Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why we can never know anything.


The New York Times ran a story this morning quoting an unnamed "official in the Interior Ministry" as saying that a tanker truck stuffed with forged ballots was intercepted entering Iraq from Iran at the border town of Badra.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the Iranian truck driver told the police under interrogation that at least three other trucks filled with ballots had crossed from Iran at different spots along the border.

No sooner than the Times story was released comes the Reuters story saying that the Times story is untrue.
The head of Iraq's border guards denied police reports on Wednesday that a tanker truck stuffed with thousands of forged ballot papers had been seized crossing into Iraq from Iran before Thursday's elections.

"This is all a lie," said Lieutenant General Ahmed al-Khafaji, the chief of the U.S.-trained force which has responsibility for all Iraq's borders.

"I heard this yesterday and I checked all the border crossings right away. The borders are all closed anyway," he told Reuters.

Iraq's frontiers are closed for the period of the election.

"I contacted all the border crossing points and there was no report of any such incident," Khafaji said.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabor also denied the reports, which the New York Times ran prominently, quoting a single unnamed Interior Ministry source, and said it was an attempt to discredit the election process.

The maddening thing about this sort of thing is that while the two stories contradict one another they are both equally credible. There is simply no question that Iran would do something like that if they thought they could get away with it. On the other hand it is entirely possible that some Sunni sympathizer working at the Interior Ministry might wish to discredit the expected Shiite success in the polls by circulating a story of truckloads of forged ballots from Iran. Somebody is telling lies, that much is clear, but exactly who it is we will never know. Both versions of the story are now out there -- one is a fact the other a factoid. In the end we will all simply have to decide who we wish to believe.

My choice? I think the Times was taken. The part about the driver saying that three other trucks had gotten through is too carefully crafted to create doubt to be true. The other three trucks change the story from "Iran attempted to fix the election and the border guards thwarted them" to "Iran has successfully fixed the election and the border guards have belatedly detected it."

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Times does with the denials.

Hat Tips to both Drudge and the Instapundit.

Photo Credit: The truck is a Stahly AeroSpread manure spreader.

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