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Feb-23-2009 08:57printcomments

War Reporting and Propaganda in Iraq and Afghanistan

The media takes a beating for not reporting on the positive aspects of war; it is a notion that most people who have spent time in a combat theater find ridiculous.
Afghan culture: Kabul, 2007, two men hold hands by an old Soviet armored personnel carrier at a fort built by the British in the 19th Century. A lack of understanding of these diverse people does not pave a road to success. Iraq/Afghanistan photos by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - A friend sent an email today with a report from a London newspaper, stressing the "success" the United States is currently experiencing in Iraq, and speculating as to whether Obama would seek to "take credit" for the success.

101st Airborne soldiers in Iraq

The article talked about the media's obesession with death and conflict, and talked about all of the positive things like the rebuilding of schools, that the media always leaves out.

Based on the flow of information passing through our doors, in spite of this rosy article from the UK, people are still dying in Iraq, and the war is anything but successful. In fact, according to recent reports, Iraq is still very dangerous.

I was there over the summer just in time to see the beginning of the eliminiation/reduction of the "Sons of Iraq" program which is one of the few elements of the "Surge" that actually brought peace and stability to this country. (see: Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance? (VIDEO))

Iraqi people told me that as soon as the U.S. pulls out, a civil war will reignite between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Tensions between the groups were relatively calm under Saddam Hussein who ruled the country with an iron hand.

My friend asked me what I thought of the London newspaper article and this is my reply to him:

Afghan girl waiting to see western military
doctors during a MEDCAP operation in Kabul


I have been there, you are right, and what I know I know from actually seeing it. The truth is, I didn't meet a single Iraqi (Who wasn't on the U.S. payroll) who liked George W. Bush or wanted the American presence there. They think we are just an aggressive military nation that attacks randomly and for strictly financial gain.

I think Iraq was a real serious mistake that has cost more lives than can ever be counted, and ruined our strategy of gaining any ground in Afghanistan.

The media doesn't cover things that didn't really happen, if that makes sense. I spent two months in Afghanistan asking to be shown a school that Americans rebuilt and five weeks in Iraq asking the same thing, and they were never able to get me close to one, Then I open emails from people who slam the press for not covering the rebuilding of Afghan and Iraqi schools. These groups would have us thinking that Americans are running all over these countries helping kids and it sadly, isn't the case at all. Best always,

I have spent time personally covering the more positive aspects of our miltary at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and while we have had support in doing this, the number of entities beating down our door to see and support these 'positive' reports has been minimal.

American Army Convoy in Afghanistan

I regret nothing, and especially treasure the contact from families of the soldiers and Marines that I have featured in different stories. Still, it is disappointing to see the lack of positive response to positive reports.

I don't think the problem in the world is that reporters are ignoring new war zone school construction. What I see are issues that revolve around a lack of cultural understanding and the ever-present poverty and war damage in these places cannot be ignored.

American press and broadcasters should send more reporters in and garner new support for the people who live in these places where we wage war. Bonding the American people with the Afghan people would only increase support for their eventual freedom, if I dare use the word.

Another glaring problem that underscores the inability of America to harness its own energy, involves Afghan interpreters who seek refuge in the U.S. after serving with the Army and Marines.

They need to be utilized by the Department of Defense and used to train Americans about Afghan language and culture before they deploy. It would increase the war effort and make Americans safer.

Instead the DoD brings interpreters or 'terps' as they are often called, and drop them off with a host family with no hope of employment.

I have two Afghan friends currently in the states who were fantastic on combat patrols, speak four different languages, and today can't find employment with the U.S. government.

This is the breakdown of Afghan cultural groups according to the Website: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%

Pashtun people live in the southern part of Afghanistan; with a concentration in the Kandahar area. They speak Pashtun whereas people in the north of Afghanistan speak Dari. Tajik's are a cultural group seen in much of the country along with Uzbek people.

Small Afghan kids wave hello near Mazur-e-Sharif

Hazara people are of Asian descent who have traditionally been discriminated against by the other ethnic groups. As a result of this, Hazara's are one group Americans can almost always trust, when hunting and fighting the Taliban.

At the end of the day, most of these people just want to be able to feed their families at the end of the day and have some degree of personal safety. They aren't different in their hearts, but they are very different in terms of culture.

An example of our lack of understanding is seen in the decision of our former President to cancel the Afghan's Children's Fund just a couple of years after starting it.

