Afghan Bombing: The New York Times
Joins the Pentagon's Public Relations Department
December 24, 2001
At a time when the greatest
untold story of the Afghan War is the massive number of civilian casualties
inflicted by U.S. bombing, what does the New York Times do? It
publishes a Page 1 story
extolling the accuracy of the bombing campaign. The article literally
seems to have been published verbatim from a Pentagon or White House press
After an opening vignette,
just the next three paragraphs contain the following terms:
"precision," "precise bombing," "deadly
precision," "swiftness and accuracy," "devastatingly
accurate," "stunning speed and accuracy," "relentlessly
In true Pentagonese, the
article next vaguely mentions the "relatively small number of
What do they mean by
"small number?" Perhaps the "newspaper of record"
might want to quantify things. Their own reporter concluded
three weeks ago that "at least several hundred civilians, perhaps
more" had been killed in U.S. airstrikes. Is that number
"small" to the New York Times?
A recent study by a U.S. professor, Marc Herold, finds
that over 3,500 Afghan civilians have been killed by the U.S. bombing
campaign. The Times totally ignored that study. Would the
newspaper consider 3,500 civilians to be a "small" number?
And we have, of course, the Times'
use of the term "relatively," as in "relatively small number
of civilian casualties." What poor newspaper writing, what
wonderful press release obfuscation! Relative to what?!
To Afghanistan's size?
If the paper's own reporter is correct and several hundred civilians were
killed, that already is greater proportionally for Afghanistan-- Afghanistan
only has 1/11 of the U.S. population -- than were killed in the U.S. on
Relative to the number of
deaths on September 11? If Professor Herold's study is accurate, than the
literal number of Afghan civilians killed by U.S. bombing is already greater
than the number of U.S. civilians killed on 9/11 -- and proportionally, the
U.S. has inflicted 11 WTC-level massacres on Afghanistan.
A little further down, the
article claims that it was "especially early in the war," when
there were no spotters on the ground, that "American bombs damaged
residential areas... killing and wounding an unknown number of
First of all, had the Times
looked at Professor Herold's study, it would have realized that civilian
deaths did not occur "especially early in the war," but that large
numbers of civilians continued to be killed and maimed until the last date
covered by the study, December 10. And there have been many deaths
since then as well.
Second, if the number of
civilians killed is "unknown" to the newspaper, how can it earlier
claim that the number is "relatively small"?
And third, of course, why is
the number "unknown"? Why hasn't the "all the news that
fit to print" newspaper conducted its own systematic investigation and
reported the results to us?
After all, printing Pentagon
press releases verbatim shouldn't take up much of its time.
Then there's this scary
The ability to bomb targets
with precision could be a potent weapon against terrorist safe houses and
command centers hidden among schools, hospitals and homes in crowded urban
areas, Pentagon planners said. Indeed, satellite images from Afghanistan
show bomb craters circling mosques and homes — showing the Pentagon's
confidence about striking near civilians.
Gee, might the satellite
images have been just the ones the Pentagon wanted the reporter to
see? What about all the satellite images of destroyed homes and
villages? Might those have cast some doubt on the validity of the
"Pentagon's confidence about striking near civilians"?
Certainly the hundreds, if not thousands of Afghan civilians killed would
not be impressed by these satellite photos. God help the civilians in
the next bombing campaign should the Pentagon act on its
"confidence" and bomb yet more crowded civilian areas.
It must be noted that the
article buries way down the information that only "60 percent of the
14,000 missiles, bombs and other ordnance were steered to their targets by
lasers or satellites." That leaves 5,600 missiles, bombs and
other ordnance of the "dumb" variety." They certainly
played their fair share in killing civilians.
Nowhere does this article
even present the slightest opposing point of view to its breathless
presentation of a "relentlessly accurate" bombing campaign that
killed only a "relatively small number" of civilians.
The New York Times in
2001 is not the same brave newspaper that defied the government in 1971 by
publishing the Pentagon Papers.
Today's version of the New
York Times not only would have obeyed the government and suppressed
publication of the Pentagon Papers, but would have instead published a puff
piece extolling the government for its openness and honesty in explaining
the Vietnam War to the American public.