Glen Greenwald of Salon.com reports that Americans are being fed false and misleading "news" about the U.S. war in Afghanistan because major American media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, publish propagandized Pentagon accounts of the violence and killing occurring there, without questioning the information they are fed.
An egregious example of this occurred on February 12, 2010, when NATO's joint international force issued a press release that bore the headline Joint Force Operating In Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery. The release said that after "intelligence confirmed militant activity" in a compound near a village in Paktiya province, an international security force entered the compound and engaged "several insurgents" in a fire fight. Two "insurgents" were killed, the report said, and after the joint forces entered the compound, they "found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed."
But an Afghan news report about the same incident differed wildly.
"The Latest Imprecise Operation"
Pajhwok Afghan News reported that U.S. Special Forces, acting on a misleading tip-off, mistakenly stormed the residence of the intelligence chief in the Zurmat district. His name was Daud, and he was inside the home celebrating the birth of his son with his family. Killed in the raid were Daud, his brother Zahir, and three women. The Afghan news further reported that "A gubernatorial spokesman ... verified the latest imprecise operation by NATO-led troops."
Despite this very different account of the incident, CNN repeated the Pentagon's fake version of the events, in an article titled Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan "honor killing." In the article, CNN quoted an unnamed "senior U.S. military official" who speculated that the Taliban "could be" responsible for the women's deaths. The New York Times, too, published an article about the incident in which they admitted there were "differing accounts" of what had happened, but failed to describe these differing accounts beyond a mere mention, while reprinting NATO's version of the events in its entirety.
Pentagon Finally Admits Botched Raid
Almost two months later, the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that international forces had badly bungled the raid that night in Paktika, and that military troops had, in fact, killed the women during their assault on the residence. One of the women was a pregnant mother of ten, and the other was a pregnant mother of six children.
Reporters Who Tell the Truth are Intimidated
The Times of London's Afghanistan reporter, Jerome Starkey, wrote an article about the botched raid that was published at NiemanWatchdog.org. In his piece, he detailed how the U.S.-led forces had lied about the events at the February 12 raid, and speculated about why the American media mindlessly repeats lies advanced by the Pentagon about military events in Afghanistan. Starkey said he personally went to the scene of the raid and spent three days interviewing survivors -- something most news organizations won't do. He blamed news organizations' lack of resources, the danger of traveling around Afghanistan and the "embed culture" for the failure of news organizations the print the truth. But he also revealed that NATO tries to censor, intimidate and punish reporters who fail to report their official versions of events in Afghanistan. After Starkey wrote about what really happened at Paktika, NATO issued a press release titled ISAF Rejects Cover Up Allegation, which named Starkey personally and called his reports of the incident "categorically false." The release continued to claim that the women at Paktika were killed prior to the arrival of American and international troops, attributing their binding and gagging to a cultural pre-burial ritual.
Americans' Diet of Phony War News
In May, 2007, PRWatch published another blog listing over half a dozen other accounts of occasions on which the military fed false information to the media and soldiers' families. It seems the practice has not changed. This incident takes its place alongside a slew of other fictionalized "news" that the Pentagon has fed the media, like the myth of Jessica Lynch's "heroic firefight" and the circumstances surrounding the friendly-fire death of football star Pat Tillman.
Americans have been fed a diet of fictionalized accounts about the war in Afghanistan, thanks to our military which cannot be trusted to tell the public the truth about what they do. We can only wonder what might happen to support for the war if Americans got truthful accounts from its military about what happens in Afghanistan, instead of lies that have to be "outed" by the very few brave independent reporters who have the integrity to undertake that task, no matter the cost.