Well, mystery solved. A few blogs back I was bitching about the terrible job the Canadian media had done when it came to reporting a claim from Wikileaks that four Canadian soldiers had been killed by US friendly fire in Afghanistan. The media fought to outdo each other in demanding to know why the Canadian government lied about how the men died. Very little was done to find out details of the friendly fire incident. That would have been somewhat challenging because the men were not killed by a US bomb – they were killed in fire-fight with the Taliban; just as the Department of National Defence said.
It was wasn't so much the Canadian Government that got a raw deal from media – it was the implied criticism of the families of the dead soldiers that bothered me. The media was pretty much accusing them of not caring enough to find out exactly how their loved ones died. They were, if the media was to be believed, dupes.
In fact, it was no fault of the US Air Force that the deaths weren't due to friendly fire. They did indeed drop a bomb, a one ton one, near the Canadians but it failed to go off. Someone with the US military put two and two together and got five. A one-ton bomb and four dead Canadian soldiers doesn't always equal friendly fire. Common-sense should have resulted in some caution be used when it came to the US report. The chances of the US Air Force killing four Canadians and none of their friends and comrades saying a word about it are less than zero. I gather there were around 50 Canadians in the area when the men died.
This highly discreditable media episode links into another problem highlighted in a previous blog – the preference for women commentators in reporting fields normally dominated by men. I was talking about female football and men's ice hockey commentators. A lot of the Canadian media thought it would be smart to get women “experts” on defence matters to comment on the supposed friendly fire deaths. The decision to choose experts purely on the grounds of their sex back-fired on this one. There are some very knowledgeable female commentators on defence/military issues but the reporters in the main failed to find them. There are also a number of very knowledgeable men, but they were excluded by the bright spark reporters who thought it would be a great idea to get a woman. There was one male “expert” I heard. He's not a guy I ever used when I was a reporter and after hearing what he had to say about this incident I remembered why I red-flagged him as a hysteric and never used him in my stories. One of the women I heard interviewed about the never-happened friendly fire deaths was former US Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. I'd always thought she was scape-goated over the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal in Iraq. Now I'm glad she was never my boss.