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Reporting Afghanistan casualties

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Steve Herrmann Steve Herrmann | 17:13 UK time, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Recently, some of you have been in touch about how we report casualties in Afghanistan, some of those messages following Jon Williams' recent post here on the death of British journalist Rupert Hamer.

As a response, my colleague Caroline Wyatt, BBC defence correspondent, has written a post on our reporting of Taliban casualties.

---

Caroline WyattBy Caroline Wyatt

In our coverage of Afghanistan, we at BBC News do not generally report the numbers of Taliban or insurgent casualties and fatalities, because there are no reliable or verifiable source figures available.

Without accurate figures, any estimates or reports would be speculative - and likely to be inaccurate.

We do, however, report the deaths of British service-people and of servicemen and women from other nations within the Nato-ISAF coalition, as well as the number of injured when those figures become available, because reliable figures are released regularly by Nato and the individual coalition members.

The BBC also reports civilian casualties within the conflict in Afghanistan, while trying to make clear that it is often difficult to gauge exact numbers, and that those numbers may change with time as initial reports of civilian deaths are more closely investigated.

Within more remote provinces of Afghanistan, reliable numbers may be unclear for some time after the original reports of deaths are reported or made public.

Any apparent inconsistency in the reporting of deaths resulting from the military campaign in Afghanistan is not the effect of bias on the part of the BBC or its correspondents or editors.

It reflects the fact that it is Nato policy not to deal in "enemy body-count" in Afghanistan, for a variety of reasons.

Nato says that it does not "keep body-counts" of insurgents killed by coalition forces because it "does not regard 'body-count' as a metric of progress", and it believes the number of insurgent deaths or injuries "does not equal success" in a counter-insurgency campaign the main stated aim of which is now to protect the Afghan people.

Nato and its individual coalition partners do, however, release news of each ISAF nation's own military fatalities to each nation's media - hence the reporting of Nato casualties.

Nato says the Alliance does so because it believes that a free press is one of the central tenets of democracy, and that the public in every troop-contributing nation has the right to that information on its armed-forces activities.

The only exception is that Nato will, from time to time, release information on what it terms "high-value targets", when members of the insurgent leadership are targeted - information which the BBC reports.

BBC News endeavours to report the conflict in Afghanistan fairly and impartially. Without accurate figures on Taliban deaths being made available, we are unable to report those with any degree of certainty - and so prefer not to mislead with guess-work.

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Steve Herrmann is editor of the BBC News website.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I note that Ms Wyatt's comments are an attempt by the BBC to "wash its hands" of its obligation to report on conflicts impartially.

    No one can question the importance of reporting the deaths and injuries of British service personnel, especially in conflict zones, and the BBC has made it plain that it regards this is a profound function rather than a duty.

    But the argument put forward regarding the Taleban is specious. There were no "verifiable sources" for much of the data that the BBC carried about the riots in Iran, the carnage in Gaza, but it didn't stop you reporting allegations, carrying amateur video footage, or spicing up misleading photographs. There are many other cases of one sided footage in stories.

    The Taleban are Afghans; they are fighting for what they believe in as they have over many decades and centuries. Their ideas differ from NATO's ideas but who is "right" and who is "wrong", and is it the BBC's function to lay down a moral code?

    "Nato says the Alliance does so because it believes that a free press is one of the central tenets of democracy, and that the public in every troop-contributing nation has the right to that information on its armed-forces activities."

    No doubt a "free" press would wish to determine why the Taleban are so anxious to stop the west imposing its imperfective democratic freedom within its borders. What is so different about this fight and the one involving the Soviets? The Taleban do not like unwelcome guests - much as the BBC spends lots of money on security to stop unwelcome guests getting into its offices. The very least you could do is to respect the view of many people that you do not report on Afghanistan fairly. That means not resorting to writing tosh in defending the indefensible.

  • Comment number 2.

    Angel, the Talibs do horrible things to girls and women.

    In addition to which, they started this fight. They have no qualms about marching into marketplaces and blowing up people who are just trying to survive in the middle of the chaos & bloodshed.

    I find it very difficult to feel anything for them comparable to what I feel for their victims.

    Kind of like with the Nazis.

  • Comment number 3.

    Maria 2.

    Yep, the Taliban are not nice, they blow people up, as did the West in operation Gladio, the Israelis in operation Suzannah and the USS Liberty, the French with the Rainbow Warrier and 'kind of like with the Nazis' activities by others over many years.

    "....they started this fight...".

    Interesting point, would you kindly advise; when they started the fight, how they started the fight, with whom did they start the fight and why did they start the fight, if known.

    Finally, it is pleasant that you feel for the victims; killed, maimed, etc, do we take it that includes the victims of the NATO mob.

    Ta.

  • Comment number 4.

    #2

    I presume your major source of news is your US "free press", Maria, funded by interests that are hardly "catholic" in nature or deed. The Taleban have been fighting "invaders" for centuries Maria. Prior to the US bombing and sacking of Iraq, the women there had gained concessions from Saddam Hussein concerning higher education and office. They lost all those in the US led changes to democratic processes.

    Perhaps the Taleban get their news from more reliable sources than you do.

  • Comment number 5.

    The whole media circus surrounding the conflicts has given us and the world one resounding message: IF you are Western, white and Jewish or Christian (or Western atheist!) then your life matters. If you are none of the above then your life does not matter. We do not see them as living, feeling humans because they are never portrayed that way. The number of Afghans that have died at our hands, or because of the instability that we created, is truly shocking and profoundly unjust. Don't get me wrong - any person directly responsible for 9/11, Madrid, Bali etc. deserves all they get in my opinion. But exactly how many of the Afghans that have died in this conflict were proven to be directly responsible for any of those atrocities? Very, very few I'll wager. The rest are simply fighting us because we're in their country bossing them around and trying to force democracy on them at gunpoint in exactly the same way as the Soviets tried to force communism on them. How many of the people in Gaza were directly responsible for firing rockets into Israel? Very few, but we supported the Israeli response, which was to fire rockets into densely-populated areas. How would the world have reacted if we had bombed Dublin or Catholic areas of Belfast just to get at a few terrorists?

    The people of Afghanistan did not 'start the fight'! The 9/11 terrorists were Saudi (bin Laden and others), with a smattering of other nationalities - none of them were Afghan. The majority of people in Afghanistan have no allegiance to al Qaeeda, (and it's hardly their fault that bin Laden chose to hide himself in their country. If he did.). The Taliban rulers may well be evil theocrats who deserve to be thrown out of office, but the people that are dying are no more Taliban at heart than any other political party. They have been dragged into a conflict that they didn't start and now see the West as the enemy. I don't blame them. We're the ones pointing the guns at them in their own country. I'd be the same if an occupying force did the same over here.

    What the BBC could try to do without being political is to get across the human angle of the Afghan deaths in the same way as they do with the deaths of the British. They are people too. Relatives, family and children miss them too. They are not our enemy. We should not continue to treat their deaths so lightly.

  • Comment number 6.

    #2 Maria

    I think its a bit rich to say 'they started this fight' Afghanistan was left as a failed state by the US after the soviet war. The Americans bankrolled and armed the muhajadeen and when the soviets were defeated the US left them to it.

    Those fighters incidently went to to be put on a list called 'Al Qaeda' Osama Bin Laden came in to the picture and gave money for hospitals etc to sort out the mess the US left behind.

    In terms of 911 the Americans asked the Taliban to hand over Osama, the Taliban said:-

    'okay send us evidence he is guilty and we will start official extradition proceedings'

    Somthing that would be standard practise in any country. But they US refused mainly because they had no evidence, in fact they still have no evidence Osama had anything to do with 911 other than a few blatently fake 'videos'.

    So the US invaded and the rest is history. You can hardly say the Taliban started this war and at least they mostly kill NATO troops somthing they are legally entitled to do as they are under occupation.

  • Comment number 7.

    I can't see why the number of armed Taliban who are injured or killed cannot be known. Simply count those carrying, or responsible for discharging (if identifiable), weapons.

    It might not be entirely 100% accurate, but it would be better than nothing.

  • Comment number 8.

    The excuses for not reporting Taleban casualties are weak, and Ms Wyatt is evasive about non-Brit NATO casualties.

    The BBC reporting creates the impression that the Brits are just walking around Afghanistan being blown up by IEDs.

    They never report on the Brits actually firing at anyone. OK, I understand that it would be difficult to give exact figures on Taleban casualties, but the BBC gives the impression there aren't any. That just can't be true. Even if it's difficult to get exact figures, that never stopped you giving numbers about, say, Gaza, Haiti, Nigeria and so on.

