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WPost's Blinders on Afghan War
Sometimes when perusing the Washington Post’s editorials, you have to wonder if the editors read their own newspaper’s reporting or perhaps they just look at what reinforces their preconceived opinions – as just occurred regarding Afghan War progress.
On Thursday, the Post’s neocon editorial writers basked in recent breaks in the clouds over the new Kandahar offensive. The armchair warriors proclaimed there is now “evidence to suggest that the Afghan surge [which the Post’s editorialists favored] is beginning to succeed in its first aim, which is to break the Taliban's military momentum.”
And, in fact, the editorial writers can point to a recent Post article to back up this assessment. However, what’s amazing – even by the Post’s standards – is that the editors ignored a front-page news article in the Post on Wednesday that essentially contradicted the earlier happy-news story.
The Post ’s national security correspondent Greg Miller reported that “an intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.
“Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.”
Miller quoted a senior Defense Department official working on U.S. intelligence estimates of the war as saying, "The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience."
According to Miller, “The blunt intelligence assessments are consistent across the main spy agencies responsible for analyzing the conflict, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, and come at a critical juncture. …
“The Obama administration's plan to conduct a strategic review of the war in December has touched off maneuvering between U.S. military leaders seeking support for extending the American troop buildup and skeptics looking for arguments to wind down the nation's role.
“Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has touted the success of recent operations and indicated that the military thinks it will be able to show meaningful progress by the December review. He said last week that progress is occurring ‘more rapidly than was anticipated’ but acknowledged that major obstacles remain.
“U.S. intelligence officials present a similar, but inverted, view -- noting tactical successes but warning that well into a major escalation of the conflict, there is little indication that the direction of the war has changed.”
In other words, it appears that the earlier article was, at least partly, a reflection of Petraeus’s war spin designed to maneuver President Barack Obama into a corner so the escalation can continue. [To recall how Petraeus and the high command handled Obama to get the Afghan “surge” approved in 2009, see Consortiumnews.com’s “How Bush Holdovers Trapped Obama.”]
Since the Post’s editorial board has been onboard for starting and continuing wars across the Middle East – still eyeing Iran as another candidate for “regime change” – it perhaps follows that the editors would undertake selective reading of their own newspaper, looking for evidence to support their hawkish positions and ignoring information that goes the other way.
So, they based their Thursday editorial on the earlier upbeat story and ignored the more downcast one that appeared on Wednesday.
Sadly, none of this should come as a surprise to longtime Washington Post readers. It’s been clear for years that the Post’s editorial pages have been taken over by neocon ideologues.
Last decade, the Post editors bought into President George W. Bush’s disinformation about Iraq’s alleged WMD and heaped ridicule on Iraq War critics. In that endeavor, too, the Post editors ignored contrary reporting by their own staff.
For instance, when Bush administration officials went after Iraq War critic, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, by attacking his credibility and exposing his wife as a CIA officer, the Post’s editors embraced the anti-Wilson smears and defended White House innocence.
Because of the ugly attacks, Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, saw her CIA career destroyed and her overseas agents put at risk, prompting Wilson to complain that this harm to U.S. national security had been done to punish him for asserting that the White House had “twisted” Iraq War intelligence. Bush’s operatives denied that revenge had anything to do with it.
The Post’s editorialists sided with the White House, citing supposedly “convincing evidence that there was no conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson by leaking Ms. Plame’s identity.”
However, the Post’s editorialists were wrong on this point (and just about everything else they wrote about Wilson). Indeed, the Post’s own reporters had cited evidence that Wilson was a target of White House revenge and that leaking his wife’s identity was part of the attack.
On Sept. 28, 2003, a Post news article reported that a White House official disclosed that the administration had informed at least six reporters about Plame’s identity and did so “purely and simply out of revenge” against Wilson.
“Plamegate” special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald made the same point in a court filing, stating that his investigation had uncovered a “concerted” effort by the White House to “discredit, punish or seek revenge against” Wilson because of his criticism of the administration, a fact reported on the Washington Post’s front page on April 9, 2006. [For more details on the Wilson smears, see Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost’s Editorial Fantasyland.”]
So, it appears that the Post’s editorialists even approach their own newspaper with ideological blinders on, seeing only what bolsters the neoconservative cause, not what gives the Post readers a full and fair account of the life-or-death challenges ahead in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
[For more on the Post’s editorial prejudices, see Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost Downplays Iraq War Crimes.”]
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.
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