Saturday, August 20, 2011

Denial Syndrome: Censorship of war casualties in the US

US mainstream media and the public's willful ignorance is to blame for lack of knowledge about true cost of wars.

In 2009 a US "kill team" operating near Kandahar was accused of "killing innocent civilians for sport and mutilating their bodies by cutting off fingers and ripping out teeth to keep as trophies," in the words of a reporter for the UKGuardian. Investigators discovered some 4,000 photographs documenting these horrific acts. The German weekly Der Spiegel, citing US and NATO concerns that publication of the trophy photos could spark riots in Afghanistan as the result of "a new Abu Ghraib", ran three of the suppressed images. The feared riots never materialised.

None of the pictures appeared in the United States. The story lasted one day.

When it comes to the carnage of war, even a simple count of civilian casualties is hard to come by for Americans trying to find out what's going on in wars being fought in their name, by their fellow citizens, using weapons financed by their tax funds.

In yet another marked departure from Vietnam, when the Department of Defense obsessively attempted to count the number of military and civilian dead on both sides of the conflict, the US claims to no longer track the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Pentagon complained about the famous Lancet study which found that more than a million Iraqis had perished since 2003, but had no numbers with which to counter it.

Then there's the muddling of the few numbers that are available. US media outlets reported that civilian casualties were up 15 per cent in Afghanistan this year - but parsed the blame. Civilian deaths caused by anti-government forces, they said, were up 28 per cent. Pro-government forces, on the other hand, were responsible for nine per cent fewer dead civilians. Left unsaid: if not for the US and NATO, the war might have been over years ago.

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