Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fisking Christie Blachford

So the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Newspaper, has an opinion piece on its front page by Christie Blachford, extolling the virtues of the reporter who was kidnapped and freed in Afghanistan


By that standard - I’m just starting in on the ironies - Christie should be a big fan of Robert Fisk, not mentioned in her elegy for journalistic honesty, a guy who was in the Shatila and Sabra refugee camp just after the massacre by Phalangist forces in 1982,who was at the front lines in the Iran-Iraq war, who was in Qana just after the UN post had been shelled by Israelis, documented by Frederick von Kappen, who was in Baghdad on the eve of the 2003 invasion, reporting the details of cruise missiles that killed Iraqi civilians, and was in Afghanistan to interview Osama bin Laden without the need for interpreters – “terps” in Christies’s cool laconic journalist jargon – because he speaks the fucking language.

What’s missing here is simple honesty – journalistic intellectual integrity – which somehow gets lost in the purple prose Christie uses for crime reporting. If somebody was interested in the civilian casualties caused by NATO shelling, they’d go back to the previously documented hit on May 4, 2009:

 “While this investigation assesses approximately 26 civilian casualties based on information from various sources and on new graves in the Gerani area in early May, no one will ever be able conclusively to determine the number of civilian casualties that occurred on Mary 4, 2009.  This investigation does not discount the possibility that more than 26 civilians were killed in this engagement.  Additionally, the investigative tam notes that the report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, published on May 26, 2009, represents a balanced, thorough investigation into the incident, citing as many as 86 civilian casualties, with appropriate lessons learned for all involved in the fighting on May 4th – U.S. Afghan, and Taliban.”

That report concluded that as many as 86 civilians had been killed.  There has been no follow-up.

If somebody wanted to back out into the field, using methodology developed during the investigations by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there would be truth enough for journalists without risking their lives for “eyes on the ground”. What we really need is “eyes on history”, a perspective noticeably lacking in Christie Blachford’s approach to reality in Afghanistan,and ISAF's approach to Farah, which is to pretend it didn't happen.

What we need particularly is somebody in Brussels asking hard questions of NATO and its fractious dishonest members, questions like:

1. What risk does Afghanistan pose to NATO?

2. Why is NATO?

3. Why can’t NATO’s discussions about Afghanistan occur in “open court”?