A New York Times piece today (11/29/11) about the U.S. airstrikes that apparently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers opens with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani speaking publicly about the incident, as does Pakistani military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.
Readers are then treated to a lesson in how U.S. officials speak to important news outlets about an emerging, controversial story. They don’t use their names. Instead, we hear from:
- “A United States official” who comments on the “growing frustration in Washington about the increasingly harsh language coming out of Islamabad.” He “spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the need not to personally alienate Pakistani officials.”That same official then is allowed to mischaracterize the Pakistani complaint: “You hear what they’re saying, and they’re making it sound like we’re just bombing Pakistani military positions for the hell of it.”
- “Another American official,” who “disputed the Pakistani assertions that the border posts were in areas that had been largely cleared of insurgents.”
- “Yet another American official… who asked not to be identified in discussing a case that is under investigation.”
- And, finally, a “third American official briefed on the raid.”
Elsewhere in the paper, a Times editorial explained its regrets over this incident and others:
It’s not clear what led to NATO strikes on two Pakistani border posts this weekend, but there can be no dispute that the loss of lives is tragic. At least 24 Pakistani troops were killed. We regret those deaths, as we do those of all American, NATO and Afghan troops and Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed by extremists.
So any deaths in the wars in Afghanistan or Pakistan are regrettable–except for civilians killed by U.S./NATO forces.