Debunking one of Sean Hannity’s many distortions

I’m not ashamed to admit that I regularly listen to talk radio….which in Springfield means you listen to conservative talk radio. That includes the Sean Hannity Show, which is often an excruciating experience.

One of the lying liars Al Franken was talking about.

This picture is almost as disturbing as his distortions.

His style is focusing on one or two issues at a time – sometimes what feels like for months – and hammering away on them ad nauseum. He throws out a few catchphrases and repeats them enough that callers to his show and KSGF’s morning show begin parroting them.

The worst thing about him, though, is the pretzels he’s willing to twist the truth into as he makes his arguments. I spent as much time searching online, debunking the things he says, as I do actually listening to the show. He repeated one the other day that particularly gets under my skin and I’m going to debunk it. Let me break-it-down-now.

Hannity likes to remind his listeners that Barack Obama is a bad human being for accusing our troops of “air-raiding villages and killing civilians.” He said it because it’s true.

A little back story here: In August of 2007, then-Sen. Obama was making a campaign stop in Hanover, N.H. when he was asked if he’d move U.S. troops out of Iraq to better fight terrorism elsewhere. His answer included this statement about Afghanistan: “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”

He was absolutely correct. Even at that time Taliban and other insurgent fighters were still very much a problem in Afghanistan and, with many ground troops in Iraq, the coalition forces needed a way to fight them without suffering too many casualties of their own. The solution was air power. The unfortunate consequence was civilian casualties.

An AP fact check, dated August 14 of 2007 determined Obama was correct. The AP kept count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Tracking the casualties was a difficult task, as most of them happened in remote and dangerous areas that are tough to reach and verify. As of Aug. 1 the AP had counted 231 civillians killed by militants in 2007, while Western forces had killed 286. Another 20 were killed in crossfire and couldn’t be attributed to one side.

The fact check also notes that Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed his concern about the civillian deaths in a meeting with President Bush. Bush’s response:

“The president rightly expressed his concerns about civilian casualty,” Bush said of Karzai. “And I assured him that we share those concerns.”

A story at FOX News’ Web site, of all places, dated September 17, 2008, quotes U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates as expressing “personal regret” for recent American airstrikes that killed Afghan civilians and pledged more accurate targeting in the future.

“As I told them, I offer all Afghans my sincere condolences and personal regret for the recent loss of innocent life as a result of coalition airstrikes,” he said, noting the U.S. military takes extraordinary precautions to avoid civilian casualties, but “It is clear that we have to work even harder.”

Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, has said that a shortage of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is forcing commanders to rely more on air combat, which can cause more civilian deaths. The attacks that have angered and embarrassed the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

So there you have it. Yes, Obama once said that our troops were air-raiding villages and killing civilians. You can argue he shouldn’t have said “just,” but you can’t dispute that he accurately assessed what our air-based strategy was doing at the time.

Sean Hannity makes too much money doing what he’s doing to suddenly start being honest. With that in mind, if you listen to him, make sure you do some fact checking. If you want to read some more about what was going on in Afghanistan during that time, click on these links:

Afghans Report 133 Civilians Dead In Recent Airstrikes (July 8, 2007)

More Afghan Civilians Killed In Airstrikes (July 1, 2007)

British Criticize Air Attacks in Afghan Region (August 9, 2007)