Friday, August 25, 2006

You thought it was over?

I certainly thought it was, or hoped it was, with what I thought was the completion of the "Qanagate report" - all bar tidying up a few odds and ends. But, like it or not, it won't go away - at least, not as long as pictures like this (left) keep turning up.

This I picked up off an obscure website after a reader posted the link on our forum. I do not know the origin of the photograph, but it looks very much to me as if it shows the "dead baby" being uncovered.

I have enlarged it as much as I dare and marked the object of interest. We are looking at a very poor definition photograph, though, so there are all sorts of health warnings to apply. Add to that, the original looks to have been taken with a wide-angle lens, giving rise to all sorts of distortions - look how huge the figure on the right is, compared to the others.

That said, it does look like baby Abbas Ahmad Hashem or, at the least, this representation is not incompatible with the images we have seen elsewhere.

In particular, look at the size of the head compared with that of the Red Cross worker holding the body. Comparative distortions are least here - and the head of the body is tiny. The hair colouration and cut look right. The singlet has the right neck profile and it is sleeveless. The leg we can see is bare, presenting the same profile that we see elsewhere (left) and for once the distortion might be working for us. Look at the foot - it has the same enlargement that we see on the photograph to the left. This has been remarked upon by many readers.

The reason for "banging on" of course, is this photograph, taken for Reuters by the infamous Adnan Hajj. Call it instinct, "gut feeling", intuition or anything you like. The photograph does not look right - and that is a feeling shared by hundreds of our readers. The suspicion, niggling away, is that the body was discovered earlier, and then re-discovered for this photo-shoot. There is another photograph of this supposed discovery, taken by Ali Haider for epa/Cordis. It looks equally improbable - if not more so. The fine consistency of the debris and the fact that it is so obviously posed - as indeed does the other - all raise the greatest doubts as to the authenticity of the scene.

For some time now, I have been labouring under the impression that the scene shown here (left) could be the missing link, and persevered even when dozens of readers and forum members wrote that it was not - that's obsession for you. I continued looking, and have since viewed dozens of video frames in search of the illusive confirmation.

However, I have also come up with a still photograph that I have had on my computer for a while, but had never looked at properly. That (right) proves beyond all doubt that the image is not the "dead baby". Mea culpa - and for my penance, I'm going to have to re-write a whole tranche of the final report.

When I found the new image, showing what could really be the "dead baby", I thus approached it with some caution. At first sight, it looks to be in roughly the same position as the other image, and could have been just another picture of it. Then I found I also had this image (below left), downloaded during some general trawl so long ago that I cannot even recall where I found it.

This actually shows the the same scene as our topmost picture, but less detail of the subject. There is, though, more location detail there. The key datum is marked by the arrow - the concrete rendering of the closed-up opening - which we can see in another picture. From this, and cross-referring with other photographs, I am in absolutely no doubt that the body is a few feet away from the right-hand wall of the basement, and lying parallel to it. The other figure is lying at right angles to the wall and is further out - closer to the leg of the half-buried woman. As far as I can be sure, these are different figures.

Now for the $64,000 question - how does this location compare with the positioning of the "Green Helmet" discovery? Well, by reference to the blocked off doorway (arrowed) they are roughly in the same position. They are not quite the same but, as far as I can make out, the two positions actually overlap. The big difference is that, in the topmost picture, the body is aligned with its head away from the main basement entrance while the other is aligned towards it.

Now for the crucial bit: by examining the markings on the wall blocks, and their pattern, the height of the debris seems to be much the same in both key pictures. In other words, there has been no substantial excavation in this area between the two pictures. Then, in the very first picture, you can see a shallow trench extending beyond the body up to the foot projecting in the top left quadrant of the picture (that belongs to a photographer - so another picture of this event might exist). A similar trench can be seen in the "Green Helmet" picture.

Having regard to the relative positions of the bodies in the two frames, I think a case can be made that they are so close that, had they been different bodies, it would have been impossible to have found the first without also stumbling on the second. With enormous caution, therefore, noting all the "health warnings", I am warming to the idea that these are in fact the same bodies.

Of course, there is one way the mystery could be solved. Someone - or many persons - have somewhere a high definition reproduction of this image. When I tried earlier to do some analysis of a low definition image, the Daily Telegraph's Shane Richmond was quick to slap me down by producing a high definition version of the same picture, to prove my suspicions wrong. So, how about it Shane? Fancy putting your money where your mouth is, and publishing a high definition version of the picture at the top of this post? Or are you afraid I might be right - and it would prove that the body had indeed been re-buried and then "discovered" again by Green Helmet.

Over to you, Shane! And I don't mind if you ask your friends to help you out.

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