Friday, July 17, 2009

The Catch Phrase if You Will

If you wondered why the US is in Afghanistan [has nothing to do with the sordid geopolitics of uranium, copper, oil and gas -of course], it's all about keeping promises - so says Steve Inskeep:
"The increase in American troops this summer is in some sense an effort to make good on a promise that the international community made back in 2001 - to bring peace and a measure of prosperity to a country that's been at war for decades..."
Bringing peace and prosperity...of course. How's that for objective journalism?

To bolster the story that the US has nothing but the noblest aims NPR turns to Seth Jones, RAND expert on Afghanistan. He explains that the problem of the Soviet Army's war in Afghanistan was "their decision to treat this as a conventional war and what becomes clear when you look at counterinsurgency operations is the focus should be on protecting the local population not on killing it."

Every time I hear someone talking about counterinsurgency "protecting the local population" it blows my mind. Just what alternate universe counterinsurgency is Jones talking about? Anyone who reads history knows that most counterinsurgency operations are about extreme levels of state terror being applied to vulnerable - usually poor - civilian populations. I'm thinking of Vietnam, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, East Timor and of course the US godchild of counterinsurgency - Guatemala.

Montagne jumps in to explain that [protecting the local population] "is now the catch-phrase if you will of the US military...McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, that's precisely what he says US troops and NATO troops are there to do now."

Oh silly me, I didn't realize that the "top US commander" said that's what the US military is doing - dang! I guess if the good general says it's so then it must be true. Seth Jones is not about to disagree either, stating that "the focus...has shifted to try to protect the local population." I guess it's not only the military that owns this catch-phrase.

Lastly, the report closes with Inskeep's announcement that "Renee is packing her bags to travel to Afghanistan and we'll be hearing from her..." That is great news, Montagne has done some really profound reporting from Afghanistan including stories of BIG VICTORIES.


Anonymous said...

Bringing peace and prosperity...of course. How's that for objective journalism?"

Forget journalism.

How's that for an objective for waging war in a foreign land?

How do you measure success based on such a nebulous objective?

How do you know when you have achieved your "goal"?

1% growth in GDP/ 4% GDP? 2? 5?
10% decrease in violence? 20? 5?

What ever happened to the lesson our government supposedly learned in Vietnam?: never get involved in another war in a foreign land without clearly defined objectives.

It's not just NPR, of course.

Obama and the rest have no clear objective in sending more troops to Afghanistan.

"To kill terrorists' is about as well defined as "to bring peace and prosperity" to the country.

big!pink!zinger!bunny! said...

(preface: I recall "them" spinning this little chestnut one time before yon back for the inimitable Ms Mundane)

"Just walk away, Renee"
(and STAY THERE! guffaw guffaw)

Anonymous said...

Do you suppose Montagne will report on this?

"In November 2001, as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners are believed to have been killed in container trucks by US-allied Afghan troops and buried in a mass grave in Dasht-e Leili,"

the last time NPR reported on this was OVER SIX YEARS AGO.

I think what we are really talking about in the case of NPR is not just negligence or incompetence.

They are knowingly avoiding covering stories like this because they know it will upset those who pay their corporate sponsors AND the White House.

That is highly unethical from a journalistic standpoint.

Anonymous said...

should be "those who pay their bills: "

Anonymous said...

I wish everyone, but especially journalists, would read VIOLENT POLITICS - A History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla War, From The American Revolution to Iraq.
By William R. Polk.

It's not long; eleven short chapters, outlining different conflicts. But no one will look at Iraq or Afghanistan and now Pakistan the same; you will worry for your country's future, and wonder how we could've entered this trap again; and the true odium of Inskeep and his producers' and sponsors' journalism will demand some clean air at NPR.

Read also about Mr. Polk. He's an interesting man, with a very distinguished career. The George Polk Award is named for his brother, who was murdered in Greece, covering an insurgency.

geoff said...

I think what we are really talking about in the case of NPR is not just negligence or incompetence.
Yeah, it's those plus fear. It seems NPR is a dumping ground for insecure Yale/Harvard alums who desperately seek the approval of their higher achieving Agency peers. To be rejected by them, as Zwerdling and Edwards were, would be devastating. Look what happened to Gary Webb. I'm just a fraction into his Dark Alliance and it's already clear that the machine of normative compliance was very much alive and well in the DC Village circa 1980's and 1990's. Do you suppose 9/11 improved that?

Anonymous said...

gopol: "It seems NPR is a dumping ground for insecure Yale/Harvard alums who desperately seek the approval of their higher achieving Agency peers.'

I agree there is definitely something to the insecurity thing.

After all, these are largely people who either could not get a job as a real journalist or have been "put out to pasture".

What the people at NPR crave more than anything else is legitimacy, at least in the eyes of their peers.

What a delicious irony.

They claim to aspire to be an "alternative" (outside the mainstream), when in fact, quite the opposite is true.

The best way to change -- or eliminate

geoff said...

I missed the second Asia Times link MTWords referenced here: Pepe Escobar fleshes out the role of Balochis and Balochistan, it sure is news from outside the bubble.

Anonymous said...

You have got to see this. Obama playing on XBox. Funniest video ever.