Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Advertiser brings readers distorted story on Afghan bus killing
by Larry Geller
Today’s Advertiser carried an AP story of the tragic killing of civilians in a US attack on a bus in Afghanistan. The story, headlined Troops kill 4 Afghan civilians on bus, was edited selectively to remove evidence that the US fired needlessly on the bus, and which contradicted the US official report.
Through selective editing, the Advertiser misleads its readers and impairs its credibility. I am not aware of whether shorter, pre-biased versions are made available to newspapers and assume that each paper cuts stories to fit. Either way, responsibility for reporting the complete story rests with Advertiser editors.
What the editors left in was the US military version of the story. It left in “There were conflicting accounts of the shooting” but then cut out the conflicting accounts.
Other versions of the same AP story are available on the web. For example, see Anger mounts as US troops kill 4 Afghans on bus (4/12/2010).
Using that version, I’ll restore the cuts. Please refer to the link above to read the story with proper continuity.
Click on the image for larger, or check out the restored paragraphs below, which may be easier to read on a computer screen.
First omitted paragraph:
One of the survivors, Rozi Mohammad, told The Associated Press at Kandahar hospital that the bus had just left a terminal when it pulled over to the side of the road to allow an American convoy to pass. Shooting broke out as the third or fourth American vehicle passed by, he said.
"They just suddenly opened fire. I don't know why. We had been stopped and after that I don't know what happened," said Mohammad, his left eye swollen shut and his beard and clothing matted with blood.
While understanding that space in the shrunken Advertiser is at a premium, cutting the tail off this story omitted all the critical context and obscures the significance of this latest killing of civilians. Afghans are understandably upset with the escalation of killings in the past year. It documents one US coverup (see the very end of the omitted material).
Because of routine military denials, misrepresentations and coverups, it is important for readers to be given other credible reports on these instances.
Nevertheless, much of the public anger was directed Monday against foreign forces as word of the pre-dawn shooting swept the city.
"These foreigners have their enemies, but killing Afghans is not the answer," said Abdul Hadi, who sells homemade herbal remedies in a public market. He said international forces should publish a schedule of their patrols so Afghans can keep out of the way.
"Better yet, I would like to see them leave Afghanistan," he added.
The top NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, issued strict guidelines last year limiting the use of force in an effort to reduce civilian casualties and curb public anger.
At least 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting last year, an increase of 14 percent from 2008, according to the United Nations. But the U.N. found that the percentage of civilian deaths attributed to NATO and Afghan government forces had dropped. About two-thirds of the civilian deaths were a result of actions initiated by the insurgents, including ambushes, assassinations and roadside bombs.
Nevertheless, civilian deaths remain a source of friction between the Afghans and the international forces.
Earlier this month, NATO confirmed its forces were responsible for the deaths of five people, including three women, killed Feb. 12 in Gardez, south of Kabul.
An Afghan government report said U.S. Special Forces attacked the wrong target and sought to cover up the mistake by digging bullets out of bodies, according to Afghan investigators who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.
Today’s Democracy Now reported (snip):
According to witnesses, US forces opened fire on a passenger bus just as the bus began pulling over to the side of the road to allow another military convoy to pass. Another eighteen civilians were wounded. Protesters burned tires and blocked a main road leading out of Kandahar. One protester said the shootings were unprovoked.
Protester: “The bus carrying civilians was 100 meters away from the convoy of Americans. Despite that, they opened fire on the bus. Sixty passengers were traveling on the bus, six people martyred and eighteen others wounded.”
The Advertiser subhead for this story is “Shooting another blow to U.S. efforts as protesters chant ‘Death to America’.” No, dear editors, it is not the U.S. that was harmed here, it was Afghans on the bus who were killed, injured or maimed for life. They, not we, are the victims.
Google readily turns up AFP and other reports of the incident. Those who depend on the morning paper for news don’t have the option of searching for the truth or for alternative versions.
Selective editing of stories preserving only the official view is a disservice to readers.
District I voters, please do not send a representative to congress that continues to support war, funding of war, and such disregard for human life as the Obama polices indicate and as did Bush/Cheney.