It's bad enough when media refer to civilian deaths in U.S. wars as "collateral damage," but it was jarring to see how the phrase was used in a Washington Post headline today: Obviously, they're talking about the sex-and-emails scandal. How could dead Afghan civilians ever threaten the career of a high-ranking U.S. official?
Some days it's not easy to make it through a Tom Friedman column. Take today (11/14/12), for instance. I got all the way to the second sentence: Virtually every American president since Dwight Eisenhower has had a Middle Eastern country that brought him grief. In case you're wondering, he really means every president: For George W. Bush, it was Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, why did those countries give the man so much trouble? For anyone trying to make it all the way through the column, I recommend letting Matt Taibbi walk you through the loopy Friedmanesque metaphors: Iraq is a […]
There's no doubt that the sex scandal that prompted CIA director David Petraeus's sudden resignation late last week is a big story. New details–verified or not–seem to arrive almost by the hour. But the reason it seems to have shaken so many media figures is because Petraeus was uniquely beloved by many in the corporate media, who considered him both an accessible source and a war hero. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called him (11/9/12) a "a man of such sterling reputation," and confided on the air to one guest that "it is impossible to be a member of […]
ABC World News' David Muir (9/30/12) took note of the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan this way: Overseas now to Afghanistan, and a stark reminder tonight of the human cost of war. An attack at a checkpoint left two Americans dead, one of them a serviceman, the 2,000th U.S. military death since the war began. That kind of language is revealing in that it presents American deaths as evidence of the "human cost of war." But, of course, there is a human cost almost every day in most wars. What they're saying is this is primarily something we should […]
Misleading media reports today are announcing the end of the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan. USA Today: And the Washington Post: There are many more along the same lines. It's important to understand that the troop reductions are only part of the total troop surge that happened under Obama. As FAIR noted last year (Media Advisory, 6/23/11) there were two major increases in the number of U.S. troops in 2009: When Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. had about 34,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama has initiated two major troop increases in Afghanistan: about 20,000 […]
The protests and violence in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have caused a notable uptick in media discussions about, as Newsweek's cover puts it, "Muslim Rage." Part of the corporate media's job is to make sure real political grievances are mostly kept out of the discussion. It's a lot easier to talk about angry mobs and their peculiar religion than it is to acknowledge that maybe some of the anger has little to do with religion at all. Take the news out of Afghanistan yesterday: A NATO airstrike killed eight women in the eastern province of Laghman who were out collecting […]
Yesterday reports emerged about a NATO airstrike in Logar province that, according to local officials, killed 18 civilians—the vast majority women and children. Readers of the Washington Post could learn about this (6/7/12) by flipping to page 10 and looking for this headline: Afghanistan Suicide Blasts Kill at Least 22 Civilians A suicide attack gets top billing. Next comes word that "overall levels of violence have dropped" in the country. Following that, a helicopter crash that killed two NATO troops. Then finally: Separately, there were conflicting accounts about the killing of civilians in a NATO-led airstrike overnight in Logar province, […]
In today's New York Times article (6/6/12) about the apparent drone killing of Al-Qaeda "deputy leader" Abu Yahya al-Libi, Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt write: If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States' most effective tools in combating militancy. That's revealing. It's inarguable that the drones kill people the U.S. government wants to kill, and some it doesn't intend to kill. But does this really qualify as "combating militancy"? In Yemen, the increase in drone […]
The New York Times' lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama's drone "kill list" should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama's criticism of the Bush administration's "war on terror" policies? What does it tell us about how the administration identifies "militants" who are targeted for assassination? But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts–and are basically absent from the liberal cable news channel MSNBC. In fact, a far more interesting discussion of these questions can be heard on Fox News Channel. It's not all good on Fox, naturally. Host Bill […]
On Sunday, there were reports of a NATO airstrike in the eastern Paktia province of Afghanistan. The early reports said that a family of eight was killed, as the New York Times reported: The casualties took place in eastern Paktia province on Saturday night when the family's home was hit by a bomb, said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia. Six children were killed, four boys and two girls, as well as their mother and father, whose name was Safiullah. But an Associated Press report that appeared in the Washington Post (5/28/12) looked very different, thanks mostly […]
Thomas Friedman on Face the Nation this past Sunday (5/20/12): You know, I believed from the beginning we had four choices in Afghanistan, Bob: lose early, lose late, lose big, or lose small. And, you know, my hope was that we would lose small and early. Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, November 2, 2001: A month into the war in Afghanistan, the hand-wringing has already begun over how long this might last. Let's all take a deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance.
The New York Times' Alissa Rubin (5/2/12) reports of President Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan: The trip communicated something of vital importance to the Afghans: reassurance that the United States is not in an all-out scramble to get away. It's not clear what the basis for Rubin's claim that "reassurance" that the U.S. is in no hurry to leave Afghanistan is "of vital importance" to Afghans. A poll taken in 2010 on behalf of the Washington Post, ABC, BBC and the German broadcaster ARD found that 55 percent of the Afghan public supported the rapid withdrawal of foreign troops (GlobalPost, […]
The big New York Times story on the Afghan War today (3/27/12) focuses on public opinion in the United States, which is now dramatically anti-war: 69 percent think we shouldn't be there. An interesting point argument is raised later in the piece, when two sources make the argument that the war wouldn't be so unpopular if Barack Obama would just do a better job of selling it: Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that in his view there would be more support […]