I have been prompted to condemn twice in the last few weeks the incomplete,
misleading coverage by the New York Times concerning civilian
casualties in Afghanistan. I must raise the issue yet again.
This time the publication seems to
willfully misrepresent reality in its editorial.
Here' s the relevant passage:
Some elements in Mr. Karzai's
interim government charge that bombing attacks have injured innocent
civilians, an accusation rejected by the Pentagon. Whatever the truth, the
pressure on Mr. Karzai and his aides seems to be growing to ask for a halt
The tone, hidden assumptions and
content itself of this passage completely disgusted me when I read it.
There are so many objectionable items that that the easiest way to comment
would be literally phrase-by-phrase:
"Some elements in Mr. Karzai's
The use of the term
"elements" has a vague, negative cabal-like connotation, totally
unjustified in view of the facts as indicated below.
And, protests about civilians
being killed and injured are not originating from within his government,
but rather from survivors of the deadly attacks.
Even at the time of the
editorial, there were numerous consistent eyewitness accounts of scores of
civilian deaths. Reporters have since seen many blown up civilian
bodies. It's far beyond the "charging" stage.
"that bombing attacks have
injured innocent civilians,"
makes it sound like a few people suffered sprained ankles and
contusions. In reality, the incidents resulted in the deaths of
scores of men, women and children. How could the editorial writer
choose the word "injured" unless with a deliberate intent to
"an accusation rejected by the
The Pentagon denials always come
before any U.S. personnel have even visited the sites. Compare
that with the consistent eyewitness accounts of survivors. Why does
the editorial given them equal weight?
Moreover, depending on which
level of obfuscatory language is used on any given day, the Pentagon
doesn't actually deny innocent civilians are killed, but instead offers
non-responsive bureaucratese like "the target was
"Whatever the truth,"
Most offensive to me is the
flippant tone here. "Whatever the truth" is okay if you're
discussing whether an official blew a call in a ball game, not whether
scores, if not hundreds of men, women and children were massacred by U.S.
But it's not surprising the
editorial used this dismissive phrase. It's totally consistent with
the publication's total lack of concern to evaluate in any comprehensive,
Afghanistan-wide manner the number of civilians killed and injured by U.S.
Perhaps if the newspaper had been
expending a little more than zero of its resources establishing a method
of comprehensively assessing the ongoing and ever-growing total civilian
casualty toll of the bombing campaign, it would not have to beg off coming
to a conclusion about whether or not these particular atrocities took
While inappropriate for the editorial,
the word "injured" would, however, be a perfect word to
describe the reputation of the New York Times to anyone reading its
war coverage with wide open eyes.