March 5, 2007

How to Smear the U.S. Marines Without Visibly Moving Your Lips

Hatched by Dafydd

This one is really disturbing. Maybe you shouldn't read it... go away!

The fight in Afghanistan has picked up lately; you all know that (if you've been reading here as assiduously as you should). Last year, we killed 3,000 Taliban, while the latter managed to kill 850 civilians and 150 American or NATO soldiers.

In several recent incidents, American troops have come under attack; they have responded... and because the enemy loves to use innocent people as "human shields," some presumptively innocent people were killed in the crossfire.

The past is prologue; here is my point. The elite news media have decided to revert to their old habits: They appear uniformly to be reporting this as "Americans gone wild," accusing the Marines of panicking, of fleeing from the scene, and especially, of "firing indiscriminately" at civilians. (I don't quite understand how we can simultaneously fire indiscriminately while also deliberately targeting civilians, but perhaps that's just my hectoring, schoolmarmish defense of the English language.)

Here are Exhibits A, B, and C, the "news" pieces in question; hereafter, I shall call them AP, Reuters, and the New York Times (or the Times).

They use a number of classic techniques. Let's dive right in.

Warning: I have blue font, and I'm not afraid to us it.

Establishing and disestablishing authority

When charges of indiscriminate violence are hurled at Americans, they are given the voice of authority: either "officials say," "witnesses say," or else the charge is simply stated as fact -- vox populi vox Dei.

But whenever the reporters are forced by circumstances to admit the Marines (or American forces in general) may have their own side of the story, they make plain there is a "void" of authority: This is just what those buggers claim. (One can almost picture the reporter rolling his eyes as he types that.)


A coalition airstrike destroyed a mud-brick home after a rocket attack on a U.S. base, killing nine people from four generations of an Afghan family including a 6-month-old, officials and relatives said Monday - one of the latest in a string of civilian deaths that threaten to undermine the government.

It was the third report in two days of U.S. forces killing civilians. The airstrike took place late Sunday in Kapisa province north of the capital, some 12 hours after U.S. Marines opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians following a suicide bombing in eastern Nangahar province....

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said coalition forces will always respond in self-defense when fired upon: "It is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples' lives in danger by where they're conducting these attacks on our forces."

Does AP actually question the claim that "it is often the enemy that is putting innocent peoples' lives in danger?" Do they really deny that the Taliban thinks of civilians merely as human shields, convenient speed bumps to slow down Western forces -- who, unlike jihadis, actually have respect for innocent human life?

If not, then why put it entirely in the mouth of the estimable Mr. Whitman? AP could simply have noted that the Taliban and al-Qaeda have frequently launched terrorist attacks against innocent civilians out of the blue, not even in response to any attack upon the aggressors. (You know, that whole "September 11th" thingie.)

The Times:

Nine members of a family were killed in an American airstrike in central Afghanistan, including five women and three children during a battle with militants, Afghan officials said today....

The incident came just 12 hours after American forces in eastern Afghanistan opened fire on civilians when a suicide car bomb exploded next to their convoy Sunday morning, leaving at least 10 people dead and 25 wounded, according to Afghan officials....

United States forces at a small base at Tape Ahmed Beg, in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, called in the airstrike after coming under rocket fire around 9 p.m. local time on Sunday, the American military said in a statement.

Now let's be realistic here: "Afghan officials" have no official knowledge of what happened; they have not yet conducted any investigation, the events just occurred. All they know is what local Afghans, who may have a dog in the fight, tell them.

The Times knows this, just as they know that "officials" trumps "the military," just as "medical researchers" trumps "the tobacco industry." Nevertheless, the Times allows the accusation to hide behind the amorphous and vaguely authoritative "officials say," while the Marines are reduced to a whiny, personal defense -- and we all know those sexual assaulters and baby killers will say anything to weasel out of their rightful condemnation!

Reuters is the worst, as par for the course -- they are British based, and they typically use local stringers to write their stories... as in this case, where the reporter is Sayed Salahuddin:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned U.S. troops for shooting dead 10 civilians at the weekend as officials said nine more -- five women, four children and an old man -- had been killed in an air strike....

U.S. marines shot dead 10 civilians in the east on Sunday, in what the U.S. military said was a "complex" Taliban ambush involving a suicide bombing and gunfire in a populated area outside the city of Jalalabad, near Pakistan.

The military said the soldiers fired in self-defense and 16 civilians were killed in the suicide raid and subsequent firing.

Tit for tat is where it's at

Reuters' Mr. Salahuddin finds occasion to drag in the international community to supply the mandatory moral equivalence between U.S. Marines (not Europeans!) and the Taliban:

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop [or is that Hoop de Loop?] Scheffer said he understood both incidents involved U.S.-led coalition forces rather than NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but told reporters in Brussels:

"Every civilian casualty is one too many ... I do not think it will influence the great support there is for NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan...."

Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, whose country has 1,900 soldiers in the ISAF force, told reporters in Brussels that no officer would order troops to fire on civilians.

Yes, those Americans can be such cowboys, can't they? I certainly hope the Afghan people understand that we Europeans would never return fire when fired upon!

(If anyone reading this detects a subtle bias in this post towards the Marines' version and against the version retailed by "local" Afghans of unknown provenance -- then by jiminy, I think you've hit upon my mean, little secret.)

AP concurs:

Human Rights Watch said neither side was taking enough precautions to prevent human casualties and accused the U.S. and international troops of using excessive force.

"International forces don't have carte blanche to shoot anything they want in response to insurgent attacks," said John Sifton, a New York-based researcher for the group.

And lest we forget, the Times:

But a local representative of the provincial council, Suraya Bahadur, who comes from Nejarab district where the bombing occurred, condemned it. “I condemned both the suicide attacks and the rocket attacks by the enemy of Afghanistan, and also I condemn these type of mistakes,” by American and NATO forces, she said. “We never want our civilian people to be killed.”

Ooooh, snap!

A favorite tactic is what I call the rim shot: That's when you allow the bad guy -- that would be us -- to make a case, giving him plenty of rope... so that your conclusory, parting shot can hang him. Viz., from AP:

Two men with automatic rifles were seen leaving the site of the rocket attack and heading into a compound that was then hit by two 2,000-pound bombs, a military statement said. Rural homes in Afghanistan are built in a compound style with one large outer wall often encasing several small rooms; many families tend to share the same compound.

"These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces," said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. "We observed the men entering a compound and that compound was targeted and hit by an airstrike."

The bombs left a large crater of twisted lumber and chunks of mud and killed four women, four children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, and an 80-year-old man, said Gulam Nabi, a relative of the victims.

Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi, Kapisa deputy governor, confirmed the nine deaths.

Among those killed were Gulam Nabi's parents, his sister, two female relatives by marriage and four of the extended family's youngest children.

Yeah, so a couple of guys -- who were merely retreating, for God's sake -- enter a "compound," which is just a rural home... and then the military spasms, and we have dead women, dead children, and a dead octogenarian. Ba-dum DUM.

And how do we know that was the death toll? Well, reading between the lines, we have the word of Gulam Nabi, "a relative of the victims." No possible bias there. Oh, but it was "confirmed" by the deputy governor; which means, reading between the lines, that we have the word of Gulam Nabi. (Did you imagine that by "confirmed," Reuters meant the deputy governor went to the site and made a detailed forensic investigation of the bodies? Or that, after talking with Nabi, the deputy governor said "Crusaders and Zionists are always doing this kind of thing! Long live Mullah Omar!")

This bloody vote's been rigged!

We have the obligatory sly inuendo from Reuters -- I warned you they were the worst, but you never listen -- that there's dirty work afoot... and we know who's footing it. The intended response by the reader is, "Can you believe this? What chutzpah!"

"Karzai strongly condemned the incident that took place," the presidential palace said in a statement on Sunday. Karzai has ordered an inquiry, but previous such investigations by NATO and the Afghan government have done nothing more than confirm witness accounts that those killed were civilians.

Despite hundreds of civilian deaths, no foreign soldier has ever been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

I suppose it would be jingoistic of us to suggest that perhaps that's because no foreign soldier has actually been guilty of wrongly killing civilians. I know, I know. Baby killers. Abu Ghraib. Attica. But shouldn't the elite media pause for even a moment to consider the possibility that sometimes, behind the smoke, we just find -- a big smokescreen machine?

Sympathy for the devil

I don't want the New York Times to feel neglected. One of their signature tactics is to redefine the terms of the situation so that we feel sympathy, or even solidarity, with the terrorists. Usually, they invoke the "disproportionality" argument, knowing that Americans -- unlike those we're supposed to feel sympathetic towards, by the way -- tend to champion the underdog when we perceive a mismatch:

John Sifton, senior researcher at the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, also expressed concern at the level of force used by coalition and NATO troops. “That is heavy firepower to respond to two men, even if they have Kalashnikovs,” he said in a telephone interview. “If that version of events bears up, it would strongly suggest that the attack was disproportionate.” Mr. Sifton said insurgents also regularly violate the rules of war by using force near civilian areas ["...but don't quote me on that!"].

Forgotten in all the excitement is that everybody agrees that the American military called in the strike not just because they men were carrying AK-47s, but because they had just launched a rocket attack on an American military base. Having observed the two men firing a rocket at a base that has been repeatedly bombarded with rocket fire, it's reasonable for us to conclude that they kept more than mere rifles in their safehouse. Like, perhaps, more rockets.

So we're actually talking about responding to rocket fire by dropping a bomb -- which no longer sounds all that "disproportionate," does it?

Can't we all just get along?

