What you have to remember is that we're the good guys. When we kill people, it's a bit of an oopsie - although of course when other people kill us, they're evil scum who hate our freedom. Forget for a moment that lobbing giant bombs at people - whether you think they're 'militants' or 'insurgents' or not, and even if you think it's best to blow up people rather than capture them - brings with it a slight attendant risk of actually harming people who may *not* be bad folk. Forget all that - when judging the actions and the behaviour of 'friendly' nations, you must consider at all times that we're the good guys. If we blow someone up, we clearly didn't mean to, unless they were A Bad Man, in which case, they deserved to die and we did The Right Thing.
Such is the language of our war in the Middle East. Whenever 'our boys' are decapitated, torn to pieces, shot to death or wounded, they are 'heroes'. Whenever 'our boys' do the killing, they are 'heroes' and their victims are mere 'insurgents' or 'militants'. On those rare occasions when 'our boys' make a mistake, then it's just 'one of those things' that happens when you illegally invade another country and use enormous weapons in a civilian area - just like the weather, it's just something that happens sometimes.
One story that didn't make a very prominent appearance in our media yesterday - and who can blame them for relegating it, when there are much more important matters such as Countdown numbers-game people not getting as much money as they wanted - was the story of two children being shot to death by Nato soldiers in Afghanistan.
Let's see the non-partisan way in which AFP presents the story on the wires:
KABUL (AFP) — NATO-led soldiers killed two children after opening fire on a car that failed to slow down near a military patrol in southern Afghanistan, the alliance's force said Monday.
Oopsie! Well I'm sure there was a jolly good reason for doing so. Our boys wouldn't make such a terrible mistake unless it was entirely someone else's fault, would they? Remember, we're the good guys!
The incident in the Taliban-troubled province of Kandahar on Sunday followed a similar one in neighbouring Helmand province on Saturday in which the troops killed four civilians.
There were two incidents? I don't even remember reading about the first one, in which four civilians were killed. Is this just some casual thing that happens nowadays - soldiers are allowed to shoot whomever they choose at checkpoints? And that's all right?
But see the first germ of justification in that paragraph: remember, we're the good guys and we're in a 'Taliban-troubled' place.
In the latest incident, the troops "opened fire on a vehicle being driven in a threatening manner and ignoring warnings, killing two child occupants," NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.
Ah, see, it must have been the driver's fault for not understanding the signals. Which I am sure have been broadcast and explained to all citizens in Afghanistan, haven't they? Or... have they? And 'driving in a threatening manner'? What does that mean? How can you threaten people with guns when you're just in a car? Clearly what appears to have happened is that the driver was clocked as being a possible suicide bomber, so the forces opened fire. But they were wrong.
The troops opened fire after the driver ignored "hand, arm and audio signals" to keep its distance from the patrolling convoy, it added.
"When the vehicle was 10 metres away and still approaching rapidly, the ISAF soldiers, fearing an attack, fired on it."
Maybe it was trying to overtake? I know soldiers must be bricking it when they see a car approaching, but isn't it kind of the point of being an occupying force that sometimes these things are going to happen? Doesn't it come with the territory of invading someone else's country?
There have been several such incidents in recent years. International forces, here to help Afghanistan fight a Taliban-led insurgency, are a key target for suicide bombings and other attacks.
Ah, so that's what the occupying forces were there for. Thank goodness we have the impartial journalist to tell us what the mission of the Nato forces is 'here'! How sweet to think that those men who opened fire on children - trained killers shooting children from 10 metres away - were only 'here to help'.
You'll remember from lesson 3 that journalists don't like upsetting the apple cart by questioning the actions or behaviour of our friendly forces, even when they commit unspeakable crimes by killing civilians. It's the same thing again: We are the good guys. That's always the starting point for any such story.
Media Lens has the usual excellent coverage of the story I looked at in lesson 3, looking back at the reports of the atrocity that took 52 lives and how it was largely ignored. As ever, they don't go for the easy targets that I choose, like the Mail and Express, but the supposedly 'serious' press:
On July 12, the Guardian devoted 307 words to the attack on the wedding party. The killing of 39 women and children was not considered front page news - the story was buried on page 30.
Meanwhile, over at Murdoch Towers - the same folk who were recently trying to bully Media Lens:
On the same day, a 490-word article in the Times focused on the fate of nine British troops injured when a US helicopter accidentally targeted them in a "friendly fire" incident. Six of the nine soldiers have since returned to duty, with three still receiving medical treatment. While 447 words were devoted to this story, the article concluded with two sentences totalling 43 words on the killing of the Afghan civilians
And there's also an interesting examination of the use of the word 'militant' and the continual excusing of slayings as mistakes:
Certainly it is reprehensible to kill with intent. But is it any better to kill without intent when the likely consequences for our victims are so irrelevant that they do not even enter our minds?
It is if you're the national press.