May
07
2009

'Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War'

In the wake of the release of the U.S. military's own figures showing a record number of bombs were dropped by U.S. warplanes in Afghanistan during April, newspapers are reporting today on a particularly deadly bombing attack on Monday that killed over 100 civilians, according to Afghan officials and witnesses.

Anonymous U.S. military officials of course vigorously denied that they were responsible, instead blaming the deaths on Taliban grenades. As one anonymous offiical put it in an interview with the Washington Post, "the Taliban went to a concerted effort to make it look like the U.S. airstrikes caused this;" however the Post noted that "The official did not offer evidence to support the claim, and could not say what had caused the deaths."

If the more than 100 dead are confirmed, the New York Times notes, Monday's bombing "will almost certainly be the worst in terms of civilian deaths since the American intervention began in 2001."

Yet the fact of the U.S.-authored civilian deaths themselves is not what the Times found to be the most newsworthy aspect of the story, as expressed by the headline it chose for its front page story about the attack: "Civilian Deaths Imperil Support for Afghan War"

To the Times, as well as to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, there is clearly a far more significant cost to this deadly U.S. attack than the reported killing of a hundred Afghans. As the Times remarked, "Civilian deaths â┚¬” more than 2,000 Afghans were killed last year alone, the United Nations says â┚¬” have been a decisive factor in souring many Afghans on the war." And, as the Washington Post noted, "The allegations came at a particularly sensitive time for the U.S. military and the Obama administration, which is pushing more than 21,000 additional American troops into the country and shifting strategy."

And the Wall Street Journal's headline took the prize for callousness: "Claim of Afghan Civilian Deaths Clouds U.S. Talks."

One has to wonder about the values of a press where U.S. taxpayer-funded slaughter of civilians elicits journalists' concern not about victims, but about the war's popularity with the population having record numbers of bombs dropped on them and how that might hamper U.S. strategic goals.