Lies, news and Afghanistan

Thanks to the always-uplifting Center for Media and Democracy, I just learned that at a time when President-elect Barack Obama is apparently planning all sorts of new and wild things for our relatively small but intensifying war in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, the commander of NATO forces there, is merging the military office in charge of sending out news releases with his psychological warfare unit–an apparent violation of NATO policy, to say nothing of common sense.

That’s right, folks: we’ve got rising NATO casualties, pro-Taliban and anti-government warlords creeping ever closer to Kabul (the only real domain of Afghan President Hamid Karzai) and a “commander in the field” who decided that there’s no real difference between news reports designed to inform the taxpayers who fund his army and outright lies and propaganda crafted to fool our enemies.

Of course, U.S. military officials have long said all sorts of stuff about Afghanistan that turned out to be not anything close to true. Check out this five-year-old Time Magazine article questioning whether then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s May 2003 declaration that the war in Afghanistan was over was, in fact, a bit premature.
So in a way, what McKiernan is proposing isn’t all that radical: rather than tell a lie and call it the truth, our generals and statesmen will simply speak lies and then call them lies. In a way, that might actually make this war more honest. I’m kidding, of course, and it would be very funny, too, had 1,017 soldiers and untold thousands of civilians not died in our little war that Obama wants to fix…
UPDATE: Just moments before I was to post this entry, I stumbled across this Reuters story reporting that McKiernan has just today changed his mind and “scrapped” plans to merge the news and psy-war offices. His reason? “[T]he commander wanted to make sure he had something completely compliant with NATO policy,” a spokesman told Reuters.
Feel better now?
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