Press Watch

Press Watch

Of all programs I’ve experienced on Afghanistan, not just one was extra chilling than Under the Veil, an hourlong documentary which has appeared usually on CNN. Its narrator, Saira Shah, a British girl of Afghan descent, spent five days and nights in the united states to check out what life there is enjoy. Shah were able to penetrate spots few Westerners reach see, incorporating a top secret classroom for girls and a village that suffered Taliban atrocities. She likewise visited a Kabul soccer stadium that, she stated, had offered as a general public execution floor. To again up her level, the documentary highlighted a clip of a guy adding a rifle to the top of a female clad in a burqa and blowing her brains out. Within an interview with the Taliban overseas minister, Shah asked what he imagined the overseas donors who provided funds for the stadium would declare if indeed they knew it had been being employed for executions instead of for sports. Very well, the minister stated, if they didn’t like it, they should provide money to build a independent arena for executions.

Press Watch

Press Watch

Shah’s record captures just how horrendous lifestyle in Afghanistan has become. The Taliban’s police-state tactics, together with its harboring of terrorists, provides fed a groundswell of support for its ouster. That, in turn, has focused brand-new interest on the Taliban’s primary opponents, the United Front side, or, as it’s even more familiarly regarded, the Northern Alliance. Eager to report on it, US journalists have got swarmed in to the sliver of territory the alliance handles in northeastern Afghanistan, where they’re cordially considered on tours by rebel commanders.

“We’re with the troops of the Northern Alliance,” MSNBC’s Tom Aspell reported on September 27. The alliance, he explained, was wanting to act as helpful information for American forces getting into Afghanistan. CNN’s Chris Burns, gesturing toward a mountain ridge, explained, “Thirty miles beyond that, is normally where Kabul is normally. Plus they say if indeed they had support from the Us citizens, they could have that metropolis.” On the other hand, a procession of alliance spokesmen contain appeared on Television set to plead for all of us assistance.

The print press have been believe it or not accommodating. “Front-range Taliban Foes Wanting to Support U.S.,” the brand new York Moments declared on its front side webpage. Reporter David Rohde referred to what sort of Northern Alliance basic “swaggered across the top floor” of a demolished airfield control tower and pointed southward. “‘On the other side of those mountains,’ he said, his voice filled with yearning, ‘is Kabul.'” While the alliance did not pose an immediate military threat to the city, Rohde noted, it did have “encyclopedic knowledge of the Taliban and its bombing targets, units and tactics.” The Washington Post has run a series of glowing reports about the alliance and its grit, savvy and “discipline.” That discipline, correspondent Peter Baker noted in one dispatch, has survived the September 9 assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the guerrilla leader who “by sheer force of personality had managed to hold along this eclectic band of warriors.”

In loss of life, Massoud features been lionized by the united states press–virtually. “The legendary ‘Lion of the Panjshir,'” the LA Times referred to as him. “A Lion’s Death,” the brand new Yorker declared in a headline atop a one-webpage eulogy by Jon Lee Anderson. In 1992, Anderson reported, Massoud’s “moderately conservative group” defeated the brutish regime supported by the Soviets, and he offered as defense minister and vice president until 1996, when the Taliban received control of the majority of the country.

What neither Anderson nor all of those other press features reported can be that throughout their time in electricity, Massoud and his fellow warlords ruthlessly fought each other, reducing a lot of Kabul to rubble and eliminating thousands of people, the majority of them civilians. Relating to a meticulously documented record by Human Privileges See (Afghanistan: Crisis of Impunity, offered by, leading “amassed a deplorable record of attacks on civilians” between 1992 and 1996. It was the lawlessness and brutality that prevailed under these warlords that paved the way for the Taliban. Since then, Human Rights Watch reports, both the Taliban and the United Front “have repeatedly committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, including killings of detainees, aerial bombardment and shelling, direct attacks on civilians, rape, torture, persecution on the basis of religion, and the application of antipersonnel landmines.”

In another of the few departures from the pack, Patricia Gossman mentioned in a Washington Content Op-Ed that Afghans have already been fleeing Kabul “not merely out of concern with US airstrikes but out of panic that the [Northern Alliance] usually takes power there once again.” Gossman, a article writer whose research features been funded by the united states Institute of Peace, wrote that whenever she was in Kabul this past year, “I was informed over and over that the thing persons there feared a lot more than the Taliban was that the warlords of the Northern Alliance might go back to power.”

Michael Sullivan, in an excellent part for NPR, remarked that the Northern Alliance comprises of Afghanistan’s ethnic Tajik and Uzbek minorities, “with just token representation from the country’s ethnic Pashtun bulk, who’ve dominated Afghanistan’s political scenery for the majority of the country’s background.” Without relating to the Pashtuns, a Pakistani secureness analyst told him, having a stable government in Afghanistan “would be simply impossible.” (The Taliban is made up mostly of Pashtuns.)

What accounts for the media blackout on the United Front’s true colors? As Ken Silverstein observed in an astute piece for Salon, the front’s many abuses “can’t be a surprise” to reporters. Since September 11, he notes, several thousand people, “presumably many of them journalists,” have requested the Human Rights Watch report on Afghanistan, but “most reporters and pundits seem to be patriotically turning a blind eye to our new partner’s shortcomings.”

The press may at last be opening its eyes. Time, in its October 8 edition, offered a balanced part on the United Front side, discussing its “fractious make-up” and “disappointingly slim” cleverness. And David Rohde, in another front-page part in the changing times on the Northern Alliance, applied the w-word–warlords–and referred to their recruitment of fighters as small as 12.

Based on the Moments, the Bush Administration features made a decision to provide covert help to many groups opposed to the Taliban, the United Front included. In light of the urgent need to root out war criminals like Osama bin Laden, it could be argued that Washington needs every bit of help it can get. But at the very least, the American general public needs to know whom we are embracing. After all, it was just a few years ago that the CIA–eager to confront the Soviets–supported the mujahedeen, incorporating a lot of the same Taliban fighters we are actually wanting to overthrow.

Michael Massing, a contributing editor at the Columbia Journalism Analysis, is authoring the media following the September 11 episodes.


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