This morning on Weekend Edition Sunday, I heard the following:
"...but the fact is...this is all unconfirmed. We know the government...has lied on several occasions about civilian casualties and strikes and damage, and frankly, we only have their word so far for what happened."
Isn't that the standard that ought to apply to all reporting? It seems reasonable that when a government has been proven to have lied about civilian casualties (e.g. here and here), lied about its reasons for going to war, and lied about the torture and murder of detainees then shouldn't all unconfirmed claims by that government be treated with skepticism and always be prefaced with the qualifiers included in the quote above. The answer is a rather obvious, "Yes." But on NPR there is one standard for countries and forces that the US government opposes and a completely different standard for the US government and its closest allies. Despite a long record of systematic lying about war, civilian deaths, and the abuse of detainees - I have - over the past five years - documented how NPR consistently grants official US statements the weight of confirmed evidence (or simply ignores stories where the evidence points to systematic lying and wrongdoing).
The quote above, from Sunday's Weekend Edition, is about the war in Libya and the lying government in question is the government of Libya's Gadhafi. The war in Libya - and especially the siege of Misrata - offers a unique opportunity to highlight NPR's embrace of American exceptionalism.
The forces of the Libyan government have attempted to destroy the rebel forces in Misrata in operations that are chillingly similar to the US military's destruction of Fallujah in Iraq. Misrata and Fallujah have about the same population size, about half-a-million for each. In April 2004 in Fallujah, as documented by the intrepid Dahr Jamail, the US used cluster bombs, indiscriminate sniping of civilians, and attacks on medical facilities. George Monbiot documented further war crimes of the US November 2005 assault on Fallujah - including the use of white phosphorous, thermobaric weapons, and the refusal to allow males of "fighting age" to flee the city. As in Misrata, US forces illegally focused their operations on hospitals and medical facilities. In spite of these illegal and barbaric tactics, you can search NPR in vain for stories on these crimes (cluster bombs- nothing, white phosphorous - mentioned after Pentagon admitted it, sniping civilians - nothing, attacking the hospital - nothing). Not only has NPR never reported the US war crimes against Fallujah, it has actually celebrated the assault.
Consider that NPR's censorship of the US horror show in Fallujah is now into it's eighth year, but in the less than two months of Libya coverage we have been given extensive coverage of every crime that the Gadhafi forces have perpetrated on Misrata. For example, in just this one Morning Edition report from April 13th, we hear the following from refugees:
- "We heard the Gadhafi troops were kidnapping people."
- "The Gadhafi forces aren't differentiating among their targets. They're attacking the young, the old, women, dragging people from their houses."
- "In the streets of Misrata I've seen bodies, I've seen them burned. The snipers are shooting people at random."
And a few days later on April 17th Lourdes Garcia Navarro reports on Misrata,
"From rebels that I've spoken to, Gadhafi's forces are shelling civilian areas - we are talking grad missiles, mortar fire, tank fire. A few days ago came the first reports of cluster bombs, which are banned by international law for use in civilian areas."
It's too bad that it is really impossible to imagine NPR ever providing such immediate reporting on US military actions and their impact on civilian populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc... or to imagine that they would ever give such well deserved qualifications of the lack of credibility that should always be given to any official statements issues by the White House, the US military, the State Department, NATO, etc.