Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

General David Petraeus is set to testify before Congress today, and he’s expected to again try to put a positive spin on a war effort that’s utterly failing to meet the goals set by its backers. While intelligence assessments show that tactical moves on the ground in Afghanistan have failed to fundamentally weaken the growing insurgency, Petraeus expected to offer “a mostly upbeat assessment today of military progress.” Petraeus’s Potemkin village tours of Afghanistan for visiting dignitaries may have “impressed” people like John McCain, but Defense Intelligence Agency head General Ronald Burgess rains all over the progress talk with the sobering news that the casualties inflicted on the Taliban have caused “no apparent degradation in their capacity to fight.”

As if to underline Burgess’ point, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a recruiting station for the Afghan Army, killing at least 35 people in northern Afghanistan on Monday.

Despite the assurances from the administration, the military and their think-tank allies, the massive troop escalations of 2009 and 2010 have failed to reverse the momentum of the insurgency or protect the Afghan population from insurgent intimidation and violence. From today’s L.A. Times:

A report March 2 by the British Parliament’s foreign affairs committee concluded that despite the “optimistic progress appraisals we heard from some military and official sources … the security situation across Afghanistan as a whole is deteriorating.” Counterinsurgency efforts in the south and east have “allowed the Taliban to expand its presence and control in other previously relatively stable areas in Afghanistan.”

“The Taliban have the momentum, especially in the east and north,” analyst Gilles Dorronsoro of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the committee. “There is no change in the overall balance of power, and the Taliban are still making problems.”

While the Taliban maintained momentum in 2010 and early 2011, the escalation strategy backed by Petraeus failed to protect Afghans from violence as promised, with 2010 being the deadliest year of the war so far for civilians.

One of the most hawkish of the Petraeus backers in the Senate, Senator McCain, is working hard to set the bounds for acceptable debate in Congress, but he, like the counterinsurgency campaign, is failing:

“I expect certainly some skepticism on both sides of the aisle,” McCain said. “I don’t see any kind of pressure to withdraw immediately.”

McCain only sees what he wants to see, apparently. A Rasmussen poll conducted March 4-5, 2011, found that 52 percent of likely voters want all U.S. troops brought home this year, with more than half of those wanting them brought home immediately (31 percent of likely voters). In January, a USA TODAY/Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans want Congress to act this year to speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan (including 86 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of independents, and 61 percent of Republicans), with 41 percent strongly favoring such actions. And despite McCain’s efforts to blot it out, there is, in fact, a resolution being offered before Congress “calling for Obama to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan either in 30 days or no later than Dec. 31, 2011.”

Petraeus and McCain can try to spin this all they want, but the fact is that the counterinsurgency gamble failed, and the American people want our troops out, pronto. Nobody buys the counterinsurgency propaganda anymore, and the more these guys trot it out, the more damage it does to their credibility.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost, join Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter, and join your neighbors for a Rethink Afghanistan Meetup in your hometown.

The Pentagon wants you to ignore some inconvenient facts about the failure of the escalation strategy in Afghanistan.

The latest Petraeus/Gates media tour is under way in preparation for the general’s testimony to Congress next week, and they’re trotting out the same, tired spin they’ve been using since McChrystal was replaced in disgrace last year. Despite the most violent year of the war so far, despite the highest civilian and military toll of the war so far, and despite the continued growth of the insurgency, they want you to believe that we’re “making progress.” While they spend this week fudging and shading and spinning, we’ll waste another $2 billion on this brutal, futile war, and we won’t be any closer to “victory” than we are today.

Let me make a couple of predictions about Petraeus’ testimony based on experience. He will attempt to narrow the conversation to a few showcase districts in Afghanistan, use a lot of aspirational language (“What we’re attempting to do,” instead of, “What we’ve done“) and assure the hand-wringers among the congressional hawks that he’ll be happy to suggest to the president that they stay longer in Afghanistan if that’s what he thinks is best. Most importantly, he will try to keep the conversation as far away from a high-level strategic assessment based on his own counterinsurgency doctrine as possible, because if Congress bothers to check his assertions of “progress” against what he wrote in the counterinsurgency manual, he’s in for a world of hurt.

