DISPATCHES | The Media’s Flawed Afghanistan Record
by Rob Schultheis
Jan 03, 2013 | 1544 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have no political  ax to grind in Afghanistan, beyond a deep and abiding affection for the country and its people. I have visited there 31 times since 1972,  making me the only journalist who saw the country before the Soviet invasion in 1979 and continued to travel there during the mujahedin insurgency, the internecine warfare that followed the fall of the Marxist regime in Kabul,  and the period of American involvement after 9/11.  

I have Afghan relatives-in-law as well as many close Afghan friends,  and several Afghans and Americans dear to me have died in the violence there,  people like Dr. Tom Grams,  Sgt. Robert Paul,  AP photographer Joe Gall  and Professor Syed Majrooh.

As a consequence I’ve been critical across the board, of the Soviet Union’s invasion, the Taliban and its Pakistani and Arab mentors, and  America’s shamefully cynical role in much of what has befallen Afghanistan over the last four decades.  

We subverted the popular insurgency against the Soviets, funneling money and weapons to the worst guerrilla groups as a favor to our Saudi and Pakistani allies. When the Russians were gone we went on to allow, even encourage, a proxy invasion of the country by Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban, groups who were created, organized, trained and equipped by the Pakistani military and funded by wealthy Gulf Arab fanatics.

We didn’t mind at all when these artificial “insurgents” ethnically cleansed Afghan minority groups and vowed to “exterminate” (their own word)  the country’s two million Shi’a Hazaras.  It wasn’t until these mass murderers turned on us and struck at the American homeland that we decided to fight them.   

And now, after a bungled military intervention, we are preparing to abandon the Afghans yet again; as long as Afghans are only killing other Afghans, well, who cares?

And if we are enabling the slaughter by refusing to rein in the Pakistanis and Arabs who want to re-make Afghanistan in their own ugly image, c’est la guerre.

But in my opinion the most contemptible actors in present-day Afghanistan aren’t the diplomats, politicians and generals; one expects nothing good from them.  No, the worst are the journalists, who are supposed to be the world’s moral watchdogs, raising the alarm when evil is afoot in the form of  subversion, exploitation, invasion and genocide.   A few reporters have done sterling work there. Most of the good ones are Pakistanis and Afghans, but on the whole the media’s coverage of the area has been wretched, the product of intellectual sloth, blind arrogance, a Rat Pack mentality (in which foreign correspondents talk to each other instead of the locals and cobble together the results into a kind of  Holy Writ), and even racism.

 

To be continued...

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