Whither the Casualties?

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How many American Iraq/Afghanistan casualties has Faux News announced lately? None that I have seen. Today, Fox did mention the Army amputees 10 mile run. But no mention of G.I. deaths, September casualty counts, total Iraq war casualty count. Are we way over 3,800, or just a little bit over?

How often, lately, do you see any mention of American casualties on CNN? None, that I have seen.

HNN doesn't talk about casualties any more. There has been no mention on our local stations, Fox News 10 or NBC News 15, Mobile, Alabama.

I can't comment on print media much because I don't read it except for NYT headlines in email and references from LRC and other blogs. Now, these observations are my own and I don't watch a whole bunch; but the contrast from a few months back is stunning.

There is immense coverage of scandalous, shocking, outrageous, attention-getting behavior. It seems designed at generating rage, disgust, sympathy, and other intense, distracting emotions. We hear about mutiny and murder, law-breaking and flashing by femmes fatales, law-breaking famous athletes, missing young beauties, often found dead and raped, missing youngsters, usually found dead and raped, child-abuse — colorful, outraged non-descriptions of the video, with nationwide search for the suspect; we hear about the distraught lady seeking help who panics when denied airplane boarding then dies in custody within fifteen minutes; Princess Di is getting lots of coverage on 10th anniversary of her sensational death. Today, a shoot-out in Crandon, Wisconsin, five dead; police are no longer looking for the suspect.

Much seems aimed at dulling our sensitivities to such crassness and immorality — but that's another subject that has been covered elsewhere and needs to be explored further.

And there is lots of feel-good stuff about the current military activities. Praise, and some criticism, for the Petraeus report. A headline reads Surge Has Reduced Violence, Petraeus Tells Fox News. Bush reports there may be troop cuts of 30,000 by next summer.

Presidential primary campaigning, at least as for the top three candidates in each party, is getting lots of attention. But the neglect of Ron Paul seems most studied and intentional; same phenomenon on a different subject from this article. But I see a clear affinity in motivation between the driver(s) of these two phenomena.

O.K., we'll look at some origins of this kind of news. First and most logical place is the Department of Defense [sic]. They have a section called the American Forces Press Service which publishes finished articles pertinent to activities of the DoD. They have 55 articles listed from the 1st of October current through the afternoon of the 6th. No mention of casualties. From the 1st of August through the 30th of September this year there are no articles that mention casualties. All I checked was title and their two-line summary.

But looking back I selected February 2007 and in those twenty-eight days there were 78 deaths reported in the articles from the American Forces Press Services. One of those deaths occurred in the attempted bombing of VP Cheney at Bagram AB in Afghanistan. That certainly is a change in substance regarding casualties reported and strongly suggests a change in policy on the subject. Has anyone heard of such a change in policy?

Most of those articles in August and September were good news or feel-good news. Here are a few examples:

09/23/2007 — Violent Incidents Down; Al Qaeda "Off Balance" in Iraq

09/21/2007 — Iraqi Police Surge Dramatically Reduces Baghdad Violence

09/19/2007 — Iraqi Citizens Crucial in Locating Terror Mastermind, Securing Country

09/19/2007 — Iraqi, Coalition Forces Net Suspects, Kill Insurgents, Seize Weapons

09/16/2007 — Troop Surge Turns Momentum Against Terrorists, Official Says

09/13/2007 — Iranian-Made Mortar Likely Used in Recent Attack, General Says

09/06/2007 — Combat Lifesaver Course Trains Soldiers to Save Lives on Battlefield

09/05/2007 — Iraq Violence Drops as Economy Revives, Officials Say

08/16/2007 — Iraqi Officials Lead Recovery Efforts After Car-Bomb Attacks

08/16/2007 — Army Releases Suicide Data, Promotes Prevention Programs

On the Faux News web site there is a section headed War on Terror. On the 1st of October there were ninety titles under seven sub-headings, none on casualties in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

At CNN a site search for "Iraq" yielded eleven articles, for "terror" yielded ten articles; none of those mentioned casualties. HNN's site is a subset of CNN's.

