Footnotes of an America United

There were these footnotes to the story of America's war on terrorism.

The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. bombing in Afghanistan, instead of weakening the Taliban rulers, has instead strengthened them.

The story is based on what refugees told a Post reporter who talked to them in the Pakistani border town of Quetta. They said the combination of civilian casualties and Taliban propaganda has helped strengthen the Taliban grip on the country.

Meanwhile, the French news agency, A.F.P., based on interviews in the same town, came up with a different story, one of extreme Taliban brutality, in which people seeking to flee Afghanistan were being shot down in cold blood.

One man said he fled to the hills for a time to dodge the Taliban, and came back to find his three sons shot to death. Another said he saw 50 people, men, women and children, shot down by a road while trying to leave. He said -- quote -- "I hate the Taliban for doing this," end quote.

The BBC in London got a call last week from someone purporting to be a representative of Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

The London Telegraph reports that the caller, who spoke Arabic with a marked Pakistani or Afghan accent, said bin Laden wanted to send a statement to the BBC world service. The callback display indicated it was a London number calling, and a short time later, bin Laden's most recent statement, the one urging the overthrow of Pakistani President Musharraf, arrived by fax.

But the Telegraph says the BBC never told Scotland Yard or anyone else about the call. And by the time investigators heard about it, the papers say the BBC seemed to have lost the phone number. A BBC spokesman explained, "we don't ring the police as a matter of course."

Remember that memo CNN president Walter Isaacson sent his staff, directing them to remind viewers, when reporting on allegations of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, how "the Taliban are using civilian shields, and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing close to 5,000 innocent people?"

Isaacson added, "it seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan."  It now turns out that no sooner was that memo issued, than the staff at CNN International, which broadcasts to foreign countries, was told that it did not apply to them.