Connoisseurs of New York Times corrections (Mickey Kaus is good on the use of the passive voice in one recent correction–scroll down to “New York Times Correction of the Week”) had a special treat when the newspaper admitted that the “symbol of Abu Ghraib,” the subject of a New York Times profile, wasn’t who he (and the newspaper!) said he was. The correction had a slow, feature-like lead in.

It was paragraph three before the paper admitted that Ali Shalal Qaissi wasn’t actually the hooded man in the photo seen ‘round the world. Focusing on Abu Ghraib instead of the newspaper’s mistake, the article notes of those Abu Ghraib prisoners who filed a suit: 

“One, Ali Shalal Qaissi, soon emerged as their chief representative, appearing in publications and on television in several countries to detail his suffering. His prominence made sense, because he claimed to be the man in the photograph that had become the international icon of the Abu Ghraib scandal: standing on a cardboard box, hooded, with wires attached to his outstretched arms. He had even emblazoned the silhouette of that image on business cards.

“The trouble was, the man in the photograph was not Mr. Qaissi.”

But, hey, he coulda been:

“Certainly, he was at Abu Ghraib, and appears with a hood over his head in some photographs that Army investigators seized from the computer belonging to Specialist Charles Graner, the soldier later convicted of being the ringleader of the abuse.

“However, he now acknowledges he is not the man in the specific photograph he printed and held up in a portrait that accompanied the Times article. But he and his lawyers maintain that he was photographed in a similar position and shocked with wires and that he is the one on his business card. The Army says it believes only one prisoner was treated in that way.”

Don’t you love that “specific photograph”? When I saw the original story, I thought that the point might be that those who suffered torture at Abu Ghraib had the opportunity to go on to enriching lives as “symbols.” Victims of torture in previous times went on to become dead people. 

Mr. Ali Shalal Qaissi is definitely a symbol-of media bias and incompetence.