Another tragedy in Afghanistan. And what do most of the corporate media focus on? How will this affect NATO strategy? What will US troops do? Will Obama’s supposed counter-insurgency tactics be derailed?
What about wondering about the Afghans themselves?
The news that a U.S. Army sergeant killed 16 civilians, most of them children, in southern Afghanistan early Sunday morning was treated by many media outlets primarily as a PR challenge for continued war and occupation of that country.
“Afghanistan, once the must-fight war for America, is becoming a public relations headache for the nation’s leaders, especially for President Barack Obama,” explained an Associated Press analysis piece (3/12/12). Reuters(3/12/12) called it “the latest American public relations disaster in Afghanistan.”
On the NBC Today show (3/11/12) the question was posed this way: “Could this reignite a new anti-American backlash in the unstable region?” The answer: “This is not going to bode well for the U.S. and NATO here in Afghanistan,” explained reporter Atia Abawi. “Obviously people here very fearful as to what’s going to happen next, what protests will come about throughout different parts of Afghanistan, and how the Taliban are going to use this to their advantage.” “People,” as used here, would not seem to include Afghans, who are presumably less frightened by protests against a massacre of children than they are by the massacre itself.
The front-page headline at USA Today (3/12/12) read, “Killings Threaten Afghan Mission.” The story warned that the allegations “threaten to test U.S. strategy to end the conflict.” In the New York Times (3/12/12), the massacre was seen as “igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility.” The paper went on to portray occupation forces as victims:
“The possibility of a violent reaction to the killings added to a feeling of siege here among Western personnel. Officials described growing concern over a cascade of missteps and offenses that has cast doubt on the ability of NATO personnel to carry out their mission and has left troops and trainers increasingly vulnerable to violence by Afghans seeking revenge.”
The fact that the massacres occurred two days after a NATO helicopter strike killed four civilians was “adding to the sense of concern.”
This morning’s ABC Radio AM fit perfectly into the mould, playing quotes from Western leaders and White House flaks:
TONY EASTLEY: There are fears that the shooting rampage by a lone US soldier may derail the Afghan peace process and undo months if not years of work.
The Afghan army is on a higher alert after the American soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians and burnt their bodies. Nine of the dead were children.
The Afghan parliament has passed a resolution demanding the soldier face a public trial in Afghanistan, and already talks on a new strategic partnership between Kabul and Washington look like being put on ice.
Emily Bourke reports.
EMILY BOURKE: The deaths of 16 Afghan civilians at the hands of a rogue US soldier continues to outrage and worry world leaders, especially as the Taliban is now promising to strike back.
The British prime minister David Cameron.
DAVID CAMERON: Really is an absolutely appalling thing that has taken place and of course it will have its impact, but we must do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t in any way derail the very good work that American and British and other ISAF forces are doing in Afghanistan.
And it is worth remembering why we’re in Afghanistan – we’re there to train up the Afghan army and the police so that that country is able to look after its own security
EMILY BOURKE: The Taliban has described the Americans as terrorists and barbarians, but White House spokesman Jay Carney says the US led mission will continue.
JAY CARNEY: I’m sure there will be discussions ongoing between US military leaders as well as civilian leaders in Afghanistan and the Afghan government in the wake of this incident, but our strategic objectives have not changed and they will not change.