- "The first casualty, when war comes, is truth."
--Senator Hiram Johnson, World War I
- "We are learning to do what the British used to
do so well - Lie." --U.S. Intelligence Officer, November 2001
- The papers are full of news of Johnny "Mike"
Spann from Alabama. The Central Intelligence Agency officer, who served
in the Directorate of Operations, is being described as a hero and a patriot.
He is also being described as "the first American combat death"
in Afghanistan. He was killed during fighting at the Qala-I-Jhangi mud
fort near Mazar-I-Sharif. Five American soldiers were seriously wounded
in the same raid, when an U.S. bomb landed too close to them. Until Thursday,
the CIA and Pentagon were denying reports that Spann had died. Now that
they admit it, they say he is the first.
- According to a November 17th UPI article this is not
true. Reporter Richard Sale quotes an unnamed U.S. administration official
as saying that between 25 and 40 U.S. Special Forces have been killed so
far, mostly in fighting in southern Afghanistan, around Kandahar. While
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said no Americans were killed in these
operations, a State Department official retorted "that's crazy."
- Besides Mike Spann, the Pentagon acknowledges four other
American deaths in incidents related to the war on terrorism, but not in
Afghanistan. Two soldiers were killed on October 20th when their helicopter
crashed in Pakistan. Two others died in accidents, one, Bryant Davis, stationed
on the USS Kitty Hawk fell overboard on November 7th and was lost.
- John Pike, president of Washington-based GlobalSecurity.
Org, referred to a press conference last month where Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld was quizzed about the Taliban displaying a wheel of a helicopter,
torn off in an accident, but which the Taliban claimed was shot down. According
to Pike, at the end of his explanation, Rumsfeld looked at the reporters
and stated the equivalent of: "This is the last time I'm telling you
- At a press conference on Monday, November 26th, President
Bush warned, "Americans must be prepared for the loss of life,"
in Afghanistan. Prepared or not, here they come. A Taliban spokesman claimed
in early November that ninety-five American soldiers have been killed in
Afghanistan. The Pentagon claims five. Somewhere between those two figures
lies the truth. Americans can't prepare for loss of life without the truth
about who, where, when and why. Only then can we judge if this loss of
life is worth it. And maybe that is why they aren't telling us the truth.
- The truth in war is as necessary as it is elusive. The
support from 95% of Americans hinges on the war's antiseptic perfection,
its remoteness and incomprehensibility. When the war begins to come home--
when the stories of missed targets, friendly fire incidents, the brutality
and lawlessness of our Northern Alliance allies and foot soldiers are told-that
overwhelming support will falter and crumbled.
- Frida Berrigan is a Research Associate with the World
Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center.