Captain Hussein Found From California

Marc Danziger reports that, “With the help of some friends who have been doing a smidgen of looking, and it appears – appears, but is not certain – that there is in fact a Jamail Hussein in the Yarmouk police station in Baghdad.” He promises an update today as more details are confirmed.

Curt at Flopping Aces, who has been the most visible blog voice in arguing that there was no such person as Jamil Hussein, the source of several AP stories, is unbowed, observing that “the first name is spelled differently which would not jive with the AP’s own reporting” and that “the AP has written that he is not working at Yarmouk anymore but at al-Khadra.” He pronounces this “two strikes to this story.”

Now, it perplexes me that Danziger and company were able to find the man while the AP, under fire for fraudulent reporting, was not. I’m still highly dubious of the use of local stringers without measures to ensure their bona fides. But the idea that the AP’s transliteration of “Jamail” as “Jamil” in their stories is hardly evidence of bad reporting. After all, we haven’t come up with agreed upon ways to transliterate Muamar Khaddafy’s name into English after 20-odd years, nor agreed whether the people who tried to kill us on 9/11 was Usama bin Laden and al Qaida or Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

That said, as Curt details later in his post, there plenty of other questions about the AP story in question beyond the existence of Captain Hussein.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Curt at Flopping Aces, who has been the most visible blog voice in arguing that there was no such person as Jamil Hussein, the source of several AP stories, is unbowed, observing that “the first name is spelled differently which would not jive with the AP’s own reporting”

    Has Curt never heard of a guy named Khaddafi? Or Qaddafi? Or Kadaffy? Arabic is not written in western letters – any time a word is translated from Arabic to English, the exact transliteration depends on the interpreter. Regular dictionary words, of course, have generally-accepted spellings, but names can, and often are, spelled differently by different translators. While there are still a lot of questions in this whole affair, to count the spelling of the man’s name as a ‘strike’ is totally asinine.

  2. Bithead says:

    I have a source within the LAPD named John Smith, who says this whole thing with AP is a crock.

    Now what do you suppose the chances are of researchers actually coming up with someone by that name attached to that body, huh?

  3. James Joyner says:

    legion: I thought I said that 🙂

  4. Ed says:

    I’m getting the impression that the AP may have decided that they are not going to jump through hoops every time some blogger challenges some aspect of a story they don’t like. They did that on the “Green Helmet Guy” producing him and explaining the context of the pictures. Then they did it somewhat on this story by verifying to their own satisfaction that the story was fundamentally correct and issuing a followup.

    Bloggers are not subscribers to the AP. The AP doesn’t have to produce Hussein and explain every sentence and detail to people who are not their customers. If their subscribers were demanding it, they would do more. As far as I can see, one NYT blogger asked about it and that’s it other than partisan bloggers.

    Looks to me like the AP has moved on.

  5. On Jamil vs Jamail, I would agree that this sort of difference would be very easy and understandable to make. Think of Jon vs John in our society.

    But if that was the mistake, I would also expect AP to quickly uncover such a misunderstanding once the controversy arose. The the authorities who can be produced in person, returned to for further questions and are on the record say someone doesn’t exist, if the difference in the name was found to be the root cause then I think AP is still showing the incompetence or arrogance for not having sorted it out earlier.

  6. legion says:

    D’oh! That’s what I get for trying to be conscientious & reading the linked article before shooting my mouth off – I didn’t read all the way through what _you_ had posted!

    It’s not quite as simple as Jon vs. John… In English, only one of those spellings is correct – Jon Stewart’s name is spelled “Jon”, but John McEnroe’s is “John”; regardless of the similarity in pronunciation, only those spellings are correct. When translating something from a non-latin alphabet, like Arabic, or Cyrillic, or Chinese, for example, the only thing you have to work with is the pronunciation. In That Libyan Dude’s name, for instance, it starts with a hard ‘k’ sound. Some translators spell it in English with a ‘K’, some with a ‘Q’, and some with a softer ‘Gh’. All are technically correct, just as (I suspect; IANA linguist) both ‘Jon’ and ‘John’ would probably be spelled the same way in Arabic characters…

  7. Tano says:

    Lets be real here. This whole story is just an example of wingnuts chasing their tails, desparatly trying to gin up phony stories to discredit the messengers that portray the horrific reality that the wingnuts have some responsibility for creating.

    No one outside their little virtual asylum takes them seriously. It constantly amazes me how repeated noise-making can win people attention, even though the content of their expression makes clear how little attention they deserve.