Lies & Distortions From the Pentagon’s Afghanistan Press Conference

George Little, Pentagon Press Secretary and Captain John Kirby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations spoke to reporters yesterday about the ruckus unleashed in Afghanistan after the U.S. military burned Muslim holy books. Massive protests have taken place, even spreading over into Pakistan, against the foreign occupiers for “dishonoring the Koran…disrespecting our dead and killing our children.” The chaos led NATO to abruptly pull all its staff from the Afghanistan’s government ministries on Saturday after a vengeful Afghan shot a U.S. colonel and major inside the ministry, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker pleaded not to pull out early just because of the unrest.

I just wanted to note two quick things about the Pentagon’s statement’s yesterday.

GEORGE LITTLE: Tragically, many in Afghanistan have been killed or wounded as a result of violence there.  Extremists have killed four Americans, including two officers within the confines of the Afghan Interior Ministry.  These are tough losses, and they demonstrate that we will experience challenges in the course of this campaign.

Many Afghans “have been killed or wounded as a result of the violence there.” More accurately, U.S.-supported Afghan security forces have killed and wounded dozens of Afghans who are protesting the abuses of foreign domination. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out:

Meanwhile, the protesters themselves continue to be shot, although mostAmerican media accounts favor sentences like these which whitewash who is doing the killing: “running clashes with the police that claimed the lives of another five Afghan protesters” and “in Nangarhar Province, two Afghans protesting the Koran burning were shot to death outside an American base in Khogyani District” and “protesters angry over the burning of Korans at the largest American base in Afghanistan this week took to the streets in demonstrations in a half-dozen provinces on Wednesday that left at least seven dead and many more injured.” Left at least seven dead: as As’ad AbuKhalil observed, “notice that there is no killer in the phrasing.”

Secondly, Little said the following:

But let me be clear.  First, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey are fully committed to our strategy in Afghanistan.  They believe we have achieved significant progress in reversing the Taliban’s momentum and in developing the Afghan security forces, and they believe that the fundamentals of our strategy remain sound.

…We’re making progress.  We have put the enemy on its heels in many parts of the country.  Doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done — there is — but let’s not let the events of the past week steer us away from the reality that we have made significant progress throughout the country.

I won’t run through the catalog of evidence plainly disproving these statements. I’ve done that sufficiently elsewhere. A short excerpt from Michael Hastings’s book The Operators gets the point across:

The United States regularly declares success in Afghanistan, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. A year doesn’t pass without public declarations of progress. In 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says, “It’s not a quagmire.” In 2003, the commanding general in Afghanistan says that U.S. forces should be down to 4,500 soldiers by the end of the following summer. After that summer, General John P. Abizaid says the Taliban “is increasingly ineffective.” In 2005, the Taliban is “collapsing,” says General Dave Barno. In 2007, we are “prevailing against the effects of prolonged war,” declares Major General Robert Durbin. In 2008, General Dan McNeill claims that “my successor will find an insurgency here, but it is not spreading.” That same year, Defese Secretary Robert Gates assures us we have a “very successful counterinsurgency,” and we won’t need a “larger western footprint” in the country.

This month, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis embarrassed the U.S. leadership in Afghanistan when he wrote a report arguing “Our current military leadership is so distorting the information it releases that the deterioration of the situation and the failing nature of our efforts is shielded from the American public (and Congress), and replaced instead with explicit statements that all is going according to plan.” I guess those criticisms didn’t stick.