War in Afghanistan | Media Matters for America

War in Afghanistan

Issues ››› War in Afghanistan
  • Stop giving Erik Prince op-ed space to talk up hiring mercenaries

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Pepsi’s CEO would like Americans to drink more Pepsi. Ford’s chief would like Americans to drive more Fords. And Erik Prince, head of the international security firm Frontier Services Group and infamous founder of the private military company once known as Blackwater, would like Americans to hire more military contractors in Afghanistan.

    These are the most banal, obvious opinions possible: Corporate executives always want more customers. But only one of them received valuable space in the nation’s most prominent op-ed pages to make his pitch.

    What is the point of doing this?

    Prince has two points in his op-ed in today’s New York Times, which is titled “Contractors, not troops, will save Afghanistan.” First, he writes that people should stop saying mean things about private security firms like the one he runs and saying they employ “mercenaries” because such “paid volunteers” were basically responsible for the defeat of Japan in World War II (I rather think the massive U.S. military forces deployed in the Pacific helped, along with the nuclear weapons, but then, I’ve never run a mercenary force).

    And second, he would very much appreciate it if the U.S. would move to an Afghanistan strategy that relied on private security firms like the one he runs. His proposal involves contracting “less than 6,000” mercenaries to “live, train and patrol alongside their Afghan counterparts.” Prince doesn’t explain why it’s important that such a role be played by hired guns rather than U.S. forces, but he does admit that he would be competing for the contracts.

    The value to readers of Prince’s pieces, which literally involve shilling for contracts for his own company, are, shall we say, minimal:

    The Times op-ed doesn’t even break new ground for Prince. He was similarly granted op-ed space in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal in recent months, and Prince used those platforms to call for the U.S. to employ more private security forces. (Those op-eds also included discussion of creating a “viceroy” for Afghanistan, a suggestion that, while risible, at least doesn’t necessarily involve the author’s economic benefit.) And his proposal has drawn substantial attention from the newsrooms of numerous outlets and been widely criticized by a panoply of national security reporters and experts.

    If the Times' opinion editors feel that this debate is an important one and their readers should hear the case that private security forces are the element necessary for stabilizing Afghanistan, they should find an expert who doesn't run a private security force to make that argument. If no such person exists, that in itself speaks volumes about Prince's position.

    The Times' opinion section has drawn criticism this year -- including from within the paper’s newsroom -- for hiring climate denier Bret Stephens as a columnist and publishing notorious conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch in its op-ed pages. Meanwhile, the paper sold subscriptions following Trump’s election based on the premise that it would oppose Trumpian “alternative facts.”

  • “Mind control,” “shadow government,” and Seth Rich: Sean Hannity’s history of pushing conspiracy theories

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News host Sean Hannity attracted widespread condemnation for pushing conspiracy theories about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer, but it wasn’t his first time promoting or entertaining such wild claims on air. From claiming that the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick protested the national anthem because he “may have converted to Islam” to implying that former President Barack Obama is a terrorist sympathizer, here are some examples of Hannity embracing conspiracy theories.

  • MOAB Bombing Shows CNN Is Actually More Obsessed Than Fox News With Bomb Videos

    Over A Six-Hour Span, CNN Played Test Footage Of The MOAB For 54 Minutes

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST

    After the U.S. military dropped the most powerful conventional weapon in its arsenal, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on an Islamic State complex in eastern Afghanistan, cable news networks responded with almost continuous coverage of the event, but the visuals in the networks’ coverage varied widely. Fox News spent about 21 minutes airing video footage from a 2003 test of the bomb, MSNBC barely used video footage at all, and CNN played and replayed the bomb test footage for a staggering almost 54 minutes in just six hours. In their coverage, Fox News and MSNBC both mentioned the potential for civilian casualties as a result of the bombing eight times, while CNN mentioned civilians 15 times.

    US Drops Massive Bomb Developed In 2003 For First Time Ever

    CNN: U.S. Drops Most Powerful Non-Nuclear Bomb On ISIS Target In Afghanistan. CNN reported that the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb, also known as the “mother of all bombs,” was dropped on an “ISIS cave and tunnel complex and personnel” in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. The weapon was developed during the Iraq War and was “mainly conceived as a weapon employed for ‘psychological operations.’” President Donald Trump, who “declined to say whether he personally signed off on the strike,” called it “‘another successful job.’” [CNN, 4/13/17]

    In Six Hours Of Coverage, CNN Aired Almost An Hour Of Bomb Test Footage And MSNBC Aired Almost None

    CNN Spent Nearly An Hour Airing Bomb Test Footage From 2003. In six hours of coverage of the April 13 U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, CNN repeatedly aired footage of the 2003 bomb test that was conducted by the U.S. Air Force, for a total of nearly 54 minutes.

