After the publication of secret military files on the Iraq war, independent journalists and pundits have criticized Western media for cherry picking the information.
Whistleblower website WikiLeaks, collaborating with Al-Jazeera News, The Guardian and Le Monde, disclosed some 400,000 military documents last month.
However, Western media turned its focus to details provided by an unidentified "source" over Iran's alleged involvement in the war-torn country.
"A source provides details to the American government about the nefarious activities of a Middle Eastern country. That information ends up in scores of secret US government documents," writes New York-based journalist Ali Gharib in an article published by the Columbia Journalism Review.
"Subsequently, the information winds up on the front pages of major newspapers, and is heralded by war hawks in Washington as a casus belli," he add.
The article goes on to cite the "blaring headlines" dominating the front pages of US media, with most stories based on what US soldiers on the ground believe they saw; more specifically the "shadow" of Iran.
“The field reports also provide a detailed account of what American military officials on the ground in Iraq saw as Iran's shadowy role training and equipping Iraqi Shiite militias to fight the US.,” wrote Julian Barnes in The Wall Street Journal. “American intelligence believed the training was provided not only by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran, but also by Hezbollah, their Lebanese ally.”
NYU Center on Law and Security fellow Nir Rosen and John Hammond of the Foreign Policy Journal share Gharib's view that the claims are disputable.
Gharib points to several articles written for The New York Times,Newsweek, and The Wall Street Journal, cautioning readers to read between the lines:
University of Minnesota professor William Beeman wrote on his blog that the documents do not constitute proof, but rather only give “verbatim internal reports” instead of broader accusations previously made by senior military officials in Iraq….
And at the Foreign Policy Journal website, Jeremy Hammond, in the course of picking apart the Times piece for inconsistencies, notes that the claim that some revelations were “broadly consistent” with other classified documents and official accounts -- all of which would also come through the lens of the US government.
“As for being 'broadly consistent' with public accounts by military officials, this is a meaningless statement from which no conclusions about the accuracy of the reports may be drawn,” continues Hammond.
“After all, the infamous documents purporting to show that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger were 'broadly consistent' with public claims about Iraq's possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but they were fabrications nevertheless.”
"And therein lies the call for more caution in reading single-source US government (in this case, military/ intelligence) reports-mistakes have been made before, and they left Iraq in a bloody shambles," Gharib concludes.
The WikiLeaks files also showed that the United States' largest private security contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq, Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater, was responsible for more excesses in Iraq than previously revealed.
Blackwater, which has been barred from operating in Afghanistan, rose to notoriety in 2007 when guards opened fire on a busy square in central Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilian.
However, the leaked documents suggest 10 more civilians were killed and another seven were wounded by the US security contractor's employees in suppressed incidents.
The leaked documents have cast doubt on Washington's tally of war casualties in the country following the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.
"The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians;' 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces)," WikiLeaks said in a statement on October 22 regarding the documents' release.
"The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60 percent) of these are civilian deaths. That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six-year period," the statement added.
Paragraphs copied from Gharib's article have been italicized.