    And then there's the failure to cover other Nato countries' activities in Afghanistan. The Dutch, Danes and Canadians, notably, are very active, and taking casualties. There was a bit of a report about Dutch attitudes to the war a few weeks ago (reflecting the BBC's agenda, of course), but nothing about their or Danish or Canadian troops fighting, or their casualties.

    Ms Wyatt is utterly wrong about this. The BBC is failing to provide the complete picture, either through poor journalism, or because it's decided that it wants to portray the British troops as on their own and on the run, helpless, being picked off one by one by the Taleban.

  • Comment number 9.


    In this case, from the viewer's pov, (or at least mine) the affect is to give the impression that we are losing the lives of our splendid young men whilst the Taliban are invincible. Whether the Beeb likes it or not, the effect on national morale is devastatating, compounded by the toll announced in Parliament week by week, the inward flights of the coffins and silent passage of the hearses through magnificent WB, our friends in great need.

    All this is gives the Taliban a propaganda coup before they even fire a shot.

    What we have never accepted is that our forces are fighting a WAR; not holding a peace mission.

    Is the Beeb, and Caroline Wyat in particular, not capable of grilling the generals? Quote the generals. Pin their ears to the deck. Any general who does not know how many of his enemy he has taken out of the field should be sacked and never allowed near a soldier again. Put a general up against a camera weekly to give an accounting. He'll soon find out.

    Or is there something they and the BBC do not want us to know?

  • Comment number 10.

    9- Walrus
    'Is the Beeb, and Caroline Wyat in particular, not capable of grilling the generals? Quote the generals. Pin their ears to the deck. Any general who does not know how many of his enemy he has taken out of the field should be sacked and never allowed near a soldier again. Put a general up against a camera weekly to give an accounting. He'll soon find out.

    Or is there something they and the BBC do not want us to know?'

    I'd say the BBC wants to present a certain picture, and does not want us to know the truth. The reporting is clearly designed to paint a certain picture.

    If the truth is that our troops are just walking round being blown up by the invincible Taleban, pretty much without firing a shot, then fine. That being said, go on YouTube and it's easy to find footage of British (as well as Danish, Dutch and Canadian troops fighting very aggressively).

    Now, unless our troops and their NATO colleagues have serious marksmanship issues, or the Taleban are bullet-proof, I'd say the Taleban have to be taking casualties.

    The BBC clearly just doesn't want to discuss those casualties, or the fact that the Dutch, Danes and Canadians are heavily involved in the fighting. The BBC has done its usual trick, of adopting an editorial line, and selecting the facts which suit that line. Anything else just gets ignored.


  • Comment number 11.

    Apple-Eater wrote:
    "Even if it's difficult to get exact figures, that never stopped you giving numbers about, say, Gaza, Haiti, Nigeria and so on."

    There are lots of international reporters working independently in all of these places, how many reporters are there working independently in Afghanistan ?
    I'd bet it's not many as the only reports we ever seem to get back are from embedded journalists and those who are working in the safe zone around Helmand.

    Even when the situation in Gaza gets to its most intense there are still journalists working in the area who can talk to people who have witnessed the events and some who witness them themselves, this just isn't possible in Afghanistan so the media are entirely dependent on what they are told from the military and the few sources they have within the Afghan population.

    It's not just the BBC who don't report enemy deaths, I've not seen any network in Britain, the U.S. or any of the coalition nations report the deaths of opposition fighters and even the internet is a poor source of information on this topic with estimates of Taliban deaths ranging from 5,000 to 150,000 on some of the sites I've visited when trying to find out further details about this.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ Apple-Eater, post #8;

    "The excuses for not reporting Taleban casualties are weak, and Ms Wyatt is evasive about non-Brit NATO casualties."

    Speaking of weak excuses; could we please hear your explanation for your inability to type "Taleban Casualties" and/or "Nato Casualties" into the search box at the top of the screen? If you were competent enough to do so, you'd quickly realise that they are regularly reporting both and that therefore your statement above is basically nonsense.

    Angel might also want to try this; he/she might then realise that the BBC do in fact report estimates - occasionally from what you might well term "unveriable sources" - on the level of Taleban and Afghan casualties.

    There simply are more reliable figures available for Allied casualties than there are for the Taleban. Apart from anything else, nobody was entirely sure to begin with how many loyal Taleban fighters there were at the start of the invasion, and nobody's been counting since. There's no "official" source of Taleban casualties now that they have been all but totally removed from government. It's all just guesswork. The two sides are never going to add up, then, in the way that many correspondants here seem to want them to.

    Impartiality does not mean that the BBC needs to doctor its reporting so that both "sides" in any one conflict or political issue receive "equal" airtime and sympathy. It means you need to pass on whatever information you can get, without interfering with it, and let us make up our own minds on what's going on. If there's more information coming out of one side than the other, your reporting ought to reflect that. And you do that - consistently - very well.

    Steve; almost as frustrating as seeing these agenda-driven posters keep accusing you of bias, is seeing you jump every time and rush to pander to them and give legitimacy to their views. Most people who accuse the Beeb of bias are really saying "The BBC isn't mirroring precisely what I've already decided the situation really is, in their reporting". Their tiny minds just can't seem to cope with the possiblity that this means they could simply be wrong, or biased themselves. Therefore, they lash out at you hoping that you'll believe the nonsense they spout and start weighting your reporting towards their own political opinions for fear of being labelled as biased.

    Angel illustrates this nicely, right at the end of his first post;

    "The very least you could do is to respect the view of many people that you do not report on Afghanistan fairly."

    No, you don't. You don't have to start giving credence to every lunatic view that gets thrown at you. Just because "many people" have decided that something is the case, doesn't actually mean that it is.

    Please stop wasting my licence fee by paying your reporters to write blogs justifying yourselves in the face of accusations that you - and anybody else with half a brain and even a scrap of objectivity - knows full well that you're not guilty of. Thanks.

  • Comment number 13.

    From working in businesses alongside wives, girlfriends and friends of military personnel on active service from the Falklands onwards my belief is that they are constantly anxious for news, any news, of how campaigns are going and what – and most importantly WHOM - any casualties are.

    They live in dread of an official visit or phone call from a friend bearing bad news. The speedy release of fatality numbers and identities is appreciated, particularly if it means their loved on is still alive. For those that lose loved ones there is no easy way of receiving such news.

    I support the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan. I don’t believe this is a war where the outcome will be decided by which side suffers most casualties.
    The Taliban are fighting on their home turf and the tribal areas are rich recruiting grounds; given the coalitions air superiority it’s inevitable that the Taliban will be taking greater losses than the coalition in most engagements.
    The Taliban don’t release casualty figures, given the nature of guerrilla warfare it’s unlikely they even can even gather such information for more than a small area. I also understand coalition difficulties in also building such a picture of Taliban casualties.

    Nor are the Taliban particularly influenced by public opinion amongst their supporters, or by that in the UK.

    If the media didn’t report fully news of British and coalition casualties then they could be charged with covering them up to minimise the impact on public opinion or to support government policy. I’d rather they were reported honestly.

    The support for this war, and any outcome of it, shouldn’t depend on the number of casualties.

    There was a good reason for entering Afghanistan (9/11); there are continuing good reasons for attempting to produce a long term outcome that best serves security in that region (and in the west) and denies Al Qadea the opportunity to re-establish training camps in Afghanistan.

    Let us not forget that 2,998 innocent people died as a result of the attacks on the Trade Towers and in the airliners that crashed that day.

    Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2002/sep/10/alqaida.september112001

    There are those that oppose the war on principles pacifist grounds. A view I respect, but do not share.

    Then there are the conspiracy theorists that believe that 9/11 was committed by the Bush administration and Israel; that radical Islamic groups committed to terrorism do not exist, that Bin Laden is played by a CIA actor and so on. Being grounded in reality I do not agree with them. (I also don't feed Trolls.)

    If you want to read one book about the rise of radical Islamic groups in the Middle East and of Bin Laden’s long involvement I suggest:
    ‘Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam’ by Jason Burke. Penguin. Paperback.

  • Comment number 14.

    I believe it is very dangerous to put all Taleban in one group, as does Ms Wyatt's comments. There are many factions including those supported by the current President. Some are fundamentalists, some extreme and often accused, with little evidence, of being close to Al Qaeda, but many are moderate with no wish to introduce or maintain the more unacceptable face of the extremists. Many move around seeking a more settled existence away from the fighting.

