(By Ray D.)
Perception and reality are not always clear in the media world. That is particularly true when supposedly trustworthy media sources misreport (or simply distort) the most basic facts. Case in point - Tagesspiegel's recent coverage of statements made by President Barack Obama on Afghanistan in a recent New York Times interview. Here's what Obama said to the Times:
A. No. I think that we are – we are doing an extraordinary job, or let me say it this way: Our troops are doing an extraordinary job in a very difficult situation. But you’ve seen conditions deteriorate over the last couple of years. The Taliban is bolder than it was. I think the – in the southern regions of the country, you’re seeing them attack in ways that we have not seen previously. The national government still has not gained the confidence of the Afghan people. And so it's going to be critical for us to not only, get through these national elections to stabilize the security situation, but we’ve got to recast our policy so that our military, diplomatic and development goals are all aligned to ensure that al Qaeda and extremists that would do us harm don’t have the kinds of safe havens that allow them to operate."
Obama is not willing to tell the New York Times that the United States is winning in Afghanistan. While it is debatable whether Obama is saying the United States is losing or not - he is clearly not saying the war cannot be won or is hopeless.
Tagesspiegel: Obama Says the War Can't Be Won
Here is how the above was interpreted in a Sunday article on Tagesspiegel online:
"War in Afghanistan Hopeless: Obama Willing to Talk to Moderate Taliban
Barack Obama indicated a willingness to have talks with the Taliban in an interview. The reason: The USA could not win the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karsai welcomed the announcement.
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama displayed openness to negotiations with moderate Taliban in Afghanistan and admitted that the USA would not win the war there. Obama told the "New York Times" Sunday edition that the situation in Afghanistan has further deteriorated in the past years. Afghan President Hamid Karsai welcomed the announcement of possible negotiations."
Obviously, Obama's statement has been warped into something he did not say. He clearly never said the war could or would not be won - but simply refused to say the U.S. was winning the conflict.
The piece concludes by declaring the war in Afghanistan "hopeless." This conclusion is supported by what the paper calls "expert opinion." In this case, the opinion is that of a single individual - British officer Sebastian Morley - who clearly supports Tagesspiegel's anti-war editorial line. No other "experts" are presented to challenge Morley's opinion or offer another, less pessimistic view that Afghanistan is anything but completely doomed. (And yes - more optimistic opinions exist in abundance.)
Clearly, the departure of President Bush has not cured German media of its shoddy, biased and often inaccurate reporting on the United States. The Tagesspiegel's coverage sounds more like opinionated propaganda than news. The German public deserves better...
UPDATE: The lead front-page article in the paper edition of "Die Welt" for March 9 is essentially a carbon copy of the Tagesspiegel piece. The headline offered the same false claim that Obama had said the war in Afghanistan could not be won. (Are we missing something - did Obama ever unequivocally say that the conflict in Afghanistan could not be won???) Why would Obama send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and call on allies to contribute to the effort if he believed the cause to be futile and already lost? The Welt/Tagesspiegel headlines defy basic logic and can only be characterized as journalistic malpractice...