How Does the Media Report U.S. War Casualties? Depends Who's in Office

How Does the Media Report U.S. War Casualties? Depends Who's in Office

As the US continues its long war against terrorism across the globe, the number of casualties and injuries continues to our forces in Afghanistan and to innocent civilians in many countries.

During the last four years in Afghanistan alone, under the leadership of Commander in Chief Obama, US forces have experienced significantly more injuries and deaths than under the entire eight years of President George W. Bush in that country.  Based on media reports, though, you’d never know it.

Little news of our country at war has been reported these past four years, and especially during this election season there have been drastic differences in how Bush’s and Obama’s war dead and national security policies have been treated by the press.

Pew Research Center found that as coverage of the war, and public interest in it, decreased, an uptick in the belief that progress was being made seemed to follow. In other words, coverage, or lack thereof, influenced public perception of the war and its success or failure.

Unfortunately, no new era of international peace has been ushered in for American soldiers or citizens under Barak Obama.  During his presidency, our military has sustained an estimated 70 percent of the 1,987 casualties and nearly 80 percent of the 17,519 injuries that have taken place in Afghanistan. 

Despite candidate Obama’s harsh criticism of President Bush’s war strategies and his 2002 anti-war speech in Chicago, according to Amos Guiora, University of Utah law professor and national security expert, Obama has, “in fact built on his predecessor’s national security tactics.”  And while the media was up in arms over those tactics when President Bush used them, apparently building on and augmenting them is no big deal. 

President Obama has greatly increased surveillance of citizens, classified more government documents than any other president, preserved CIA renditions and significantly increased drone strikes. 

So why, during this election season, is there almost no talk in the media about Obama’s war dead, about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of his policies in Iraq and Afghanistan or about the secret drone program that has reportedly outnumbered Bush’s five to one?

I’ve seen no op-eds like this one, from the Chicago Tribune during the 2004 election season, that claimed that Bush has “made America a remorseless killer” and that accused our soldiers of being “liberators who turned villages into mass graves.” 

Or this piece, published in the Los Angeles Times during the same 2004 election season, entitled, “They Behead; We Do It With Smart Bombs.”  ” . . . we must admit that the killing of an unknown Iraqi child by the push of a button miles away is no less immoral than the televised slaughter of an American adult by a butcher’s knife.” 

In fact, the ACLU is currently fighting the Obama administration in court, attempting to get the CIA to turn over documents related to the administration’s “targeted killing” program. 

A report published in 2011 shows that, speaking of the raids on the Taliban in Afghanistan, eight additional people died for every ‘leader’ killed during those raids, and that the definition of the word ‘leader’ used to justify them was so broad that it carried little real meaning. Apparently only The Guardian, a British newspaper, is interested in reporting that the successes claimed in Afghanistan “may be exaggerated.”

On the other hand, during the Bush years, war casualties, CIA renditions and talk of blood for oil were common topics on the front pages of newspapers around the country.  In fact, coverage of war deaths had been so strong up until the election of Obama that even in August of 2007, 54 percent of those surveyed were able to correctly identify the fatality level in Iraq at that time.

It seems that if Obama can keep Afghanistan under wraps and fight most of the war with unmanned drones, he will be able to avoid criticism at home even while leaving large numbers of civilian casualties in his wake and “spur[ring] terrorist recruitment, shirk[ing] judicial oversight, and represent[ing] an abuse of presidential power.”

And the media virtually ignores it all.  Hey, whatever works to meet your biases I guess.