    This conflict is a result of the US invasion in 2001, said to be hunting for Osama bin Laden, which was when the Taleban leadership was thrown out of office. The problem remains as to whether or not ObL was ever in Afghanistan, something that the US clearly do not want, along with 911, investigated with any substance or integrity. It is notable that the BBC's recent documentary into an ObL conspiracy [sic] did not even touch on the minutiae of establishing such a connection in 2001.

    There is plenty of evidence of numbers being collated on civilian, military and Taleban casualties of fighting in Pakistan, so why is the same not possible in Afghanistan? In my view it appears that each Alliance death is considerably more important than a host of civilian or Taleban militant deaths, collateral or otherwise, and that the BBC is avoiding reporting on these whilst hiding behind the moth eaten excuse of accuracy.

    The BBC simply do not want to know. Why not? Who is funding the BBC?

  • Comment number 15.

    Maybe the fact that the BBC seems to have access at will, to the Taleban for interview and filming speaks for itself. Is the BBC regarded as a handy and willing propaganda weapon by the insurgents ? Is this why the BBC seems reluctent to report enemy deaths ? Does the BBC regard the Taleban as a legitimate source of news ? It would be a whole lot better if the BBC were to give some credit to our troops for destroying (despite the best efforts of the government ) the people trying to kill them. The rights or wrongs of the war are irrelevant, we the British people sent our troops into battle and should be giving them all the support they need. This includes making sure that our media does not give succour to the enemy.We may have reservations about the war, but the people who elected this government to do their bidding are responsible and must either support the army in every way, or tell the government to desist and withdraw from Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 16.

    Just a general unrelated comment on news articles.

    Articles should have the writers names under the title, so they can be held accountable.

    All articles should have full links and references/sources to facts/statements in the article in the form of footnotes, again so that we know they aren't just making stuff up.

    As a BBC license payer, I request the right to error free and fully referenced news articles. This is how journalism should be.

    Regards,
    Dave

  • Comment number 17.

    12 "Ms Wyatt is evasive about non-Brit NATO casualties."

    Speaking of weak excuses; could we please hear your explanation for your inability to type "Taleban Casualties" and/or "Nato Casualties" into the search box at the top of the screen? If you were competent enough to do so, you'd quickly realise that they are regularly reporting both and that therefore your statement above is basically nonsense."

    OK, leaving aside your rather pointless rudeness, you clearly don't listen to the BBC news. If you did, you would realise that all you ever hear is the announcement that another British soldier has been killed, and the relatives informed, then maybe details about the soldier's unit.

    What you don't hear is anything about the Brits killing Taleban, or anything much about what other Nato troops are up to. Take a quick look at YouTube, and you'll see that the Brits and other Nato troops are fighting, and presumably inflicting casualties.

    Listen to the BBC, and you'll get the impression the Brits are on their own, and never get to fire a shot.

  • Comment number 18.

  • Comment number 19.

    Caroline Wyatt is an excellent reporter and must have qualms about defending this line. If all we are to be told is what NATO is willing to tell us, we could look it up on their web site. We do not need to send reportees into a war zone to tell us that.
    This is nothing to do with justifiying one or other political fight. It is about treating human beings with equality and dignity. It rankles when lengthy reportage covering the death of a British soldier masks the reality that a lot of people are dying who are not british soldiers. I hold no brief for the Taliban, indeed awful things have ben and are being don in that name. However, we must recognise that human beings are dying here. Do we love them? Do we care about them?
    Maybe you could make some educated guesses Caroline. I would not hold it against you.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thank you Ms Wyatt for taking the time to respond to some of the recent questions posed on this blog.

    To be honest i had wondered if any one actually read the contributors comments and quite frankly i wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

    These blogs have become a soap box for conspiracy theorists and narcissistic nut jobs who feel that there opinions are so important & dangerous that anyone who disagrees with it, from the beeb to other contributors must be in the thrall of the government or some shadowy one-world puppet master.

    As you will gather from the replies you have received your attempts to address the concerns of your contributors has been largely thrown back in your face with more ridiculous questions now pertaining to your own personal integrity. I'm sorry this has happened, you seem pretty genuine to me.

    Proof once again that you can never convince a conspiracy theorist there is no conspiracy, only that you are part of it.

    I have heard thast the BBC are going to cut back on internet services. Both this well meaning blog and the ridiculous, surreal circus of angry men that is Nick Robinsons page would be a good place to start.

    Aside from the Journalists articles its been a long time since i saw anything worthwhile on either of them.

  • Comment number 21.

    Some contributors to this discussion, in their evident hostility to the presence of western forces in Afghanistan, are ignoring the wishes of the Afghan people themselves.

    The great majority of Afghans would love to be rid of the Taliban as they remember only too well the misery and suffering they endured during the movement's brutal rule. They are not deceived by suggestions that some may now be "moderates".

    This is why Caroline Wyatt is quite right: until the Taliban can be relied upon to put out accurate casualty figures, there is no point in publicising them.

    She will acknowledge, though, that the BBC, in its commitment to balanced reporting, must continue to report the errors that NATO forces make from time to time, such as the bombing of civilian villages which result in civilian deaths.

  • Comment number 22.

    20 "To be honest i had wondered if any one actually read the contributors comments and quite frankly i wouldn't blame you if you didn't."

    No doubt you would sooner everyone just agreed with the BBC and didn't question it. Your attitude sounds very obsequious, almost 1930s-like. Fact is, the BBC has an agenda on Afghanistan, so its reports are slanted to reflect that. It's done the same loads of times before, on issues as diverse as immigration and multiculturalism, through Iraq to Global Warming and alcohol.

    It decides on an editorial line, and picks and chooses its facts to suit.

    Really, do you people not find it a little bit weird that the BBC, this organisation which never tires of telling us how comprehensive its news coverage is, can't find space to report about, say, the Danes and Canadians in action, or taleban casualties.

    A quick look and YouTube, and you see non-Brit Nato troops in action. And I find it very hard to believe that there are never enemy casualties who could be filmed.

    No, the BBC has decided the Brits are losing in Afghanistan, and they want that to happen, so they're doing their bit to undermine morale in the UK.

  • Comment number 23.

    #21

    So the Afghan Taleban are not Afghans? Are you serious?

    So there has been a FAIR election has there? When was that chrisatkent?

  • Comment number 24.

    @ Angel_In_Transit, post #14;

    "...a host of civilian or Taleban militant deaths, collateral or otherwise, and that the BBC is avoiding reporting on these..."

    Again; put "Afghanistan Taliban killed" or "Afghanistan civillians death" into the search box, to see why the BBC are not "avoiding" reporting anything of the sort. Why are you so keen to keep parroting a message that anybody who is capable of using the Search Box can tell, within about 30 seconds, is a lie?

    Angel_In_Transit, it seems, simply does not want to know. Why not? Who is funding Angel_In_Transit...?

  • Comment number 25.

    No doubt you would sooner everyone just agreed with the BBC and didn't question it. Your attitude sounds very obsequious , almost 1930s-like.

    ----

    great. personal insults. i rest my case.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24

    Well Khrystalar, at least I don't parrot like a broken record, I did do my research, and the BBC is NOT a reliable source of information or, a better word, NEWS. Here are the crucial words from the opening piece "[The BBC] do not generally report the numbers of Taliban or insurgent casualties and fatalities, because there are no reliable or verifiable source figures available". The crucial words are "generally" at the beginning and "no" at the end.

    And, had you quoted the whole of my paragraph, you would see I referred to incidents in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan which have NOT been reported by the BBC. Whether these qualify as unsubstantiated in the BBC's view is immaterial because the BBC have carried unsubstantiated stories before, including you may recall, five security officers killed at Delhi airport. This is not about exceptions - it is about exceptions that prove the rule.

    Do parrots really know what they are saying?

  • Comment number 27.

    Angel, No. 4:

    You presume wrong.

    Saddam Hussein was no friend of the Taliban. Neither were the Taliban friends of Hussein. They are, however, friends of Muqtada Al-Sadr.

    There is no future scenario in which there is room for those who maim girls and blow up their schools, any more than there will be for the Mexican drug barons who commit grisly decapitations and dismemberments.

    My entire family marched against the war in Iraq, five times, in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition that was a key sponsor of the marches in SF also endorses all kinds of beliefs, practices and attitudes that we simply cannot support.

    Geert Wilder's film, "Fitna," says many things Muslims hate to hear that they unfortunately don't do enough to end. There is no inherent contradiction between opposing war, opposing the war in Iraq (and we have a President who voted against it while Senator), rejecting the policies & doctrines of Bush-Cheney -- and being vehemently opposed to the Taliban.

