On Sunday, there were reports of a NATO airstrike in the eastern Paktia province of Afghanistan. The early reports said that a family of eight was killed, as the New York Times reported:
The casualties took place in eastern Paktia province on Saturday night when the family’s home was hit by a bomb, said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor of Paktia. Six children were killed, four boys and two girls, as well as their mother and father, whose name was Safiullah.
But an Associated Press report that appeared in the Washington Post (5/28/12) looked very different, thanks mostly to anonymous officials who aren’t waiting for any investigation to get out their side of the story:
The U.S.-led coalition on Sunday disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.
Afghan officials said the airstrike Saturday night killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said there is no evidence of civilian casualties. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.
The piece moves from there to reporting on NATO coalition deaths–a reminder, one might conclude, of which lives might matter more.
When we return to the story of the dead family, the AP reminds readers, “The killing of civilians by foreign forces has been a major irritant in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s relationship with his international partners.” That’s one way of putting it. I suspect it’s even more of an “irritant” to the families of those who were killed.
The AP also reminds readers that the truth, in such instances, always wins out:
Afghan and coalition officials frequently offer differing accounts of military operations. When local residents report that civilians were killed, the coalition says the victims had been identified as insurgents. Later, if investigations prove that civilians were inadvertently killed, the coalition acknowledges its mistake.
Well, that’s a relief.