Apparently the New York Times hasmoved Elisabeth Bumiller over to the Pentagon beat. Her record as Bush White House correspondent producedsome memorable missteps (“You canÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢t just say the president is lying,” for example), so it wasn’t a surprise to see her byline under the story, “From a Carrier, Another View of America’s Air War in Afghanistan” (2/24/09). The piece was little more than pro-military propaganda (is that “another” view?) with lines like “pilots circle Taliban strongholds like an airborne 911 service and zoom in,” and:
From 15,000 feet up, the pilots protect supply lines under increasing attack, fly reconnaissance missions to find what they call “bad guys” over the next hill, and go “kinetic” with bombs that kill three, four or five Taliban fighters at a time.
Of course, a piece about airstrikes in Afghanistan can’t completely avoid mentioning civilian casualties; but the point of Bumiller’s piece is that these things aren’t supposed to happen. Just ask the U.S. military: “As Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, the commander of United States naval forces in the region, put it: ‘We donÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢t drop when weÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢re unsure.'”
Is there any reason to put any stock in such reassurances? Not if you think way back to, say, Saturday’s New York Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬”Â An airstrike by the United States-led military coalition killed 13 civilians and 3 militants last Tuesday in western Afghanistan, not ‘up to 15 militantsÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬Ãƒâ€šÂ as was initially claimed by American forces, military officials here said Saturday.
Bumiller’s piece would seem to be an attempt to make up for that bit of bad press.