“You lie!” — about Afghanistan

The much-predicted demise of newspapers can’t happen too soon, so it seems to me, if we want a well-informed citizenry.

It was a 19th-century gibe that “newspapers are half advertisements — and the rest lies between them.”

But the lies can be subtle — and usually lie (sorry) in the unstated assumptions (unstated, they’re harder to refute). But occasionally they break cover.

Take this morning’s Afghanistan article on the front page of the NYT, the country’s agenda-setting paper (and its agenda is put in place by its executive editor Bill Keller, a right-wing Democrat). It was written by long-time foreign and military reporter, Thom Shanker.

Half-way thru, we find the following, a complete paragraph:

The military’s counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan
is focused on protecting the population and
preventing the Taliban from destabilizing the country.

The Obama administration’s transparently false propaganda assertion is presented as simple fact. If it weren’t about killing people, the only reasonable response would be disbelieving laughter. But instead members of the political class in the US take that as one of their assumptions in the coming “debate about Afghanistan.”

I’m sure I could find in this same newspaper 45 years ago (the Kennedy-Johnson administration) — I’m sure I read it there then — the equivalent assertion:

The military’s counterinsurgency effort in South Vietnam
is focused on protecting the population and
preventing the Viet Cong from destabilizing the country.

It was of course a lie both times. And both times it wasn’t even presented as controversial. –CGE

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PS–There’s actually some news in this article, or may be. It comes in the penultimate paragraph (where any information of importance is usually found in a NYT article), viz.

“Mr. Obama said Monday that the public should ‘not expect a sudden announcement of some huge change in strategy,’ and he pledged that the issue was ‘going to be amply debated, not just in Congress, but across the country before we make any further decisions.'”

We can conclude from this that the administration and its friends in the media are moving heaven and earth to see that there will be as little debate as possible on war in Afghanistan “not just in Congress, but across the country.” The healthcare “debate” and the town meeting demonstrators have been a godsend to the administration for that purpose.

But there may be something to Obama’s denial of “a sudden announcement of some huge change in strategy.” He may be saying in his covert way that the administration has already determined, in Grant’s words, “to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer” — and that means many more troops.

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PPS–In the final paragraph, a Pentagon spokesman casually refutes the distinction between “combat troops” and “trainers,” on which Obama based his claim that he wasn’t lying when he said he’d bring the troops home from Iraq. (“I meant *combat* troops”…)

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/world/asia/16mullen.html

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“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” –Noam Chomsky