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New York Times Goes From Bad to Worse in Editorial on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan

January 10, 2002

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 in airstrikes.

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 interim government"

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,"

"Injured"???  This 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 mislead?

"an accusation rejected by the Pentagon. "

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 legitimate."

"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. warplanes. 

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. air strikes.

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 place.

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.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

More on Civilian Casualties/Media Coverup

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