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[] USA Today 17.10.01: USA's Airborne Message: Taliban, 'You Are Condemned',
USA Today
October 17, 2001

USA's Airborne Message: Taliban, 'You Are Condemned'

By Andrea Stone, USA Today

WASHINGTON ? In messages aimed at two distinct Afghan audiences, U.S. military radio broadcasts are warning terrorists that they "will pay with their blood" for last month's attacks, while assuring civilians that America is not waging war against them. The Pentagon's propaganda offensive to win over the Afghan people and demoralize Osama bin Laden's forces is led by Air Force EC-130E "Commando Solo" aircraft that are broadcasting 13 different scripts. They are recorded in Pashto and Dari, the two most common languages spoken in Afghanistan.

Airstrikes have destroyed Afghan radio stations and transmitters. The airborne broadcasts started soon after, although high winds forced the Pentagon to delay until Monday a drop of leaflets listing the channel and time for "Information Radio" broadcasts. 

The military has not dropped battery-powered radios, as it did when U.S. forces went into Haiti in 1994. But such drops might be made in the days ahead to increase the number of listeners.

According to transcripts released by the Pentagon, the broadcasts fall under two main themes:

*"The partnership of nations is here to help," a message that describes the war on terrorism as an international effort to free Afghans from the grip of the ruling Taliban and bin Laden.

*"Taliban actions are non-Islamic," broadcasts that describe the Taliban as an enemy of Afghanistan's culture. The messages appeal to national heritage by quoting Afghan poetry and comparing the terrorists unfavorably to ancient Muslim warriors. 

One spot urges civilians not to interfere with U.S. troops and to avoid military installations that might be targeted for airstrikes. Another offers practical advice: stay clear of falling humanitarian airdrops of food, water and medical supplies because "these bundles may appear small, but they are in fact very large and heavy."

In language as subtle as the bombs landing on Afghanistan, the message to U.S. enemies is full of bravado. "Attention Taliban! You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death," declares one.

The spots dismiss the Taliban's "obsolete" weapons and boast, "Our helicopters will rain fire down upon your camps before you detect them on your radar. Our bombs are so accurate we can drop them right through your windows ... Resistance is futile ... Surrender now and we will let you live."

The spots are "strident, self-confident, bordering a little bit on self-righteous," says Marvin Kalb of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "But at the same time, they are an attempt to reach into the soul of Islam. Whether that is going to be successful will be determined by the actions of the people to whom the message is addressed."

One broadcast describes the Sept. 11 events without mentioning the Pentagon, New York and Washington ? an attempt to cast the attacks as an assault on all people. It says four jets were hijacked but only notes crashes at the World Trade Center and in Pennsylvania. The spot adds that many Muslims and citizens from 67 countries were killed.

"Rhetorically, that's a good move," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a media professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "It makes it sound like a world center of commerce was attacked. ... not just 5,000 New Yorkers."

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