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 has focused either on the official estimate of only 26 civilian deaths and the much larger number of Taliban casualties or on the absence of blame on the part of U.S. military personnel found by the investigators.

The Associated Press reported that the United States had “accidentally killed an estimated 26 Afghan civilians last month when a warplane did not strictly adhere to rules for bombing.”

The New York Times led with the fact that the investigation had called for “additional training” of U.S. air crews and ground forces but did hold any personnel “culpable” for failing to follow the existing rules of engagement.

Contributing to these outlets’ dissembling on behalf of U.S. troops’ bloody actions, Porter found that “none of the news media reporting on the highly expurgated version of the investigation pointed out that it had confirmed, in effect, the version of the event that had been put forward by residents of the bombed villages.” Listen to more about Afghanistan deceptions in U.S. media on the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: “Gareth Porter on the Afghanistan Surge” (4/3/09).