    Fox News Spent 21 Minutes Airing The Bomb Test Footage. During Fox News’ coverage of the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, the network spent approximately 21 minutes airing video footage of the 2003 bomb test.

    MSNBC Relied Mostly On Still Images, Airing Only Five Seconds Of Bomb Test Footage. During MSNBC’s coverage of the bombing, the network aired only five seconds of video footage of the 2003 bomb test.

    CNN Made 15 Mentions Of Potential Civilian Casualties, While Fox News And MSNBC Both Made Eight Mentions. Despite airing the bomb test footage for nearly 54 minutes in six hours, CNN mentioned possible civilian casualties only 15 times in the six-hour period. Fox News mentioned the topic eight times, and MSNBC, despite airing only five seconds of bomb test footage, also mentioned possible civilian casualties eight times.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched Snapstream for MOAB bomb testing footage aired by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News between noon. and 6 p.m. on April 13, 2017. Time count began when bomb test footage appeared on the screen and ended when the footage ended or cut to still images of the test. To identify discussions of the bombing’s impact on civilians or the potential for collateral damage, Media Matters searched for mentions of “civilian OR collateral” in Snapstream transcripts for CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News shows from noon. to 6 p.m. on April 13, 2017.

    Additional research provided by Nick Fernandez, Jared Holt, and Madeline Peltz

  • Fox Host Glosses Over Murder Convictions While Hyping Blackwater As Solution To "Win The War"

    Blog ››› ››› LIBBY WATSON

    Days after several former Blackwater guards were found guilty of violent crimes related to the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians, Fox News' Brian Kilmeade hosted Blackwater founder Erik Prince for an interview that glossed over the severity of the convictions and provided a platform for accusations that the prosecution was politicized.

    On the October 27 edition of Fox & Friends, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince joined Brian Kilmeade to discuss US troops leaving Afghanistan. After decrying President Obama's strategy in Afghanistan, Kilmeade asked Prince about the recent murder, manslaughter, and weapons-related convictions of four former Blackwater guards. Kilmeade noted that the Blackwater guards had been found responsible for the deaths, describing the violent crimes as "something controversial." Kilmeade explained, "They have been convicted for what they say is that crime," though he made no mention of which specific crimes were being referenced. 

    KILMEADE: In 2007, your contractors were involved in something controversial in Iraq. And they've been convicted now -- four Blackwater guards responsible for the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians, wounding 17 others. They have been convicted for what they say is that crime. What's your reaction to that?

    Prince described the case as "highly politicized" and suggested contractors like Blackwater were "scapegoats."

    Kilmeade ended the segment by hyping Blackwater as a solution to success in Iraq, saying, "And if actually we want to win the war, they should call you up."


  • Watch: Shep Smith Rebuts Fox News' Rush To Judge Bowe Bergdahl


    Many Fox News hosts and pundits rushed to brand recently released Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a deserter and a traitor, but Shepard Smith took a different line by saying he was "disgusted" by the rush to judgment, cautioning that Bergdahl is innocent until proven guilty.

    On May 31, the White House announced it had secured the release of Bergdahl from the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Right-wing critics of President Obama began reporting as fact that Bergdahl had been a deserter and collaborated with the enemy, despite the fact that an investigation into the matter has not yet taken place.

    On the June 3 edition of Shepard Smith Reporting, host Smith took umbrage at the reporting, saying, "If you desert or commit treason, you have to be proved to have done so. We can't just decide because some people come on television and yakety yak, and we've got a report of this and a report of that and that's what happened. As the Army said, as the Pentagon said, you bring them home. You bring them home first, and then you investigate."

  • Media Fabricates Claim That Negotiations Over Bergdahl Release Were Unprecedented


    Media responded to the news that the Obama administration secured the release of prisoner of war (POW) Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban by parsing whether or not the administration violated longstanding policy by negotiating Bergdahl's release. In reality, experts say the U.S. has a long history of such negotiations, and Bergdahl's release was conducted using an intermediary nation.