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Michael Prysner

Michael Prysner is a veteran of the war in Iraq and an anti-war activist

October 21st, 2010 7:32 PM

Journalists banned from major Afghan offensive

Washington tries to hide the war

A statement from March Forward!

Remember the massive military operation involving several thousand U.S. troops, heavy bombing and artillery that “made the sky light up,” carried out by U.S. forces in Afghanistan over the first two weeks of October? Probably not. Convenient logistical problems caused all the journalists trying to cover the offensive to lose their embeds.

“A capacity issue” kept the New York Times, AFP and other well-known media outlets away from the battlefield from Oct. 1 through Oct. 15. NATO was quick to claim an unverifiable victory, with one official proclaiming that “The Taliban took a scrubbing.” No one was in a position to contest this.

Of course, the reporters were not denied access because there was no place for them to stay. The Pentagon brass knows that they need to conceal the deaths of innocent Afghan civilians and American GIs to bolster popular support for the war. They knew that this operation would involve especially large numbers of both and decided that they could not take the risk.

The offensive was part of a larger push to avoid the appearance of defeat in Kandahar. GIs who have witnessed both the devastation caused by the occupation and the Afghan people’s refusal to accept foreign domination can see that this war is not only unjust; it is also unwinnable. We see the reality of the war that the U.S. government wants to hide from our families, our friends, people in the U.S. and the rest of the world. If the truth about the war continues to become more and more apparent, the international prestige of U.S. imperialism and the myth of its invincibility will be shattered. Working people in the U.S. will grow more and more outraged over their tax dollars being squandered on a senseless war.

Normally, the top brass can rely on the corporate media to dutifully print misleading stories about “victories” and “steady progress.” However, as casualties reach record highs, the defeats and stalemates are getting harder to ignore. Petraeus and his generals decided that for these two crucial weeks they could not allow even the slightest chance that the truth would get out. During these two weeks, 32 U.S. troops were killed in combat—but the Pentagon does not want us to know about that. They want the war off the front pages.

This shocking exclusion of journalists in one of the largest offensives of the nine-year war is part of a larger effort to hide the reality of the occupation. Embedded journalists already face tight restrictions and censorship. Any story displeasing to the Pentagon will have a journalist yanked from the country and banned from going back.

This is the “great democracy” we live in, with its supposed “free press.” We are sent to die in a war that Washington and the Pentagon are deliberately trying to hide from the public.

When the politicians and generals say that we are fighting for the liberation of the Iraqi and Afghan people, or that we are fighting to defend the United States, they are lying. These wars are about nothing more than profit for military contractors, oil corporations, and other big business interests.

It was also a lie when they told us that we would be taken care of when we got home. Instead, an underfunded and uncaring Veterans' Administration has left us on our own to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and many other physical and psychological wounds. Unemployment and homelessness among veterans is catastrophically high.

Veterans and active duty troops are in a unique position to expose the Pentagon’s lies. We know first hand the horrors of the occupations; no press blackout can take that away. Spc. Bradley Manning, if he indeed did leak documents to WikiLeaks, is a hero and has set the standard for all of us in the military.

If we are expected to kill and die in this war, if our families are expected to wait for us endlessly at home, and if working people are expected to fund the war with hundreds of billions of our tax dollars, then we all have the right to know the truth.

The banning of journalists from such a major military operation is more proof that Washington knows that the war is both unjust and unwinnable. It is more proof that they will continue to lie, as they have from the beginning, to conceal the reality of the war. And it is more proof that we have the right to refuse to take part in this war, and should instead stand up and fight against it.

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