Finally, sticking with the Times, we close with the faux attempt to get everyone to sit down and talk things through... as if that's the real problem: the terrorists just don't understand what fine fellows we really are:

Civilian casualties have increased in the last year as the insurgency has seen a resurgence in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Mr. Sifton of Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government and NATO and coalition forces to sit down and work out operating procedures for troops in these circumstances in order to prevent further civilian deaths.

I call this a "faux attempt" for a particular reason: Look who Mr. Sifton calls on -- presumably those he holds (a) responsible for all these civilian deaths, or (b) to be the adults on the scene: the Americans, the Europeans, and the democratic Afghan government. He doesn't even pretend that the Taliban and al-Qaeda may be at least a small part of the problem.

That's like saying in 1985 that the United States and West Germany should sit down and work out what to do about all those Pershing II missiles in Europe, in order to avoid the threat of nuclear war. The cowboys are on the warpath again!

I utter the words, "and in conclusion" -- and the crowd leaps to its feet in sustained applause

Even if the elite media never wearys of being on the wrong side of the United States, you'd think they would at least get tired of being on the wrong side of history. Evidently they're indefatigable.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 5, 2007, at the time of 5:51 PM

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The following hissed in response by: jessekdavis

This iok it is nice oky

The above hissed in response by: jessekdavis [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 5, 2007 8:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

I suppose I'm heartless, but as long as the terrorists continue to use civilians as shields there are going to be deaths of said civilians. Note that I did not say innocent civilians. When the civilians figure out that they can be killed for harboring terrorists, maybe they will stop harboring terrorists and prolong their own lives.
As for the reporting, if it would not affect the rest of us I would wish that the news media had to live under the rule of those they so obviously support. Me thinks they would quickly start singing a different song.
In the end I am saddened that many people seem so unwilling to place the blame where it belongs, i.e. on the terrorists who endanger those civilians. That those in most of the media seem unwilling to recognize that fact only points out one of perhaps several things; their lack of intelligence; their lack of morals; or their laziness. Then again, maybe it is a combination of all three, or even others I haven't thought of or listed like their fear that should they write something that might not be approved of by those terrorists, they might be murdered by those very same terrorists.
So go ahead and call me heartless. And understand that it is not that I wish to see innocent people killed, but the sheer dishonesty of the press in the way such stories are reported, and the fact that the terrorists hide in and amongst the population leave me little option but to say, "So what? Why are you bothering to write this?" And while I know why they are writing it in the way they are, do they understand the consequences of what they are doing? Personally I don't think most of them are smart enough to understand those consequences.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2007 5:01 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

I utter the words, "and in conclusion" -- and the crowd leaps to its feet in sustained applause

Nay......not a conclusion. You're telling the never-ending story of a media who's soul intent is to undermind a nobel effort.

Expect the R.A.T. Pack (Reuters,AP,Times) to begin their own "offensive" against Petraeus and his efforts to secure Baghdad and Anbar. Mark these words, the first brutal conflict that involves "civilian casualties" will hit the front pages of all three of these fabricators. And every victory over our enemies will be marginalized to fit their defeatist view.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2007 5:21 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Well Thank God the RATs were not reporting the news in WWII. We would have had to quit the war by 1943.
The mind numbed efforts that pass for thinking in these reporters would be laughable if it were not so pitifula nd dangerous.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2007 5:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Navyvet

Pardon me, the object of war is to employ disproportionate force. If both sides employ equal force, the result is a stalemate...and a war that drags on with an ever-increasing body count (sound familiar?)

Far better to employ overwhelming force and smash the enemy to bits. Fewer casualties than in a prolonged conflict (both combatants and civilians) and a decisive victory to boot.

As Sean Connery's character in "The Untouchables" explains: "They put one of yours in the hospital, you put one of theirs in the morgue."

The above hissed in response by: Navyvet [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2007 10:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Far better to employ overwhelming force and smash the enemy to bits. Fewer casualties than in a prolonged conflict (both combatants and civilians) and a decisive victory to boot.

While that may be emotionally satisfying, you have not identified either (a) what the victory conditions are, or even (b) who "the enemy" is.

You want us basically to act like the Soviets did in Afghanistan. If you'll recall, that didn't work out too well.

Currently in Iraq, the terrorists enjoy very little popular support, control no territory, have been stymied in their attempts to creat a national front, and have been driven to repeated acts of red-on-red violence (for example, al-Qaeda attacking Sunni tribal leaders for siding with us).

About the best way I can envision to change all that would be for us to begin a Klingon-style campaign of mass attacks, unconcerned about how many thousands of civilians get in our way.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 6, 2007 1:02 PM

The following hissed in response by: MegaTroopX

vox populi vox Dei

More like vox populi vox canis. The majority of the public are like yapping Chihuahuas, knowing little and understanding less. Else, why would it be so easy to manipulate?

The above hissed in response by: MegaTroopX [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 7, 2007 8:13 AM

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