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How Americans Are Propagandized About Afghanistan

No matter how many times this process is exposed, the Pentagon's relentless propaganda machine never seems to diminish.

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Contrast the pure propaganda dissemination of the American media with the immediate reporting of the Pajhwok Afghan News, an independent news agency created in Afghanistan to enable war reporting  by Afghans.  Here is how they reported the Pakita incident from the beginning, on Febraury 12 (via NEXIS):


US Special Forces have shot dead a district intelligence chief along with four family members in the volatile southeastern province of Paktia, a senior police officer claimed on Friday. Brig. Gen. Ghulam Dastagir Rustamyar explained that Daud and his family were celebrating the birth of his son. But acting on a misleading tip-off, foreign troops raided the intelligence official's residence. . . . He said the dead included Daud, his brother Zahir, an employee of the attorney's office, and three women. . . .

But the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) claimed Afghan and international forces found the bound and gagged bodies of three women during the operation in Gardez late Thursday night.  "The joint force went to a compound near the village of Khatabeh, after intelligence confirmed militant activity. Several insurgents engaged the joint force in a firefight and were killed," the ISAF press office in Kabul said. . . .

When the troops entered the compound, according to the press release, they conducted a thorough search and found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.  "The bodies had been hidden in an adjacent room."

Note the crucial difference:   the Afghan news service shaped its report based on the statements of actual witnesses on the ground and local investigators, while also including the Pentagon's version of events.   Put another way, anyone reading about what happened from American news outlets would be completely misled and propagandized, while anyone reading the Pajhowk Afghan News would have been informed, because they treated official U.S. claims with skepticism rather than uncritical reverence.

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All of this is a chronic problem, not an isolated one, with war reporting generally and events in Afghanistan specifically.  Just consider what happened when the U.S. military was forced in 2008 to retract its claims about a brutal air raid in Azizabad.  The Pentagon had vehemently denied the villagers' claim that close to 100 civilians had been killed and that no Taliban were in the vicinity:  until a video emerged proving the villagers' claims were true and the Pentagon's false.  Last week, TPM highlighted a recent, largely overlooked statement from Gen. McChrystal, where he admitted, regarding U.S. killings of Afghans at check points:  "to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. . . . We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force."  And as I documented before, the U.S. media constantly repeats false Pentagon claims about American air attacks around the world in order to create the false impression that Key Terrorists were killed while no civilians were.

At the Nieman Watchdog Foundation, Jerome Starkey, the Afghanistan war reporter for The Times of London who published the March 13 investigative report, has a crucial, must-read piece on all of this.  Amazingly, his Nieman piece was written three weeks ago, and recounted in detail:  (a) how clearly the U.S.-led forces had lied about what happened in Paktia; and (b) the reasons why the U.S. media continuously spews false government propaganda about the war.  Starkey wrote under this headline:

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