How to Tell When ‘Humans’ Die in a U.S. War

ABC World News‘ David Muir (9/30/12) took note of the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan this way:

Overseas now to Afghanistan, and a stark reminder tonight of the human cost of war. An attack at a checkpoint left two Americans dead, one of them a serviceman, the 2,000th U.S. military death since the war began.

That kind of language is revealing in that it presents American deaths as evidence of the “human cost of war.” But, of course, there is a human cost almost every day in most wars. What they’re saying is this is primarily something we should think about when the humans in question are U.S. troops.

Afghan women  (photo by ISAF Public Affairs)

The kind of humans whose deaths are not supposed to remind us of the human cost of war (photo by ISAF Public Affairs)

We don’t need to search very far to find a counter-example. On the very same show, two weeks earlier (9/16/12) , viewers were told about a NATO airstrike that killed eight Afghan women. They had been out collecting firewood.

How did ABC report these deaths? In all of one sentence, stuffed at the end of a report by correspondent Muhammad Lila about U.S. troop deaths:

And late this evening, another incident that’s causing tension here. NATO is confirming that an air strike has led to civilian casualties, reportedly including Afghan women and children.

Last year, in a very similar incident, a NATO airstrike killed nine boys. And ABC‘s brief report (3/6/11) focused on Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s “harsh words for the U.S.”


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.