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Friday, June 19, 2009


Pop quiz

What is wrong with this lead sentence from AP today?
Suspected U.S. missiles pounded militant hideouts Thursday in the tribal belt near Afghanistan.
The answer, obviously, is that the word "suspected" is in the wrong place. There's only one country operating drones firing missiles over Pakistan, and that's the U.S. On the other hand, we know from experience that the targets of those missiles, invariably claimed to be "militants" (or "militant hideouts"), as often as not prove to be plain old "civilians."

But the more the media can do to make Americans forget the inconvenient fact, the better. "Suspected militant hideouts"? Why, if they said that, it might make clear that the "rules of engagement" the U.S. operates under are one part "rules" and nine parts "engagement."

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