Tuesday, August 11, 2009

# Posted 5:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"TALIBAN NOW WINNING": It was certainly quite a jolt to pick up my Wall Street Journal and see this big headline smack in the middle of Page One: Taliban Now Winning.

The article is based on an interview with US commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The very first words in the story are,
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said,
But no matter how hard you look, you won't find an actual quote from McChrystal in which he says the Taliban is winning or that they have the upper hand.

Curious about this inconsistency, Jim Hanson of Blackfive e-mailed McChrystal's office to get its take on the situation. (Hat tip: BR) The commander's public affairs office began his response like this:
I sat in on the interview, and the Journal article overstated Gen
McChrystal's position. The Commander did not say the Taliban was
winning in his interview, as suggested by the headline.
This kind of thing really frustrates me. It is reasonable to argue that the Taliban is winning. But it really throws off the debate when professional journalists so clearly compromise their own norms of impartiality.

Now, just because professional journalists show bias doesn't mean their judgement about Afghanistan is wrong. We may well be losing. In 2003 and 2004, a lot of journalists were right about the disintegrating situation in Iraq. But they also saw evidence where none existed and editorialized in what should've been straight news reports.

Reacting to this kind of bias, I discounted a lot of pessimistic reports coming out of Iraq. That was a mistake. I think a lot of other supporters of the war made the same mistake. I don't want to see that happen again. I'd appreciate a little help from the professionals, though.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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