The victims the NYT Editors forgot

To justify the killing of Pakistani troops, the paper of record regrets all those killed by the war - except some


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Glenn Greenwald
November 29, 2011 4:10PM (UTC)

The New York Times Editors chime in today on the border killing of two dozen Pakistani soldiers by the U.S., and offer up a formulaic both-sides-have-some-explaining-to-do sermon. It's their first paragraph that is notable:

It’s not clear what led to NATO strikes on two Pakistani border posts this weekend, but there can be no dispute that the loss of lives is tragic. At least 24 Pakistani troops were killed. We regret those deaths, as we do those of all American, NATO and Afghan troops and Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed by extremists.

This opening from the pro-Afghan-War NYT Editors is meant to provide balance and justifying context to the deaths of these soldiers by pointing to the deaths caused by The Other Side: sure, it's regrettable that these Pakistanis are dead, but let's remember that it's not just these soldiers who have been killed, but also "American, NATO and Afghan troops and Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed by extremists." Therefore, the American war against these "extremists" (a war we've been supporting for more than a decade and still support as much as ever) is just despite this week's little regrettable incident.

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Except when constructing their general statement of regret for all those killed in the war they support, the NYT Editors forgot to mention one rather large category of victims: namely, "Pakistani and Afghan civilians killed" not "by extremists" but by the American military (unless, that is, they used "extremists" to refer to the invading U.S. army, which seems highly unlikely). That's a particularly striking omission given that it was just this week that the United States extinguished the lives of six more Afghan children from the air. But it's as though the NYT Editors can't even bring themselves to acknowledge that it isn't only the "extremists" but also their own country's army, fighting a war they've long cheered, which regularly kills civilians. But that's par for the media course: American war media narratives, as Ashleigh Banfield was demoted and then fired by NBC News back in 2003 for pointing out, specialize in erasing the existence of America's war victims, and this is a perfect example of how that's done.

Ongoing American killing of Pakistani civilians is a major cause of the tension between those two nations: that's because governments and their citizenries tend not to like it and generally become quite angry when foreign nations kill their civilians (though there is one major exception to that rule when it comes to American citizens). America's constant killing of numerous Afghan children independently inflames anti-American rage. If the NYT Editors are going to purport to provide context and balance to the conflict between the U.S. and Pakistan by listing (and expressing cursory regret for) all the killing beyond just this one border incident, perhaps they should include -- rather than awkwardly ignore -- this category of deaths (and those justifying the war in the name of what's good for The Afghan People should also take that into account, along with polling data about what they actually think). It might also be good to start thinking about the cumulative effects of those ongoing civilian killings by the U.S. when deciding whether this war should continue even though Al Qaeda -- the original justification for this war more than a decade ago -- is, according to U.S. officials, "operationally ineffective" and virtually non-existent in that region.


Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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