Can you believe what you read in the headlines?

US Army in AfghanistanCredit: SGT Johnny R. Aragon | Public DomainThe headline, dated 5/26/11, was from Reuters U.S. Edition.  It reads, "Roadside Bomb Kills Seven NATO Troops in Afghanistan."  The first paragraph of the syndicated story expounds upon the headline, saying,

"(Reuters) - Seven members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, the coalition said, the worst single incident involving foreign troops in a month. The ISAF did not specify the nationalities of those killed but U.S., British and Canadian troops make up the bulk of the foreign force in the south. Almost 200 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year."

Map of AfghanistanCredit: Central Intelligence Agency | Public DomainGiven the way the headline and opening paragraph is worded, it would be relatively easy for the average American reader to skim right past it.  While the verbiage might cause some readers to momentarily ponder the fates of the "foreign ISAF" troops killed, the great majority of readers would most likely move on to the next story without giving it a thought.  After all, the deaths of foreign ISAF troops may be a problem, but it's someone else's problem, right?

Wrong.  The truth is, those seven "foreign ISAF" soldiers were American soldiers.  In fact, subsequent reports confirmed that eight soldiers (of which seven were American)  and two Afghan policemen also died in the explosion. Two additional Afghan policemen were wounded in the explosion, which occured in the mountainous Shorabak district of Kandahar province, 12 miles from the Pakistan border.  The Taliban, in a telephone call to the Associated Press, claimed responsibility for the blast, saying "A bomb was planted for them in a field."  

The question that should be on the minds of every American who cares about our troops, and about how we conduct wars abroad, is why didn't we get that version of the story the first time around? 

Wars are a messy business.  People die.  The men and women of our Armed Forces know what they're signing up for when they enlist.  In that same vein, the American public deserves to know what is really happening "over there," if they are going to be asked to send their sons and daughters to fight, and perhaps, even die there.  But that isn't what is happening.  The mainstream media has been complicit in downplaying American deaths and casualties in Afghanistan, and possibly in Libya as well.

Ask yourself this simple question:  How many Americans have died in Afghanistan?  You don't know, do you?

It is interesting to note that while the war in Iraq was widely considered to be George W. Bush's war, the Afghan and Libyan wars are generally seen as President Barack Obama's wars.  If you compare the way the media covered the war in Iraq with how it is now covering the wars in Afghanistan and Libya, you can see some major differences.

US CasualtiesCredit: Dover AFB - Public DomainDuring the Iraq war, the mainstream media breathlessly reported the number of U.S. combat deaths on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  The average citizen knows, thanks to that perpetual drumbeat of coverage of the U.S. casualty count, that the number of Americans killed in combat in Iraq exceeds 3,000.  (It is, in fact, about 3,500 killed in action with an additional 32,000 wounded in action.)

Compare that almost universal awareness of our casualty count in Iraq with what the general public knows today about what is happening in Afghanistan.  Ask the average person on the street how many American soldiers have died in Afghanistan, and you'll be met with a shrug or a furrowed brow.  The answer is, there have been over 1000 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan, with an additional 10,000 wounded in action.  Now, why didn't you know that?

Is it because the American public cares less about soldiers who die in Afghanistan than they do about the men and women who died in Iraq?  Hardly.  The reason is, our government, which is led by a President who campaigned on a platform promising "the most transparent government in history," has made a concerted effort to conceal or downplay the deaths that are occurring in Afghanistan.  As we now enter a third war in Libya, isn't it time we demand better accountability for the lives of the men and women we're sending into harm's way?