ABC & CNN Took the Taliban Tour; Both Relayed Anecdotes About Civilians Killed; Brokaw Affirmed Necessity of Military Response
1) ABC and CNN aired pieces from their reporters whom the
Taliban brought to a destroyed village. "If this was a Taliban or Al-Qaeda
base, there were no signs amid the rubble," ABC's Dan Harris
insisted. CNN's Nic Robertson agreed: "The Taliban say this was a
civilian village, and certainly, when we looked around it, there was a lot
of evidence that civilians had lived there. There were boxes of soap
powder, children's shoes, women's clothing..."
2) Matching ABC, CNN on Wednesday night also ran a piece
recounting civilian deaths in an area of Kandahar and how a Taliban
military leader claimed only 15 soldiers had been killed so far by U.S.
bombing. Nic Robertson highlighted poignant loss: "Close by in the
rubble of his cousin's tailoring store, 11-year-old Farid recites the
names of three relatives he says died when a bomb destroyed it."
3) To get the Taliban tour ABC and CNN needed a
"fixer" and, the New York Times reported: "Reporters on the
scene and news executives in the United States said that winning entry to
the tour depended on being a news outlet that the Afghan rulers wanted to
use to convey their message."
4) Tom Brokaw asserted on the Late Show that the press,
the Clinton administration, Republicans in Congress, think tanks and a
public "more worried about P. Diddy and J. Lo" than a terrorist
attack, all failed to foresee terrorism. He also affirmed the necessity of
a military response: "I think that there is only one answer...and
that is some form of real retribution and justice -- and you do that
>>> Stories on the retraction by ABC
News President David Westin of his earlier comment that journalists should
have no opinion on whether the Pentagon was a "legitimate"
target for the terrorists. The two most complete news stories I've seen:
-- New York
Daily News story by Richard Huff:
-- Associated Press piece by David Bauder:
For a rundown of what he said and a RealPlayer
video clip of it, along with his subsequent "I was wrong"
statement, go to:
on Thursday night and CNN on Thursday afternoon delivered pieces, from
their reporters inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, on a village
destroyed by U.S. bombing. ABC's Dan Harris, on World News Tonight,
asserted that "it appears around fifty people died here" while
CNN's Nic Robertson relayed how the Taliban claimed 92 civilians were
"If this was a Taliban or Al-Qaeda base,
there were no signs amid the rubble, only remnants of household life and
pieces of exploded bombs," Harris insisted over matching video.
Harris noted that the Pentagon "called it a Taliban encampment with
many Al-Qaeda collaborators," but then he made clear he found the
Pentagon no more credible than the Taliban: "No matter what the truth
is, the Taliban are clearly making this attack one of the highlights of
In a piece aired live by videophone on CNN at
about 2:10pm EST on Thursday, CNN's Robertson offered no video of the
destruction as he, doing a stand-up with a dark background, conveyed the
same findings as had Harris: "The Taliban say this was a civilian
village, and certainly, when we looked around it, there was a lot of
evidence that civilians had lived there. There were boxes of soap powder,
children's shoes, women's clothing, a lot of domestic accouterments."
Peter Jennings set up the November 1 story:
"Now to Afghanistan itself where correspondent Dan Harris has been
reporting from Taliban-controlled territory, and that's still much of
the country, including in and around the city of Kandahar. Today, what
happened in one village, and why it may have happened."
Dan Harris explained in a taped report filed
by videophone, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "This
morning, our Taliban guides took us deep into the desert, an hour north of
Kandahar, to see what one called 'the real face of the U.S. army.'
[video of rubble of mud buildings] Chokar Karez, a village dismantled in a
bombardment ten days ago. An attack witnessed by a local shepherd.
'Nobody was able to escape,' he said. 'They were all trapped.'
It's tough to get an exact number but, based on interviews with people
who live in the area, it appears around fifty people died here. If this
was a Taliban or Al-Qaeda base, there were no signs amid the rubble, only
remnants of household life [video of purple cloth and medallion on a
string] and pieces of exploded bombs [man holding up pieces of metal].
neighboring village, the brother of one victim walked through fresh graves
yelling out the names of the dead. [video of man walking amongst piles of
rocks] 'Only God knows why they attacked us,' he said. One possible
explanation for this apparent attack: On the night it happened, according
to eyewitnesses, a series of cars from the city of Kandahar arrived here
full of guests. Today the Pentagon said it did hit the village and hit it
on purpose. They called it a Taliban encampment with many Al-Qaeda
collaborators. No matter what the truth is, the Taliban are clearly making
this attack one of the highlights of our visit.
