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Press editorial on Afghanistan looks like it came from the White House

June 30, 2010

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran an editorial piece from their own staff about the recent decision of the Obama administration to replace General McCrystal with General Petraeus. The editorial not only justifies the near 9-year US occupation of Afghanistan, it perpetuates numerous distortions about US policy.

First, the Press editorial says that replacing McCrystal with Petraeus was “inspired” because of the successful counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq. The Press, like most media, does not qualify what they mean by a success with the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. Independent reporters like Patrick Cockburn and Dahr Jamail, both of whom have been reporting from Iraq for years, have documented that the US counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq was not successful in that it resulted in numerous Iraqi civilian deaths, did not stabilize the country and only created more anti-American sentiment.

Second, the Press editorial mentions the Senate Armed Forces confirmation hearing from yesterday for General Petraeus, proceedings, which were chaired by Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Again, the Press writer says that the counterinsurgency of General Petraeus ,“are not in doubt.” Amidst the hearing there was no serious discussion about the validity of the US occupation of Afghanistan, only the importance of having a new military leader in charge.

Third, the Press editorial mentions the growing number of US and NATO troop deaths, but that does not deter them from promoting the idea that the US can “win” in Afghanistan. Dead and wounded US troops does not really matter to the Press editorial staff, since they are not directly impacted by this. However, the cost of taking care of the thousands of serious wounded and traumatized US soldiers is rising, a cost all of us will pay for. In addition, the Press casual mention of US troop deaths ignores the fact that there is a growing list of US soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and are now calling for an end to the US occupation.

Lastly, the Press editorial continues to misrepresent the content of the Rolling Stones article that led to McCrystal’s dismissal. They state:

The Rolling Stone interview of Gen. McChrystal laid bare simmering tensions between civilian and military leadership. Debate between battlefield leaders and the White House is nothing new — think Gen. Douglas MacArthur and President Harry Truman. But any dysfunction that threatens mission effectiveness and by extension American lives must be quickly quashed.”

As has been mentioned on this site already, the Rolling Stones article was not just about the General McCrystal’s disagreement with the administration, rather it included numerous comments from current and former US military personnel that were questioning the US military occupation of Afghanistan.

The Press editorial concludes by saying, “The appointment of Gen. Petraeus offers an opportunity for a new beginning, and a new chance in Afghanistan.” This is a fitting conclusion for an editorial that mimics the sentiment coming from the White House on what should be done in Afghanistan. Such sentiments are exactly why we need independent journalism in this country, a type of journalism that isn’t afraid to question institutions of power.

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