May
30
2012

Those Children Weren't Civilians–Says Nobody

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 […]

May
23
2012

Give Friedman a Chance–to Rewrite His Own History

Thomas Friedman on Face the Nation this past Sunday (5/20/12): You know, I believed from the beginning we had four choices in Afghanistan, Bob: lose early, lose late, lose big, or lose small. And, you know, my hope was that we would lose small and early. Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, November 2, 2001: A month into the war in Afghanistan, the hand-wringing has already begun over how long this might last. Let's all take a deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance.  

May
02
2012

NYT Reassures Afghans That the Troops They Want to Leave Are Going to Stay

The New York Times' Alissa Rubin (5/2/12) reports of President Barack Obama's trip to Afghanistan: The trip communicated something of vital importance to the Afghans: reassurance that the United States is not in an all-out scramble to get away. It's not clear what the basis for Rubin's claim that "reassurance" that the U.S. is in no hurry to leave Afghanistan is "of vital importance" to Afghans. A poll taken in 2010 on behalf of the Washington Post, ABC, BBC and the German broadcaster ARD found that 55 percent of the Afghan public supported the rapid withdrawal of foreign troops (GlobalPost, […]

Mar
27
2012

Afghan War Just Needs a Better Sales Pitch

The big New York Times story on the Afghan War today (3/27/12) focuses on public opinion in the United States, which is now dramatically anti-war: 69 percent think we shouldn't be there. An interesting point argument is raised later in the piece, when two sources make the argument that the war wouldn't be so unpopular if Barack Obama would just do a better job of selling it: Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that in his view there would be more support […]

Mar
20
2012

U.S. Can't Win Afghan War Because We Aren't a Colonial Power

Now here's an anti-war argument I hadn't heard before, courtesy of conservative blogger/journalist Andrew Sullivan (on NBC's Chris Matthews Show, 3/18/12): SULLIVAN: Again, it just shows that America colonizes without any real colonial talent because this is a country built on escaping colonialism, not actually imposing it. MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well… SULLIVAN: You're doing something against the DNA of the United States. While the idea idea that the United States is not and has apparently never been a colonial power struck Matthews as a reasonable one, it might strike other people as rather odd. The Spanish-American War would seem to qualify […]

Mar
16
2012

Do Afghans Love Their Holy Book More Than Their Kids?

I felt like there was something slightly off about this New York Times story yesterday (3/15/12), "In Reactions to Two Incidents, a U.S.-Afghan Disconnect." Reporter Rod Nordland wanted to explore why Afghans seemed so much more outraged over the recent burnings of the Quran than they were about a massacre of 16 civilians by a U.S. servicemember. His piece begins: KABUL, Afghanistan– The mullah was astounded and a little angered to be asked why the accidental burning of Korans last month could provoke violence nationwide, while an intentional mass murder that included nine children last Sunday did not. "How can […]

Mar
13
2012

Dead Afghans Muck Up War Strategy

There is, as we pointed out yesterday, plenty of media coverage of the recent massacre of 16 Afghans–mostly children–as a PR problem. A related storyline is the discussion of the killings as presenting problems with the war strategy. Two headlines at the NPR website, for example: That piece advises that it "may be tough there for U.S. troops in the days and weeks ahead." Of course, the assumption in the headline is that there is a "strategy" in the first place. The other headline: That piece included a photo caption that explained that the dead Afghan children "could make the […]

Feb
29
2012

Tom Friedman Is Waiting For Afghans to Shape Up

I think most sensible people understand that the current uproar in Afghanistan over the desecration of the Quran isn't really just about the defiling of a holy book. But if there's sense in the world, there's also nonsense. Enter Tom Friedman's New York Times column today (2/29/12): U.S. troops accidentally burned some Qurans, and President Obama apologized. Afghans nevertheless went on a weeklong rampage, killing innocent Americans in response–and no Afghan leader, even our allies, dared to stand up and say: "Wait, this is wrong. Every week in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, Muslim suicide bombers kill other Muslims–holy people created […]

Nov
29
2011

Anonymously Explaining Pakistan Deaths

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 […]

Nov
28
2011

Dead Afghan Kids Still Not Newsworthy

Back in March, we wondered when U.S. corporate news outlets would find U.S./NATO killing of Afghan kids newsworthy. Back then, it was nine children killed in a March 1 airstrike. This resulted in two network news stories on the evening or morning newscasts, and two brief references on the PBS NewsHour. On November 25, the New York Times reported–on page 12–that six children were killed in one attack in southern Afghanistan on November 23. This news was, as best I can tell, not reported on ABC, CBS, NBC or the PBS NewsHour. There were, on the other hand, several pieces […]

Oct
11
2011

Afghan War: NBC Lets the Generals Do the Talking

NBC Nightly News (10/7/11) marked the 10th anniversary of the Afghan War on October 7 with a segment that linked the war to the Occupy Wall Street protests. As anchor Brian Williams put it in the introduction: Tonight protesters remain in the streets of a dozen U.S. cities, angry over what's happened to their lives and our country; and a big part of that, over these last 10 years, the two wars we've been fighting, starting 10 years ago today. This is the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, longer now than World War II and the […]

Sep
14
2011

Bill O'Reilly Polices the 9/11 Boundaries

Fox host Bill O'Reilly knows a thing or two about boundaries. As he told his TV audience Monday night, some "far-left" radicals crossed the line on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote a blog post about how some Republican politicians turned the attacks into a "wedge issue," and referred to George W. Bush and Rudolph Giuliani as "fake heroes." O'Reilly's reaction: Krugman is "insulting his country on the anniversary of 9/11. That is truly despicable." O'Reilly had a little left in tank, so he went after former Times reporter Chris Hedges for […]

Sep
06
2011

Richard Cohen Is Sorry You and He Got It Wrong

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (9/5/11) takes the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 to say that he's sorry: I went home on September 11 with my shoes dusted with the detritus of the World Trade Center. I felt a hate that was entirely new to me. Soon after, the anthrax attacks began, and I was ready for war–against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, for sure, but against Saddam Hussein as well. I was wrong, and for that I blame myself, but I blame us all for going along with it and then rewarding incompetence with another term. Wait–we all […]