An important story is happening right now that’s not getting a whole lot of media attention. A military court is investigating claims that members of a U.S. Army Stryker unit randomly killed Afghan civilians. Some of the soldiers say they were pressured by a commanding officer into participating in the crimes. There are also reports that soldiers took photos of the dead Afghans, along with body parts. One of earliest accounts I’d read of the story appeared in the British media (Guardian, 9/9/10).
The basic outline of the story was recounted in a New York Times story on September 27. But the headline of the piece in some editions (it’s still here) was striking: “Drug Use Cited in Unit Tied to Civilian Deaths.”
That is a reference to the brief mention near the bottom of the piece from one lawyer who suggested there was widespread drug use in the unit. That would hardly seem like the most important revelation in the article.
Or consider how NBC Nightly News covered the same story on September 28, courtesy of anchor Brian Williams:
An interrogation video is providing chilling details about how a group of American soldiers allegedly murdered Afghan civilians, and what we’re learning is from the soldiers themselves. It’s all part of a case that could have an impact on the war in Afghanistan and perhaps put American troops at greater risk of retaliation.
Is it really necessary to justify coverage of the random murder of Afghan civilians by pointing to the hypothetical deaths of U.S. soldiers in response?