Sep
17
2012

After NATO Strike Kills 8 Afghan Women, Pundits Still Wonder: Why Do They Hate Us?

A Washington Post headline illustrates which lives are more valuable.

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 […]

Jun
07
2012

NATO's Afghan Airstrike Reported…Sort Of

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, […]

Jun
06
2012

NYT: Drone Strikes 'Combat Militancy' by Increasing Militants

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  […]

Jun
01
2012

MSNBC: No Time for Obama's Kill List?

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 […]

May
30
2012

Those Children Weren't Civilians–Says Nobody

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 […]

May
23
2012

Give Friedman a Chance–to Rewrite His Own History

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.  

May
02
2012

NYT Reassures Afghans That the Troops They Want to Leave Are Going to Stay

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, […]

Mar
27
2012

Afghan War Just Needs a Better Sales Pitch

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 […]

Mar
20
2012

U.S. Can't Win Afghan War Because We Aren't a Colonial Power

Now here's an anti-war argument I hadn't heard before, courtesy of conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan (on NBC's Chris Matthews Show, 3/18/12): SULLIVAN: Again, it just shows that America colonizes without any real colonial talent because this is a country built on escaping colonialism, not actually imposing it. MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well… SULLIVAN: You're doing something against the DNA of the United States. While the idea idea that the United States is not and has apparently never been a colonial power struck Matthews as a reasonable one, it might strike other people as rather odd. The Spanish-American War would seem to qualify […]

Mar
16
2012

Do Afghans Love Their Holy Book More Than Their Kids?

I felt like there was something slightly off about this New York Times story yesterday (3/15/12), "In Reactions to Two Incidents, a U.S.-Afghan Disconnect." Reporter Rod Nordland wanted to explore why Afghans seemed so much more outraged over the recent burnings of the Quran than they were about a massacre of 16 civilians by a U.S. servicemember. His piece begins: KABUL, Afghanistan– The mullah was astounded and a little angered to be asked why the accidental burning of Korans last month could provoke violence nationwide, while an intentional mass murder that included nine children last Sunday did not. "How can […]

Mar
13
2012

Dead Afghans Muck Up War Strategy

There is, as we pointed out yesterday, plenty of media coverage of the recent massacre of 16 Afghans–mostly children–as a PR problem. A related storyline is the discussion of the killings as presenting problems with the war strategy. Two headlines at the NPR website, for example: That piece advises that it "may be tough there for U.S. troops in the days and weeks ahead." Of course, the assumption in the headline is that there is a "strategy" in the first place. The other headline: That piece included a photo caption that explained that the dead Afghan children "could make the […]

Feb
29
2012

Tom Friedman Is Waiting For Afghans to Shape Up

I think most sensible people understand that the current uproar in Afghanistan over the desecration of the Quran isn't really just about the defiling of a holy book. But if there's sense in the world, there's also nonsense. Enter Tom Friedman's New York Times column today (2/29/12): U.S. troops accidentally burned some Qurans, and President Obama apologized. Afghans nevertheless went on a weeklong rampage, killing innocent Americans in response–and no Afghan leader, even our allies, dared to stand up and say: "Wait, this is wrong. Every week in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslim suicide bombers kill other Muslims–holy people created […]

Nov
29
2011

Anonymously Explaining Pakistan Deaths

A New York Times piece today (11/29/11) about the U.S. airstrikes that apparently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers opens with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaking publicly about the incident, as does Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. Readers are then treated to a lesson in how U.S. officials speak to important news outlets about an emerging, controversial story. They don't use their names. Instead, we hear from: "A United States official" who comments on the "growing frustration in Washington about the increasingly harsh language coming out of Islamabad." He "spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the need […]