    No reasonable person can wish for anything but the defeat of the Taliban. And the more determined they are to commit atrocities against unarmed civilians, the more zealously they proclaim their exceedingly primitive interpretation of the Qu'ran, the more inevitable their ultimate destruction becomes.

    So there is not choice anymore: the Talibs themselves made sure of that.

    I don't care how many of them die. Since they are brainwashing their children, I don't care how many of their children die, either. Their ideology of hatred for women and non-fanatical Muslims, their visceral addiction to "slaughtering infidel dogs" (which is how they see us) leaves us no choice but to end their dominion over any furlong of this earth.

    And no, I don't care how many opium farmers or opium harvesters or opiate distributors die, either.

    Any more than I would care if those two sadistic, cannabis-fed brats had been killed, together with their parents, for the sexual torture and sadistic battery of two little boys who had done them absolutely nothing except for showing up on the same stretch of road.

    People who commit acts of extreme cruelty -- fanatics crazy enough to take on the most technologically advanced military superpowers in history, relying upon their suicidal detonations to win a war that should never have been attempted -- do not deserve my pity, compassion or regret over their wasted lives.

    They have shown how little they value the sanctity of others' lives, how easy it is for them to dismember and shred the bodies of little children. The sooner they are defeated, the sooner the bloodshed will end.

  • Comment number 28.

    No. 20, goldCaesar: You attack people for being "obsequious" to the BBC, yet you yourself are clearly uncomfortable with the existence -- and free, unfettered speech -- of people whose opinions you do not share.

    You disapprove of the BBC, ergo of anyone who does is "obsequious" to it, and mentally trapped in the "1930's"; at the same time, opinions you personally disapprove of must be the work of "conspiracy theorists or narcissistic nut jobs".

    In other words, there in only One Correct Position: Yours, and it requires detesting the BBC as well.

    Maybe some of us prefer the BBC to certain other sources for a reason.

    Maybe the value of these blogs and fora is not just the opportunity they provide to vent or debate, but also the improved market research data they broadly provide to the media industry, as well as sociologists and politicians.

    Maybe there are voices outside the national borders or outside the framework of the system, or systems, that actually need to intersect, in a common space, in order to improve planning, productivity, outlook and diplomacy. Maybe there is value in getting instant feedback from all corners of the world, in addition to the more deliberate, carefully-calibrated input of professional, salaried correspondents who must take time to book travel, reach a certain point, research, assess, filter and articulate information.

    Things are not all as cut and dry as they seem. To be sure, you have your reasons for wishing for more from the BBC. Those of us who have lived all over have our reasons for valuing the BBC on its own terms: it compares very favourably to many other official news services that are, for one thing, much slower & less comprehensive in their reactions to events or developments.

    There is no reason to attack people whose opinions are different from yours. Maybe these opinions are rooted in experiences different from yours, that it would be worthwhile to integrate into your exploration of reality as you grow in depth of perception and range of understanding.

  • Comment number 29.

    goldCaesar, No. 25: Apologies. I inadvertently conflated your comments (Nos. 20 & 25) with your antagonist's (No. 22).

    What I wrote applies to Apple-Eater (No. 22) rather than to you.

    In its broadest sense, however, it applies to everyone.

    To those who have lived all their lives in the UK, please allow me to add, as someone who has only started visiting your blessed shores recently: you are very lucky to have things as they are in your country, even for all the obvious imperfections.

    Many other places, even the USA, for example, where I have lived ever since 1965 (coming as a young child on a legal visa from Argentina), are in much, much worse shape than you are. Sad to say, but true.

    Appreciate what you have even as you work to improve it.

    Your friend...

  • Comment number 30.

    #27

    I have seen your double standards already, Maria, and you live in a country that harbours hatred, racism, violence, child molestation, child killings, drug killings, ghettos, etc etc, alongside but out of sight of its wealthy and protesting middle classes. You should flinch with every killing Maria because the next one could be you or a member of your family.

    You live in a country which bears the stain of lies told about 911, a rigged Commission, and a white washed investigation of what happened in New York. You live in a country which proclaimed the election of a black President when the colour of his skin (or even his gender) shouldn't matter one little bit. You live in a country which produces propaganda as if it is responsible news.

    Perhaps none of it is the fault of ordinary Americans, just as I would like to believe that most people in the UK do not want the killings to continue, no matter who is dying. I'd like to believe that we want to see an end to the US dependency on arms for their economic survival, because we will get nowhere while there are guns and worse.

    The Taleban have been in Afghanistan a long, long time and if you read some of my other entries you will see why you are so very wrong to condemn them. They are people and they have their ideal. You disagree with them but I stand firm in condemning you for wanting to kill them. It makes you no better than them, if not worse.

  • Comment number 31.

    #30
    Your insincerity is staggering.

  • Comment number 32.

    I don't care if Taliban losses can't be verified. If a bunch of sqaudies return saying they saw action and counted bodies, I want to know - THEN it can be reported as 'unverified'

  • Comment number 33.

    Maria at 27 (and the rest)

    At about your eighth paragraph you say you do not care how many of their children die.

    I take it that you are referring to the children of the Taliban. As an extension, would I be correct in thinking that you have the same view of other fanatical religious persuasions or fanatics within any religious group who express similar hate and/or desire to kill those outside their particular group or control their actions and thoughts?

    I would suspect that appears to naturally follow your expressed sentinments, in which case you would have many furlongs of our earth to clear.

    One problem Maria: Perhaps I can relate a report from a year or so back in Afghanistan when a misile landed amidst a wedding party of about 40 or so. One Grandad was walking with his small grandaughter and holding her hand. When all cleard the only part of his grandaughter that he could see was her hand in his.

    One other problem Maria; you see, many of the diabolical killings are apparently done by 'our' agent provocateurs and credit is claimed by them citing some 'Islamist" mob. You do not seem to have appreciated my reference to operation 'Gladio" in Italy in the 1970's. I suggest that you attend to some research into false flag events over history. One example of this was in Iraq some years ago when two of 'ours' shot and killed some Iraqi Police officers, were arrested and their vehicle found to have explosives etc. They were not in uniform. They were put in prison and the Brits demanded that they be realesed and that was refused. Then the Brits sent in the tanks to spring them from the Prison. The Front page of the SMH reported the British attack on the prison with some pictures of the first failed attempt showing the British tank on fire. Story sought of disappeared Maria. But what were those "Brits" up to and why did they kill police and why did the British attack the prison. Agent provocateurs being sprung perhaps, before they spilt the beans??

    Another problem I have some difficulty with in considdering your attitudes: the Taliban you want cleared, are they the same Taliban that the West was mates with when the Soviets were trying to do what you now want done?

    I take it that reported allied discusions with these people is not what you would like to see succeed, as they will maintain their attitude to womed no doubt.

    Peace Maria, I suggest you try and find it.

    For all the others who have opined on 9/11, I suggest you look up our neighbourly blog here; "The conspircay Files: osama Bin Laden. Dead or Alive" and look up the link that YNDA has in comment 61. Seems that many need to be informed.

  • Comment number 34.

    Angel, the key tenets of what you are saying about the BBCs reporting are flawed: if there were reliable sources of information (and here we must assume that the Taleban are NOT a reliable source, various quotes underestimating the casualties within their ranks, whilst exaggerating the number of 'civilians' killed in the area can hardly be considered as accurate, or indeed impartial). The BBC has the resouces available to it from military commanders, who make estimates of the casualties inflicted by their soldiers. And yes, the BBC could give more prominence to those estimates and yes the news stories are swayed towards UK and coalition casualities. But we live in the UK, and those casualties are a wound inflicted in the side of our country and hence British people are naturally more concerned about those.

    I don't particularly care about who did what to whom and when or the rabid showboating thats gone on in this line of argument. 9/11 was a monstrous crime committed against a civilian population, as were the 7/7 attacks in London and in Barcelona, civilian deaths in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bali. . . the list is huge. Casualties in this war are awful - regardless of whose side they are on. However, when it comes to supporting sides wouldn't it be better to back those that are trying to stop scenes of mass-execution a la Halabja, or Kabul, or to stop the deliberately systematic degrading of women and children? The easiest way for the Taleban to get 'Western' forces out of Afghanistan is to ensure peace and stability is in place, but then, that wouldn't pander to the ethical mores of the deluded individuals who believe that they can actually win this fight.

    The BBC, as flawed as it can be, can only work on what they can get, rather than heresay and rumour.

  • Comment number 35.

