How Important Are Dead Afghan Civilians?

The story of the day is obviously the large pieces in the London Guardian and the New York Times that are based on tens of thousands of documents related to the Afghanistan War published by WikiLeaks. The leak is already being compared to the Pentagon Papers.

How newspapers determine what is most newsworthy about the leaks is interesting. The Guardian‘s lead is:

A huge cache of secret U.S. military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighboring Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency.

So the first item of interest are hundreds of unreported civilian killings.

The New York Times lead, on the other hand,reports that the archive of classified documents “offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.” The second paragraph describes it as a “daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year. ” Ten paragraphs into the piece there is a reference to special ops commandomissions that “claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.”

But the fact that “coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents”? If the Times found that in the WikiLeaks documents, it didn’t think it was worth mentioning.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.