It didn’t take long for yesterday’s story of mentally ill women being used as bombers in Iraq to be reported as fact. In many cases its source wasn’t attributed. The truth? Maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t.
Who says they were mentally ill and how do they know? It comes from Gen. Qasim Atta, a spokesman for Baghdad’s security plan. The claim is based on an examination of the severed head of one woman. Since it was deformed, it was assumed the bomber had Down syndrome.
A U.S. general seized the assumption:
At a news conference, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, who commands U.S. forces in Baghdad, showed reporters photos of the bombers’ heads, which typically are blown from the body in suicide attacks. He said the broad foreheads, flattened noses and almond-shaped eyes were all suggestive of Down syndrome.
“These two women were likely used because they didn’t understand what was happening and they were less likely to be searched,” Hammond said.
It is a claim of questionable value since the explosion could’ve had something to do with the deformity. One British forensics expert called the claim “dangerous.” Nonetheless, it probably should have been reported with more uncertainty, at least until there was more substantive evidence.