Does anyone remember Afghanistan, the first stop in Bush's “War On Terror” world tour? It wouldn't be at all surprising if no one did since only Newsweek, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post have full-time reporters in the country. With hundreds of reporters on the ground in Iraq, we hear daily about the successes and failures there, the atrocities committed there by insurgents and U.S. forces alike, as well as constant prognostications about the future of Iraq and its people. When it comes to Afghanistan, however, the home of Al-Qaeda, we hear almost nothing.
Pity. There is a lot to be heard.
This week, a report released by the U.N. Development Program raises significant concerns about the future stability of Afghanistan. While the report notes Afghanistan's improving economy and education, the report concludes that Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of chaos and could easily return to being a terrorist haven. In addition to the world's worst education system, Afghanistan has some of the world's worst rates of life expectancy (44.5 years), deaths of mothers during pregnancy (1 every 30 minutes), child mortality (20% under the age of 5), and adult literacy (28.7%). Currently, tens of thousands of homeless Afghans are struggling to survive the bitter winter. Hundreds have already died from exposure and disease.
Apparently, the abject suffering of the people purportedly liberated by the United States isn't worthy of mention on the nightly news.
While Afghanistan's democratic elections did manage to receive the fleeting attention of the American media, democracy isn't exactly flourishing there. The fact is, President Hamid Karzai's elected government has little influence outside of Kabul, the nation's capital. As before the elections, the remote, rural areas of Afghanistan remain under the control of warlords and remnants of the Taliban. These local power structures compete with and undermine Afghanistan's fledgling centralized government.
Further undermining Afghanistan's stability is its burgeoning drug trade. According to the International Monetary Fund, Afghanistan's opium trade is responsible for nearly 90% of the world's opium supply, generates about $2.8 billion in revenue, equals approximately 60% of Afghanistan's non-drug gross domestic product, and directly employs more than 10% of the population. Such enormous profits have led to the corruption of senior government officials and will only further weaken the already-fragile central government. Furthermore, drug economies fund terrorism and invariably plunge narco-states like Colombia into violent conflict and civil instability. There is no reason to think Afghanistan will be any different.
In sum, the dire conditions in which Afghans live, as well as the limited influence of the central government, makes them vulnerable to terrorist groups and warlords, who, enriched by the opium trade, can easily raise and sustain armies from impoverished populations by offering people food, shelter, and security. Should Afghanistan regress to a state of civil war it would again become a haven for terrorism. Nonetheless, despite the very real possibility of history repeating itself in Afghanistan, neither the government nor the media appear to be paying any attention.
Another story demanding more attention is that U.S. forces have tortured and abused prisoners as well as civilians in Afghanistan. Earlier this month, when U.N. human rights inspector Cherif Bassiouni reported incidences of torture and mistreatment by U.S. forces, the U.S. military flatly denied the allegations and claimed its prison conditions in Afghanistan were “humane”. Less than a week later, photos surfaced of U.S. soldiers torturing detainees in Afghanistan by subjecting them to mock executions. Likewise, Army Special Forces kicked and beat Afghan villagers to such a degree that Army psy-ops officers who witnessed the barbarism were compelled to report it. The U.S. now concedes that these examples of torture and abuse occurred without provocation and violated Army regulations as well as the Geneva Conventions. How humane.
One recent development in Afghanistan that has received some domestic attention is Senator John McCain's call for “permanent bases” in Afghanistan for U.S. military forces. Overlooked, however, is the irony of McCain's statement. The U.S. once waged a proxy war in Afghanistan to halt the expansion of the Soviet Union. Now, decades later, the U.S. intends to claim Afghanistan as its own. Who will halt our expansion? Other than ourselves, no one. However, as long as Americans continue to swallow government illusions regurgitated by the mainstream media, U.S. hegemony will continue unabated.
Despite the recent occurrences in Afghanistan, the American “news” media frets over Queen Elizabeth's snubbing of Charles and Camilla and questions the possibility of Michael Jackson receiving a fair trial. America should be terrified that “The Daily Show,” a self-declared fake news program, offers better analysis and more information than the so-called real news broadcasts on NBC, CBS, CNN, or FOX. It should be. Sadly, it is not.
Other Articles by Ken Sanders