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How to Tell When ‘Humans’ Die in a U.S. War

ABC World News’ David Muir (9/30/12) took note of the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan this way:

Overseas now to Afghanistan, and a stark reminder tonight of the human cost of war. An attack at a checkpoint left two Americans dead, one of them a serviceman, the 2,000th U.S. military death since the war began.

That kind of language is revealing in that it presents American deaths as evidence of the “human cost of war.” But, of course, that is a human cost almost every day most wars. What they’re saying is this is primarily something we should think about when the humans in question are U.S. troops.

We don’t need to search very far to find a counter-example. On the very same show, two weeks earlier (9/16/12) , viewers were told about a NATO airstrike that killed eight Afghan women. They had been out collecting firewood.

How did ABC report these deaths? In all of one sentence, stuffed at the end of a report by correspondent Muhammad Lila about U.S. troop deaths:

And late this evening, another incident that’s causing tension here. NATO is confirming that an air strike has led to civilian casualties, reportedly including Afghan women and children.

Last year, in a very similar incident, a NATO airstrike killed nine boys. And ABC’s brief report (3/6/11) focused on Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s “harsh words for the U.S.”



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