'Deadliest Day' in Afghanistan? Not by a Long Shot
08/09/2011 by Jim Naureckas
August 6, 2011, when 38 soldiers, including 30 U.S. troops, were killed when their helicopter was shot down, was the “deadliest day” of the Afghan War, several media outlets told us:
- David Muir (ABC World News Saturday, 8/6/11): “It was the deadliest day of the war in Afghanistan, 30 Americans, 22 Navy SEALs lost.”
- David Gregory (NBC Meet the Press, 8/7/11): “This was the single deadliest day of the war.”
- Chicago Tribune headline (8/7/11): “Taliban Says It Downed Copter in Deadliest Day of War inAfghanistan”
- ABC This Week graphic (8/7/11): “DEADLIEST DAY IN AFGHANISTAN”
- Terrell Brown, CBS Morning News (8/8/11): “America mourns the loss of 30 warriors killed in Afghanistanon the war’s deadliest day.”
- AP (8/9/11): “Troops killed in the deadliest day of the Afghan War are coming home today.”
But, of course, it wasn’t the war’s deadliest day—that unhappy distinction goes to May 4, 2009, when the U.S. military attacked the village of Granai, killing 140 people, 93 of them children, according to an Afghan government investigation (Reuters, 5/16/09). (The U.S. government says it does not know how many people it killed that day.)
Other deadlier days in Afghanistan include July 6, 2008, when U.S. bombing killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, attending a wedding in Nangarhar province (Guardian, 7/11/08); August 22, 2008, when a U.S. airstrike killed at least 90 civilians, including 60 children, in the village of Azizabad (UN News Centre,8/26/08); and July 23, 2010, when the U.S. killed 39 civilians in the village of Sangin (RTTNews, 8/5/10).
To be sure, many U.S. news reports, unlike those cited above, remembered to add “for Americans” to their descriptions of August 6 as the “deadliest day.” But there’s little evidence that anyone in U.S. media remembers the village of Granai.
Why is it so easy for political leaders in the US to convince ordinary citizens to support war?
How is it that, after that initial enthusiasm has given away to fatigue and disgust, the reaction is mere disinterest rather than righteous rage? Even when the reasons given for taking the US to war were proven to have been not only wrong, but brazenly fraudulent - as in Iraq, which hadn’t possessed chemical weapons since 1991 - no one is called to account.
The United States claims to be a shining beacon of democracy to the world. And many of the citizens of the world believe it. But democracy is about responsiveness and accountability - the responsiveness of political leaders to an engaged and informed electorate, which holds that leadership class accountable for its mistakes and misdeeds. How to explain Americans’ acquiescence in the face of political leaders who repeatedly lead it into illegal, geopolitically disastrous and economically devastating wars of choice?
The dynamics of US public opinion have changed dramatically since the 1960s, when popular opposition to the Vietnam War coalesced into an antiestablishmentarian political and cultural movement that nearly toppled the government - and led to a series of sweeping social reforms whose contemporary ripples include the recent move to legalise marriage between members of the same sex.
Americans don’t see the brutality of their wars in the newspaper, on the nightly news, in their weekly newsmagazines, or at the movies. They don’t even see them in books, where educated people turn for nuance and breadth. Coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as it is considering that most such books are written by American reporters embedded with US forces, is decidedly Americentric, such as Dexter Filkins’ bestseller “The Forever War”. Literary works that depict the point of view of civilians tend to view them as passive victims, such as Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner” and Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea” (though under attack in the media as fictionalized, the latter title continues to sell briskly).
American citizens are morally responsible for the wars and the war crimes committed in their name. The sad truth is, however, that they don’t know what’s going on - and they don’t lift a finger to find out.