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How the war is spun: Mass killings mean ‘progress,’ military says

WASHINGTON – We’ve written for years how Pentagon officials often spin mass casualty terrorist bombing attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan into signs of progress. After multiple bombings killed more than 80 people across the warzones Sunday and Monday, here’s an example of how the war is spun.

One standard Defense Department talking point reads something like this: It is a clear sign that the counterinsurgency is working when insurgents don’t engage in head-to-head fighting against Western troops (who are armed to the teeth like sci-fi warriors) and instead launch suicide attacks against local security forces, political leaders and civilians. The bad guys are “desperate.”  

Politico’s Morning Defense shared an email Monday that is pure military public affairs gold. How do you interpret a suicide bombing assassination attempt north of Kabul that killed at least 20 people into an obvious sign the war was going as planned?

An International Security Assistance Force spokesman emailed MD’s Chuck Hoskinson a response claiming the attack was “a resounding failure” because: 1) the target, a provincial governor survived, 2) the Afghan security forces reacted “autonomously” and 3) the attack did not target U.S. forces. 

The ISAF spokesman explained those points are important to make because they are “crucial to undermining the Taliban's attempt to obtain a propaganda victory from their failed attack.”

Judge for yourself who won the victory, propaganda or otherwise. According to The Washington Post, the attack occurred in a relatively secure Parwan province, north of Kabul. A car bomb blew up an entrance to the governor’s compound, five insurgents breached the facility and a two-hour gunfight commenced where five explosions “shook the building.” ISAF reported at least six IEDs in addition to the car bomb were detonated. 

In far worse carnage, bombings in at least 17 Iraqi cities on Monday killed more than 60 people in “bloodbath” scenes of scattered human flesh.

Stars and Stripes’ Erik Slavin, in Iraq, reports U.S. servicemembers were not attacked and Iraqi forces had to call for American assistance just once.

U.S. Forces Iraq spokesman Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, in the Pentagon Monday, said the attacks show Iraq remains dangerous but do not threaten the government and the insurgency remains an unpopular shadow of its former self.

“It is something that is obviously concerning,” said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, in Monday’s press gaggle. Then he noted the attacks were “not necessarily” targeting U.S. forces and, repeating an oft-heard DOD talking point, that U.S. leaders had anticipated “for some time” terrorist attacks would spike as Americans headed for the exits.

You can probably anticipate you’ll hear that line again, for some time.

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