Afghanistan and the Media

Submitted by admin on Sat, 08/26/2017 - 05:37
The tribal chiefs of Paktia province


Dear Friends,

No end to the American war in Afghanistan. In fact, US President Donald Trump wants to extend the war - to send in more troops and to bomb the country into further reaches of oblivion.

When did this war begin? The contemporary phase was in October 2001, when US President George W. Bush refused to negotiate with the Taliban for the transfer of Osama Bin Laden and instead launched a massive attack across the country. The longer war began - perhaps - on 3 July 1979, when US President Jimmy Carter signed a directive to provide covert aid (money and arms) to the reactionary mujahideen fighters (this was a full six months before the Soviet Union reluctantly sent its forces into Afghanistan). Cynical US policy in Afghanistan from 1979 unleashed the full force of brutal reaction, from the emergence of al-Qaeda to ISIS.

When asked about the US funding of these most dangerous and at that time marginal forces, Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said, 'What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?'. Afghanistan continues to play the price for Western ambitions.

America's longest war continues and it continues to rob Afghanistan of its people and its history. A report released in July by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says that in the first six months of this year, the number of civilian casualties has reached a record high - two per cent higher than last year's record high.

In Alternet this week, I have a report on the Afghan war with an eye to the Taliban's spectacular advances into half of the country's provinces, to the role of al-Qaeda and ISIS in the country and to the promised increased military activity by the United States. You can read my report here.

You might wonder about the picture above. It is of the tribal chiefs of Paktia province, who came together for the second time to vow to punish anyone in their region who collaborates with the Taliban or any other force. But they are not alone. Women leaders in the province have also - as I note - made it clear that the way forward is to mobilize the people against the war, not to prolong a war that cannot be won against an enemy that includes various regional actors.


The picture above, which I found in my mother's flat in Kolkata, is of Prof. Aijaz Ahmad releasing the book at the 2002 Kolkata Book Fair


When the United States began its war against Afghanistan in 2001, I wrote a series of articles that suggested that there was no endgame to the violence and that the Taliban would return in strength unless there was an alternative political agenda on the table. Those articles appeared in the Indian press and - thanks to the late Alexander Cockburn - in Counterpunch. They would appear in 2002 as my first book for the newly created LeftWord Books as War Against the Planet: The Fifth Afghan War, Imperialism and Other Assorted Fundamentalisms. The book is now out of print. The picture above, which I found in my mother's flat in Kolkata, is of Prof. Aijaz Ahmad releasing the book at the 2002 Kolkata Book Fair (my mother was sitting in the front row for that!). Most of the warnings in that book have - sadly - come true.

The articles and the book seemed to be written from an alternative universe, as the standard media narrative suggested that the United States would spectacularly defeat the Taliban and then the US would reconstruct Afghanistan as a neo-liberal paradise. This standard media story was pure fantasy.

A few days ago, I visited the new office of NewsClick in New Delhi, where the reporters invited me to give a lecture on the state of the global media. It is a topic that I have thought about a great deal, since I have written now for newspapers from Thailand to Qatar, from the United States to India, from Turkey to South Africa. But more than anything I have observed that while there is great awareness of 'censorship' of the conventional kind, there is almost no concern for 'ideological censorship' - the kind of thing that continues to blind the Western/Corporate media when it comes to war and in particular to the American war on Afghanistan (even the terms are cooked - is it the Afghan War or the American War, a Vietnam War or the American War on Vietnam?).

The lecture is just about half an hour. You could watch it here.


In 2006, when US Pres. G. W. Bush visited India, Bela and Tommie hung the banner in New Delhi


Thinking about the long American wars, I was reminded of my friends Bela Malik and Tommie Mathews. In 2006, when US President George W. Bush visited India, Bela and Tommie hung the banner above from their balcony in New Delhi (that's Bela up there in the picture). The Indian security services - at the urging of the US security - came to them and removed the banner. There were all kinds of threats in the air.

Bela was the editor of my first book - Untouchable Freedom: A Social History of a Dalit Community (1999). No-one wanted to publish this book. Bela fought to get it into print.

A week ago, Ravish Kumar, the NDTV anchor - and one of the sharpest intellectuals of contemporary India - mentioned this book in his TV programme on manual scavenging. Ravish's show and my thinking of Bela returned me to the history of that book. So I wrote a short blog post on it. You can read it here. I hope you find it useful.

Nothing is as grotesque as manual scavenging. There was a protest the other day in Delhi against it. In the picture below, Communist Party of India leader D. Raja joins the protests in solidarity against this barbaric degradation of human beings.


Manual scavengers
Photo Monica Tiwari


This has been a good week in India. The Courts have come in on the side of the good side of history three times: to affirm the right to privacy, to show that Triple Talaq is unconstitutional and to find Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh guilty of rape. In addition, the Kerala High Court found that the Communist leader and Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan was maliciously persecuted over false corruption allegations in the SNC-Lavalin case. He has been totally vindicated. So, history does not go in a straight line after all - it goes in zigs and zags. These are the zags for history's good side.

Warmly, Vijay.