CNS' Obama-Bashing Body Count Obsession
CNSNews.com is eager to tell you how many American soldiers have died in Afghanistan under President Obama -- and decidedly less eager to remind you of how many more died in Iraq under President Bush.
By Terry Krepel
Toward the end of the Bush administration, CNSNews.com really, really wanted you to know how quickly military casualty rates were dropping during the Iraq war.
Here are some sample headlines from that period, where even monthly casualty increases are accompanied by proclamations of how they are down from the previous year (dates on CNS articles prior to July 2008 are estimated; actual date stamps on those articles are incorrect due to a reindexing of the CNS database at that time):
But when President Obama took office -- and particularly after he announced an escalation of military action in Afghanistan -- CNS changed tactics by shifting to body-count mode. If President Bush got the credit for decreasing troop deaths in Iraq, Obama was going to get the blame for increasing troop deaths in Afghanistan.
The first article in this vein, written by Edwin Mora, appeared in February 2010 and made its agenda clear in its headline: "A Third of All U.S. Casualties in Eight-Year Afghan War Have Occurred Since Obama Ordered Escalation."
After that, Mora began penning stories once a month to compile the latest body count. Here's Mora's story list for the remainder of 2010:
Aside from the monthly body-count articles, Mora also disparaged the war effort in a Nov. 24, 2010, article playing up a report claiming that "About 20 percent of Afghans perceive the condition of their country’s security as 'bad' and approximately 80 percent believe 'corruption affects their daily lives."
Missing from all of these stories by Mora: any reference to the Iraq War. It's not like Mora couldn't have come up with those numbers to add important context -- after all, his colleague Patrick Goodenough reported them as Mora was reporting his Afghan body count. Goodenough wrote in an Aug. 5, 2010, article touting the decline in troop deaths in Iraq:
According to a Cybercast News Service database, the deadliest months of the war for U.S. forces were April 2004 (136 total deaths, 125 hostile), November 2004 (146 total, 139 hostile), December 2006 (117 total, 106 hostile) and May 2007 (125 total, 121 hostile).
By contrast, Mora reported in his Aug. 31, 2010, article:
This August, with at least 54 U.S. fatalities, has been the deadliest August of the war. July of this year, with 66 U.S. casualties, was the single deadliest month of the war.
In other words, the U.S. troop death rate in Afghanistan that Mora was hyping was less than half that of the peak death rate during the Iraq war.
Mora's year-end article for 2010 highlighted the 496 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan that year, declaring: "In the past year, U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan were killed at a rate of about one every 18 hours." As before, Mora made no effort to provide context by comparison is made with military casualties in Iraq.
In fact, annual troop deaths in at the height of the Iraq War far outstripped the number Mora reported for Afghanistan.
According to iCasualties, U.S. troop deaths in Iraq exceeded the 2010 Afghanistan number in four separate years: 849 in 2004, 846 in 2005, 822 in 2006, and 904 in 2007. The total of 1,357 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan at that time was also far outweighed by the 4,432 U.S. deaths in Iraq then listed.
Indeed, the word "Iraq" appears only once in Mora's article, and that was only in noting that President Obama said during the 2008 presidential campaign that "President Bush had wrongly shifted the focus in the war on terror from Afghanistan to Iraq."
Four days later, Mora wrote a follow-up claiming that "Eighty-two percent of the U.S. casualties in Afghanistan in 2010 took place in Afghan provinces adjacent to the Pakistan border," but his numbers weren't consistent -- a death was added to the total without explanation. Mora claimed that 497 U.S. troops died last year and 1,358 overall in Afghanistan.
Mora kept up the body count obsession in 2011, continuing to avoid any comparison to the body count under Bush in Iraq:
In the January article, Mora wrote that "approximately one American soldier has died in Afghanistan each day since Obama officially became president." He didn't mention that an average of approximately two soldiers died every day of the Iraq war under George W. Bush's leadership.
That was followed by a June 23 article by Patrick Goodenough complaining that Obama's withdrawal plan ran counter to that of Gen. David Petraeus, who wanted even more troops in Afghanistan. But CNS can't simultaneously attack Obama for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and allowing troops to get killed, can it?
And when 30 U.S. troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, CNS was swift to politicize it. Aug. 8 article by Susan Jones complained that "President Barack Obama issued a statement, but has not yet spoken publicly" about the incident. In keeping with CNS' body-count tradition, Jones added: "As CNSNews.com reported last week, at least 64 percent of U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have happened on Obama’s watch."
Once in a while, CNS did concede that troops were still getting killed in Iraq, such as in a July 5 article by Goodenough, who tried to spin things by asserting that "attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians have dropped fourfold since 2007, when they averaged some 400 each week."
A Sept. 1 article by Goodenough, however, touted that "August marked the first month since March 2003 that not one member of the U.S. military was reported to have died in Iraq or while deployed in neighboring areas in support of operations in Iraq, either in combat or non-hostile circumstances."
Mora wrapped up the year with another attack in a Jan. 3 article, headlined "1,188 U.S. Military Deaths in Afghan War Since Obama Became President." As before, the word "Iraq" does not appear, though Mora tries to make a certain former Republican president look good by claiming that the number is "a 208 percent increase from the 569 deaths that occurred in the war during the two terms of President George W. Bush."
Mora's anti-Obama spin ran counter to how non-right-wing media was summarizing the year. A USA Today article, for example, pointed out that 2011 casualties were "the first drop in four years, amid a string of battlefield successes against Taliban insurgents by U.S. and other coalition forces."
The words "success" and "victory" are absent from Mora's article. Also missing is any credit to Obama for a 20 percent decrease in deaths from 2010 to 2011 -- even though CNS lavished praise on Bush for fatality reductions in Iraq.
Well into 2012, Mora was still playing politics by blaming Obama for deaths in Afghanistan. Here's how Mora began a Feb. 28 article:
Two-thirds of U.S. military fatalities in the decade-long Afghan war have occurred since May 15, 2009, when the first wave of the troop surge ordered by President Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan.
Needless to say, Mora is silent about the much larger number of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq.
Given CNS' increased emphasis on denigrating Obama under editor-in-chief Terry Jeffrey, however, this biased, deliberately blindered coverage is all we can expect from Mora.