Thursday, May 1, 2008

Rubin and Ignatius Debate Afghanistan on the NewsHour (Updated)

I appeared tonight on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in a segment on Afghanistan. Margaret Warner interviewed me along with the Washington Post's David Ignatius, back from a one-week tour of Afghanistan escorted by the U.S. embassy and military. He claims to have reported only what he saw with his own eyes, but he does not understand even what he saw with his own eyes very well.

For instance, he claims that thanks to the wonderful counter-insurgency work of the U.S. in Afghanistan's Regional Command/East, the area is more secure. No doubt his hosts took him to the most secure areas. Data I posted from an independent source show that insurgent attacks in the first quarter of 2008 in the Eastern Region were up 30 percent over last year, only slightly less than the nationwide increase of 38 percent. Not only that -- although the NewsHour discussed only the attack on President Karzai at the April 29 Mujahidin Victory Day celebration in Kabul, here's what was going on at the same time in a part of RC/E that David Ignatius did not visit:
Taliban militants killed 19 Afghans, including seven civilians, and wounded 41 more in a suicide bomb attack on a drug eradication team in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said.

The Taliban have vowed to step up suicide attacks this year, to undermine the faith of Afghans in the ability of their government to provide security and to sap support in the West for the continued presence of international troops in the country.

The bomber targeted an opium poppy eradication team led by the district chief, tribal elders and police officers as they left the local government headquarters in Khogiani, a town south of the city of Jalalabad, close to the Pakistan border.

Gunmen opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades following the suicide attack, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

Twelve police officers and seven civilians were killed, the Interior Ministry said. Two Australian journalists were also among the wounded, the ABC broadcaster said on its Web site.
The eradication of course is carried out under very heavy US and UK pressure. As I have argued on this blog and elsewhere, poppy crop eradication, not poppy cultivation, drives rural communities to ally with the Taliban.

I thought that after all the scandals about journalists misleading the public by repeating government leaks and press releases and "reporting" from escorted tours, major journalists like columnists at the Washington Post would have learned something. Apparently not. Repetition of government propaganda without independent investigation or analysis does not constitute journalism. Readers can decide what it does constitute.

Listen to the program (Real Audio), or watch it (streaming video).

Update (May 1): Scott Horton links to this in his comment on The Afghan Opium Dreams of David Ignatius. Happy Mission Accomplished Day!

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