Here’s what Petraeus’ own U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual says about the main goal of a COIN campaign:

“I-113. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.”

Not by any stretch of the imagination is the counterinsurgency campaign under Petraeus’ direction serving what his own field manual says is the primary goal of his campaign. If we were looking for a legitimate government in Afghanistan, it’s crystal clear that we backed the wrong horse. Hamid Karzai and his family are neck-deep in any number of corruption scandals, the most glaring of which involves the largest private bank in Afghanistan and a sweeping control fraud scheme that has already resulted in unrest across the country. (That scandal, by the way, is likely to result in a U.S.-taxpayer-funded bank bailout for Kabulbank, according to white-collar crime expert Bill Black.) The Karzai administration is an embarrassment of illegitimacy and cronyism, and the local tentacles of the Kabul cartel are as likely to inspire people to join the insurgency as they are to win over popular support.

Even if the Karzai regime where a glimmering example of the rule of law, the military campaign under Petraeus would be utterly failing to achieve what counterinsurgency doctrine holds up as the primary way in which a legitimate government wins over support from the people: securing the population. From the COIN manual:

“5-68. Progress in building support for the HN [“host nation”] government requires protecting the local populace. People who do not believe they are secure from insurgent intimidation, coercion, and reprisals will not risk overtly supporting COIN efforts.”

The United Nations reports that 2010 was the deadliest year of the war for civilians of the decade-long war, and targeted killings of Kabul government officials are at an all-time high. Petraeus often seeks to deflect this point by citing insurgent responsibility for the vast majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, but that is largely beside the point. As his own field manual makes clear, reducing the number of civilians killed by your forces is insufficient according to COIN doctrine. If you can’t protect the population (or the officials within the host nation government!) from insurgent violence and intimidation, you can’t win a counterinsurgency.

Petraeus and Gates like to talk around this blatant break in his own strategic doctrine by narrowing the conversation to what they call “security bubbles.” In his recent remarks following his trip to Afghanistan, Gates spoke of “linking zones of security in Helmand to Kandahar.” But those two provinces have seen huge spikes in violence over the course of the past year, with attacks initiated by insurgents up 124 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Today’s New York Times explains one of the main reasons for these jumps in violence as U.S. troops arrive in new areas:

“[G]enerals have designated scores of rural areas ‘key terrain districts.’ The soldiers are creating, at cost of money and blood, pockets of security.

“But when Americans arrive in a new area, attacks and improvised bombs typically follow — making roads and trails more dangerous for the civilians whom, under current Pentagon counterinsurgency doctrine, the soldiers have arrived to protect.”

The military escalations in Afghanistan have failed their key purpose under counterinsurgency doctrine, which is to secure Afghans from insurgent violence and intimidation.

While the U.S. government is failing to achieve its military objectives in Afghanistan, it’s also failing to make good on the other components of counterinsurgency strategy, especially the civilian/political component. Here’s what The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual says on p. xxix, emphasis mine:

“Nonmilitary Capacity Is the Exit Strategy

“The [counterinsurgency] manual highlights military dependence not simply upon civilian political direction at all levels of operation, but also upon civilian capabilities in the field. ...[T]he primacy of the political requires significant and ongoing civilian involvement at virtually every level of operations.”

To meet this prerequisite for a successful counterinsurgency strategy, the administration promised a “civilian surge” to accompany the military escalation. But the March 8, 2011 edition of The Washington Post shows that the civilian surge has so far been a flop that’s alienating the local population:

“Efforts to improve local government in critical Afghan districts have fallen far behind schedule…according to U.S. and Afghan officials familiar with the program.

“It is now expected to take four more years to assess the needs of more than 80 ‘key terrain’ districts where the bulk of the population lives, based on figures from Afghan officials who said that escalating violence has made it difficult to recruit civil servants to work in the field.

