After thousands of demonstrators gathered in Najaf, Iraq, yesterday to protest the U.S. occupation, the Bush administration was quick to downplay the size of the gathering. State Department official David Satterfield said, “I think the small size of those demonstrations is an indication of the limited appeal of Muqtada al-Sadr’s rhetoric at this moment.”
The right-wing has quickly echoed these talking points, circulating a U.S. Army aerial photo of the protest to support the military’s low-ball estimate that only 5,000–7,000 attended the rally. Gateway Pundit claims “proof” that “Al Sadr and the mainstream media missed the mark on this one” by claiming that the “aerial shot from Najaf, Iraq yesterday shows a protest of 5,000–7,000 Al-Sadr devotees.”
Instapundit links to Gateway Pundit and calls the protest “a weak turnout.” RedState uses the photo to claim the “outcome was underwhelming.” Weekly Standard downplays the turnout and says it is evidence that “the Coalition has regained the initiative.”
Here’s their photographic “proof”:
Conservatives are denying reality. Protesters were not restricted to the square seen in the military’s photo; in fact, they “choked the 7-kilometer road between Najaf and neighboring Kufa and clogged streets leading to Sadrein Square, the main rallying point.” A photo:
The right wing shouldn’t rely on a cropped photo to downplay a protest simply because they disagree with what the protesters were saying.