The program was one of the few ways people could contribute to the poverty stricken people of Afghanistan.

I fear for the future of our military as we increasingly reengage the Taliban and other anti-Coalition militias in this section of the world.

I remember a service for a Lieutenant who was killed when I was in Afghanistan; and how sad that loss made everyone.

Grown men cried as the commander called out the Lieutenant's name repeatedly during a roll call during which he would never answer- "here".

Some people are saying that we, like all nations before us that tried to tame and conquer Afghanistan, will in fact never accomplish that.

The nation is tribal and the terrain is mountainous and loaded with more unexploded land mines than any other country in the world.

You don't take HUMVEE's off roading in Afghanistan; you stick to the roads, or whatever is left of them.

What you see along these roads are old Soviet tanks that were defeated in battle; the crews almost always killed with no remorse by a nation under occupation

Sadly, as I look back at my time covering the war in Afghanistan, and consider where it is going today, my heart feels heavy. It makes me think of this excerpt from Kipling's famous poem, "The Young British Soldier".

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier _of_ the Queen!

-- Rudyard Kipling

Poems like this are inspired by the most horrific situations that people have ever endured. When you see the conditions that people in Afghanistan live under, you can not help but admire their survival ability. It is also easy to see why the average lifespan is 42, according to Wiki Answers.

I believe that with the right approach, truly setting out to win the hears and minds of the people the right way, we could help Afghanistan greatly.

It starts with increasing relations, and keeping American laisons in place who don't leave the country on cue every 12 months when a deployment ends, effectively terminating any progress that had been made in local relations.

Indiscriminate bombing is another huge issue that has turned many of our former allies against us. I have written before that a common saying among the brighter minds in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan is, "Have you created a terrorist today?"

That is what abuse brings; retaliation from people who used to like you. Big problem with people so dedicated to their cause that they don't really care if they live or die.

The Taliban have a clear history of being cruel toward women and many of my Muslim friends tell me the group is nothing but a band of criminals with a distorted mindset that is anything but a good example of their faith.

If it is possible to actually defeat them, then that would obviously bring a degree of peace to a seriously downtrodden gender.

We have to realize though, that what we are fighting for has little to nothing to do with our daily lives here in the United States.

Soon we will be at a point where the majority of people we are fighting were just children when the U.S. was attacked on September 11th, 2001.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

are you kidding February 26, 2009 4:35 pm (Pacific time)

wake up man!

Henry Ruark February 26, 2009 4:06 pm (Pacific time)

Stephen: Where were you when Imperial President contemptuously used "signing statement" on over ONE THOUSAND Congressional bills to disguise his refusal to perform Constitutional duty to enforce them in toto > Yrs re "rights" rings false as similar propaganda bats on bell of truth here or anywhere else. You abuse and disgrace channel by such unsupported, negative and unbalanced assertions. IF you can prove otherwise, ID self to Editor Tim for the direct contact you continue to refuse: 13th invitation. If "insulted", "assaulted", made into liar over and over, and still UN-ID'd, UN-direct, UN-responsive, must be close to truth OR you would act to reverse and rebut --right ? Note that word lower-case, please...not RIGHT...since by now so obviously right this way...

stephen February 26, 2009 7:42 am (Pacific time)

Tim: Sorry for the mix up yesterday. Thanks for clarification on your service, and thanks for the nice compliment. Not much more to say this morning, I woke to find that our second ammendment rights are about to be trampled on by the obama administration, so just gonna soak that in for awhile. Only so much a day I can take. :-)

Vic February 26, 2009 6:46 am (Pacific time)

Cool song, Stephen !

stephen February 25, 2009 7:59 pm (Pacific time)

I have been battling for years how to express Henry. How am I supposed to convince anyone that the CIA and Mossad were behind 911? That the Cia killed JFK? How do I tell people that our own government uses the false phrases such as war on drugs, and war on terror and they are doing nothing but what other leaders have used for many centuries. To control the people. They lie. How can I tell Tim he fought and possibly killed for lies? How can I explain that obama is another hitler using the same exact tactics he did? This is years of learning, how do I do it on blogs? Thanks for the invite, but I have to take some time to figure things out. I will try and post in pro manners in future. I agree, I have been a butt in regards to a few past posts. I get frustrated. Trying to do better. Until a person comes to the conclusion that our own government was behind 911, there isnt much to talk about. I am thinking about quitting blogging and just enjoy my family in these last days of what I hoped would be freedom, and liberty, and the beauty of the Constitution.
Tears are flowing, so gonna go now. How about this for ID Henry? :-) Its me.

