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How NPR Avoids and Distracts

Mytwords's picture

[cross posted at NPR Check]

On Friday I was staying late at work and before leaving heard this promising start to a story on All Things Considered:

"This week, we've been reading a vivid narrative in the New York Times by the journalist David Rohde. He was held captive for seven months by the Taliban. He was moved frequently from house to house all over remote parts of Pakistan. And one detail in this story made us particularly curious."

Holy cow! I thought, NPR is going to allude to the three rather stunning observations contained in Rohde's articles which Glenn Greenwald so aptly wrote about a few days ago:

  1. The actions of the US in killing countless civilians (especially Muslims) in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine have "galvanized the Taliban."
  2. The US practice of holding detainees in abusive conditions "for years without being charged" has also has strengthened the Taliban.
  3. How much more humane Rohde was treated by his captors compared to the treatment meted out to similarly innocent captives at the hands of US military and intelligence agencies. As Rohde notes, his captives gave him bottled water, let him walk outside, and "never beat me."

In my head I was already composing the positive post I'd put up on this blog about NPR taking on this obvious - but still controversial - angle.

Alas, I couldn't have been more wrong. What was that "one detail" which made the collective "us" at NPR so curious?

"Rhode got a letter from his wife through the International Red Cross. How in the world did the Red Cross deliver him a letter when no one knew where he was? Well, the online magazine Slate found out for its "Explainer" column. Here's Andy Bowers with the answer."

Granted, the operations of the Red Cross in trying to contact hostages is pretty interesting - as The Guardian noted way back in 2004 (and MSNBC) and McClatchy detailed in 2008. And it's not a closed issue as this 2009 Newsweek article on ghost detainees reveals. Seems like those stories never gained much traction for the journalists at NPR news.

Interestingly, another Red Cross angle found its way into a Greenwald analysis today - Netanyahu's declaration that hiding prisoners from the Red Cross is a war crime (!?). Could there be two more polar opposite attitudes revealed by comparing Greenwald's work to NPR's? In one the focus is on the hypocrisy of those in power and the ways in which their deceit and misdeeds make the world more violent and dangerous for all of us. In the other, there is a perverse effort to focus on the most trivial and distracting details - even when such details are painfully ironic.

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koshembos's picture
Submitted by koshembos on

Rhode and Greewald describe several different activities.

Holding prisoners without access to them, without clear reason and without the sun shinning over them is not justified whether done by the US, Hamas or Hezbollah.

Bombing is a totally different act. It is about time that progressives address honestly the war against combatants who hide amidst civilians. It's about time we left the stupid slogans raised by non-innocent commenters such as Juan Cole behind and assess the situation seriously. That is, do we stop protecting ourself whenever the first civilian shield is apparent or is our survival important enough to make a decision between two evils.

Israel, Europe and the Israel have made a decision that civilians casualties should be avoided but will not stop their survival activities. Morally the decision is clear. One may argue with the decision or with specific implementations and be fully justified. Arguing, however, that there is no room for survival is pigheaded and intellectually dishonest (Juan Cole).

Siding with survival one has to buy into all the realistic consequences of war. Preeminent among them is the large uncertainty involved with war making. In other words, when you drop a bomb on a target, you don't know whether the target is correctly identified, the bomb accurate enough and whether major changes have taken place between the decision was made and the execution took effect.

Don't ever believe that a general, American, German or Israeli, intentionally orders bombing of massive civilian targets. If you believe that you are either more gullible than Beck's listeners or have an ax to grind. Massive civilian casualties are terrible mistakes that either take place infrequently or are invented willy nilly by interested parties (as in the UN blaming Israel of bombing that never happened in Gaza and recently declared a war crime by same perpetrator).

As to Mohamed Atta, he was probably bullied to death as a child at school, which in case he lived in Denver would cause the Columbine massacre, but since he is an aggrieved Muslim with a progressive license to kill westerners, he was so called affected by some properly invented story about a real bombing mistake in Lebanon. That's, by the way, the new version of Gentile kids blood formatzos (unleavened bread) at time of Passover. If you believe the simplistic Atta story then every kid of foreclosed homes in the US, several hundreds of thousands, will become a serial killers. Life according to Juan Cole.

Submitted by lambert on

... in the history of warfare, from Allied bombing raids in WWII to German atrocities and on and on and on. So, in the general case, the statement "Don't ever believe that a general... intentionally orders bombing of massive civilian targets," is simply wrong.

splashy9's picture
Submitted by splashy9 on

It's false for you to say: "Don't ever believe that a general, American, German or Israeli, intentionally orders bombing of massive civilian targets."

You know it, we know it, everyone knows it. The evidence is in, from many years of bombing massive civilian targets. In fact, with every war it gets worse, so that now the vast majority of people killed in warfare are civilians. Yes, women, children, men that are innocent and unborn fetuses are KILLED by bombing, over and over again.

If it isn't intentional, then all generals are very incompetent and we should disband all military forces, because they really can't figure anything out. Actually, they should be shrunken immensely anyway these days, and countries should go with more police forces that know how to work with citizens instead of wholesale killing of them.

Submitted by regulararmyfool on

"Don't ever believe that a general, American, German or Israeli, intentionally orders bombing of massive civilian targets."

Uh, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Christmas bombings of Hanoi in 1972.

You lost me instantly with your ignorant statement.

This not the NY Times, Washington Post, CBS, NPR, or any of the other propaganda organs. People here actually do give a shit about the truth.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

increases as a meme in proportion to the degree that it actually is doing wrong, in an active conflict/occupation. just saying. if you don't believe me, start by looking at the history of pentagram propaganda, from 1975 and go backwards. it's edifying.