WashingtonPost.com Navigation Bar
Fog of War Analysis War Goals Airstrikes Resources Front Page

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The interior courtyard of the destroyed Ministry of Local Government, incorrectly identified on U.S. target lists as the Ministry of Information (Propaganda).
"What is this building?," I asked the guard.

"It's the, ..." he hesitated, "It's the. ..." He couldn't think of the name. Finally, he said, "It's the place where you go before you go to jail."

"Ah, the Ministry of Justice," my translator said.

"And what do you do now that it's destroyed?" I asked.

"Oh," he said, with a big grin, "you just go to jail."

Across the street from the Ministry of Justice was the similarly disemboweled Ministry of Local Government. The target list misidentified these buildings as Iraq's Ministry of Information and Culture, otherwise known as propaganda.

photo View of the remains of the Ministries of Local Government (background) and Justice (foreground) on Naser square in downtown Baghdad.

The ministry was on the U.S. bomb target list of Iraqi "leadership" sites along with three dozen or so television and radio stations in Baghdad and throughout Iraq. The Air Force's theory held the Iraqi propaganda effort could be halted through bombing. The buildings were hit superbly but the bombing didn't stop the Iraqi media effort. Contrary to the pre-war view that Iraq's own media needed to be knocked off the air, the international media — CNN, the BBC — not its state broadcasting establishment, were riveted on the air campaign and its collateral damage, reporting every instance of simple error and intent on finding controversy in the air attacks.

– William Arkin


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post

Back to the top

Navigation Bar