the trip to Chokar Karez, we had a chance to deviate from the Taliban's
agenda with a foray into downtown Kandahar. What we saw was a city that
was neither abandoned nor in a state of panic. Stocked stores, afternoon
traffic [bikes and one car], and curiosity about an American visitor. We
had been out of the car for about thirty seconds when we were surrounded
by people who wanted to shake hands, talk, or just stare. Dan Harris, ABC
CNN's Robertson checked in live at about
2:10pm EST on November 1 after the same Taliban tour, but he offered no
video as he just stood and talked throughout his piece:
they took us to a village about 60 kilometers north of Kandahar. Now, this
village, they said, 92 people died. Civilians they say. 16 people were
injured. We were taken there and we, we talked with local people. A local
official, a village mullah told us that on the night the bombing, he said
a convoy had come from the city Kandahar, full of people on that convoy
who were afraid of the bombing in Kandahar and had taken refuge in that
village. Another resident of a local village said that he too had known
that a large group of people had come from Kandahar. He said their village
had been so busy that night, the village of Chokar Karez, had been so busy
that people were sleeping outside. The Taliban say this was a civilian
village, and certainly, when we looked around it, there was a lot of
evidence that civilians had lived there. There were boxes of soap powder,
children's shoes, women's clothing, a lot of domestic accouterments,
clocks smashed on the floor, radios. There were some 15 houses there, we
was also very clear to us was that all the houses had been destroyed.
There was a lot of fragments there of -- missiles, and of bombs, a lot of
shrapnel around. But all the buildings had pretty much been destroyed. And
certainly the feeling, in the local community, is that that convoy of cars
that had come out from Kandahar to that village, for that night, could
have contributed to the fact that the village was attacked -- because all
the people we talked to there said they had no other idea of why the
village could have been attacked. They said there were no military
encampments or any such thing in the local area.
certainly, we were not able to verify the number of dead or what happened
that night. And the accounts were that the, that the village bombed by not
only aircraft but also by helicopter. That's what survivors told us. So,
very, very difficult to verify those accounts. But certainly the village
did appear to have been pretty much completely demolished by some sort of
Wednesday night, like ABC as detailed in the November 1 CyberAlert, CNN
also ran a piece from Nic Robertson recounting civilian deaths in an area
of Kandahar and how a Taliban military leader claimed only 15 soldiers had
been killed so far by U.S. bombing, a fraction of the number of civilians
the Taliban allege have been killed.
On the October 31 World News Tonight, Dan
Harris had relayed: "They say this house, a medical clinic, was hit
this morning killing 15, injuring more than twenty. The chief doctor says
the U.S. is targeting civilians. He now wants to fight the Americans. Many
of the reporters on the tour were skeptical. There was no way to confirm
the number of casualties we were given and we weren't taken to a
hospital to see the injured." For more about the story: http://www.mrc.org/cyberalerts/2001/cyb20011101.asp#1
CNN followed a similar path in a piece from
Nic Robertson aired later that night during CNN's 10pm EST hour anchored
by Aaron Brown and repeated at 1am EST, though at least CNN preceded
Robertson by having Brown remind viewers that what "Robertson and
other escorted journalists saw today in Kandahar was what the Taliban
wanted them to see."
Robertson passed along the pain of victims:
"Outside his recently bombed house, Haji Abdul Quayyum (sp?) says he
doesn't know why it was destroyed and refutes the idea there is a military
base nearby. His friend Naseer Ahmed (sp?) explains why many Afghans are
now unified. 'It's not the issue of Osama bin Laden. They have not hit
any Arabs,' he says. 'You can see with your own eyes. They hit
Robertson began his report via videophone,
which included video matching the scenes he described: "Guns and
grins, our Taliban escort prepares for the day. The heavily armed fighters
provided for our protection, the Taliban say, for a tour of bomb sites
that puts military facilities off-limits. Downtown there was anger. Abdul
Hadi (sp?) vents his rage about lost friends. Close by in the rubble of
his cousin's tailoring store, 11-year-old Farid (sp?) recites the names of
three relatives he says died when a bomb destroyed it."
After brief audio of the child, Robertson
added: "Whether or not they claim to have lost loved-ones, all here
appear to unite in their condemnation of America. Jan Mohammad (sp?), a
rickshaw driver, says America should not fight the poor people. 'If
they're going to fight bin Laden, they should fight him, not us.' Across
the road and reduced to rubble, too, Taliban ministry buildings, bombed
people here say minutes before the tailor's store."
As Robertson stood on camera to show both a
destroyed building and right next to it an unscathed building, he
elaborated: "Likely an intended target, these destroyed offices of
the feared religious police serve to highlight how a downtown target can
be hit by a precision missile. But what the Taliban really want us to see
here is just how much collateral damage there is and how many civilians
have been injured.
his recently bombed house, Haji Abdul Quayyum (sp?) says he doesn't know
why it was destroyed and refutes the idea there is a military base nearby.
His friend Naseer Ahmed (sp?) explains why many Afghans are now unified.
'It's not the issue of Osama bin Laden. They have not hit any
Arabs,' he says. 'You can see with your own eyes. They hit
the tour continues to other sites. Along the way, however, a burnt-out
armored personnel carrier sits close to houses. Downtown a U.N. de-mining
vehicle camouflaged with mud cruises around with a new owner at the wheel.
And out of town in the mountains, more military hardware, dispersed for
the Taliban top military commanders, however, claims only 15 soldiers have
been killed in the four provinces he leads and that morale is good.
