"Obfuscation occurs above their pay grade," he said.
Curley's important speech serves as an reminder and warning to the Obama administration, which is committed to both a "surge" in Afghanistan and to the corrupt Karzai regime.
The AP has been reporting on the ground in Afghanistan since 9/11, covering facts and debunking U.S. reports of grand progress in the neglected and meandering conflict.
Curley said the U.S. government was more interested in "disinformation" put out to "suggest success that wasn't really happening." For instance, military spokespeople told of the big victory in "Operation Anaconda," where 600 Taliban fighters were said to be killed. One major problem: AP's non-embedded reporters couldn't find the body of a single dead Taliban fighter or any burial sites, said Curley.
The Pentagon often gloated that Taliban morale was shot, though AP correspondent Kathy Gannon found exactly the opposite. Poppy eradication was said to be a pillar of U.S. policy (an RFP was even floated for a PR firm to encourage farmers to grown other crops), but AP reported that "marines of Bravo Company's 1st Platoon were sleeping beside a pasture of poppies – not destroying them," said Curley.
"In fact, they were reassuring villagers that their cash crop wouldn't be touched – even though poppies provide the Taliban nearly $100 million a year to buy weapons to use against U.S. troops."
Curley believes the Bush administration adopted a misinformation policy because it had its eye on the invasion of Iraq and didn't have the resources to devote to Afghanistan. "It had to make Afghanistan a success to enable Iraq," he said.
The AP chief has seen "the popularity of two presidents collapse in part over opposition to the management of wars, but in larger part over the failure to come clean about battlefield realities."
Obama has promised a "clearer mission" in Afghanistan. My hope is that Obama avoids becoming No. 3 on Curley's list of presidents taken down by Pentagon lies and distortions. Curley said the the coming months will tell whether Obama's strategy provides a true path forward or is "just another turn in the bend of what so far seems to have been an aimless – and deadly – war."
The AP will be watching for us all. Everyone should root for it.