"Hugh Sanson reflects the opinion of a number of you when he writes 'The stories of young soldiers' lasting suffering are deeply moving - I would be further moved if NPR could consider any of the millions of Iraqis affected - the million dead, and the millions wounded or displaced. What effect would a story of a victim of an American bombing have. Is NPR too timid or too dishonest to offer such stories?' Mr. Sanson, our plan is to do just that in January."Well, this morning NPR starts delivering on its promise. Liane Hanson states,
"During the month of December we broadcast a series of stories and conversations about the impact of war on US military personnel and their families. Now we're going to examine the wars' effects on the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Next Sunday Iraq...today we focus on Afghanistan."Interestingly, the story has almost nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan, instead focusing on how the rise of civilian killings by US and NATO forces is creating problems for the US/NATO "mission" there. Here's the substance of the piece:
- Nelson: "Well, Liane, Afghans are very, very angry, but surprisingly perhaps, their anger is directed mainly at Western forces...."
- Nelson: "...this operation [in Azizabad] had gone after a Taliban leader in the village, and what happened was when US special forces and Afghan special forces showed up to arrest the man - he and his men apparently fired first, and this resulted in a battle that lasted for many hours, and by the time it was over 90 civilians were dead..."
- When Hansen asks, "What accounts for the increasing death toll at the hands of US and NATO troops?" Nelson answers, "Well, one problem is that there just are not enough troops to deal with the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan which basically means that NATO and US forces have to use airstrikes to cover more ground to be able to get at the insurgents and the uh the terrorists that they're trying to get rid of...."
- Nelson: "And what are the troops going to do? They're going to have to fire back, and if they need help, they'll call in air strikes and you end up with a lot of civilian casualties.
- Nelson: "Another big problem is when in fact the Taliban do engage the West...they will do so from villagers homes and they will use people as human shields - and certainly that's what happened in the Azizabad case according to the Americans."
- Hansen: "Why aren't the Afghans expressing more anger then toward the Taliban fighters who are purposely putting Afghan civilians in harm's way?"
- Nelson: "Well to ease the anger the Americans do something...make condolence payments when there is an incident of civilian death that's caused, that's proven. And they do this quite liberally and quite frequently - also in general the West has changed it's rule of engagement in the past year or so, really addressing the need to be more careful, and perhaps look before you shoot and that sort of thing, they've also improved public outreach, and conducted joint investigations.
Not only is Nelson's piece little more than a thinly veiled patchwork of pro-US/NATO damage control spin, it is poorly researched and simplistic. Throughout she portrays the war in Afghanistan as being "The West" against some monolithic Taliban (a misleading simplification that favors the US role in Afghanistan) or terrorists. Anand Gopal deconstructs this nonsense and his Global Dispatches blog offer an antidote to NPR's disinformation. Needless to say, Nelson didn't include input from any independent Afghani group such as the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission or the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan-RAWA (no wonder!) or any other independent locally based group.
Hansen ends the piece with "Next week our Baghdad correspondent...will join us to talk about the impact of war in Iraq on its citizens." So I guess that "story of a victim of an American bombing" will just have to wait for next week...or maybe the week after that...or maybe...