Wednesday, June 07, 2006

News from the Forgotten War

The new media casts a cold eye on the old. Bill Roggio reports from Afghanistan.

Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan: Earlier this week, Glenn Reynolds reproduced an informal email from Afghanistan, which included an anecdote about the Canadian media maintaining the "Death Watch" (their own words) at Kandahar Airfield. The reporters are restricted to maintaining a presence at the airbase to report on potential deaths or wounding of Canadian soldiers. The soldiers resent the media for this, and the reporters do not like manning the DeathWatch as well. They are at the mercy of the news bureaus, who crave the sensational stories.

Tonight I had the displeasure of witnessing the Death Watch in action. An Al Jazeera report, based on an unsubstantiated claim from an unnamed Taliban source, indicated a Canadian soldier was kidnapped in Afghanistan. Reuters repeated the unsubstantiated claim, which later morphed into an unspecified number of Coalition troops. Canada's Globe and Mail, in a rush to press, misidentified the lead Canadian Public Affairs Officer, Major Scott Lundy, as the "spokesman for NATO Special Forces" (the webmaster later corrected this and removed the reference to Major Lundy altogether.)

The Canadian media rushes into action, trying to get to the bottom of the story which very likely is a Taliban information operation. Cell phones are buzzing, reporters are pressing the public affairs officers for quotes. The Death Watch is in full news-gathering mode. Media outlets in Canadian are requesting live interviews and quick columns from their reporters at the airfield. The Canadian forces are in turn conducting a headcount but discount the reports, as this has happened in the past. If this is a false report, as it likely is, the propaganda machine of al-Qaeda and the Taliban has succeeded yet again in manipulating the Western media into doing their bidding. The DeathWatch continues as I submit this post, and Al Jazeera is downplaying the reports of the kidnapping.

There's more than that, and it's well worth a read. And he has a tip jar.