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Not enough troops, the death of a soldier and the ongoing GR Press coverage of Afghanistan

August 25, 2009

On Monday (8/24), the Grand Rapids Press published a short version of a New York Times article that states US military commanders are now saying that there are insufficient US troops operating in Afghanistan.

The article quotes Admiral Mullen who was on CNN this past weekend and referred to the situation in Afghanistan. “I think it is serious and it is deteriorating. The Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics.”

Nowhere in the story are there other perspectives or any attempt by the Times reporter to verify the claims made by US military leaders. The Press version of the story does mention that recently polling shows more Americans are becoming dissatisfied with the US military occupation of Afghanistan, but the story omits any credible critique of the US campaign either from US sources or Afghani sources.

You will recall that the Obama administration has sent an additional 17,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan since he took office in January, but his administration has not responded to the recent comments from the military on the inadequate levels of US troops. These additional troops do not include the private military contractors that are operating in Afghanistan. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, there are more private military contractors in Afghanistan than there are US troops, roughly 74,000 to 57,000.

Private Military Contractors

The Press did publish a Los Angeles Times article on Sunday (8/23) that dealt with private military contractors in Afghanistan. The article does provide some critique as it relates to accountability and inadequate training of those private military forces, but does not question their role in Afghanistan. The LA Times piece also does not take into account the private security forces that are being contracted by the Department of State, a fact that independent reporter Jeremy Scahill points out in an article he posted today.

A Michigan Soldier is Killed in Afghanistan

Lastly, it is worth pointing out that a Middleville man who was serving in the US military in Afghanistan was killed recently. The Grand Rapids Press ran three stories in the past week, on August 18, 20th and 21st. The August 21nd article is the longest and included a full page of just pictures of the funeral service in West Michigan. The death of this local soldier is the only reporting that the GR Press has done on the US military occupation of Afghanistan since GRIID began this most recent monitoring project in late May, which suggests that only when local soldiers die is the issue newsworthy.

It should also be pointed out that the Press ran an editorial on August 21st in which they focused on the fact that the Pentagon has now changed its policy on the Press taking pictures of flag draped coffins of US soldiers killed in action. However, the Press editor also used the piece as an opportunity to promote a pro-US military position by saying, “While photos of flag-draped coffins don’t show us what war is, or why our soldiers are fighting, they honor the ultimate sacrifice military men and women make for this country.”

It seems quite appropriate for the Press to report on this funeral, but we question whether or not they should be making statements that do not question whether or not US wars and the soldiers that fight in them are making sacrifices for this country.

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