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March 20, 2004
AP, Broadsheets Spin Battles Into "Arrests"

The AP is at it again, this time with more than one American broadsheet as enablers. While Pakistani soldiers are fighting and dying to capture or kill the hundreds of al-Qaeda soldiers protecting a high-value target in Waziristan, the AP treats the entire operation like a drug raid in Minneapolis (bold type is my emphasis):

Pakistan's military has arrested more than 100 suspects in a five-day assault on militants holed up in mud fortresses along the border where al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al Zawahri is believed trapped, a commander said today.

Those detained included foreigners and the local Pashtun tribesmen who have been sheltering them, said Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, who is in charge of the sweep. Hussain said 400 to 500 militants are believed to still be fighting from within the heavily fortified compounds in the tribal South Waziristan region, using mortars, AK-47s, rockets and hand-grenades in a face-off with troops.

Maybe it's just me, but a confrontation between a regular army unit and a heavily armed band of fighters using mortars, rockets, and hand-grenades sounds more like a battle than an INS raid, doesn't it? That would make suspects more like prisoners and their status captured rather than arrested.

Matthew Pennington's report appears in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Washington Post. The New York Times tries to cut it both ways, using "arrests" in the headline but "captured" in the body of the story. Only the Los Angeles Times unmistakably depicts a military operation and not the serving of arrest warrants, although it avoids mentioning the captured AQ fighters altogether.

Words have meaning, and the effort of Pennington and the AP to recast these battles as "arrests" give the impression that the war is nothing more than a law-enforcement action with bigger guns. That does a tremendous disservice to the Pakistani soldiers in Waziristan who are fighting and dying to crush the the remnants of al-Qaeda and to bring their leadership to account, dead or alive, for their acts of war. It demeans the efforts and sacrifices of American and other Coalition armed forces who face death in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all around the Persian Gulf.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2004 8:12 AM

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