    #30, 34

    I suggest you read some history books about Afghanistan and invading armies. In the nineteenth century Britain lost a whole army in retreat, and the might of the whole Soviet army couldn't stifle a well armed (by the USA) band of guerilla fighters. Afghanistan is not new to invasion, and it has repelled every one over a thousand years.

    The USA are not in Afghanistan because of the ethics of gender and you are mind numbingly stupid if you believe that lie. Read up on what issues women in Iraq now have and learn. The USA are there to control the flow of precious fuel and energy, to force the market to dance to its tune. That is why they are prepared to throw all those young men and women to the wolves. Is this to be the first defeat for the Afghanistan people - it will be if they bow to US style democracy.

    Look in your own backyard if you want to find inequality.

    And I don't believe you would understand sincerity if it bit you.

  • Comment number 36.

    Maria A, no.20

    "Those of us who have lived all over have our reasons for valuing the BBC on its own terms: it compares very favourably to many other official news services that are, for one thing, much slower & less comprehensive in their reactions to events or developments

    There is no reason to attack people whose opinions are different from yours. Maybe these opinions are rooted in experiences different from yours, that it would be worthwhile to integrate into your exploration of reality as you grow in depth of perception and range of understanding. "

    That's incredibly condescending. One reason I have my doubts about the BBC is because I travel a lot, and speak a ruck of foreign languages. So I know there are other ways of reporting news, and other points of view. Many who defend the BBC compare it only to other English-speaking, mainly US, media. That reveals their limited cultural horizons.

    You also make the typical faux-liberal assumption that YOUR views are ok, and can't be criticised.

    You also fail to realise that much of the criticism of the BBC isn't necessarily for the views it holds - it's the fact that it has strong views on a number of subjects, adopts an editorial line, and then picks and chooses its facts to fit.

    I wouldn't want the BBC to be going all gung-ho in favour of our troops in Afghanistan, or to back Israel, or be openly and consistently critical of, say, warmists or immigration. I just don't want to see it adopting editorial pov's which mean that it is constantly critical of our troops and Israel, wedded to the warmists, supportive of immigration all the time.

    And my main criticism of the BBC is its obsession with the US, and failure to report other regions adequately.

    So please, don't even think of assuming that you are culturally open and liberal, and that those who criticise the BBC aren't.

  • Comment number 37.

    Well, there you have it.

    A fund to be set up to PAY the Taliban to lay down their arms.

    I must digest this one.

    At least Mr Brown has guaranteed the return of the Tory Party.

  • Comment number 38.

    #37

    With that kind of spin I am tempted to say who needs New Labour when the Tories can do an even better job of obfuscating the truth about Afghanistan.

    That is the problem with the UK at the moment no one who is in a position of influence seems to care what the truth is any more and I include the BBC in that. "This fight is set to last fifteen years" - is Karzai trying to pull an Afghan rug over our eyes!

    Vote NOTA or seek out your candidate and connect them to a polygraph before you entertain another five years of connivance.

  • Comment number 39.

    30 - Angel
    "Look in your own backyard if you want to find inequality.

    And I don't believe you would understand sincerity if it bit you."

    I don't know where you're writing from, but if you are talking about inequality in our backyard, sure, it exists. Show me where they don't.

    That being said, in the UK, and the west in general, people have rights and freedoms, which people in the rest of the world can often only dream of.

    That's why people, especially from the muslim world, flock here. You don't find many westerners emigrating to, and especially seeking asylum in, muslim countries.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39

    "That being said, in the UK, and the west in general, people have rights and freedoms, which people in the rest of the world can often only dream of."

    Ah but even those "rights and freedoms" are unequally distributed and applied. And it is the "dream" that attracts people, NOT the reality.

    "A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar." and "As an example to others, and not that I care for moderation myself, it has always been my rule never to smoke when asleep, and never to refrain from smoking when awake." (Mark Twain)

  • Comment number 41.

    I think you are missing the point of some of the comments. It is not just the disparity of reporting each soldiers death 4-5 times (soldier dies in Afghanistan, dead soldier named, dead soldier repatriated, dead soldier buried, dead soldiers inquest) whilst omitting to report taleban deaths at all.

    There is also a disparity of reporting of civilian deaths. How many times have you reported the civilian deaths caused by German ordered bombing of the petrol tanker? In contrast how many times have you reported the civilian deaths caused by the taleban setting off an bomb next to a bus full of school children as a military patrol passed by? The majority of civilian casualties are caused by the taleban, but the british public could be excused for not being aware of this.

    More importantly there is the policy of reporting any and all deaths, especially the soldiers, with out any report of what they are achieving. You let it slip out every now and then. Example - your reporter walking about in sangin interviewing afghans, no body armour, no soldiers. Not long ago a company strength armed force would have faced a major battle just to move through that area, which was entirely abandoned by civilians.

    The previous editors blog on this was proud to boast the posthumous achievements of bold journalists. Unfortunately you feel a need to filter out the achievement of brave soldiers.

    No wonder the british public are so keenly aware of the cost, but not the gains, from this war.

  • Comment number 42.

    All human lives are equally precious. Just because one disagrees with someone's political viewpoint, does not make them any less human. I completely agree with your conclusion that all casualties should be counted.

    http://graciouslivingdaybyday.com/

  • Comment number 43.


    I feel the need to raise the issue of embedded journalists once again as this is what sparked this posting.

    I understand NATO dont give out red or white force casualty figures so I can sympathise with that point.

    However surely the point to embedding journalists into combat units and the risks associated with that is so that the journalist can get right down into the weeds and report on the soldiers injured, the acts of heroism and yes the sad unfortunate deaths and injuries amongst the local population be they caused by our weapons or those of our enemy.

    This is a war fought amongst a civilian population, with real lives and real hopes, desires and fears. Our actions and those of the taliban have real impact on these people and we cannot really understand this war unless we hear these stories. It is a dereliction of duty of the BBC and the print media that we are not.

  • Comment number 44.

    Angel 40

    ""That being said, in the UK, and the west in general, people have rights and freedoms, which people in the rest of the world can often only dream of."

    Ah but even those "rights and freedoms" are unequally distributed and applied. And it is the "dream" that attracts people, NOT the reality."

    They're evenly enough distributed as to mean that virtually everyone has way more rights and freedom here than they do pretty much anywhere in the muslim world.

    As for people from elsewhere being attracted here by the 'dream', not the reality, unfortunately, you're wrong there, too.

    Not only do westerners not seek asylum in the muslim world, muslims who come here tend to stay, and more come and join them.

    You seem to be utterly wrong on this one. Do you actually live in the west? Your postings don't seem to be based on reality here.

  • Comment number 45.

    #44

    Here are the mistakes you make and the reasons why I will not comment further.

    Quote: "They're evenly enough distributed as to mean that virtually everyone..." Virtually is a very useful word when you want to sell a lie.

    Quote: "You seem to be utterly wrong on this one." Seem and utterly in the same sentence. Go to bottom of class.

    "He is now rising from affluence to poverty." (Mark Twain)

  • Comment number 46.

    Report today by Ian Pannell, on here and on TV news:

    "The last time I was in Spin Majid, we were surrounded by hundreds of heavily-armed troops, in the midst of an intense and bloody battle....Today there is a school in Spin Majid; there is a new road, a clinic is being built and even a tiny market has opened..."

    That's the sort of thing I'm talking about. Honest reporting of the progress. Not cheerleading, that same article reports the ongoing problems and the fragility.

    So credit where credit is due on the reporting.

    We had the reports of the dead soldiers during that operation - it's good to also hear what those people acheived.

  • Comment number 47.

    "Nato says the Alliance does so because it believes that a free press is one of the central tenets of democracy, and that the public in every troop-contributing nation has the right to that information on its armed-forces activities."

    This is one of the central problems of the BBC. You report what NATO says. What you don't do is investigate whether statements match reality. What NATO are doing is controlling the press. Embedded reporters are an effective way of doing this.

    The BBC idea of impartiality is an interesting one. Throughout all BBC reporting there is an underlying tone that NATO are the "good guys". When official enemies embark on their own military adventures, the tone of BBC reporting is very different indeed.

    Just check out Robert Parsons report on the Russian siege of Grozny.

    "Grozny's ruined lives"
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/668080.stm

    The situation was very similar to Falluja. A city was surrounded by troops and people were being ordered to leave. Here are some of highlights of the report.

    "Grozny was once a city of half a million people. Now it is torn down, crushed and violated."

    Good luck to you on finding a similar BBC statement on Fallujah despite UN reports stating that most of the city was destroyed.

    "It is thought as many as 40,000 people may have still been in the city at the height of the inferno. How many of them were incinerated, crushed by falling masonry or shredded by shrapnel nobody yet knows."

