Two weeks ago I got into a discussion with my friend, Robby Pofahl, concerning inadequate and inaccurate media coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Robby served in the Now Zad district of the Helmand Province in Afghanistan from March to December of 2008 attached to the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines. While looking for information about the unit’s presence in Now Zad, it is difficult to find mainstream news coverage prior to May 2008. The difference of dates means, at least, two months of lost lives and combat engagements went unreported in mainstream media.
Now Zad was home to thousands of people at one point, but all residents were quickly ran off with the return of Taliban forces. When Robby’s unit arrived in March of 2008 with the mission of “training and mentoring Afghan police,” Now Zad was deserted and the only residents were Taliban insurgents. The Marine deployment had less than 100 members and they were responsible for gaining their own intel.
“The two teams from my platoon that were there, went out picking fights with the Taliban every night for eight months,” Robby explained. “With roughly a dozen full scale company attacks on large groups of Taliban insurgents throughout deployment.”
There were Marines who lost their lives and limbs fighting in Now Zad prior to May 2008, and there is little to no mainstream media coverage available on their sacrifice. Mainstream media outlets may provide some coverage on the sacrifices of American military personnel, but not all media coverage gives credit where it is due. What happens when the reasons for invading a region are inaccurately provided to our government leaders who okay the invasion? Better yet, what happens when there are United States servicemen who lose their lives before the government can openly report the losses?
I found one Washington Post article with a loaded first sentence. The first Marines arrived in Now Zad in March of 2008, not May. One of my first college lectures taught me to fact check and I would like to think someone being paid to report the “truth” might be able to inform themselves. Unfortunately, Robby and I noticed the Battle of Now Zad wikipedia page had more information on military operations in the region than American news outlets. We both figured someone who served with Robby probably set the record straight on the dates.
Where is the accountability by American media? My freshman communications class taught me the media is to be a “watchdog” for the people. The loss of a life should be recognized by American mainstream news organizations no matter the political agenda. If reporters cannot recognize the sacrifices by our military, then they should recognize the failure of our government’s transparency to the media.
Due to our mainstream media’s excessive domestic coverage I usually seek out news from Al-Jazeera, and the BBC. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the home pages of those two outlets and then take a peek at the home pages of MSNBC, Fox News, and CBS News. The three major American media companies default to domestic news headlines, leaving the “world” as an option if a reader seeks it out.
Our freedom allows for many things. Unfortunately, it allows for American people to make the choice of being oblivious and uninformed. I do not believe it is the media’s responsibility to create globally aware people, but those news organizations should know their strength and use it constructively.
No matter what news outlets someone prefers, I hope people recognize the sacrifices our military make everyday. Thank you to those who serve and have served. My heart goes out to the families of those servicemen and women who have lost their lives in combat, especially those who never received the recognition they deserved.