This story has been updated on Oct. 25.
With fitting irony, there is dispute regarding who coined the phrase, “The first casualty of war is the truth.” Some claim it was a WWI-era US senator, or 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson, or maybe the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus around 550 BC.
Regardless of the phrase’s origin, wartime seems to speed up Winston Churchill’s famous warning: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Many times, the false information is unintentional. Consider the saying “fog of war,” which TheFreeDictionary.com calls: “Confusion, uncertainty, or skewed judgement caused by the violence and chaos of warfare.”
For example, in 1898, the USS Maine was in Havana Harbor when it blew up, killing most of the crew. Stirred up by sensational “yellow journalism,” most Americans blamed Spain for an unprovoked torpedo attack, which led to the war cry “Remember the Maine!” The US embarked on the Spanish-American War, gaining Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. However, years later, research showed the blast came from inside the ship, probably an accidental coal bunker fire. With hindsight, we see the US entry into that war was probably based on a misconception.
But many times, fake news is deliberate, with “psychological warfare” to sway public opinion being as real as warfare on the ground.
On October 7 the world was shocked by surprise Hamas terror attacks against unsuspecting Israeli victims, with at least 14 US citizens among the dead. Reports of unspeakable atrocities have been reported and documented. Hamas terrorists are holding an unknown number of hostages including Americans.
On October 17, an explosion rocked a Baptist hospital in Gaza at around 7:00 pm local time, which was about twelve noon here in Virginia. Initial reports claimed “over 500 killed” and blamed Israel for the attack.
At 3:54 that same day, about four hours after the attack, Delegate Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D) who represents most of Roanoke City in the House of Delegates posted this to X, formerly known as Twitter.
Today Israel bombed a hospital and a UN school. War crimes it will never be held accountable for.
Over 1000 children dead in 10 days.
— Sam Rasoul (@Sam_Rasoul) October 17, 2023
By October 20 it was still posted and had been viewed over 80,000 times. (Interestingly, that is about the same number of Roanoke residents whom Del. Rasoul represents in the General Assembly.)
About 24 hours after Rasoul’s tweet, Virginia’s US Sen. Mark Warner (D) tweeted an opposite message:
The Senate Intelligence Committee reviewed intelligence related to the attack on al-Ahli hospital in Gaza. Based on this information, we feel confident that the explosion was the result of a failed rocket launch by militant terrorists and not the result of an Israeli airstrike.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) October 18, 2023
Even the Democrat Biden administration has stated the attack did not come from Israel, but all evidence points to a failed Hamas rocket. Moreover, most of the damage was done to the hospital parking lot, thankfully not the hospital itself. Daytime photos show burned cars, which indicate much of the damage was caused by fires, perhaps from rocket fuel, and not from a blast with a crater which follows a missile strike.
Nevertheless, the blaming of Israel quickly spread across the Middle East and the world. Violent protests broke out, including an attack on the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. A deep concern is, the promotion of the false narrative is spreading anti-Semitism and endangering lives, including those of US diplomats or civilians overseas or even spark a terror attack here in the US, especially since the southern border has been largely open since Biden took office.
With the uncovering of more evidence seemingly clearing Israel of guilt for the attack, the blaming of Israel and overestimating the death toll is now seen as Hamas propaganda.
Despite the passage of two days and the clear and growing evidence that debunked Rasoul’s accusation, his tweet was still posted on October 19. Seeking information, The Roanoke Star emailed Del. Rasoul three questions summarized as below.
- Do you still support your position and this claim?
2. If you still support it, how do you explain the preponderance of sources that contradict it? Including those coming out of the executive branch under President Biden and Sen. Mark Warner, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee?
3. Also, a look through your Twitter feed shows NO condemnation of the October 7 terror attacks into Israel that sparked the current conflict. Do you have a statement about those attacks against innocent civilians?
The Roanoke Star columnist Serwan Zangana, who served as a translator for US forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom and like Rasoul is also a Muslim, wrote in his October 12 article, “It Should Not Be Difficult To Condemn The Atrocity Of Hamas Attacks On Israeli Civilians.”
The Roanoke Star also reached out to three of Rasoul’s fellow Democrats and also the Roanoke City Democrat Committee, asking if they had any statements about Rasoul’s position and claim. Those three included Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea Sr., City Councilwoman Trish White-Boyd who is running against David Suetterlein (R) for state senate, and Lily Franklin. Franklin has served as Rasoul’s legislative aide and is now running against Chris Obenshain (R) to represent the 41st House District that includes parts of Roanoke and Montgomery Counties. No replies have been received.
As of October 23, Rasoul, whose campaign slogan is TRUTH – LOVE – GRIT, still has his post up, with 97,000 views. Rasoul is running unopposed this fall for another term in the House of Delegates.