“…Of the 1,100 U.S. civilian officials in Afghanistan, two-thirds are stationed in Kabul, according to the State Department.

“‘At best, our Kabul-based experts simply reinforce the sense of big government coming from Kabul that ultimately alienates populations and leaders in the provinces,’ a former U.S. official said.”

As with the military side of the equation, the civilian side of the strategy is so badly broken that it’s actually pushing us further away from the administration’s stated goals in Afghanistan.

The costs of this pile of failure are huge. It costs us $1 million per troop, per year to maintain our occupation of Afghanistan. That’s $2 billion every week. Politicians at the federal level are contemplating ugly cuts to social safety nets, while politicians at the state level are already shredding programs that protect people suffering in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In this context, the admonitions from the White House and the Pentagon to be patient while this misbegotten strategy limps along the progress-road-to-nowhere seem perverse. The American people have been patient for roughly a decade now, but that patience has run out.

Petraeus and Gates want to you to ignore the ugly truths of the Afghanistan War: it’s not making us safer, and it’s not worth the costs. The escalation strategy isn’t working. It’s not going to work. Enough is enough. End it now.

If you’re fed up with this war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the costs, join a local Rethink the Afghanistan War Meetup and follow Rethink Afghanistan on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign our petition to tell the next journalists on Petraeus’ media tour to ask tough questions and expose his effort to extend the Afghanistan War.

General Petraeus is on a media tour to sell the idea that the U.S. military is “making progress” in Afghanistan, a well-worn message aimed at convincing elites to extend this brutal, futile war. So far, it looks like the mainstream media is buying it, hook, line, and sinker.

Petraeus kicked off his spin campaign this morning with an hour-long special on Meet the Press with David Gregory. The piece opened with a montage of Petraeus doing sit-ups, and later showed him jogging, with Gregory opining about him wearing out troops half his age. Gregory went out of his way to set up a "Petraeus saves the day" narrative, asking the general if the situation in Afghanistan reminds him of the "dark days" in Iraq just before Petraeus "succeeded" with the surge. Petraeus hammered home his one-word message relentlessly: progress. Gregory feigned tough skepticism, but betrayed his hero-worship with setups like, "Watch how savvy Petraeus is when he answers my tough question." Throughout, Gregory’s sheepish grin conveyed the sense that he wanted to hug Petraeus instead of critically probe his assertions.

As Petraeus battered viewers again and again with his "making progress" theme, Gregory failed to ask probing, skeptical questions. When Petraeus mentioned "oil spots," as if the stain spreading across Afghanistan were one of security, Gregory failed to press him on the huge increase in civilian deaths, the 87-percent spike in violence and the incredible explosion of IED attacks over the last several months. When he brought up the outrageous TIME Magazine cover showing a woman’s mutilated face, Gregory failed to mention the attack happened last year and that TIME Magazine’s cover grossly distorts the choices before the United States. When Petraeus denounced the Taliban’s recent killing of a pregnant woman, Gregory failed to press Petraeus on ISAF’s own killing of pregnant women earlier this year in which bullets were reportedly dug out of a screaming woman by special forces troops before she bled to death. Gregory didn’t do journalism today. He provided a platform for military spin.

Petraeus and Gregory jovially closed the interview by quoting Generals Grant and Sherman, with Petraeus saying he’s no politician. Don’t believe that for a second. The military wants to extend this war, and it sees American public opinion as an obstacle in getting what it wants. Petraeus admitted as much when he told Gregory that the point of his upcoming media appearances were scheduled in the hopes of showing "people in Washington" and the public that we’re making progress (Finish your drink!) and to shore up support for the failing war effort. This media blitz is about Petraeus shaping public opinion to affect the political environment for a future push to extend the war far beyond the bounds implied by Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech. In short, the military is turning its several-billion-dollar public relations apparatus on the American people, and the mainstream media is so far complicit. To quote one of my favorite bands, "There is a war going on for your mind."

If the media fail to ask hard questions, there’s a chance Petraeus could get what he wants: the freedom to extend an extremely unpopular war that’s not making us safer. We’ve got to push back, and we’ve got to do it now.

