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Looking for balance in Afghanistan coverage

Friday, March 18, 2011; 6:23 PM

Two stories on the same page on March 10 illustrate a continuing problem with how The Post reports events.

"Afghan war civilian deaths rise" was given a prominent position at the top of Page A8 while "Bomber kills dozens in northwestern city" in Pakistan was relegated to the Digest at the bottom of the page.

The Post didn't sufficiently emphasize that some deaths reported in the first article were accidental while all the deaths reported in the second were deliberate. Nor was there any mention in the first story that the Taliban approach of engaging in skirmishes while surrounded by civilians - in effect, using human shields - leads to civilian casualties.

The killings in Pakistan were the result of a suicide bomber's attack on a funeral. This action plumbs the depths of depravity and callousness. Yet, it received less prominence than the one involving accidental deaths. One has to ask whether suicide bombings have become sufficiently commonplace that they need be reported more as an aside than as an illustration of barbaric actions against innocent people.

Warren Manison, Potomac

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The March 15 article reporting the results of a recent poll of Americans' views on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan asserted that "opposition . . . breaks sharply along partisan lines."

However, the actual polling numbers reveal that about 50 percent of Republicans and more than 80 percent of Democrats don't think the conflict is "worth it." Given the margin of error, it is thus more than possible that a majority of Republicans hold the same view as a majority of Democrats.

In this highly partisan age, the fact that such large segments of the two parties agree on something strikes me as more significant than the relative size of those segments. Sometimes, numbers speak well enough for themselves.

Jeffrey L. Bobeck, Washington

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