The passive construction of this lead paragraph in the Washington Post misleads readers about the nature of latest violence in Afghanistan:
ASADABAD, Afghanistan, May 18 — Afghanistan has been rocked over the past two days by some of the deadliest violence since the Taliban was driven from power in late 2001. As many as 105 people were reported killed in four provinces as insurgents torched a district government compound, set off suicide bombs and clashed fiercely with Afghan and foreign troops.
Between 80 and 90 Taliban fighters were killed in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, according to Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials. Two sites in Kandahar were struck by U.S. warplanes, including a long-range B-1 bomber, which U.S. military officials said destroyed a compound that Taliban guerrillas were using to stage an attack.
Cori at RantingProfs points out that this flabby syntax makes it very difficult to figure out what happened. Did the “105 people” include “between 80 and 90 Taliban fighters”? That might be important information for Americans trying to evaluate this news.
As Bill Roggio reports, the media have blurred the line between Taliban actions and coalition offensives in this latest wave of violence. This Post article reports that Afghanistan “has been rocked,” describes the casualties with the generic ”105 people,” and then lists things the Taliban did. A reader would be forgiven for thinking that a mighty, resurgent Taliban had unleashed a catastrophically fatal wave of violence against the coalition. Roggio tells us it was the other way around.