CBS’ Katie Couric is next in line to talk to Petraeus during his high-profile spin campaign, so we’re starting with her. Sign our petition to Couric and push her to ask tough questions about Petraeus’ claims of “progress” and his attempt to extend the Afghanistan War. If you’re not a Twitter user, don’t worry–there are instructions on how you can participate without it.

General Petraeus’ media blitz is just getting started. We’ve got to push our media–hard–to ask real questions and prevent easily disproved spin from polluting the debate. Petraeus wants to change public opinion, and he’s spending your money to sell you a brutal, futile war that’s not making us safer. If you’re tired of this kind of manipulation, join the tens of thousands of other people working to end this war with Rethink Afghanistan.

Plug into the Movement to End the War

Brave New Foundation’s Rethink Afghanistan project has been following the story about a night raid in Gardez by U.S. and Afghan forces (see the video above), and today those forces made a major admission about their responsibility for civilian deaths. In a press release issued on Easter (gee, I wonder if they hoped people would be distracted today), the U.S. and allied forces under General McChrystal’s command, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), admitted they killed three innocent Afghan women, two of them pregnant. (more…)

Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is showing his Bush Administration credentials by tossing around any and all justifications for continued U.S. military action in Afghanistan to see what sticks. Lately, he’s been pushing the goofy idea that we have to maintain or expand our military presence in Afghanistan so that extremists can never brag to their friends.

From Danger Room’s Adam Rawnsley:

There have been plenty of reasons given for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan: denying Al Qaeda and their allies a sanctuary, saving the locals from some rather ruthless theocrats, preventing another 9/11. To that Defense Secretary added a different rationale Monday night. He wants to keep Osama’s legions from scoring a propaganda win.

…Defining al-Qaeda as both an ideology and an organization, Gates said their ability to successfully “challenge not only the United States, but NATO — 42 nations and so on” on such a symbolically important battlefield would represent “a hugely empowering message” for an organization whose narrative has suffered much in the eight years since 9/11.

The morally bankrupt, self-contradictory piece by Michael Sheuer on Foreign Policy Magazine‘s website restated the secretary’s argument thus:

The only way to create a less threatening Taliban is for the Obama administration to admit defeat and turn over Afghanistan to Mullah Omar, knowing that he will allow bin Laden and al Qaeda to stay in place and that U.S. defeat will have an enormous galvanizing impact on the Islamist movement around the world.

You can see a more plainspoken strain of this meme on This Ain’t Hell and similar sites:

Anyone who doesn’t think that the Taliban and al Qaeda aren’t encouraged by [congressional efforts to block a troop increase], is fooling themselves. Anyone who doesn’t think that the antics of the far left over the last eight years is the reason that we’re still fighting these stone age cretins on barren mountain slopes halfway around the world doesn’t grasp the idea of low intensity warfare.

Every death, every lost limb, every case of PTSD can be laid at the feet of the anti-war, pro-terrorist left.

You know what’s funny, though? Al-Qaida is going to claim victory in Afghanistan no matter what. On Wednesday, ex-spook Paul Pillar told Congress:

Being able to claim victory over the superpower would boost al-Qa’ida and other Islamist radicals, according to this concern.  Such perceptions do come into play, and they do matter….But on this issue as on others, one has to consider carefully the difference that a U.S.-led counterinsurgency would or would not make.  Once the United States has made a commitment, radicals find ways to claim victory no matter when that commitment ends, and with little reference to how it ends.  In the spin game of defining victory and defeat, terrorists have inherent advantages.  Even if the U.S. military command achieves everything it sets out to achieve in stabilizing the Afghan government and the portions of the country most Afghans inhabit, al-Qa’ida and other terrorist groups will still be out there—in Pakistan, in the unpacified portions of Afghanistan, or elsewhere.  They still will be issuing their audiotapes and other propaganda.  And all it takes is a single terrorist attack against U.S. interests to punctuate their boast that they have not been defeated.

