NPR’s ‘History Scrub’ of U.S. Fault in Afghanistan

“A rather major problem with nearly all of NPR‘s reporting” has been identified by NPR Check blogger Mytwords (2/18/09) and named the “history scrub.” The definition: “If the essential background history to a story reflects poorly on the actions of the U.S. government–that history will be deleted, scrubbed, sanitized–sent down the memory hole.” The key example given is a February 17 All Things Considered in which host Michelle Norris “blandly explains that thousands more U.S. troops are headed off to Afghanistan and doesn’t even chuckle in noting that the United States Institute of Peace [tee-hee] released some new policy recommendations for Afghanistan”:

To discuss the report, Norris interviews Seth Jones, co-author with Christine Fair of the report. (Both authors are connected with the RAND Corp.) In fairness, a lot of what Jones says comes off as fairly informed and reasonable…. He even offered corrective to Michelle Norris’ knee-jerk assumption that the answer to all problems in Afghanistan is more U.S. troops and military might….

What I found so stunning is that neither Norris nor Jones ever mentioned that the baseline of stable functioning “legitimate” local leaders was essentially destroyed and replaced by the most ruthless, fanatic and illegitimate leaders that the U.S. could recruit and train in its 1980s campaign to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. Even U.S. News & World Report acknowledges this basic history. On NPR, though, it’s as if this nasty little chapter of U.S. involvement in the sorrows of Afghanistan never even happened–or that it had no continuity with the current configuration of the U.S.-Afghanistan project.

Suggesting that NPR consider “airing the views and opinions of people who got it right for a change,” Mytwords takes a “hop into the way-back machine” and links to “cartoonist Ted Rall‘s piece on Afghanistan written at the time when most were crowing about the stunning U.S. victory over the Taliban.” The title of Rall’s “disturbingly prescient” 2001 Village Voice article?: “How We Lost Afghanistan.” For more on major media’s unquestioning acceptance of the need for U.S. troop escalation in Afghanistan, listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Ann Jones on Afghanistan” (1/23/09)