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 […]

Nov
28
2011

Dead Afghan Kids Still Not Newsworthy

Back in March, we wondered when U.S. corporate news outlets would find U.S./NATO killing of Afghan kids newsworthy. Back then, it was nine children killed in a March 1 airstrike. This resulted in two network news stories on the evening or morning newscasts, and two brief references on the PBS NewsHour. On November 25, the New York Times reported–on page 12–that six children were killed in one attack in southern Afghanistan on November 23. This news was, as best I can tell, not reported on ABC, CBS, NBC or the PBS NewsHour. There were, on the other hand, several pieces […]

Oct
11
2011

Afghan War: NBC Lets the Generals Do the Talking

NBC Nightly News (10/7/11) marked the 10th anniversary of the Afghan War on October 7 with a segment that linked the war to the Occupy Wall Street protests. As anchor Brian Williams put it in the introduction: Tonight protesters remain in the streets of a dozen U.S. cities, angry over what's happened to their lives and our country; and a big part of that, over these last 10 years, the two wars we've been fighting, starting 10 years ago today. This is the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, longer now than World War II and the […]

Sep
14
2011

Bill O'Reilly Polices the 9/11 Boundaries

Fox host Bill O'Reilly knows a thing or two about boundaries. As he told his TV audience Monday night, some "far-left" radicals crossed the line on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a blog post about how some Republican politicians turned the attacks into a "wedge issue," and referred to George W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani as "fake heroes." O'Reilly's reaction: Krugman is "insulting his country on the anniversary of 9/11. That is truly despicable." O'Reilly had a little left in tank, so he went after former Times reporter Chris Hedges for […]

Sep
06
2011

Richard Cohen Is Sorry You and He Got It Wrong

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (9/5/11) takes the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to say that he's sorry: I went home on September 11 with my shoes dusted with the detritus of the World Trade Center. I felt a hate that was entirely new to me. Soon after, the anthrax attacks began, and I was ready for war–against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, for sure, but against Saddam Hussein as well. I was wrong, and for that I blame myself, but I blame us all for going along with it and then rewarding incompetence with another term. Wait–we all […]

Aug
09
2011

'Deadliest Day' in Afghanistan? Not by a Long Shot

August 6, 2011, when 38 soldiers, including 30 U.S. troops, were killed when their helicopter was shot down, was the "deadliest day" of the Afghan War, several media outlets told us: David Muir (ABC World News Saturday, 8/6/11): "It was the deadliest day of the war in Afghanistan, 30 Americans, 22 Navy SEALs lost." David Gregory (NBC Meet the Press, 8/7/11): "This was the single deadliest day of the war." Chicago Tribune headline (8/7/11): "Taliban Says It Downed Copter in Deadliest Day of War in Afghanistan" ABC This Week graphic (8/7/11): "DEADLIEST DAY IN AFGHANISTAN" Terrell Brown, CBS Morning News […]

Jul
18
2011

Puffing Petraeus

Newsweek (7/17/11) begins a piece on David Petraeus becoming CIA director with an account of how he got the "short-term job done" after he was named commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan: Now, after 13 months, the 58-year-old Petraeus is coming home to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Since that day in the Oval Office, hopeful signs have begun appearing that he may have performed the seemingly impossible task of stabilizing the Afghan battlefield. The article, by reporter John Barry, doesn't provide much detail on what these "hopeful signs" are, but Afghan civilian deaths are up 15 percent in the […]

Jul
14
2011

The Strangeness of Afghan Culture

The end of a Wall Street Journal article (7/14/11) on a new report on Afghan deaths highlights the peculiarity of their culture: Of civilian casualties, 2 percent were caused by night raids, slightly down from last year, with 30 fatalities, the report says. Night raids have been a contentious issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. military officers and civilian leaders. The raids are sensitive in Afghanistan, because foreign soldiers burst into civilian homes, where strangers are unwelcome in the country's conservative Islamic traditions. What a strange place. I guess in a civilized society, when a foreign soldier bursts […]