    Again good luck finding something similar in the Fallujah reports.


    "Moscow excused itself the trouble of worrying about such details by equating those who stayed on with terrorists."

    The US military took the same position on Fallujah, so why didn't we see similar language in the BBC reports?


    The Russian military, like the US military surrounding Fallujah were telling civilians to leave. The BBC had this to say.

    "Why should they go? By what right was the Russian army forcing them from their homes? So Russia could destroy what it itself dismissed as a handful of terrorists? "

    Can you imagine for one single moment the BBC saying the following on Fallujah?

    "Why should they go? By what right was the US army forcing them from their homes? So the US Army could destroy what it itself dismissed as a handful of terrorists? "

    Even in the unlikely even of a BBC journalist writing such a statement, it would never make it into the news. It would be slammed as biased. When the target is an official enemy, such statements are of course not considered biased.


    Reporting in modern wars is probably more restricted than it has ever been. The trick recently has been in giving the impression of press freedom. Embedding is a way of controlling reporters while appearing to provide access. For example, NATO would prefer to take reporters to areas where they are winning not where they are losing.

    The Russian military spout all the same kind of nonsense as NATO. i.e. We believe in a free press etc. Just as with NATO of course, there were all manner of movement restrictions. Did the BBC just swallow their soundbites and leave it at that though? Of course not. Instead the BBC said things like...

    "Media coverage of the recent conflict is also far more restricted. That means the Russian military is free to act with much greater brutality."

    Can you imagine a BBC reporter saying that the US military has acted with brutality?

    Even with more recent stories, the change in tone is quite evident.

    e.g. "Mr Putin sent the army back to subdue the republic by force in a second brutal campaign which, despite Russian claims of victory, has yet to reach a conclusion."
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/2565049.stm

    When are our campaigns ever referred to as "brutal". Are air-strikes on villages that kill civilians not brutal?

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    #47

    My partner had a similar "debate" with the BBC over the reporting of the Russian "invasion" of Georgia, and in particular concerning the presence of Russian "peacekeepers" in South Ossetia. South Ossetia, in an observed election, had voted almost unanimously (98%)for independence from Georgia whom they had trusted since Soviet days. The Russians were in South Ossetia by invitation. The Georgians launched an aggressive attack against South Ossetia and it was reported as a Russian invasion. Some in the BBC did try to present a more accurate version of events but they were, it appears, editorially blocked.

    The reason for this "skirmish" was an oil pipeline that goes through South Ossetia and is considered vital by NATO.

    I do not believe there are clear cut good and bad combat personnel in wars or conflicts. Every person fights for their life. It is the politicians and generals who are the "good or bad" guys if anyone, and the media, of course.

    In one of its last acts of "independence" you may remember Thatcher being nailed by a member of the public for her role in the sinking of the Belgrano on live BBC. Sadly the BBC is no longer that independent or even that bold. And even in the case of the Belgrano it had to be a member of the public and not employees of the BBC.

  • Comment number 50.

    I understand the need to report British (and American) caualties in Afghanistan. The cost of the war, in terms of lives lost, is one factor. There are however, other factors, about which we hear little or nothing, such as the true financial impact for Britian, and the cost, in terms of civilian casualties among the Afghan popultation. Why is this?

  • Comment number 51.

    #35
    Thanks Angel, I didn't realise that anyone had invaded Afghanistan before. I am also gob-smacked that the US and other forces were in Iraq to create a stable market in which they could, overall, manipulate the prices. Now I feel I have been educated and my viewpoint on the matter has, in fact, aligned itself with yours.
    I think it would be great to allow a regime to terrorise its own population (imagine people being treated as equals or being allowed their own opinions - ridiculous idea!). I take back all that I said about peace and stability being the best way for the Taleban to get Western forces out of Afghanistan: armed struggle is obviously the best way of doing this.

    I'm sorry if that sounds a little insincere: I wouldn't know what that was now, would I?

    You are a troubled individual - its obvious from the way that you take what many commenters have said, focus on anything that you disagree with and then subject them to a tirade of abuse. Very enlightened.

    I'll observe the thread of conversation with interest and look forward to your character assassination that will predictably follow.

    I truly hope that you find your peace, and I do mean that sincerely.

  • Comment number 52.

    Never have I seen a more disgusting piece of hypocrisy in print than this.

    The BBC's news content has for years been based on speculation, innuendo, half baked presumption and off the top of the head opinion.

    For some overpaid half witted fool to then say we can't actually count every Taliban casualty so we will not report on them, no matter how lop sided a view of the military conflict this gives verges on the treasonous.

    I suppose the BBC would not have reported any casualties of the Axis powers in WW11 as they would not have been able to "pop" over and do a head count.

    Shame on the blogger, more shame on the hideously uneducated, innacurate, self obsessed gossip purveyor that the BBC has become.

  • Comment number 53.

    Could I suggest that "The enemy casualties are estimated by the Army to number between 10 and 20 though this can not be verified"

    The reporter can still say it with a( They would say that wouldn't they these lying bloodthirsty military pigs ) sneer on his/her face and then go on about how incredibly well organized the Taliban are and what an amazing fighting force they are and how our chaps really don't stand a chance, so we might as well all go home and get some meditaiton therapy.

  • Comment number 54.

    #51

    I hope you feel better now you have got that off your chest. You still have no idea what sincerity is do you? And sarcasm is the .... well you know the rest. And as for abuse well you know how to dish it out so I guess you should be big enough to take it. Makes you just as troubled as me in your logical chain of thought.

    Chilcot has been interesting hasn't it? We are still unclear as to exactly why Bush and Blair had to go gung-ho in March 2003, and what was the purpose of their mission - to stop WDMs or dispose of Saddam. Blair couldn't convince he knew what was going on. So really Iraq was a lot like Afghanistan; go in and make up a story as you go along.

    I don't want you to change, not one bit. Be just what you are now, someone who seriously believes that women's rights are central to the US commitment to put the world in its place. Nasty things happen in your backyard too dear - has the cavalry arrived yet?

  • Comment number 55.

    It kind of saddens me when people say the world is a better place now that Saddam has gone. For one thing what he did to his own people is not new, and is not an isolated example of evil; it will still go on as long as we continue along the path we humans have taken.

    Just how many would be evil dictators are there on this planet, and how many variations are there to the same basic rhythm, basic theme? We place people into office in good faith and then we wash our hands of responsibility for what happened. Do we learn any lessons, do we set examples for the future, do we care when people abuse power? Judging from our post mortem on Iraq the answer is a resounding "no".

    None of this has to do with retribution for what Saddam did or didn't do. It has everything to do with how we influence our world, how we shape our children into the people we should all aspire to be. We could find an excuse to invade just about anywhere on this planet since none of this demonstrates goodness about democracy, about equality, about fairness, about justice, about the power of truth.

    There are a lot of comments in this blog that use clever rhetoric to justify something that simply cannot be justified, yesterday, today or tomorrow. Two leaders connived to break International law if they could not get their way by other means. Two leaders had a plan a long, long time before the action and they were to ditch anyone who got in their way. And we allowed them to do that.

    Our methods of dispensing justice are totally lacking in shape. That makes them weak, odious and evil. Did Saddam die with dignity - No. And that is the reason why we should all be ashamed of what has happened since 2000. No one person is to blame - we are all to blame and there are huge numbers of cold bodies to prove how far off the beaten track we have gotten.

  • Comment number 56.

    Steve (Caroline)


    Thanks, for the excellent notation regarding the Reporting
    of Afghan deaths.....


    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 57.

    #57

    And thank you Dennis for making my point even plainer.... and from the USA too.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    Body-count is not a metric of progress. It is dead people. There is enough information out there for the BBC to report deaths on all sides impartially. Is Wyatt a journalist working for an independent media body, or is she a spokesperson for NATO?

    The BBC's independence fails on several fronts; news, editorial and commentary. All are infected with the same spin in Afghanistan as they were in Iraq. Why should I have to trawl around news sites in China, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, just to get a balanced picture of how our world sees what turns out to be some doomed imperialistic venture? We have been told that public opinion in our western democracies has the power to change the way our countries, and by association, the world operates. I have made up my mind and the information I used did not come from Caroline Wyatt, or the BBC.

  • Comment number 60.

    45 Angel - you constanlty criticise the west, but I keep giving you the opportunity to explain why, if it's so bad, so many muslims prefer to live here than in the muslim world.

