On Monday (Feb 15 2009) I listened in a mixture of disbelief & disgust to the morning radio news which mentioned that 12 civilians died in Afghanistan after NATO rockets struck their house in Marjah in the Helmand province. A brief, clinical, apology for “the loss of life” followed by the NATO commander and then focus of the news item quickly returned to “the military offensive”. The morning news then continued & I sat there wondering about humanity, journalism, governance, democracy, life. There were so many unanswered questions.
By monday evening the story was even further down the playlist. Whilst the duration of the story was unchanged, the apology had been replaced by regrets over the incident due to the damage it would undoubtably do to the image of the offensive. Further comment informed the listening public that the use of rockets was being suspended & that this would also hinder the progress of offensive. This only served to add to the list of unanswered questions that were spilling over in my head….
Why was this not reported as murder? Why were we not advised that 12 people were killed? Why was the passive (“died”) used? Why the abstract “loss of life”? Who has “lost” here? Will anyone gain? Humanity? Will anyone every be held accountable for this? What would happen if 12 innocent people were killed by rocket attack on a house in Europe? In USA? In Ireland ? Are the forces responsible acting on my behalf? Am I somehow consciously/unconsciously supporting this ‘offensive’ ? Who were the slain family? What were their names? What were their plans for their futures? How will this affect their community? Did they die instantly? Did they suffer? Could anything have been done to save them? To ease their suffering? What exactly was the cause of the rocket hitting the house? Was it definitely an accident? Will anything change in the military as a result? Why are they (NATO forces) there in the first place? How much was done to help the affected civilians? To help the PR efforts of those responsible? Are there women, children, family, remaining without anyone to care for them? Why were they referred to as ‘people’ in one report and ‘taliban’ in another? Is it ok to kill Taliban? Who dictates how news events are reported? Do the public not want to hear the human side of the story? Why not, surely this is “reality tv” at its most real? When did this sanitisation of news reporting commence? Has it crept up on us? Do people prefer this approach? Who is behind it? Surely a state broadcaster has a duty of balanced, humanitarian reporting? Is war propaganda reporting something that only happened in other countries? Or in the past? Why is there national uproar over a sporting injustice but barely a whisper over loss of life? Do others feel as I do? Are they also somewhat confused? Where are they? Where is their voice? Will anything change? How does it start? Who will lead it? Do we really live in a democracy? Is what living in a civilised democracy means?
Noel Guinan - Dublin