16 January 2006

Headlines

This morning I read a story in the Guardian with this Headline, Pakistanis' fury over US air strike. It included the following one sentence summary: 'Thousands take to streets to condemn air strike that left 18 dead'.

This afternoon I read the following Headline at CNN.com: Officials: U.S. unsure of al-Zawahiri fate. It, in turn, included this one sentence description: 'U.S. intelligence officials said Monday they were trying to determine whether Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant was at a dinner in a remote Pakistani village and whether he was one of the people killed by a CIA airstrike'.

A. No wonder Europeans and Americans have diverging impressions of US foreign policy and military presence in the word.

B. The facts here are that 18 civilians died, 4 of them children; the US did not tell the Pakistanis what they were doing before hand; and it seems highly unlikely that al-Zawahiri was killed.

So how on earth does CNN conclude that the 'story' can be captured by the line US unsure of al-Zawahiri fate
. That headline suggests that 'we almost got our guy' while upstandingly waging our war on terror. There's just one small drawback, we aren't quite sure if he's actually dead. We are, however, very much certain about the fate of the 18 dead civilians, but I guess that's simply not worth reporting. I mean where's the excitement, the intrigue in that? Plus, CNN's headline comes from an official White House source; it's something someone SAID. And that's what objectivity in US media is, right: reporting what each side says. But there's no one to say that the 18 Pakistanis are dead; they're just dead.

Of course, one might protest at my description here by arguing that if one actually reads the full CNN article it does go on to mention the 18 deaths, and even throws in a one sentence paragraph about the thousands of protesting Pakistani citizens. First, I think headlines and spin matter, since a lot more folks will glance at the headline than read the story. However, if one does read the whole story, look at the lovely quote from Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana that comes at the end.:
"Now, it's a regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do?" Bayh asked rhetorically. "It's like the Wild, Wild West out there. The Pakistani border [with Afghanistan is] a real problem."

Oh, I see, they're wild fucking savages anyway, so who cares if we kill a few dozen innocent ones in an effort to get the bad guy. I mean 'what else are we supposed to do?'

I was upset when I read the CNN article. I've now made myself sick in writing this entry.

3 comments:

sageblue said...

To quote Patrick Swayze, "ditto."

However, another interpretation on Bayh. Yes, he is an ass and one of those Lieberman Dems who make my blood boil. But couldn't his Wild Wild West analogy actually be a critique of the administration's inability to secure Afghanistan? Just saying.

Sam said...

I hope you're right about that alternative interpretation. I hope you're right. In the end, though, his 'what else are we supposed to do' should not be a rhetorical question.

tenaciousmcd said...

Sam, I'm not sure why "wild west" provokes your ire. That was, after all, an American example, one with some positive connotations; the violence involved was largely the violence of white, male, gun-toting Americans of European descent. So there's nothing racist here, nor even ethnocentric. Plus, from all accounts, that part of Pakistan is, in fact, basically tribal and largely "lawless," at least in the most common sense of that word.

Now to get truly offensive. I hate Bush as much as the next guy, and I think Iraq is a disaster, but isn't the war against central Asian Al Qaeda the one we're *supposed* to be fighting? The U.S. certainly has a legitimate grievance in this case. Our invasion of Afghanistan meets just about any conceivable definition of a "just war," and the target here was the man who personally planned 9/11. Because that border area is, for practical purposes, beyond Pakistani government control, and because that government has often been ineffective at rooting out Al Qaeda, the U.S. seems to have little choice but to use military force. Zawahiri hides with civilians (itself a violation of just war), so it is inevitable that civilans will be hurt and killed--but that's on HIM, not us. Now, we may have completely botched this operation--the preliminaries don't sound good. But that doesn't mean the effort was illegitimate per se. I don't want to become like those Republicans who attacked Clinton for his various missile strikes on Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., without having even entertained the thought that they might have been justified.