In Mobile, Fox News 10 turned up no casualties, just the item with Bush's 30,000 troop reduction by next summer. NBC News 15 did have a report on its web site last 10th of September that seven U.S. soldiers died, all combat related.

A Google search for "terror-Iraq-casualties" turned up a report in the Boston Globe on the 30th of September of 15 G.I.s killed and gave their names. On the 1st of October the Houston Chronicle reported one died and the Baltimore Sun reported that the AP had calculated 3,083 soldiers had died in the Iraq war of combat related causes; they identified three. The Washington Post had run an item on the 29th of September that two thirds of the 3,100 combat deaths in Iraq had been caused by IEDs. Same day the Houston Chronicle had reported that, since the 29th of March, 2003, until now there had been more than 81,000 IED attacks in Iraq, including 25,000 in 2007.

There are sources available of the mortality occurrence reportage. The DoD has a section called News Releases. This reports the identity of the soldiers killed with rank, age, home town, date and location of demise, circumstances in the setting, organization, and a media contact number. It seems to become available after next of kin have been notified so there is a day or a few lag in that report.

Then, there is a site called icasualties.org which reports casualties, apparently taken in part from DoD but from other sources as well and presents the data in many permutations. And Antiwar.com has a page that lists the death casualties in various commutations.

The Washington Post has an interesting site that lists all of the same information but also has a picture of the fallen and for a garnish throws in a google map locating his home community. CNN has the same, listed alphabetically or by date, less the map.

But these have to be sought out. The American public was quite interested in the casualty figures and particulars. But, so far, there hasn't been a hue and cry from the lack of such information appearing in the MSM. What we don't see or have at hand we often don't notice or think of.

This, of course, brings us to some consideration as to the why of this phenomenon, the immense reduction in the coverage of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's fairly self-evident that such news isn't favorable to the producers of this disastrous, ostensible exercise in nation-building. With 70% of the U.S. population disapproving of the continuing combat and the Administration's desire for hegemony in the Middle East that's probably all we have to suppose.

How is this brought about? Is there a conspiracy? Is it just an inherent prejudice of the leading media providers (MSM)? …that came over them all about the same time — this late spring or summer? We'll never know, because if you postulate a conspiracy, you're considered a nut case. But I guess we can postulate a bit without being carted off to an insane asylum…, or to Gitmo.

Perhaps it is as simple as a policy change in the DoD, not wanting to wash their dirty linen in public any more they discontinued mention of the death toll in the American Forces Press Service Articles. If most of the MSM got much of their information from the American Forces Press Service then their source had dried up and they didn't notice, didn't care, or just chose not to say anything about it. But that seems too simplistic.

Perhaps somebody in DoD or the Administration…, maybe the Office of the Vice President, or some such agency just gently suggested to the MSM that it would look better if they quit reporting so much grim detail so regularly, you know, follow the lead of the AFPS. I mean, the MSM do like to cooperate, especially with the Administration they most love to hate.

Or could it be a little more sinister? Does somebody or some agency have some ability to coerce the MSM when they feel it is important enough — such as a propaganda war to minimize the bad impression the populace gets when exposed to all of the news all of the time.

Down over the years there have been lots of tales and books of intrigue by the OSS and the CIA in the realm of exerting influence (or here, or here) on the various organs of the media. There are allegations of bribes, threats, blackmail and other forms of wooing and coercing key members of the information industries. Who knows, maybe it continues, maybe the CIA and fellows do have tentacles that reach that far. It's a terrible thought but not so terrible as to be unthinkable. There I go, sounding like a conspiracy theorist.

That, of course, leads to the final question. Who are the fellows alluded to three lines up? The obvious candidates that come to mind are the world government cabal, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderburgers, EU, NAU, WTO, etc., etc. Or are they just the guys we see as the big government bad guys in the U.S., the neoconservatives, the insider top fellows of U.S. governmental branches of whatever party? And, whoever of those it may be, how do they control our CIA or whatever agency may be implementing this scheme?

Well, I don't have answers to those questions, nor do I want to.

April 25, 2007