Ridding Ourselves Of Shireen Mazari's Mistakes

Oct 6th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

The Nation (logo)In an opinion column published in today’s The Nation, “Ridding ourselves of the US“, Shireen Mazari makes several incorrect claims about incidents and statistics in the war against militants. While Shireen Mazari is certainly entitled to her own opinion about the war, she is not entitled to her own facts.

Shireen Mazari claims that drone attacks have killed more civilians than militants. According to Shireen Mazari’s column,

…we are unable to deal with our terrorism threat internally because we are following US diktat and using a military-centric policy which is simply creating more space for militants within the country. The drone attacks, killing more civilians than militants, are one glaring case in point.

Mazari provides no research to back up her claim, so it is not known why she says this. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann’s drones database at the New America Foundation (NAF) shows that more militants have been killed by drone attacks than civilians. Furthermore, the NAF research is transparent as to its sources and analysis:

The research on these pages, which we have created in a good faith effort to be as transparent as possible with our sources and analysis and will be updated regularly, draws only on accounts from reliable media organizations with deep reporting capabilities in Pakistan, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks—the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC—and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan—the Daily Times, Dawn, and the News—as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network.

Here are the estimated death counts:

Estimated Total Deaths from U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010

Deaths (low) Deaths (high)
2010* 409 685
2009 413 709
2008 263 296
2004-2007 86 109
Total 1,171 1,799

*Through October 4, 2010

Estimated Militant Deaths from U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 – 2010

Deaths (low) Deaths (high)
2010* 383 625
2009 293 405
2008 106 134
2004-2007 78 100
Total 860 1,264

*Through October 4, 2010

Estimated Militant Leader Deaths from US Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010

2010* 10
2009 10
2008 11
2004-2007 3
Total 32

*Through October 4, 2010. Included in estimated militants and estimated totals, above.

Later, in the same paragraph, Mazari claims that “there are the NATO incursions into our territory and targeting of even our military personnel”. While there was the well-reported NATO incursion into our territory, the claim of “targeting” is misleading.

An investigation of the incident has found that Pakistani soldiers fired warning shots at the helicopters, which returned fire. The US and NATO have apologized for the incident and pledged to work more closely with the Pakistani military and government to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Shireen Mazari’s account could lead readers to believe that the US was intentionally and aggressively attacking Pakistani soldiers, which would be an act of war. This doesn’t make any sense. If the US military wanted to go to war with Pakistan, why would it provide so much support and supplies to the Pakistani military? And why would the US apologize and pledge to work more closely in coordination with the Pakistani military?

Mazari goes on to repeat the discredited conspiracy theory that the US is planning to steal our nuclear arsenal. Her evidence is a statement by an American conservative historian Arthur Herman. But Arthur Herman is not a member of the US government or military and would have no access to such sensitive information. He is simply describing a hypothetical ‘worst-case scenario’ based on no evidence.

Actually, the article that Mazari is referring to is an opinion column in an American newspaper New York Post which has been criticised by the Columbia Journalism Review who said, “The New York Post is no longer merely a journalistic problem. It is a social problem.” According to a survey conducted by Pace University in 2004, the New York Post was rated the least-credible news outlet in New York. The Wikipedia entry on New York Post includes a long list of controversies surrounding the newspaper.

Shireen Mazari then goes on to repeat another discredited conspiracy theory saying that Visas are being granted “with no proper scrutiny and with all normal procedures being abandoned”. Mazari provides no evidence for this claim, which would be a quite serious breach of protocol. Notably, Shireen Mazari does not accuse anyone by name of committing this act, possibly because she knows that it would be defamatory for her to do so. Instead, she merely states that it is being done which could possibly result in readers mistakenly believing that she has some evidence to back her claim.

Shireen Mazari has every right to believe that the US is the root of all of the country’s problems, but she must make this claim with facts and not inventions and conspiracy theories. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but facts are facts. Making statements to support a particular political agenda even when the facts are the opposite is not journalism, it is merely propaganda. Please, Shireen Mazari, stick to the facts.

Shireen Mazari Gets Failing Grade

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