed for Sudan. At the time, Sudanese women who didn’t cover up fully when on the streets were likely to be scolded by police, punishments such as chopping off the hands of thieves were instituted, and Islamic extremists from around the world found a haven.
In the early 1990s, al Qosi completed a 45-day military training course at al-Qaida’s al-Farouk camp near Khost, Afghanistan, learning combat skills, bomb-making and assassination, according to the U.S. military and the Middle East security officials. After the course, al Qosi carried messages between al-Qaida leaders and cells in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and elsewhere in Africa, one Middle East security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Al Qosi became close to Ayman al-Zawahri, leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad Group and bin Laden’s deputy and Abu Ubeidah al-Banshiri, the Egyptian who was al-Qaida’s military commander and later its main operative in East Africa before he reportedly drowned in a ferry accident on Lake Victoria in May 1996.
Though he had only a high school education, al Qosi was appointed chief accountant, managing donated funds and parceling them out for training camps and operations, another expert said.
From 1992 to 1995, when bin Laden moved his operations to Sudan, al Qosi returned home and became deputy financial chief for al-Qaida and worked for an investment company founded by bin Laden, according to the military charges and Middle East officials.
Egyptian Muslim activists who used Sudan as a base to launch attacks against their secular government at the time remember al Qosi as one of very few Sudanese close to bin Laden.
When bin Laden left Sudan under pressure from the Clinton administration in 1995, al Qosi allegedly traveled to fight with insurgents in Chechnya. Later he rejoined bin Laden in Afghanistan and became a bodyguard for the al-Qaida chief, said a former Egyptian activist who knew al Qosi then, speaking on condition of anonymity from exile in Europe.
And it ends with a quote from his brother, again with red flags for those familiar with political Islam:
“He was only committed to his religion,” Abdullah told the Khartoum daily Al Sahafa in one of the stories that newspapers in Sudan have published retelling al Qosi’s saga.
Not a word in the second story about the human rights groups, the suspicions about the military tribunals, etc. Just a story about one man’s involvement with Al-Qaeda.
Why am I telling you all this? Do a Google search for “Hamdan + Qosi” and you’ll see. As of this moment, the first story appears in ABC News; the Philadelphia Inquirer; the Los Angeles Times; the Chicago Tribune; the Manchester Union Leader; the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel; the Hartford Courant; the San Marcos Daily Record; the Porterville Recorder; the Huntsville Item; the Bismarck Tribune; the Bonner County Daily Bee; the Dunn County News; the Idaho State Journal; the Albany Democrat Herald; the Lodi News-Sentinel; the Idaho State Journal; Diario Digital of JuÃ¡rez, Mexico; the Selma Times-Journal; the Appeal-Democrat; the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier; the Cheboygan Daily Tribune; the North County Times; the Santa Maria Times; the Wyoming News; the Columbia Basin Herald; the Mattoon Journal; the Mt. Carmel Daily Republican Register; the Orangeburg Times Democrat; the Helena Independent Record; the Rapid City Journal; the Daily American Online; the Elko Daily Free Press; The Missoulian; the Petoskey News-Review; the Natchez Democrat; the Corvallis Gazette Times; the Benton Courier; the Carlisle Sentinel; the Hampton Roads Daily Press; the Bradenton Herald; phillyburbs.com; the Orlando Sentinel; Xposed.com; The Spectator Newspapers; the Grand Forks Herald; Kentucky.com; the Albany Times Union; the UK’s Guardian; the China Daily; IrishExaminer.com; Canada’s CTV; ic Wales; and more.
The second story? You can find it in the Sudan Tribune. That’s it.
Now: do you understand how the media is trying to manipulate public opinion in the war on terror?
UPDATE: Mentat points out in the comments that it’s not as bad as all that, with an adjusted Google search. Still, the first, more biased story is being featured much more prominently. Look around.