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Peter Hart

Peter Hart

Posted: March 8, 2011 02:15 PM

How Many Afghan Kids Need to Die to Make the News?


The number of Afghan boys gathering firewood killed by a March 1 U.S./NATO helicopter attack in Kunar Province: Nine.

The number of stories about the killing of the nine children on ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening news shows (as of March 6): Two.

One was an 80-word report on NBC Nightly News (3/2/11), the other a brief ABC World News Sunday story (3/6/11) about Afghan president Hamid Karzai's "harsh words for the U.S." after the "mistaken killing of nine Afghan boys in an airstrike."

On the PBS NewsHour? Two brief mentions (3/2/11, 3/7/11), both during the "other news of the day" segment.

On NPR? Nothing. On the"liberal" MSNBC? Zero. Fox News Channel? Zero.

CNN had several mentions of the killings. In one report (3/2/11), correspondent Michael Holmes remarked: "It does a lot of damage to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. You don't win hearts and minds that way."

In the Washington Post (3/3/11), the children's deaths were called "the latest irritant" in the relationship between U.S./NATO forces and the Afghan government. Civilian casualties are "a sore point," and U.S. commander David Petraeus "has had to walk a fine line. Civilian casualties undermine NATO's counterinsurgency mission here by angering Afghan civilians and bolstering the Taliban's attempt to portray foreign troops as ruthless invaders."

In contrast to the corporate media, Democracy Now! (3/3/11) talked about the attack as part of the larger story of civilian deaths in Afghanistan. "It was at least the third instance in two weeks in which the Afghan government accused NATO forces of killing large numbers of civilians in airstrikes," host Juan Gonzalez noted in introducing a discussion. "An Afghan government panel is still investigating claims some 65 people, including 40 children, were killed in a U.S.-led attack last week."

It is often said that Afghanistan is largely a forgotten war--a critique usually meant as a comment on the lack of attention paid to the hardships of U.S. military personnel. Far less consideration is granted to the Afghans who are suffering in far greater numbers.