Archive for ‘Afghanistan’

March 24, 2009

It’s David Brooks fisking day!

What I Did On My Free Trip to Afganistan“:

Wardak Province, Afghanistan
You drive up to the forward operating base in Wardak Province in an armored Humvee, with the machine-gunner sticking up through the roof and his butt swinging on a little perch just by your head. Outside there’s a scraggly downtown, with ragamuffin Afghan children, almost no old people (the median life expectancy is 45) and dust everywhere. The dust of Afghanistan piles up in front of the storefronts and covers the ruins of the buildings destroyed during the Soviet period, or during the civil war or during some lost conflict from centuries past.

The second-person pronouns (“you,” “your”) are wrong. You are not in Afghanistan, he is. But such quibbles aside, Brooks’s ability as a reporter — his ability to describe — have never been in dispute. One could complain about the “scraggly” and “ragamuffin,” but the genuine objection to Brooksianism involves his opinions, which are invariably wrong. So let’s cut to the chase and quote his concluding paragraph:

When you put more boots on the ground, you not only augment your army’s firing power, you give it the capacity to experiment. A few years ago, the good guys had only vague ideas about how to win this war. Now they’re much smarter.

Which, coming from David Brooks, can only mean that the situation in Afghanistan is rapidly descending into chaos and disaster. Give generously today!

P.S.: I’ve got some reporting of my own to do today, so Frequent Commenter Smitty is in charge.

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July 19, 2008

How to write an Obama lede

OK, as previously established, there are two ‘pool’ reporters accompanying Obama to Afghanistan, so that all the press accounts are cribbing from the same notebook. Everything else is just spin. Now, let’s look at the ledes of the stories.

Washington Post (just the facts, ma’am):

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan Saturday, according to a campaign spokesman, the first stop on a weeklong foreign tour that will take him to seven countries, including Iraq.

CNN (dressing it up a bit):

Sen. Barack Obama made his first visit to Afghanistan on Saturday before he embarks on his tour of the Middle East and Europe aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials.

Chicago Tribune (dressing it up more):

Sen. Barack Obama landed in war-torn Afghanistan early Saturday, his campaign confirmed, starting a weeklong effort to look presidential on the world stage while boosting his standing back home.

AP (more costumes than an opera):

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama started a campaign-season tour of combat zones and foreign capitals, visiting with U.S. forces in Kuwait and then Afghanistan – the scene of a war he says deserves more attention and more troops.

How nice of the Associated Press to make sure Obama’s campaign message got into the first paragraph of their neutral, objective story.

UPDATE: No word in this first pool report as to whether Obama is being accompanied to Afghanistan by his chief foreign policy adviser, Winnie the Pooh.

UPDATE II: The first pool report did not mention rumors that, upon touching down in Kabul, Obama was greeted by crowds of enthusiastic Afghans shouting “Yes, We Can!” Nor did the report confirm that, in a special session early Saturday morning, the Afghan parliament unanimously voted to rename their country “Obamastan.”

UPDATE III: The Associated Press gives us this Obama fashion update:

Obama, dressed in light khaki colored trousers and a checkered shirt with his sleeves rolled up, and others in the delegation received a briefing inside the U.S. base in Jalalabad from the Afghan provincial governor of Nangarhar.

A checkered shirt! Hard-hitting news!

July 19, 2008

Obama in Afghanistan

New York Times:

Mr. Obama touched down in Kabul about 11:45 a.m. [local time], according to a pool report released by his aides. In addition to attending briefings with military leaders, he hoped to meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan before flying to Iraq later in the weekend.
His trip was cloaked in secrecy, which advisers said was due to security concerns set forth by the Secret Service. His whereabouts have been unknown since he departed Chicago. He left Andrews Air Force Base near Washington on Thursday afternoon, according to a pool report, and turned up in Afghanistan on Saturday.

(Alas, Katie Couric reduced to ‘pool’ duty!)

Mr. Obama’s arrival opened a weeklong foreign trip that includes visits to Iraq and two other stops in the Middle East as well as appearances in three European capitals. . . .
The international trip by Mr. Obama is intended to counter Republican criticism . . . that he has too little experience in foreign affairs to serve as a world leader.

Note that word “intended” — the New York Times report presumes to know the intent of Team Obama. There should be an attribution in that sentence, someone saying that this is their intent: “according to campaign strategists,” or some such thing.

While the New York Times was teaching its reporters to read minds, perhaps it could have taught them to tell the truth, i.e., this foreign trip is a huge publicity stunt, not a “fact-finding” tour. And it’s also a gigantic gamble by Team Obama, since any gaffe committed by Obama abroad will underline his unreadiness for the job of Commander-in-Chief.

Bon voyage, Obama!

UPDATE: By the way, Hopey “hopes to meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan” — let’s reference the famous “5Ws and an H” of journalism for a moment, shall we? Who is Hamid Karzai and when did he become president? What event precipitated his installation as president, and who was the American president whose administration supported Karzai? How would Obama’s policy in Afghanistan differ from the Bush administration’s? Most importantly, where was Obama when U.S. troops were liberating Afghanistan, and why are none of these questions being asked by the New York Times?

Damn. They can read minds, but they can’t do basic reporting.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin notes the first entry in the “Obama World Tour” T-shirt design competition: