Sunday, August 01, 2010

Welcome to the Afghan War Diaries

Welcome to Afghanistan, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

At long last the Afghan War Diaries has brought to the attention of those countries that have forces stationed in Afghanistan what exactly are the real consequences of waging a nine year war. We no longer have the fig leaf of ignorance to hide the fact that we who live and vote in these nations also are culpable in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the majority of whom were guilty of nothing more than being poor and powerless.

For years we have all placidly sat by and lapped up the white washed "news", neatly sanitised for our own protection that has come out of Afghanistan. Murderous attacks on unarmed villagers have regularly been mutated into glorious battles between the forces of democracy and supporters of a barbarous ideology whose way of life threatens us all.

It's hard not to see the echo of high imperial thinking in such rhetoric, especially when it comes from the UK press whose ancestors were quite happy to forgive any "mistakes" by the guardians of Empire, safe in the knowledge that The gift of Civilisation to the heathen was worth the sacrifice of lives in the long run.

On the other side of the Atlantic the US media has been not just willing but positively enthusiastic about "supporting out troops" in their war on darkness, happy to burnish the military's view that the best way to save the people of Afghanistan is slaughter them in ever larger numbers. The lessons of Vietnam have been condemned the dustbin of history, seemingly no more relevent to today's world than the speeches of Cicero or buggy cabs.

For years publications such as Time have been running stories on how US soldiers have run mission after mission to thwart insurgents and win the hearts and minds of locals who wish to live in peace. The message being that any group that opposes such goals has to, be definition be either fanatical or evil, preferably both. So stories of widespread abuse of human rights, summary executions, death squads and thousands of deaths "by mistake" cannot be made part of the media landscape, they make no sense and so contradict the perceived consensus that they are either ignored or downgraded in importance.

One has has just to look at these two magazine covers to understand how little has changed in the way the majority of the US mainstream media deals with conflicts that involve their own soldiers. Despite a gulf of nearly four decades the media has learnt little and once again is more than willing to acquiesce in any act of moral appeasement in the name of patrotism and access.

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