This propagandizing is likely no matter what the United States does from this point forward in Afghanistan.  A larger and more costly U.S. military commitment may make the propaganda all the more effective by bolstering arguments that the United States has been unable to deliver a knockout blow to the jihadist movement even when it pours large resources into the effort.

Mr. Secretary, let’s talk about playing into propaganda traps for a moment.

First: Remember this Bin Laden message from November 2004?

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two Mujahedin to the farthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qa’ida in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human economic and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits to their private companies…So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.

During the year Osama bin Laden made that tape, the average monthly troop total for U.S. forces was 15,200. Since then, we’ve more than tripled the average monthly troop levels to 50,700, and we’re now spending $1 million per troop, per year of borrowed money in Afghanistan. Hmm.

Second: there are numerous warnings circulating in the public domain about the presence of foreign forces being a key recruiting point for the Afghan insurgency.

For example:

The mere presence of foreign soldiers fighting a war in Afghanistan is probably the single most important factor in the resurgence of the Taliban.

And again:

Religious motivation is only one of several reason for joining or supporting the Taliban or Hizb-i Islami. A religious message does resonate with the majority but this is mainly because it is couched in terms of two keenly felt pragmatic grievances: the corruption of government and the presence of foreign forces.

Between 2006 and today, the U.S. average monthly troop level more than doubled. In 2006, the insurgency totalled around 5,000 people. Today, it’s around 25,000. This, of course, is a coincidence.

I’m sorry…what were you saying about denying extremists a propaganda win? I’m not following.

As shown above, the U.S. makes a habit of discarding propaganda considerations whenever it would interfere with our preferred options. It only comes in to play for the administration when its convenient. Further, Gates et. al. act as if extremists will only spread propaganda if it conforms to the reality on the ground, which is of course silly: that’s why AQ’s communicators are called propagandists. If they only said things they know to be true, we’d call them journalists.

The argument that we should stay in Afghanistan to deny al-Qaida a propaganda win is ludicrous.

If you agree, sign Rethink Afghanistan’s petition calling for civilian solutions.

The Wall Street Journal‘s recent editorial [h/t Jeremy Scahill] supporting the CIA’s drone war over Pakistan is rank propaganda. In it, the editors denounce critics of drone strikes who rely on reporters instead of unnamed intelligence sources with unverifiable claims, and they assert that drones–which have killed roughly 800 civilians so far in Pakistan–are humane:

A U.S. intelligence summary we’ve seen corrects the record of various media reports claiming high casualties from the Predator strikes. For example, on April 1 the BBC reported that “a missile fired by a suspected U.S. drone has killed at least 10 people in Pakistan.” But the intelligence report says that half that number were killed, among them Abdullah Hamas al-Filistini, a top al Qaeda trainer, and that no women and children were present.

In each of the strikes in 2009 that are described by the intelligence summary, the report says no women or children were killed. Moreover, we know of planned drone attacks that were aborted when Predator cameras spied their presence.

Wait, wait…despite widespread reporting on the CIA drone war, the U.S. does not acknowledge that we’re even dropping bombs in Pakistan. If the editors saw hard evidence from U.S. intelligence reports that proves conclusively that the U.S. is bombing Pakistan–a country with which we are not officially at war–they should have given it to their reporters so they could write a front-page story about it. But that’s far from the only problem in this propaganda piece.

The overall argument presented by the WSJ–“drones have made war-fighting more humane”–is ludicrous on its face. (Scahill: “Ah, yes, that famous humane war we have all been waiting for. Finally!”) We know that the drones find their targets based on infrared beacons placed by paid informants who get high-dollar rewards for a “successful” strike, and reputable writers on the subject voiced concern that the financial incentives prompt the impoverished informants to sight false targets to get paid. Regardless of the reasons for the errant bombs, though, Predator/Reaper strikes have been absolutely lethal for non-combatants. According to a May 2009 column by Abdul Malik Mujahid, as of the date of his writing:

“There have been 65 to 85 US drone attacks on Pakistan, killing about 780 civilians and about 50 alleged terrorists.”