Tim King: Stephen, as a matter of note I never served in Iraq or Afghanistan while with the military. I was a peacetime Marine in the 1980's and have only been to war as a photojournalist, thanks. The video is completely awesome and you are a fantastic singer and guitarist.

Dorsett Bennett February 25, 2009 6:24 pm (Pacific time)

Me thinks that George in Toronto may be matriculating in an insane asylum. :-)

Henry Ruark February 25, 2009 2:57 pm (Pacific time)

Stephen: Just noted yrs to Tim re "misconceptions" - so this to suggest ID to Tim for direct contact. Will appreciate friendly exchange, per standard LMA pattern re "critical" notes; have met and learned from many that way. Try me !!, friend Stephen, best way to prove your bonafides...

Henry Ruark February 25, 2009 2:53 pm (Pacific time)

Stephen et al: Your mea culpa-denial noted, and mine herewith if meaningful to you. Critical reading usually draws critical reporting re that reading, esp. if based on continued examples showing same patterns. "Lash" not personal,meant for those who abuse channel; once did Op Ed with title "If Shoe Fits, Hope It Pinches !" Consider same-shot here; if it does not fit, it should not pinch...

stephen February 25, 2009 10:37 am (Pacific time)

I thought Tims article was great. In fact, his article made headlines on which has a very big audience. Congratulations! As far as the criticism from Henry, I dont quite understand. As Tim wrote, all is not as it seems in regards to Iraq, and I was just showing a side most dont know of. Simple as that. I am not republican, nor democrat. I think both parties are overwhelmingly corrupt. I dislike the GOP much. I am a Constitutionalist, and am very concerned at the Constitution being widdled away as such a rapid pace. Not sure why I deserved such a lashing using unsubstantiated opinions.

Henry Ruark February 25, 2009 10:07 am (Pacific time)

Vic et al: Do believe you will agree that what makes this one great is the absolute responsibility and accountability already demonstrated by Editor Tim. His work we KNOW. The "tear-jerker" opposed for obvious denigrating affect is still more p/pander effort, from unknown source citing anything handy to make p/p point by damaging open, honest source. WHY else bother to cite and link ? Do you really believe it was in pursuit of more sharing and learning here ? Check out previous from same source for similar shots... If so, I have lucrative investment in bridge you may wish to grab, even though it goes nowhere --as does this link for any helpful purpose.

stephen February 25, 2009 9:42 am (Pacific time)

By the way..Tim's article made headlines on Congratulations, Mike Rivero has quite a big audience and a radio show.

stephen February 25, 2009 9:39 am (Pacific time)

Tim..forgive me if I am mistaken, but I do not see any "comments waiting" in the comment section. You are not going to post my comment? Henry can blast me with opinions but no truth and I cant defend his misconceptions? If so, just let me know, I just dont want to waste my time posting here if I have to wonder what will get posted or not posted.
Again, forgive me if I am mistaken, and I also forgot to post that I really liked your article. Keep it up

Tim King: Stephen, all comments do not make it through and I have approved comments from you today and not deleted any. I am still moving through approving them right now, there are a ton, thanks for being with us.

george in Toronto February 25, 2009 9:19 am (Pacific time)

Tim King--You got onething dead wrong--USA was not attacked on Sept 11 2001. It was not an attack but a planned wopper of a lie.When some folks lie being raped,go to jail. Get my drift? Everyone American that that set foot in Iraq and Afghanstan is a terrorist. :^(

Vic, February 25, 2009 7:08 am (Pacific time)

Thank you Tim for another awesome and insightful article!

Henry Ruark February 24, 2009 12:24 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Stephen's link turns up typical international press "tear-jerker" plainly written, for those who know how-and-why, to offset facts given us by direct observation report from editor we have reason to trust. THAT is NOT First Amendment "right" but clearly intended to denigrate, deny impact, and distort what Tim wrote. Proof is clearly evident in other similar comments by this and several other shill-types, with that attack on open sites like S-N part of national effort now clearly funded by ongoing GOP noise machine. moresoon on national effort to isolate and remediate this fascistic distortion of free press via abuse of First Amendment responsibility and accountability --which is why these types are always so adamant on UN-identification.

stephen February 24, 2009 9:19 am (Pacific time)

a different view:

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