Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Afghanistan, a Reporter and a Couple of Dead Guys, and the News

Every news service has to select which facts it publishes. It's not, I think, a cover-up, or some kinda plot.

Partly, it's the fact that there isn't room in any newspaper, or enough patience among readers, to include every detail that reporters and researchers dug up. Also, I think, it's the fact that reporters and editors are people. They have a particular point of view, and have working assumptions about what their readers are interested in.

NATO, America, German Officers, Bombed Fuel Trucks

Real events are seldom all that simple.
"British commandos freed a New York Times reporter early Wednesday from Taliban captives who kidnapped him over the weekend in northern Afghanistan, but one of the commandos and a Times translator were killed in the rescue, officials said.

"Reporter Stephen Farrell was taken hostage along with his translator in the northern province of Kunduz on Saturday. German commanders had ordered U.S. jets to drop bombs on two hijacked fuel tankers, causing a number of civilian casualties, and reporters traveled to the area to cover the story.

"Two military officials told The Associated Press that one British commando died during the early morning raid. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the death had not been officially announced.

"The Times reported that Farrell's Afghan translator, Sultan Munadi, 34, also was killed. Farrell was unhurt...."
(FOXNews) [emphasis mine]
That FOXNews story, attributed to the AP, is one of the few that emphasized that a soldier died in the process of freeing the reporter.

Sky News puts more emphasis on the death of a British commando - understandably, since it's a British publication.

Individuals Count: So Does the Big Picture

What happened in Kunduz, in my view, is not just about a British commando dying in an effort to rescue an American journalist; or the Munadi family's loss; or German officers ordering American pilots to bomb hijacked fuel trucks; or NATO killing innocent(?) civilians who were pilfering fuel. All of that is involved, and important - particularly to the people directly involved.

But the Taliban gives every indication of having an active interest in regaining control of Afghanistan. Understandably, since the country has become downright 'un-Islamic' by the Taliban's peculiar standards since they were pried out a few years ago.

Afghanistan's current government doesn't particularly want the Taliban back in power. I don't think Afghan's current leaders are so much 'pro-western' as they are aware that it isn't the eighth century any more.

NATO, and its member countries, have an interest in what happens to Afghanistan. Under the Taliban, that country served as a safe haven for Al Qaeda. I think European leaders have twigged that Islamic crazies are a real problem - more so when they've got the support of at least one national government.

Headlines, Story and Background

I've made the point before, that news needs to be studied, not just read.
Headlines pique your interest because they're designed to do just that.
The story will tell you what an editor decided to select from information and impressions that a reporter collected. Even if it's more than one editor and several reporters, the principle is the same: you're reading a digest of an event, from a more-or-less limited point of view.
The best news stories give some background, showing how events fit into what's happened before, and the assumptions and history of the people involved. I think it's a good idea for a reader to do a little checking, if for no other reason than to verify that the news service got their facts straight.

Happily, with the information technology we've got available these days it's fairly easy to do research. As I said earlier this year:
"...It's complex, and confusing. Anyone who tries to pay attention finds contradictory views, backed by various combinations of facts and wishful thinking.

"I love it...."
(January 30, 2009)
Related posts: In the news:


Lisa said...

Thank God Farrell is alive, but it is awful the interpreter had to die in the process.

Brian H. Gill said...


Amen to that. I grieve for Mr. Munadi's family - and for the family of a woman and child killed. More details came out today.

My take on one aspect of today's news in "Stephen Farrell's Rescue: 'It's Not Fair!' and Assumptions of Omnipotence" (September 10, 2009).

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.