Associated Press and Misleading Rhetoric on Afghanistan

The Associated Press employed some interesting rhetoric in its recent wire story on Obama’s coming decisions on the war in Afghanistan. It is rhetoric that might mislead a casual reader as to how many casualties the U.S. has incurred in Afghanistan and just when they’ve occurred as well as both Obama’s and the Bush administration’s stance on the war.

Perhaps it is just clumsy writing, but it is hard not to wonder if the AP meant to give Obama a bit of cover on the worsening situation there. And what is that cover? It’s another attempt at the “it’s Bush’s fault” media group think.

Obama, who inherited the war when he took office last January, is examining how to proceed with a worsening combat situation that has claimed nearly 800 U.S. lives and sapped American patience. Launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to defeat the Taliban and rid al-Qaida of a home base, the war has lasted longer than ever envisioned.

There are three problems with this AP paragraph. First it ignores that Obama campaigned on the concept that Afghanistan was “the good war,” second it misleads the reader into imagining that all these 800 casualties were lost in this current phase of a “worsening combat situation,” and third no one in the Bush administration ever said that the effort in Afghanistan would be short lived.

On the first, during the campaign Obama was intent on fighting this war because it was the justified one. In that case stating he inherited it minimizes his own assurances that Afghanistan was, indeed, the good war. It is meaningless to say he “inherited” it since he campaigned so strongly on wanting it. The seeming exculpatory language is unnecessary since Obama got what he wanted. Instead of minimizing Obama’s part by saying he merely inherited the war, the proper way to phrase it would have been to say that he campaigned on it and now has it. Obama was not a passive actor in this situation.

Secondly is the compressed timeline for casualties. The AP wrote that Obama “is examining how to proceed with a worsening combat situation that has claimed nearly 800 U.S. lives.” This line seems to be saying that the worsening situation has claimed 800 lives. But the fact is that those 800 casualties have occurred during the entirety of the last 8 years, not just during this “worsening combat situation.”

Lastly we have the AP’s claim that Afghanistan has “lasted longer then ever envisioned.” This seems to say that the Bush administration claimed the war there would be short and that Obama has “inherited” this degraded military status. But as President Bush geared the country toward war he repeatedly said this would be a “long struggle.” At no time did his administration give an official ending date when they thought the war would be over nor did they aver say they “envisioned” a short war in Afghanistan. Quite the opposite in fact.

In his 2006 State of the Union speech, for instance, President Bush said, “Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.” Additionally, various military commanders and departments used the “long war” phraseology when characterizing their efforts. In fact, Bush was often lambasted by the left for his purported desire for a “perpetual war” policy. Even the Heritage Foundation published a 2003 article penned by James Carafano called “The Long War Against Terrorism.” All involved with the beginning of the global war against terror tried to prepare the country for the long war concept.

So, whose time line is the AP citing as “fact” here? Who said the war would be short and that the situation in Afghanistan has now “lasted longer than ever envisioned”? Who said so? Certainly not those planning and launching the thing, that’s for sure.

But saying it has “lasted longer than ever envisioned” gives Obama cover. It makes it seem as if he is beleaguered by other’s mistakes and that he is valiantly trying to save the situation. It flavors the whole article in Obama’s favor.

Like I said, perhaps this is just sloppy writing and worse editing. But it certainly leaves the reader with the feeling that none of this is Obama’s fault and he is the put upon commander in chief. This might cause a reader to feel sorry for Obama and excuse any errors he’s making in Afghanistan.

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