    Why do so many muslims seek asylum, or just a better life, here? Even if they get here and find it's not quite as nice as they hoped, they still don't leave. And you don't really hear of westerners seeking asylum in the muslim world, do you?

    Go on, just answer those points - or save yourself the time, and admit that the west does give people living here a better life, and more rights and freedoms, than the muslim world does.

  • Comment number 61.

    I have to agree with Vic-Venture - while body-count is not a metric of progress is certainly is a relevant metric from a human interest point of view. If the BBC is taking the stance of being a spokesperson for NATO then sure, I agree - abide by their rules and policies but surely this is not the case.

    @Khrystalar (#10) - spot on the point - I did try the search on the BBC site and it does in fact yield results including estimates.

    I think the reporting is generally great on BBC but it's disappointing to see inappropriate excuses like this being published when credible data is certainly out there to be shared with the public.

    Wabber

  • Comment number 62.

    iain 50 "I understand the need to report British (and American) caualties in Afghanistan."

    And what about reporting the casualties, and activities, of the Dutch, Danes, Canadians, etc?

    We only ever get to hear about OUR casualties, and of course, American ones. Why do the other allies get ignored?

    "The cost of the war, in terms of lives lost, is one factor. There are however, other factors, about which we hear little or nothing, such as the true financial impact for Britian, and the cost, in terms of civilian casualties among the Afghan popultation. Why is this?"

    We don't hear much about the financial costs, but we do hear about the way the war is putting a strain on the forces. We also get to hear plenty about Afghan civilian casualties, as the BBC reports with relish on the way the cunning, defiant (i.e. good!) Taleban outwit the security forces and launch suicide bomb attacks - which are a sign of 'our' failure.

    When Afghans are killed by western troops, it is almost always reported that they were innocent civilians, and they almost always seem to have been attending a wedding....

    What we never get to hear from, from the BBC, is reports of Nato troops fighting against, and killing, Taleban, even though this must presumably happen, and there have, presumably, to be Taleban casualties.

  • Comment number 63.

    #60

    Thank you Apple-eater. I will not be changing my opinion on Afghanistan or Iraq, and, to throw a few questions back at you, I will attempt to show the inane nature of your comments.

    How many non-Muslims arrive in the UK? How many years do you count as permanent residence? How many families make more than one life changing move? How many people came here because the UK has a "great" reputation for making things easy (i.e. health and benefit culture)? How many Muslims believe that the west is threatening them in their home countries? How many would stay in their countries if there was stability of the kind enjoyed by the UK in over a hundred years?

    The west is largely responsible for the chaos, instability and poverty in the Middle East, given that we carved up Mesopotamia at the beginning of the last century, helped to stir up a hornets nest by evicting people to make way for Israel, and then gave Israel nuclear capability. These decisions, as honourable as they may have seemed at the time, have helped to make the Middle East a very uncertain and unpredictable place. It is unquestionably tough for those who remain. Was it like that before the west got going with its elaborate plans?

  • Comment number 64.

    I apologize for commenting off-topic, but I have had a lot of trouble finding contact information for the editors and producers. I am seeking contact information for the news editors for BBC News at Ten- I am doing research on tv news coverage on human rights and would like to review transcripts from News at Ten if possible. I am a PhD candidate from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and can be reached at [Personal details removed by Moderator] Thank you for any assistance, and apologies again for this comment.

  • Comment number 65.

    Angel - 63

    Fact is, we've got millions of muslims in the UK, and there are more still arriving. You should know as well as I do that if things were so bad for muslims here, that just wouldn't be happening. Fact is, they get a better life here, in terms of standard of living, freedom, and human rights, than they do in the muslim world.

    And blaming the west for the muslim world's problems is just nonsense. The muslim world has been in decline for centuries. Blaming 'us' and the jews for their problems is just nonsense.

    The problem is that whether secular or religious, pro- or anti-west, or non-aligned, governments and societies in the muslim world tend to be corrupt and dictatorial.

    As for the 'stability' enjoyed by the UK in the last 100 years - did you not notice events like the world wars, the decline and loss of empire, the social conflict of the 70s and 80s? In common with a lot of west Europe, where muslims have chosen to settle, the UK has problems of its own. It seems to have managed to deal with them, though, by and large, and whilst no paradise, still offer rights and freedoms which the muslim world can only dream of.

    And it's not just the UK - check out France's history in the last 100 years, for example. Stability doesn't figure large, and was by no means a foregone conclusion.

    So, Angel, just admit that the muslim world is its own problem, not the fault of jews and white people.

  • Comment number 66.

    #65

    I have never denied that Muslims do not have problems, Apple Eater. My comment was that it is the dream that attracts not the reality. I haven't seen anything from you that remotely changes my mind. You throw around words like "rights and freedoms" as if they are purchased from a shop. Tell me do have a right to be completely sober and walk down a cycle track in the UK without ever getting arrested?

    And I think you will find that Israel IS responsible for much of the unrest in the Middle East and that sorting the Palestinian problem out would be a small step for Israel but a giant step for peace.

  • Comment number 67.

    This article is a wonderful example of the standard spin....

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8494890.stm

    Titled 'Pakistan blast kills US soldiers' we need to read carefully to see that in fact most of the dead and wounded are civilians - many of them school girls. The explosion targetted the opening of a SCHOOL.

    There is no comment or criticism on the detonation of a bomb at a time which would kill and injure children.

    Question: if a US/NATO force deliberately command detonated an explosion - which they were able to watch and control - killing a small number of taleban and a large number of children, how would this be headlined??

    'NATO operation kills taleban'? I think not.

    Feel free to compare with any of the BBC reports on the German ordered bomb which killed both taleban and also civilians.

  • Comment number 68.

    I have been surprised to discover some of the facts behind the media hype - the hordes of war weary troops returning from battle. We hear emotive stories about ‘Joey’ who lost both his legs ‘Pete’ who had his arms blown off, Mick who is in a wheelchair for life etc etc. We respond to this with an outpouring of sympathy and money because in our hearts we know we bear some responsibility – after all, it was our government who sent them to war. So lets look at the facts.
    How many ‘thousands’ are being seriously injured in Afghanistan? According to the Casualty Monitor website about 20-40 a month. Oh, not thousands then. “That’s still too many” you say. Yes it is – but nowhere near the number killed or seriously injured on our roads every day? Ah “but what about Iraq”? Surely there are ‘loads’ of British troops being brutally killed or injured there? Well actually – no. I couldn’t find any data on injuries, but there has been NO hostile fatalities of British troops since April 2008 – zero - zilch. Of the last 10 people who died in Iraq in the last 2 and a half years, only 2 were from hostile fire. The last 3 were suicides - maybe that tells a story in itself.
    Now let’s turn the tables and think about how many Iraqi’s have been killed since we ‘declared war’ on them. The Lancet estimates that around 600,000 have died – that is 3x!! as many as have been killed in Haiti!
    But has there been an outpouring of sympathy and frenzied fund-raising for these victims and their families? No - there hasn’t!

  • Comment number 69.

    66 Angel

    "I have never denied that Muslims do not have problems, Apple Eater."

    You've not, that I've seen, admitted that their problems are of their own making, but always sought to blame jews or white people.

    "My comment was that it is the dream that attracts not the reality. I haven't seen anything from you that remotely changes my mind. "

    Because you haven't realised the weaknesses in your arguments. So I'll point out to you again, that if muslims were poorly treated in Europe, they wouldn't flock to it, often seeking asylum from their own countries. And having arrived here, they'd leave pretty soon if they were being poorly treated. And they don't do that, do they.

    "You throw around words like "rights and freedoms" as if they are purchased from a shop. "

    No, I don't. Stop talking nonsense.

    "Tell me do have a right to be completely sober and walk down a cycle track in the UK without ever getting arrested?"

    Yes, quite often. As do the muslims I know. Now try walking around Casablanca munching on a bacon sarny and chugging on a beer during ramadan....

    "And I think you will find that Israel IS responsible for much of the unrest in the Middle East and that sorting the Palestinian problem out would be a small step for Israel but a giant step for peace."

    And I think you'll find that the existence of a jewish state is of precious little relevance to people across the Maghreb - the incompetence and corruption of their governments is their real problem, but they prefer to blame us and the jews anyway. Israel is as much the 'cause' of problems in the arab world (apart from to its immediate neighbours) as jews were the cause of anti-semitism in the Third Reich. They're an 'excuse', not a real cause.

  • Comment number 70.

    A little historical perspective may explain the attitude towards reporting the enemy casualties.