The assertion that “in 2009 … no women or children were killed” is a bald-faced lie. In just one strike, 35 local villagers, including 10 children ages five-to-10 and four local tribal elders were killed.

But what about the assertion that the drones can distinguish between men, women and children and abort the strikes when women and children are spotted? Let’s think about this for two seconds. Is the Wall Street Journal really ready to claim that, in a patriarchal society like that of the Pashtuns’, any gathering of men spotted by a drone is a legitimate target?

The worst transgression of this piece, however, is the assertion that we should suddenly start believing unverifiable (and therefore unchallengeable) kill reports. Uh, hello…remember this?

[U.S. Army General David] McKiernan, however, hinted that the American airstrikes might not have been responsible for the deaths in Farah. “We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of these civilian casualties,” McKiernan said. He declined to provide more detailed information until the U.S.-Afghan team was able to investigate further.

A U.S. defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that “the Taliban went to a concerted effort to make it look like the U.S. airstrikes caused this.” The official did not offer evidence to support the claim, and could not say what had caused the deaths.

The military had its own “intelligence” based on “hours of cockpit video.”

The footage shows insurgents streaming into homes that were later bombed, said Col. Greg Julian, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said ground troops observed some 300 villagers flee in advance of the fighting, indicating that not many could have been inside the bombed compounds….Investigators later reviewed hours of cockpit video from the fighter jets as well as audio recordings of the air crew’s conversation with the ground commander. Julian said the military would release the footage and other evidence in the coming days.

That ‘vindicating evidence’ never materialized. It turned out that mistakes by U.S. forces caused the deaths of dozens of civilians. The U.S. stuck to that story until it was completely unable to do so because reputable third parties challenged the official story. We see here the same pattern: a propaganda piece defending government policy, with insiders insisting they have definitive proof of official claims and lamenting the fact that they just can’t show it to you.

And should such evidence turn out to be not so solid, according to WSJ, we should ignore contrary information provided by reporters, which is a fun argument for a newspaper to make [emphasis mine]:

In both cases, the argument against drones rests on the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds. If you glean your information from wire reports — which depend on stringers who are rarely eyewitnesses — the argument seems almost plausible.

You know, the funny thing about this age of the Interwebs is that news organizations often embed a search engine into their website. You know what else is funny? I used the Wall Street Journal’s search engine to search their site, and found this article that they published online:

Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A car bomb destroyed an Internet cafe and tore through a bus carrying handicapped children in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least 11 people and wounding many more, police said.

Elsewhere in the troubled region, an apparent U.S. missile strike hit a Taliban training camp, killing 29 militants, while Pakistani troops killed dozens of Taliban in their bid to re-conquer the Swat Valley, officials said.

Must be an isolated incident, right? I mean, the WSJ wouldn’t be caught dead relying on stringers for wire services like the Associated Press who “rarely witness events first-hand.” Right?

Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — Suspected U.S. missiles struck a Taliban compound in a northwestern Pakistan militant stronghold bordering Afghanistan on Sunday, killing three people, officials said.

Err, maybe not.

The facts are these:

  • Drone strikes are inhumane and indiscriminate, regardless of the Wall Street Journal’s propaganda. As of May 2009, they killed more than 15 civilians for every one suspected terrorist.
  • The strikes have caused such carnage that leading British legal experts “said the aircraft could follow other weapons considered ‘so cruel as to be beyond the pale of human tolerance’ in being consigned to the history books,” likening them to “cluster bombs and landmines.”

With the mothership’s creditibility already on the ropes due to staff lawlessness, you’d think the Journal would think twice about damaging it further by publishing rank propaganda. You’d be wrong.

Unmanned drones are indiscriminate and inhumane. Ground them, now.

