AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS ALSO ATTENDED SAME SESSIONS
The Sun News Network today is heavily pushing a story alleging that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was involved in planning the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by U.S. forces.
The Sun story by Brian Lilley claims that Ignatieff, then at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, “was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning.”
As is well known, Ignatieff was initially supportive of military action in Iraq, though he later publicly changed his position.
The Sun dug up a quote from U.S. Col. Gary Crowder at a press conference describing efforts to limit civilian casualties in the opening stages of the Iraq war.
“I personally have been working with The Carr Center for Human Rights,” the Sun quoted Crowder saying. “Michael Ignatieff and Sarah Sewell (sic) and their program are a wonderful program.”
The Sun report qualifies that Ignatieff’s role was “helping the military ready comprehensive plans to mitigate collateral damage while preparing for the invasion.”
I called up Sarah Sewall at the Carr Center today. She told me a rather different story. She said Ignatieff, as director of the Carr Center, came to conferences such as “Understanding Collateral Damage” held in Washington, D.C. in June 2002.
“I designed the conferences and ran the conferences and Michael came because he was director of the Carr Center,” Sewall said.
As the participants list for “Understanding Collateral Damage” conference shows, Col. Crowder and other U.S. military officers participated, but so did Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugees International and even a writer from the Boston Globe.
Ignatieff was also attended the Carr Center conference “Humanitarian Issues in Military Targeting,” in March 2002, along with Amnesty, Physicians for Human Rights, Medecins sans frontier, and many other groups. In October, he attended “Ground Operations Workshop,” also with humanitarian NGOs participating.
The participation of these NGOs in what the Sun contends was “invasion planning” was not mentioned in Lilley’s story, or from what I’ve seen, any subsequent discussion of his story on Sun News Network. [Note: The original story did include a quote from Crowder that referred to involvement of unnamed non-governmental organizations.]
all further explains that the Carr Center had been doing sessions on collateral damage with NGOs, academics and the military for about ten years.
I asked her if these could in any way be construed as helping to plan the invasion of Iraq.
“Only if you think critics explaining what they think about military operations is helpful,” she said. “Sometimes we have people coming to near fisticuffs in these exchanges. This is not the same thing as hiring someone to be on your team and do your planning.”
If the Sun was unaware of these groups also participated in “invasion planning,” that’s just shoddy reporting. It took me four minutes to find the participants list on the Carr Center website.
If the Sun knew and chose not to include this fact in the story, readers can draw their own conclusions about the integrity of the reporter and his news organization.