Aug
24
2009

The Debate Over Afghanistan–Newspapers Are Full of It

In his Week in Review piece wondering if Obama's Afghanistan policy is akin to LBJ andVietnam, New York Times reporter Peter Baker notes that the public mood is seeping into the media: That growing disenchantment in the countryside is increasingly mirrored in Washington, where liberals in Congress are speaking out more vocally against the Afghan war and newspapers are filled with more columns questioning Americaâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s involvement. Newspapers are filled with what now? It doesn't feel that way to me, but surely Baker must havesome evidence. Which he does: The cover of the latest Economist is headlined "Afghanistan: The Growing Threat […]

Aug
24
2009

Screening New Embeds in Afghanistan

As if journalists "embedding" with U.S. troops isn't troubling enough, Stars and Stripes is reporting that reporters looking to embed with U.S. troops in Afghanistan will face some troubling screening: As more journalists seek permission to accompany U.S. forces engaged in escalating military operations in Afghanistan, many of them could be screened by a controversial Washington-based public relations firm contracted by the Pentagon to determine whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light. U.S. public affairs officials in Afghanistan acknowledged to Stars and Stripes that any reporter seeking to embed with U.S. forces is subject […]

Aug
18
2009

CBS Re-Airs Drone Propaganda

Back in May, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a terrible report on the Air Force's use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan– see FAIR's action alert for all the details. CBS never responded to the criticism, but they did re-air the segment this past Sunday, without any major changes. To let CBS know how you feel about this one-sided reporting, here's the contact info: CONTACT: CBS 60 Minutes 524 West 57th St. New York, NY 10019 Email: 60m@cbsnews.com Phone: (212) 975-3247

Aug
17
2009

The Washington Post's Non-Debate on Afghanistan

The escalationof the Afghanistan war is the "Topic A"discussion on the Washington Post op-ed page on Sunday (it's a regular feature where they ask a panel of Important People to weigh in onan issue of the day). The title was "How Many Troops for Afghanistan?"–one can already spot the problem with that–but the panel they assembled left a lot to be desired.On the one hand, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (a strong critic of escalation) was given space to make his argument.But hispresenced was 'balanced' by four others, three of whom are definitely pro-escalation(they quibble over the details, perhaps) and onepollsterwho addressed […]

Aug
16
2009

Media's Afghan 'Metrics' Exclude 'Value of Human Life'

As "official Washington is buzzing about 'metrics'" of success in the U.S. war on Afghanistan, Norman Solomon (ZNet, 8/13/09) notes of media's persistent question, "Can the war in Afghanistan be successful?"–"Don't ask the dead": On August 7, under the headline "White House Struggles to Gauge Afghan Success," a New York Times story made a splash. "As the American military comes to full strength in the Afghan buildup, the Obama administration is struggling to come up with a long-promised plan to measure whether the war is being won." Don't ask the dead. They don't count. The Times article went on: "Those […]

Aug
10
2009

A Look 'Behind the Propaganda' About Afghanistan

Johann Hari (ZNet, 8/6/09) has an in-depth write-up of "the story of Malalai Joya" that "turns everything we have been told about Afghanistan inside out": In the official rhetoric, she is what we have been fighting for. Here is a young Afghan woman who set up a secret underground school for girls under the Taliban and–when they were toppled–cast off the burka, ran for parliament, and took on the religious fundamentalists. But she says: "Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic […]

Jul
17
2009

War 'Fixers' Make Unembedded News, at High Cost

Afghanistan writer Ann Jones has an essay on TomDispatch (7/16/09) in which she calls The Fixer "the best documentary I've seen on Afghanistan–so good it's hard to imagine a better one." Her description of a scene she found particularly moving demonstrates the harsh reality of unembedded reporting, begetting a corporate media output that merits her headline, "Everything That Happens in Afghanistan Is Based on Lies or Illusions": It is 2006, late in the year. A reporter stands on a rocky hillside near the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and points a wobbly camera at dark-clad gunmen ranged at a […]

Jul
15
2009

'Freed' Afhan Women Suffer 'Rape, Pillage, Plunder'

The latest segment to be made available online (7/7/09) from Robert Greenwald's Rethink Afghanistan documentary features the president of the Global Fund for Women Kavita Ramdas challenging U.S. media tropes about improved women's conditions since the U.S. invasion: "The perception of the women of Afghanistan having been severely oppressed only under the regime of the Taliban, and then having been freed by the united States' military intervention in 2001, is a false perception." The film continues: Ann Jones, author Kabul in Winter: We got reports back that indeed that had been accomplished and the women had thrown off their burqas […]

Jul
15
2009

NYT and the Pro-Withdrawal Majority (of 2004)

New York Times reporter John F. Burns turned in a piece on Sunday about the debate in Britain over the Afghanistan war ("Criticism of Afghan War Is on the Rise in Britain," 7/12/09), in light of the increase in British casualties in recent weeks. Burns writes: So far, however, the reaction in Britain has not run to the kind of popular groundswell for withdrawal that President George W. Bush faced when the war in Iraq worsened after his re-election in 2004. To careful readers of the Times, this is more than a little jarring. While there is certainly some truth […]

Jul
12
2009

Big Media Push Escalation in Afghanistan and at Home

Noting how "the president has set a limit on the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. For now," FAIR associate Norman Solomon is letting Huffington Post readers know (7/9/09) "that's how escalation works. Ceilings become floors. Gradually": A few times since last fall, the Obama team has floated rising numbers for how many additional U.S. soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan. Now, deployment of 21,000 more is a done deal, with a new total cap of 68,000 U.S. troops in that country. Solomon warns that "'escalation' isn't mere jargon. And it doesn't just refer to what's happening outside the United […]

Jul
02
2009

Big Media 'Lenses…Ground With Ideology, Nationalism'

Noticing that "the New York Times used three square inches of newsprint on Tuesday to dispatch two U.S. Army soldiers under the headline 'Names of the Dead,'" Norman Solomon (Common Dreams, 7/1/09) points out how apparently "there wasn't enough room for any numbers, names or ages of Afghans who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations." Having observed wartime media long enough to know that "that's the way routine death stories go," Solomon has also observed that "reporting on life is like that, and reporting on death is like that: even more so when the […]

Jun
30
2009

A Massive 'Press Blackout' for a Massive Press Outlet

Calling the six months of unanimous news media silence on New York Times reporter David Rohde's kidnapping "the most amazing press blackout on a major event that I have ever seen," Greg Mitchell (Editor & Publisher, 6/23/09) now wonders if a great debate will break out over media ethics in not reporting a story involving one of their own when they so eagerly rush out piece about nearly everything else. I imagine some may claim that the blackout would not have held if a smaller paper, not the mighty New York Times, had been involved. Or is saving this life […]

Jun
29
2009

Why Read the Press Release? Just Blame the Taliban

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter's careful reading (Dissident Voice, 6/28/09) of "the official military investigation into the disastrous May 4 airstrike in Farah province" of Afghanistan, which "omitted key details" and "gave no explanation" for reasserting "that only about 26 civilians had been killed"–"well-documented reports by the government and by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission [showed] that between 97 and 147 people were killed"–yields a "central contradiction between the report and the U.S. military's 'human shields' argument" that "was allowed to pass unnoticed in the extremely low-key news media coverage of the report." In fact, news coverage of the report […]