    In the Vietnam war I seem to remember General Westmoreland on the TV every night giving us a list of Vietcong casualties. As with all stats, those responsible for them had to keep them in line with the expectations of the Generals and the citizens. Hence they became more and more fictional, and there were allegations that most of the dead were civilians. The casualty list became a major source of the anti-war campaign.

    The Allies seem to me to be avoiding the same mistake. I could not condone the practice as impartial, though.

  • Comment number 71.

    hi Steve
    for your info, re Emirates on another page http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8513100.stm

    should say "Dubai-based" and not "Dubai-owned" as

    for part of the Burj Khalifa tower funding, Dubai had to relinquish ownership of Emirates Airlines etc to the Sheikhs in Abu Dhabi who were asked by Dubai to finance similar huge projects that needed cash following the recession...so Emirates is now in fact "Abu Dhabi owned" as it were

    kind regards, Tony (in Abu Dhabi)

  • Comment number 72.

    To thread no, 2 Maria. OH dear, oh dear. Point the Talebs mistreat their women. Now I am not one for Sharia and I support the people who try to educate for an element of egality for women, but that does not mean the Taleban started this. I seem to remember that Torab Bora was flattened by that well known taleban weapon the B52. OBL may have had a hand in the twin towers but your average johnny Taleb in Afghanistan was far too busy growing Opium to be involved in that.
    May I also correct you in a point of History, The Taleban cannot be likened to the NAZI. The only Parrallel was that again we were not attacked by the Nazis until WE had declared war on them. So please can you keep your inexactitudes to yourself.

  • Comment number 73.

    In fact I am less interested in Taliban or insurgent casualties, & more interested in civilian casualties. After all this mission is supposed to win minds & hearts i.e. preferably "living" minds & hearts.
    Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, chief of Britain's defence staff: “This operation is not about battling the Taliban. It is about protecting the local population and you don't protect them when you kill them.”
    NATO maintains that it doesn't "keep body-counts" of insurgents killed because it "doesn't regard 'body-count' as a measure of success, but you can bet if the number of insurgents being killed was in the thousands, there would be plenty of hoopla - in big bold highly succesful-looking headlines:
    e.g. "NATO shatters insurgents in Helmund. Thousands killed."
    Nato believes a free press is one of the central tenets of democracy - Who are we kidding? Nato believes a free press is one of the central tenets of democracy ONLY IF its mistakes cannot be covered-up. As to "high-value targets", personally, I've never heard of a high-value target being killed who was a high-value target BEFORE he got killed.
    Colonel Steven Baker of ISAF Joint Command: (announcing 3 more civilian deaths): “Such incidents represent some of the most difficult situations being faced by Afghan and ISAF forces conducting Operation Moshtarak. Our forces are continuing to do everything they can to protect civilians.”
    Afghan President Hamid Karzai said 10 civilians killed in attack in Nad Ali.
    Later that day, ISAF said 12 civilians were killed when two rockets hit the wrong target, which then turned out to be the right traget.
    Inbedded reporters said they investigated; they found 11 dead – five children, four women, and two men. Another report said six children died.
    Details are slow on fatal casualties. I guess Nato is "investigating", and will report ASAP. One man died after he & another were caught in a gun battle in a building being used by insurgents. ISAF medics treated the men, but couldn't save one. In two other incidents, two men died after being shot after ignoring hand signals to stop approaching coalition soldiers. We shoot people because they don't understand hand signals? Has anyone thought to teach the soldiers the Afghan word for "STOP!"
    An air strike in Zhari District, Kandahar Province (unrelated to Moshtarak) killed five civilians and wounded two others. The air strike was ordered by a joint Afghan-NATO patrol that thought the civilians were planting makeshift bombs. "Thought"? Do we shoot people on what we think, or what we know?
    When the soldiers see insurgents, these "insurgents" often drop their weapons and try to blend with civilians. It's hard for coalition troops to differentiate. So, we shoot first and then ascertain who's who? How? What do we look for? Fingerprints on the gun that was tossed?

  • Comment number 74.

    To Malleestump & Maria a Shot:If the U.K. U.S. were to be invaded by China,you would do the same.It's not easy being Afghans invaded,raped,murdered,pillaged and robbed for the past 30 years.India had to come up with a brilliant leader before they booted out the Brits,Afghans don't have that luxury.What Afghans or Talibans do on their own soil is non of your business.Prevent your own govts from Murdering and Raping in Iraq and Afghanistan,Iran is next.Afghans live in horrifying conditions,count your own blessings.The West has so much and so much more is wasted,these poor live in mud homes,have no food and drinking water,it's because of the West failing to help after the defeat of USSR.Afghans were responsible for the collapse of communist USSR,get a grip.

  • Comment number 75.

    Has the BBC any comment on this news report:

    http://www.sovereignindependent.com/?p=1900

    "Produced and directed by Irish filmmaker and former BBC producer Jamie Doran, the film tells the story of thousands of prisoners who surrendered to the US military’s Afghan allies after the siege of Kunduz. According to the film, some three thousand of the prisoners were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks..." essentially tortured, starved then killed.

  • Comment number 76.

    The BBC by not reporting 'best estimates' of afghanistan civilian and 'insurgent' fatalities and injuries as policy stated by Caroline Wyatt insults the reader. As the previously mentioned 'in compairesome' above point of the last major Gaza casualities showed given by 'held back' journalists.
    As for 'reflecting' NATO policy the BBC's following policy demonstrates how a non free press would behave.
    BBC News reporting is with bias admittedly most often excellent , This lack of news coverage is the worst example of contrary standard but with bias, It is exagerated by this being a very rare area of debate. A obvious reason could be concerns of being critcised for infured sympathies with 'the enemy'. We should all know better.

  • Comment number 77.

    In ancient times the "BATTLE FIELD" was a specially prepared field where opposing armies fought each other, and the outcome was determined without involving civillians.

    In the modern world we cannot fight armies, either irregular or regular, and hope to defeat them without civillians being caught up in the middle when the the entire country is the "BATTLE FIELD"

    How many countless civillians were killed by the allied armies fighting Germany and Japan in World War 2?, and could have have defeated Hitler and the Japanese emperor otherwise?.


    I saw a documentary sometime back on the history channel, part of a series they were running called 'dead man's tales', in which they claimed that if Japan had not surrendered when it did following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they had forward plans in the works to lace conventional bombs with nuclear material which had been smuggled from Germany before its defeat and to use these radiological or 'dirty' bombs to strike either San francisco or Los angeles.

    In more recent times Sri Lanka went all out after the Tamil Tigers with their full military capability and fought them to a complete millitary defeat during which countless numbers of civillians were killed or displaced.


    So the question is, do we allow terrorist armies to grow exponentially to the point where they can annex an entire nation because we are afraid of killing civillians?.

  • Comment number 78.

    74 You are obviously a taliban solider or leader despite your westernised name or nickname, joe Kahn- in one place you wrote: If the U.K. U.S. were to be invaded by China,you would do the same.It's not easy being Afghans invaded,raped,murdered,pillaged and robbed for the past 30 years.


    Being from a small neutral country itself once a colony of Britan I agree with your sentiments exactly.


    The problem is this: when your Taliban took over what did they do?- they continued on in the same tradition you speak of, brutalising ordinary afghans imposing medieval religious laws on them, and then publicly executing or flogging them for the slightest infraction of those laws.


    you are correct it is none of the west's business to interfere in your country's affairs, so tell your Taliban to stop interfering in the west's affairs by inviting in foreign terrorists, giving them millitary training, and then sending them out to the west-like some obscene caricature of Jesus sending out his disciples-to carry out mega-terrorist attacks like the one in America in 2001

  • Comment number 79.

    It's odd that though the BBC has issues with reporting taleban casualties, and all sorts of excuses for not doing so, it has no such inhibitions in reporting NATO-inflicted Afghan civilian casualties.

    The BBC should just own up - it's got an agenda, it wants NATO to lose in Afghanistan, and it picks and chooses its news to suit that agenda.

  • Comment number 80.

    I tend to agree with the last comment, I too have felt that the BBC gleefully report Afghan civillian deaths by coalition forces, while deliberately holding back on reporting civillian deaths caused by the Taliban when they recklessly plant IED'S on roadsides, or in market places etc, without caring whether they kill soldiers or civillians, or when they fire on soldiers while using civillians as human shields-a war crime in itself.


    The ordinary Afghan people are no different from people in the west-they have the same hopes and dreams for a safe prosperous life and do not want the Taliban with their brutal imposition of neanderthal religious laws on them.


    Why do you think the Taliban are ideologically oposed to free and fair democratic elections even they could be gauranteed as such? the simple answer is that they know that they would lose.

 

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