Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tonight's Huffington Post headline reads: "America's Once Secret War in Pakistan Busts Wide Open". I must admit, I saw, I was intrigued, and I clicked. The story is one of tragedy.

"(AP/Huffington Post) -- SHAHI KOTO, Pakistan — A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers and partly destroyed a girls' school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaida and Taliban heartland."
At first blush, a shocker. The US has very publicly not sent active-duty combat troops into Pakistan, at the demands of the ISI and Pakistani Government -- not to mention for lots of other reasons. My first question: what were these soldiers doing in Shahi Koto? The answer is buried well below the fold in the HuffPo story:

"The soldiers were part of a small contingent of American soldiers training members of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, Pakistan's army and the U.S. Embassy said. The mission is trying to strengthen the ill-equipped and poorly trained outfit's ability to fight militants.

The soldiers were driving to attend the inauguration of a different girl's school, which had been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance, the embassy said in a statement."
WELL. If a headline was ever duplicitous, demagogue-ish, and plain wrong, this is it. A secret war in Pakistan? Not so much. Evidently the Huffington Post decided that research was over-rated. They could have looked here, here, or here -- and found out that there were US Military Advisers training Pakistani Troops. Not only were these stories published in 2009, but they were the top results in a search I did using the Google. Do the editors at HuffPo read the NYT?

How's that research department working for you, Arianna?

But then, the ultimate shocker -- within the report itself, we have the blunt assessment from the always diplomatic Richard Holbrooke:

Holbrooke also said the U.S. has not tried to hide its training mission with the Pakistani military."

"There is nothing secret about their presence there," he told reporters in Washington."

Amen Richard, amen.

We have, in this country, a cult that fetishizes the revealing of secrets. Sometimes it is a good thing -- Woodward and Bernstein, Tobacco Whistle-Blowers, and Tail-Hook -- but sometimes its a very, very, bad and dangerous delusion -- Birthers, Birchers, and recent Nick Cage movies.

But when it comes to US Soldiers in the field losing their lives, that is what the story should be about. Lets focus on what is important, and honor them with just the facts, and only the facts.

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