Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Promise and an Apologia

NPR listeners may recall that on Dec. 22, 2008 at the end of an Impact of War story, the host of the show stated:
"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 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.
And where is the up-close, personal story focused on the impact of war on Afghanis that has marked the extensive "Impact of War" series so far? Guess I missed it.

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...


Porter Melmoth said...

I hardly know what to say. I missed this piece, but your digest of it, M-words, leaves me with - well, 'disgust' isn't nearly a strong enough word.

The aggressively-marketed misunderstandings concerning Afghanistan are a central pillar in the current Neocon strategies. These are people who self-aggrandize themselves as being 'above' history. As in, any pesky historical lessons and laws from the past simply don't apply to them. Therefore, they are not 'eligible' to have to learn any lessons from history. As far as history lessons are concerned, the case of Afghanistan is one of the simplest to comprehend. That is, it is extremely unwise to get involved in a land war there. You can attempt to set up a sympathetic or puppet government there, but that's about it. That's what the US/NATO forces have done, but that's about all they can do. The rest is devolution.

NPR's deliberate, brain-dead 'interpretation' of anything concerning Afghanistan is nothing short of complete collusion with Neocon strategy.

The simple fact that Sarah Chayes ditched NPR - years ago now - says they (NPR) were complicit from the start. As an American in Afghanistan, she says more in a few minutes on Bill Moyers (a recent broadcast) than NPR has gabbed about in years.

I'm using restrained language here, because it's very difficult to handle anger over the Afghan people getting screwed over blatantly and ruthlessly, time and again.

Anonymous said...

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,

"look before you shoot"?

Wow, what a concept.

Are these NPR reporters morons or just idiots?

Anonymous said...

The fact that it took listener complaints to get NPR to even acknowledge that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have even suffered basically tells you all you need tro know about NPR reporting.

The only reason they report is to keep their donors happy.

It's prostitution, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, M-2 Words. I kept listening, waiting to hear Afghan voices (aside from their lovely soundbite of an attack with sirens, etc., sheesh who cares?), and there was absolutely nothing. I felt insulted. It reminded me of when Bart Simpson gives a book report.

RepubLiecan said...

MTYWORDS, Spot on, I listened to that piece coming away with nearly the same thoughts you expressed. You did an excellent job articulating them. This apology could have (might have) been written by the Dept. of Defense PR crew.

I have a question and comments for NPR:

1) Where's the beef?

2) So far, judging by the time and effort put into this Impact of War series, the US has suffered far more than Iraq or Afghanistan.

3) If this is NPR's idea of balance, you are in stiff competition with Fox, which may be your goal now to be the most Nationalistic Public Radio possible.

Anonymous said...

And why not go right to the source & let 'em have it:

And if you're too proud to register (like I am) at least tick up the recommendation numbers on a couple of those comments (like Myt's!)

RepubLiecan said...


I've been ticking the recommend since I saw you mention it in an earlier post. Did you know you can re-recommend on subsequent visits?

Anonymous said...

'ey, ReLie - yyyyyyyyyyyyyep. After ya clear yer cookies.

But we don't wanna rig the system, do we?... (mischievious chuckle)

Anonymous said...

This entire series is nothing but propaganda. It is designed to "re-assure" the wavering NPR listener that this entire illegal/immoral enterprise is a "noble endeavor". It is not designed to educate or even examine the war(s) but rather to try to prevent NPR's sensitive listeners/donars from suffering pangs of conscience.

I continue to ask NPR if the DoD in general or the US Army in particular contribute either money or other "technical support" in the production of this crap. Both NPR and WHYY refuse to even acknowledge the query.