I’ll concede that I may have misunderstood the thrust of the article, but the statement "British and American ground forces have already engaged Iraqi troops outside of the southern port city of Basra" seemed pretty clear at the time.
Alternatively, the information reported may have been incorrect or inaccurate. While this wouldn’t be unheard of, I’d like to think that if a correspondent was that far off-base, there would be some sort of correction or retraction printed. Of course, a correction would probably give rise to various cockamamie conspiracy theories about disinformation and media censorship.
Which brings me to the next idea... It’s possible that the story was quashed. Claiming that 17 Iraqi soldiers surrendered without a shot being fired makes far better press than saying that they surrendered after heavy fighting. The one suggests a short war and an already demoralized enemy. The other, more determined resistance in a city we hoped would surrender quickly.
But since we know that our governments are entirely open with us and would never engage in systematic disinformation tactics in their just war, I can’t rule out the possibility that the article came from the same shadow realm where Sam’s parents have a twisty bell on their door. I didn’t think I was that crazy, but who knows?
At any rate, the war has started, and we'll likely not know to what extent until we're thick of it.