Post-US Afghanistan

But how has it actually affected reporting?

We have a pretty accurate account of what’s happening on the ground within the month, sometimes within days. That simply wasn’t true in Vietnam. We are vastly better able to know the war today.

In Vietnam the military gave journalists a ride to the front and let them roam around, so mr and mrs Smith could watch Johnny get shot up by the VC, but it didn’t actually say anything about the war, or about what the soldiers were doing when they weren’t on camera.

To me that sort of thing is basically pornography. As part of the coverage it’s fine, it shows you what the soldiers go through (The Battle for Marjah and Restrepo being modern examples of same) but it doesn’t get you what actually matters: Military and political thinking, the conduct of operations, the effects of operations, what people should expect going forward. We are actually getting that now.

Today we have a nearly real-time account of two wars, including some stunning detail on what goes on within some military units.

It can’t be perfect, and it won’t be complete until the historians dig in, but as a nerd I am stunned by what I’m able to learn just by reading the news, using a search machine, reading a book, or watching a documentary.

To this day you still can’t get that level of information on Vietnam. The press actually did get Tet wrong, according to both North Vietnamese and US commanders. It’s still not clear what happened at Thuy Bo or Thanh Phong. No one gave a damn what happened to the Vietnamese, including journalists, so god knows what else fell through the cracks along the way.

It has never been harder for the military or the politicians running a war to keep a secret than it is right now.

They despise it (at least until they develop an agenda worth leaking stuff for) but there’s not a whole lot they can do about it. I think it’s pretty clear that the journalists are winning that war.

Ah, I see where you are coming from. I would have to agree that the amount of info today is vastly greater than before. No question. As to the result, well, that’s another thing entirely, though there the differences are not that great. Americans have simply never really subjected our actions to careful, thoughtful reflection and scrutiny to any great degree. The fact that there is so much information out there about so many aspects of ongoing warfare does not necessarily mean there is a higher degree of awareness or knowledge. With so many competing sources of info, and no external filtering going on most of the time, there is a sort of overload on the one hand that meshes with the general disinclination of the public at large to look deeply at the big picture.

Maybe that’s the real issue–Americans in particular are willing to send our sons and daughters overseas to fight all sorts of battles, but really don’t seem to care much about the why, the how, or the cost, despite having access to information.

To be fair, for the vast majority of people, it’s other people’s sons and daughters.

100%. No two soldiers are alike, but one of my friends from the US who went despises parades more than pacifists, because in his eyes they’re being cheered on by people who have no idea what they’re cheering for.

No one in the media was questioning the morality of what we were doing in WWII, despite the fact that we were doing some fucking horrific shit.

Personally, I think our actions were absolutely justified, but if today’s modern media and social attitudes existed in 1942, we would never have taken those actions which we took to win the war.

If we were to kill the majority of civilians, intentionally, in dozens of major cities? How do you think the media today would cover that? Cause it sure wouldn’t be how the media covered it in WWII.

Even without being able to get through the paywall, we can see that those articles are fairly short, single column pieces… and they are on pages 14 and 18, respectively.

We burned 50 square miles of tokyo, killed a 100,000 civilians, and it didn’t merit more than a page 14 blurb.

The media of those days was not in the business of questioning the government much.

I don’t think that what changed after vietnam was that the military started acting differently. It’s that the media started covering them differently.

It also depends on the war, though. Now this is a completely different universe as far as media goes, but 80 years earlier whole newspapers were eviscerating Lincoln’s policy on a regular basis, largely because their allegiance was to the other party. Anyway the development of the relationship between newspapers and the U.S. government has not been a straight line, I think. It would be interesting to see how our turn-of-the-century adventures (Philippines, Hawaii, etc.) were covered in newspapers of the time. Perhaps I’ll look them up if I get a chance. A parallel development may be that over the course of the 20th century certain papers (and broadcast organizations) were attempting to develop a ‘national’ perspective rather than being mouthpieces for one party or another.

Here’s a newspaper printing a speech by a senator against our involvement in the Philippines. But this is a case (like the Civil War or Vietnam) where there was not monolithic agreement that we should be fighting, from the halls of Congress on down. WWII (post Pearl Harbor) may be an outlier in that regard.

Edit: interesting snippet here too, from 1902.

Reminds me of some critiques I’ve seen of Afghanistan, actually.

It’s hard to make blanket comparisons, because the social norms were different. The media back then did not run stories with the graphic descriptions, language, and imagery of crime and violence that we get today as a matter of course. The press reflects the population pretty much, and as mores change, so does what is covered and how it is covered. There was actually some interesting editorials after the atomic bomb drops; some folks already were wondering what we had unleashed. But the strategic bombing campaign, yeah, I can’t recall seeing any mainstream stuff criticizing that on moral grounds. Then again, it is not clear exactly how much the public or even the press really appreciated about the scope and scale of things.

I’m not sure though that today the public at large would be at all worked up about it either. I mean, it was pretty much a minority that was really concerned about the Vietnamese and our bombing campaigns there, and even fewer who care about our lower level but chronic drone war, either.

A world where the US would have been as fascist as the Third Reich and actually part of the Axis was also not that far off.

I think TR prevented the US from going socialist, if not community (in a way similar to what Bismarck did in Germany), and FDR kept the US from going fascist (until today).

Do we have any Roosevelts we can get as president today?

No details yet, but there it is.

US admits Kabul drone strike killed civilians US admits Kabul drone strike killed civilians - BBC News

Drone operators observed children around the car, observed the adult driver leave the car, no secondary explosion.

US military admits it killed 10 civilians and targeted wrong vehicle in Kabul airstrike

That is one colossal, unbelievable fuckup.

That’s just murder.

This has been happening for the past 20 years. I’m certainly not surprised that it also happened for our “last” action in this war.

That the military of the US essentially was happy to confirm leaks originally that they’d hit a suicide bomber on this strike tells me that they were originally incredibly confident that they had a legitimate target and that they struck that legitimate target. Until they started hearing that they’d essentially killed a family, they hadn’t any idea.

The secondary explosion is where it becomes a cover-up. We’ve done enough drone strikes to tell a gas tank from a car bomb.

They got spooked, they hit the wrong guy, probably realized pretty early on, then tried to deny it.

Amazing work by the journalists who covered it. If they hadn’t, it would’ve been forgotten about 3 minutes later.

Yeah, it was a shitty situation where they had to make a call on the shot or risk dozens more dead Afghan civilians and potentially more service members as well, after one attack already succeeding. I think they realized pretty quickly they fucked up, since they wouldn’t release footage of the shot to show the secondary explosion they claimed occurred.

I have to admit, you are definitely right on this one. Gives me hope for the future of war coverage a bit.

Yeah I’m not buying the mistake angle. They lied about it and got caught. Shameful.

Some things never change. You’re welcome, Afghanistan!

Not trying to flippant, this is horrible and infuriating. And also seems like too much to be hopeful that we’ll learn some lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and avoid these catastrophes. A very tragic but fitting end to our Afghanistan occupation.

This is not at all clear. The car was parked in the courtyard of a home, not rolling down the road toward a mass of refugees and US forces. It’s not at all clear to me that they had to do anything except keep watching it. Maybe there is some reason, but I don’t know what it is.