On today’s front page, the New York Times goes to every effort to recreate the narrative of Mai-Lai in Vietnam, only this time in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, they do so with only half the story. This much we think we know: One night last week, American forces in the middle of a drawn out battle with insurgent Taliban forces, launched an aerial attack on enemy targets. It appears many civilians were killed during the battle.
Here is what we, and the New York Times, do not know: We do not know if Taliban forces manipulated the battle to achieve this exact public relations result, knowing they have no regard for the Afghan people. Or what targets the Taliban bombed themselves. We do not know at what point Taliban fighters left the area, if they left at all. And we do not know the specific intelligence that led to this assault.
Recreating a Mai-Lai type scenario allows the Times to paint the worst possible picture of our efforts against terror in Afghanistan and support their editorial page. America has been an extraordinary partner to the people of Afghanistan since we first engaged the nation in 2002 to fight a terrorism supporting Taliban regime. Schools, roads, infrastructure and liberty have been our chief exports to the region.
We encourage all sides of this issue to think carefully before drawing unfortunate conclusions on the men and women who bravely and proudly serve our country in extraordinary situations behind enemy lines. The loss of innocent civilian lives is a tragedy for all, but it may have been a tragedy that the Taliban deliberately created. We know the Taliban play with civilian lives for their own propaganda while coalition forces take every caution to avoid civilian casualties. When all information is available, reasonable people can draw reasonable assumptions. But until then, the Times should use more caution in their reporting.