Mohammad Usmani, Kandahar regional commander, through translator: "We
are not demoralized. In fact, the morale has been very strong. And after
the American air strikes, we have become much more united and stronger. We
believe in jihad and we want to become martyrs and we will fight until the
continued: "Tough talk echoed by the Taliban foreign minister, who
used a rare television appearance to quell rumors of splits in the Taliban.
Mutawakel, Taliban Foreign Minister, through translator: "The
Mujahedeed people of Afghanistan are passing through a very critical time.
That's because Afghan people have been brutalized by big powers."
That ended Robertson's piece. Back in New
York City, anchor Aaron Brown asserted: "Again, and not to beat this
to death, Nic's movements around Kandahar are controlled by the Taliban.
The reports are not censored, but obviously what he sees is influenced by
the Taliban themselves."
So why air video of such a distorted look at
events behind enemy lines? And why are casualties in a war newsworthy?
U.S. networks, only reporters for ABC and CNN were invited by the Taliban
for their tour of U.S.-caused atrocities. The Taliban had a purpose behind
who they selected. "Reporters on the scene and news executives in the
United States," the New York Times reported on Thursday, "said
that winning entry to the tour depended on being a news outlet that the
Afghan rulers wanted to use to convey their message."
New York Times reporter Bill Carter added,
however, that it was "also the result of having the right connections
-- or in the parlance of foreign correspondents, the right
Jim Romenesko's MediaNews (http://www.poynter.org/medianews/) highlighted the November 1 New York Times
explanation of which networks got access. An excerpt from Bill Carter's
....In terms of connections, CNN along with ABC News and the BBC enjoy
significant advantages, the reporters and executives said. All have
associations with Pakistanis who have cultivated exceptional relationships
with Taliban authorities.
"The Afghans attach a great deal of importance to personal
contact," said Eason Jordan, the president of news coverage for CNN.
CNN's connection in Pakistan, which Mr. Jordan declined to name, serves
as a producer. ABC News and the BBC used a highly regarded radio
journalist in Pakistan.
That fixers would be paid by a news organization is common and ethical,
all the reporters and executives said, because they are crucial to getting
close to battle. On the other hand, even though their words were not
censored, the reporters were given access to only certain areas.
The network correspondents, including Nic Robertson for CNN and Dan
Harris for ABC News, entered Kandahar along with 24 other people, mostly
television crews, about 13 of whom were Pakistanis. Others included
representatives of The Associated Press and Reuters.
All those admitted paid fees of $30 to the Afghan Embassy for visas for
the tour, the normal fee for visa requests, and a far cry from fee
requests of $2,000 to $5,000 that two other news organizations said they
were asked to pay to gain entry to the tour. They refused....
NBC was not contacted to participate, a senior executive said. Fox said
it was told it would have to pay an exorbitant fee to participate, but
reporters familiar with the scene in Pakistan said the request might have
come from an aspiring fixer looking for a payday.
Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News, said his network had applied
to go on the tour. "But when the list was published, we weren't on
END of Excerpt
To read the entire story, those registered
with the New York Times online can go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/01/international/asia/01FIX.html
Brokaw asserted on the Late Show on Thursday night that everyone shares
the blame for failing to foresee the terrorist attack -- the press, the
Clinton administration, Republicans in Congress, think tanks and a public
"living through dot-com fever" which was "more worried
about P. Diddy and J. Lo" than a terrorist attack.
Brokaw also affirmed to David Letterman that a
military response is required. After listing what harm the terrorists have
inflicted, he declared: "I think that there is only one answer to
that and that is some form of real retribution and justice -- and you do
During his appearance on the November 1 show,
Letterman asked the NBC Nightly News anchor why there wasn't a greater
U.S. response after the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa. Brokaw
there was a failure on the part of everyone, including the press. I think
it was a failure on the part Clinton administration, first of all, but I
also believe that the Republicans in Congress didn't raise their hands
and say 'wait a minute, what are we doing about this?' The think tanks
in Washington, a number of them have said terrorism is a big problem, but
they didn't make it their number one issue in many instances. We would
broadcast or publish reports of terrorist incidents and we would also talk
about there would be a congressional hearing about it, but the country was
living through dot-com fever and good times and Page Six and more worried
about P. Diddy and J. Lo than they were about a terrorist attack."
Later, after Brokaw warned that the U.S.
military response could generate another generation of terrorists,
Letterman wondered if there is a "better way" to respond
"other than militarily." Brokaw dismissed any alternative:
think you had to do it militarily. They came to this country and killed
5,000 people and attacked the two greatest symbols of capitalism that we
have in New York City, wounded the soul of New York and then went after
the Pentagon and hit one of the great institutions in American life, threw
us into a great psychological shock in America, disrupted our economy,
caused the country to live in fear. And I think that there is only one
answer to that and that is some form of real retribution and justice --
and you do that militarily."
That answer earned Brokaw loud and lengthy
applause from the Ed Sullivan Theater audience, as it deserved to. -- Brent Baker
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