Somehow, I'm more likely to believe Gareth Porter.
Fiction of Marjah as city was U.S. misinformation
"For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the Afghanistan War against what it was told was a "city of 80,000 people" as well as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marjah was a major strategic objective, more important than other district centers in Helmand.
It turns out, however, that the picture of Marjah presented by military officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict.
Marjah is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley."
Go on. Check it out on Google Earth.
And even with such sparse population, they still managed to get it wrong and kill civilians and then cry big tears about it.
In April 2006, John Pilger, who's been reporting on disastrous wars and lying politicians for a long time, had this to say about unquestioning belief in his article The Real First Casualty of War:
"During the 1970s, I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. The dissident novelist Zdenek Urbánek told me, "In one respect, we are more fortunate than you in the west. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and watch on television, nothing of the official truth. Unlike you, we have learned to read between the lines, because real truth is always subversive."
This acute skepticism, this skill of reading between the lines, is urgently needed in supposedly free societies today. Take the reporting of state-sponsored war. The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries, such as Iraq."
And the new guy, handpicked to oversee Marjah (with binoculars, I presume) and bring peace and stability?
New Afghan leader was jailed for attempted murder in Germany
"Abdul Zahir, the Afghan tribal leader chosen to bring law and order to the area cleared by the joint US and British troop surge, has previously been jailed for attempted murder.
Mr Zahir, who has been appointed as administrator for Marjah, was given a four-year sentence in Germany for stabbing his 18-year-old stepson with a kitchen knife.
He will now be in charge of bringing good government to the former Taliban stronghold targeted in Operation Moshtarak after being backed by President Hamid Karzai and US military commander General Stanley McChrystal."
Whoops. Looks like the Telegraph swallowed the "Taliban stronghold in Operation Moshtarek" organic fertilizer, too.
But the new Marjah mayor? He's - what can I say? - perfect.