Why does the New York Times hide the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan? Why do they even print the names if they are going to disrespect them by putting the names in a tiny box at the bottom of the page in a story that is not related to Afghanistan?
They did it again yesterday, May 4th. There was a front page story on bin Laden's letters, continued on page A6. Below that story was one about a Russian general. At the bottom of that story we see a little box that says:
"Names of the Dead"
"The Department of Defense has identified 1,943 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans recently:
CLARK, Bruce K., 43, Capt., Army; Spencerport, N.Y.; Company A, Troop Command, William Beaumont Army Medical Center.
DICKHUT, Nicholas M., 23, Sgt., Army; Rochester, Minn.; Fifth Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment."
Here's an e-mail I sent to the NY Times newsroom about a similar event.
Subject: Placement of the "Names of the Dead"
I believe that the placement of the "Names of the Dead" is disrespectful to the families and friends of those in our military who have lost their lives. In today's paper (April 13) there are no stories on Afghanistan but there is one about Pakistan on page A6. For some unknown reason you put the names of the dead at the bottom of a story on the Summit of the Americas on page A10. What gives? What are you doing? My conclusion is that you are doing what you consider the absolute minimum requirement to acknowledge the names of our soldiers. In other words, it is not important to you.
My impression is that you know war from a corporate viewpoint. I know war in a more personal way. My brother Ken Distler was wounded so badly in Vietnam in 1969 that he never recovered. He killed himself in March, 1994. I am on 100% disability from PTSD from my time in Vietnam in 1968. The suffering and destruction of war that soldiers and especially civilian families witness is the main product of war. I wonder how the families of our soldiers feel when they see the placement you have given their names, as if the names must be hidden from view so that the war can continue.
Our current wars should not be happening but your superficial coverage, symbolized by hiding the names, allows them to continue.
Example 1: Afghan children freezing to death although (according to your reporter, Rod Nordland) $60 billion has been spent on aid. Where is the money? Obviously, it didn't go for blankets and foam mats to keep the most vulnerable children in Afghanistan off the frozen mud floors that Mr. Nordland describes.
Example 2: The UN reports on civilian casualties are complete nonsense. Please read the footnotes to the reports. Under the subject of aerial attacks by U.S. forces, they say 4,896 weapons releases occurred in 2011. They don't seem to include helicopter or armed reconnaissance attacks in this count. There were probably tens of thousands of cannon rounds, rockets, missiles, and bombs used in 2011. How can that much shrapnel only kill 187 civilians?
I'm appealing to the heart and soul of the NY Times staff. Repeating what Generals say helps to start wars and helps keep them going. If I had the courage, which I don't, I'd go over there myself and do a better job of reporting than you do. War is not about talking to some General, it is about talking to people, especially parents who have lost their children. Your reporters have shown that they have the courage to get the story, but they haven't exposed the heart and soul of it. Please, try harder.
Squad leader, 3rd squad, 1st Platoon, Delta Co., 2/506th, 101st Airborne Division, Vietnam, Dec. '67 to Sept. '68.
[End of e-mail]
This e-mail was not easy to write or send. I try not to use my brother's name in vain. I'm exposing a little piece of our family's soul, and I don't want to send that to people who don't care. I have to hope that whoever reads it will have some soul.
What the Times leaves out of many stories is more important than what they include. The names and ages of the Afghan dead are not considered important enough to mention. The Times' reporting from Afghanistan is strictly from an American viewpoint, ignoring the voices of the Afghan people. Reporters like Rod Nordland may do compassionate stories about children freezing to death in refugee camps but these are the exception. The general editorial rule seems to be that the U.S. Ambassador knows more about Afghanistan than the thirty million people of Afghanistan do.
We can make what we will of the Times' behavior. Some might give the Times the benefit of the doubt. I don't. The Times is the American institution most responsible for misleading us into the war in Iraq and they are prolonging the war in Afghanistan with their choice of words and subjects. There are too many intelligent people at the Times for this to be an accident.
Perhaps they need some spiritual guidance from readers who have a more highly-developed sense of right and wrong. If you are concerned about this, it might help (it couldn't hurt) to write a Letter to the Editor or call or write the newsroom or the public editor at the New York Times.
If you call or write, show compassion and have some trust in the honest workers at the Times. And let's have some pity for the management. After all, it must be lonely at the top- of the propaganda heap.
Bio: Bill Distler is a member of Veterans For Peace, Jonathan J. Santos Memorial Chapter 111, in Bellingham, WA. He continues to do courage and patience-building exercises (Think about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Women's Suffrage Movement. That helps.) so that he will be able to speak out more peacefully, more patiently, and more confidently about the destruction of war and the blessings of peace.