US Corporate Media Downplays Pentagon’s Special Commando Assassination Unit Uncovered by Wikileaks’ “Afghan War Diary” [ProjectCensored.org]

By Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

The New York Times, Washington Post, and most other newspapers in the US are censoring or under-reporting the WikiLeaks documents that show US Task Force 373 (TF 373) is an out-of-control assassination unit responsible for the deaths of many hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan.

Nick Davies’ lengthy article in the London Guardian July 26, describes how the WikiLeaks war logs show TF 373 as a shadowy kill-or-capture squad hunting the Taliban’s most-wanted.

Key excerpts from Davies’ piece are quoted below with a link to the original article:

[Begin Davies Quotes]…[see below for Davies' article link - 左手]…[End Davies Quotes]

Davies’ article paints a grim picture of a war of targeted assassinations and documents numerous cases of civilian deaths. However, the New York Times, with access to the same information simply wrote on July 26, “Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a ‘capture/kill list’ of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration,…killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.” (NYT, p. 1)

The Washington Post only mentions TF 373 in a July 27 editorial by Eugene Robinson on page A-17.  Robinson writes:

“The leaked documents sketch the activities of the secret ‘kill or capture’ unit named Task Force 373 — and in the process, according to the Guardian, raise fundamental questions about the legality of the killings . . . and also pragmatically about the impact of a tactic which is inherently likely to kill, injure and alienate the innocent bystanders whose support the coalition craves.

The Guardian highlights a 2007 incident in which TF 373, operating in a valley near Jalalabad, set out to apprehend or kill a Taliban commander named Qarl Ur-Rahman. As the commandos neared the target, someone pointed a flashlight at them; they called for air support, and an AC-130 gunship strafed the area. Later, they discovered that they had killed seven Afghan National Police officers and wounded four others.

A few days later, according to the documents, members of a TF 373 unit fired rockets into a village where they believed a foreign jihadist fighter from Libya was hiding. They killed six Taliban fighters — but also seven civilians, all of them children. One was alive when allied medics arrived. ‘The Med TM immediately cleared debris from the mouth and performed CPR,’ the incident report states, but after 20 minutes the child died.’”

A search of Lexus-Nexus shows that the Task Force 373 story was widely covered in Great Britain and Canada appearing in the Guardian, International Herald Tribune, Daily Telegraph, National Post (Canada), The Sun, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, and on BBC.

However, the Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk VA) was one of the only newspapers to use the NY Times quote, burying it on page 10, while only the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Virginian-Pilot reprinted the Washington Post op-ed.  Most newspapers in the US completely ignored the story.

While the news about WikiLeaks was widely covered in the US media, most papers framed the story in the context of the White House press release and how the release could result in harm to US forces. The Grand Rapid Press reported on page A2 using the headline, “White House condemns war leaks; WikiLeaks provides ground-level account of Afghan military moves.” The Lewiston Morning Tribune (Idaho) on July 26, one of the few in the US to have full coverage of the Guardian’s story, headlined the piece,  “Leaked military records provide ground-level account of Afghan war: White House condemns Internet disclosure.”

It is safe to conclude that the corporate media in the US is significantly under-reporting or failing to report (i.e., censoring) the full story from the Guardian regarding the specifics of civilian deaths and assassinations by US Commando Unit Task Force 373. The few US newspapers that mentioned TF 373 failed to say how the targets were selected, gave no specifics on the number of civilians killed, and did not address the thousands in prison.  Instead, the corporate media continue to amplify the spin of the US political establishment, decrying WikiLeaks’ actions as potential treason rather than what they really are:  actual reporting.

For the full account in the London Guardian see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/25/afghanistan-war-logs-military-leaks

Peter Phillips is Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University, and President of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored

Mickey Huff is Associate Professor of History at Diablo Valley College, and Director of Project Censored/Media Freedom Foundation

Project Censored article link here

Also see “Afghan war logs reveal U.S. death squad’s crimes” [Workers World]

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