Rachel Maddow Jumps the Shark in Afghanistan: Updated

Posted on July 8, 2010


Rachel Maddow reaches new levels of gross discourse on the Afghanistan war. As I’ve written before, almost all of Maddow’s reportage on Afghanistan normalizes the US’s ostensible mission in Afghanistan, taking for granted the notion that the US has the right to invade other countries and occupy them, and that the only question that remains is whether or not the mission honors our brave soldiers sufficiently. As Maddow states quite clearly at the opening of her live broadcast from Afghanistan Tuesday, July 6, the biggest issue pressing on her conscience is how few Americans are shouldering the burden of our mission in Afghanistan.

This perspective blinds her to any of the real critical questions about the human toll of our occupation. Afghans throughout the program exist only as local color, corrupt government officials,  or simply referred to as insurgents. Shockingly, Maddow never does any in-depth reporting into the death toll our brave troops regularly visit on every day Afghans; she never even mentions it. All this, despite the fact that “escalation of force” incidents–where individual soldiers kill Afghans at checkpoints and roadblocks–have actually increased since 2008, leading to a yearly death toll of nearly six hundred Afghan civilians. Like her big brothers and sisters in the more obviously pliant network embed news programs, Maddow’s only concern when doing on the scene reporting in Afghanistan is hand-wringing questions about whether our boys and girls are getting fair shake, and whether the job is worth doing. Despite her reputation as a sharp investigative reporter, Maddow basically allows herself to be led by the nose by the military, and indeed, the seeming joy that she projects as a spokesperson for the US “mission” in Afghanistan would indicate that that’s the whole point.

Update: Yesterday, NATO forces killed six Afghan soldiers in a so-called “friendly fire” incident. Maddow, reporting from her giddily self-described “home away from home” at Camp Phoenix, was finally forced to deal with the reality—so well ignored up to this point in her stay—that US and NATO forces kill Afghans. The friendly NBC embed reporter, Richard Engel, explained that this was the fault of Afghans who make it difficult to communicate with them. The reporting on the incident lasted one minute and did not lead to any discussion of US/NATO produced Afghan casualties. Maddow got another chance to put the “friendly-fire” incident in context of the hundreds of deaths that the US/NATO visit on Afghanistan with an interview with an occupation spokesperson, who spoke of re-establishing trust with the Afghans. Again, Maddow failed to mention the context of “accidental” killing of Afghans.

It was then horrifying to watch Maddow interview a US soldier operating a checkpoint, and never mention the daily reality of the Afghans killed by US and NATO soldiers at checkpoints simply to make themselves safer as they help “stand up” Afghan institutions.

Update 2: One last note. If I hear Maddow speak of how “we are incurring a debt…a lifelong debt to the Americans serving here” —as she said, introducing one of her segments—again, I’m going to explode. I protested and demonstrated and have written about and fumed about their serving there for nearly ten years, I’ve done everything in my power to stop them from going there to “accidentally” kill people in my name. I really don’t owe them anything. Rather, on the contrary, every American who signed up to participate in this war owes the American public a debt they will never be able to repay. Without fresh volunteers, in our “all volunteer” military, the Bush and Obama administrations would have had to rely on conscripts from the National Guard and back-door drafts and that would have ended the war quite quickly. This clip really has to be experienced to be believed–you can watch it here.

In a nine minute interview and walk-around specifically about Afghan checkpoints, where, as I noted, shooting deaths by US soldiers have actually increased since 2008, not one mention is ever made of civilian deaths. If anyone has a life-time responsibility for these soldiers, it’s Maddow, whose inane and vacuous and shockingly un-curioius reporting about our Afghan occupation censors the real human tragedy of our actions there. Maddow ends the segment by “congratulating” one of the soldiers for “everything you’ve  done  here”.