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NYT Reports Another US Airstrike ‘Mistake,’ Doesn’t Dig Deeper

In this March 5, 2007 file photo, Afghan villagers stand in front of a house allegedly bombed by a NATO air strike on Jabar village in Kapisa province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq, File)


On page six of today’s New York Times is another account of a U.S. airstrike “mistake” in Afghanistan.

In Rod Nordlands article “U.S. Confirms Afghan Airstrike Mistake” readers are informed of how, “The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan.”

Nordland defers to an Afghan official when saying, “The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys” before ending his article with various incidences unrelated to years of American slaughter in the country.

Nordland spends a considerable amount of space telling Times readers about deaths caused by a severe flash flood, heavy snowfall from the previous winter, the deaths of NATO forces, and how “four suicide bombers attacked government buildings in the capital.” But what would be a more informative way to fill up space in a news article would be to look at how often these “mistakes” happen, and their relation to an overarching imperialist policy of military occupation and domination. Limited to DIY-investigations using the New York Times own search engine yields hundreds of articles, many of them on the U.S. war in Afghanistan, as well as other U.S. military adventures around the world.

For example, here are a sample of articles strictly related to the war in Afghanistan, though including some U.S. airstrikes in neighboring Pakistan:

And just to illustrate that this pattern is not limited to the Af-Pak theatre: “A U.S. PLANE HITS CAMBODIA VILLAGE IN 2D BOMB ERROR; American Embassy Says 137 Died Monday in the First Accidental Attack NEW RAID 6 MILES AWAY 8 Reported Killed, 16 HurtSenate Unit Hears Details of Secret’70-’71 Strikes Many Soldiers Killed Visit by American Reported CAMBODIA VILLAGE HIT IN A 2D ERROR U. S. Offers Apology Heavy Fighting Reported.”

Times readers can also find dozens of similar stories in Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and so on.

If Rod Nordland wanted to, or if Times editors would permit him, he could dig deeper into U.S. airstrikes, and these “mistakes,” or at the very least bring this all in to context in regards to overall U.S. policy, it’s aims and limitations—as opposed to talking about flash floods and winter storms. Divorced from this historical context readers are not likely to ask: at what point does it stop being a “mistake” and becomes a predictable outcome of an illegal and murderous war of aggression?

And therein lies the heart of the matter, and which is missing from Nordland’s article, as well as the countless others listed above. These airstrikes are part and parcel of military campaigns aimed at one purpose: to control foreign territories. The Times article “U.S. Tightens Airstrike Policy in Afghanistan” notes that military leaders want to get a handle on the “mistakes” since it is causing the population of the targeted country to turn against us. It is pretty hard to subdue an entire country when lethal “mistakes” are constantly occurring. But beneath the surface is the most important fact, one which authors Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman made about the Vietnam War in their book Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda: “Military escalation was undertaken to offset the well understood lack of any significant social and political base for the elite military faction supported by the United States.”

The U.S. military is not a popular force in Afghanistan. It is an aggressor and occupier. In fact, the U.S. military is so unpopular that it is increasing the popularity and support of the Taliban. Apologies of each “mistaken” airstrike are hollow—even sardonic—and attempts to “tighten” policies are meaningless, so long as there is a reliance on brute force to make-up for the absence of a peaceful alternative popularly supported and accepted by the population.

There is an old saying that for anyone whose only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. That sums up U.S. foreign policy. The hatred, resentment and animosity created by American imperialism has, in turn, distorted the perception of the Empire to the point that the only viable tool it sees itself as having is a hammer—the U.S. military—and every problem, a nail.

For the Times, reporting on these proverbial bent nails with no insight into their regularity and the reliance of violence (due to lack of popular support) devalues the quality of their work, and deprives their readers of being able to accurately understand events unfolding in front of their eyes, and which is costing them so much blood and money—to say nothing of the victims of the “mistakes.”

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