Wednesday, December 26, 2007


"Success" in Iraq and Afghanistan largely a matter of controlling the news

by Larry Geller

I wrote last year that the press (in that article, the Associated Press wire service) was covering up the fact that US troops were confined to base during the daytime in Iraq. It was just too dangerous for them to go out except at night. The coverup continues, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

One way to minimize US troop losses, of course, is to reduce the number of missions and keep the troops from going out at all. The US typically compensates by escalating aerial bombardment, which leads to increased civilian casualties. But who's counting civilians, of course. With a cooperative press dutifully reporting only what it has been handed by those in charge, it can be made to appear that the "surge" is working.

Stories do get out, though. Information wants to be free. I was just listening to the podcast of last week's Counterspin and heard of a massacre in Afghanistan that didn't make it to the mainstream news.

The program segment also reported on the increased bombing and pointed out that every missed bomb might create ten new Taliban recruits. I did think it odd that we think we can win hearts and minds by bombing civilians and conducting nighttime massacres.

The story about the massacre is here.

at 2 A.M. on Sunday, November 17/18, 2007 in the hamlet of Lakari, 2 kms from the village of Toube (Tebbi?) in the Garmsir district of southern Helmand along the Helmand River. The Taliban have long had a strong presence in Garmsir. Foreign troops (probably U.S. or British Special Forces) with Afghan soldiers arrived by air in the village at 2 A.M. in the night (as is usual with such air borne attacks). What ensued was a gruesome massacre successfully kept out of sight of the world for almost a month by military “news management” and mainstream western media neglect. The story was broken by two Afghan journalists of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) in the Afghan Recovery Report dated December 10, 2007. The reporters interviewed dozens of local villagers who all confirmed what had transpired. Their story was picked by the Zurich-based Center for Security Studies’ ISN and brief mention was made in The Telegraph. No mention by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, etc.

For a story on the Associated Press by the Counterspin interviewee, see The AP speaks Newspeak. The author reveals how the AP labels massacres as mistakes and minimizes reports of civilian casualties.

Of course, our local dailies depend on the AP. There are alternatives. AFP (Agence France-Presse), for example. But don't hold your breath waiting for them to switch. It won't happen.

[Aside: when I lived in New York City in a previous life, radio station WBAI subscribed to the AFP wire service. Their studios were in an old church, and in a bathtub was the wire service teletype. The dispatches were in French at that time. The staff translated them. How else to get around the bias and manipulation of the US wire services?]

Since local dailies do not have reporters in the mid-East, they select stories. Those that our papers bring to Hawaii are chosen from a wide range of available sources. They select the commentaries similarly. The totality reflects the bias of local editors, and quite likely, the directives of their management on what they must print and what they may not.

No wonder the United States is ranked low in press freedom. It depends on who does the ranking, of course, but in an analysis by Reporters without Borders, we came in this year just under Botswana, Croatia and Tonga. You might disagree, but check it out. Our descent is accompanied by a reduction in the quality of news we see or read.

If you read the story on AP referenced above, you'll have a sharper eye for the excuses they make for civilian casualties. The high death rate is not the result of little mistakes in aiming the bombs, or of insurgents hiding in civilian areas, it's a predictable result of the way we wage war. Get used to it. Great armies no longer clash in fields of battle. They kill civilians, that's what they do. The mainstream media don't want to trouble you with that fact.

We must stop these wars. It's within our power as Americans to do the right thing, and we're not doing it. What is our excuse? After we do that, we should replace our corporate media, which bears responsibility for perpetuating wars by printing lies about war.


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