UPDATE: Among the distortions in the WSJ piece is the assertion that one of the things that makes the Predator so “humane” is its compliment of “laser guided munitions with low-explosive yields.” Again, the WSJ’s propaganda piece omits essential information:

However, the Predator has now been joined by the much larger MQ-9 Reaper, which can carry a heavier payload, around three thousand pounds, including a large number of Hellfires and GBU-12 Paveway II and GBD-38 JDAM bombs. These are different types of 500-pound bomb, one with laser guidance and the other satellite guided. Both are based on the 1950’s-vintage Mk 82 bomb ; less than half the weight of the bomb bomb is explosive, and the rest is the steel casing. The reason for having such a thick casing is shrapnel: when the bomb detonates, the casing blows up like a balloon before bursting and spraying high-velocity steel fragments in all directions. It is these fragments, rather than blast, that do most of the damage.

Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.

Obviously, this information disrupts the story WSJ’s editors want to tell, so they left it out. Again, classic propaganda.

UPDATE II: One final, but massive, point of disagreement. The editors are flat wrong that “the argument against drones rests on the belief that the attacks cause wide-scale casualties among noncombatants, thereby embittering local populations and losing hearts and minds.” That’s one argument made by the folks they cite in the article, yes. But a larger and more important argument is not that drones “undermine the war effort by turning people against us,” but that they consistently kill people who are not parties to the conflict, period. The worst effect of all this talk about counterinsurgency is that it has reduced the civilian populations of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan to mere means to the end of our strategy. They’re not. Drones may be awful in part because their use leads to more terrorism, but the worst effect of their use is the slaughter of people whose right to life exists independent from our goals for the region.

I agree:

We watch and read voluminous reports on this relatively small Russian war against its neighbor and former domestic province (Georgia was one of the SSRs in the old USSR), and meanwhile there is almost nothing being reported about the continuing five-year-old war launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. And certainly, over the course of five years we have gotten no visual depiction of that war even approaching the scenes that were on display from the front in Georgia.

Apparently, in the view of our corporate news editors and managers, it is important for Americans to fully witness the bloody horrors of war when that war is being fought by Russia, but we are to be carefully protected from seeing such things when they are being perpetrated by our own centurions. We aren’t even allowed to see the grievous injuries and death being suffered by our own troops.

And, of course, don’t feel to good about the quality of the coverage of the Russian/Georgia conflict either. This too is biased. Indeed one reason we are shown all the carnage is that the US government has been backing Georgia, and there is evidence that the US even encouraged the Georgian attacks on ethnic Russians which provoked the invasion. The US also has obligingly airlifted Georgian troops back from Iraq to Georgia.

This is not news. This is propaganda, pure and simple.

This illustrates one of the problems with justifying war. For our democratic processes to make a good judgment, we need good facts. There are no do-overs when it comes to launching lethal adventures, and the extent to which American media fails us on pivotal issues is astounding. And get this from one of our presidential candidates, rebuking Russia and unequivocally supporting the not-so-clean-handed Georgians:

Georgia is an ancient country, at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and one of the world’s first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion.

This is blatant pandering, even if it only reflects a reflex to associate all things with the word “Christian” in them with all things good. Would that that were true. Christianity as an official state religion means its a chaplain of the state, period. I’d much rather see Georgian, Russian, South Ossetian and other participants adopt Christ’s ethic of nonviolent, self-sacrificing love for enemies.

But take a look at this:

Nearby, Tamuna Malania, a blond 20-year-old law student, stood in the road and forced a troop transport truck to stop. Then she threw a handful of anti-occupation leaflets at the truck.


News report seem to indicate that violence continues sporadically across Georgia and the contested areas, and some reports indicate levels of violence well above the already-vile disgrace of Christians killing each other due to rival national identities.

“…[T]here is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!  As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord* has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” [Col. 3]

I’d repeat my call from several days ago:

Christians involved in the fighting should, as a bloc, cease participation in this back-and-forth immediately,  inform their commanders that they will not fire their weapons, and face the consequences. At the same time, Christian leaders should state in no uncertain terms that the behavior of the parties involved is anti-Christian, admonish their congregants to withdraw their consent from this chain of events, and use their moral authority to pressure the Russians, the South Ossentians, the Georgians, and everyone else involved to end hostilities.