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War Reporting and Propaganda in Iraq and AfghanistanTim King Salem-News.com
The media takes a beating for not reporting on the positive aspects of war; it is a notion that most people who have spent time in a combat theater find ridiculous.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A friend sent an email today with a report from a London newspaper, stressing the "success" the United States is currently experiencing in Iraq, and speculating as to whether Obama would seek to "take credit" for the success.
Based on the flow of information passing through our doors, in spite of this rosy article from the UK, people are still dying in Iraq, and the war is anything but successful. In fact, according to recent reports, Iraq is still very dangerous.
I was there over the summer just in time to see the beginning of the eliminiation/reduction of the "Sons of Iraq" program which is one of the few elements of the "Surge" that actually brought peace and stability to this country. (see: Could Removal of U.S. Support Shift Iraq's Peaceful Balance? (VIDEO))
Iraqi people told me that as soon as the U.S. pulls out, a civil war will reignite between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Tensions between the groups were relatively calm under Saddam Hussein who ruled the country with an iron hand.
My friend asked me what I thought of the London newspaper article and this is my reply to him:
I have been there, you are right, and what I know I know from actually seeing it. The truth is, I didn't meet a single Iraqi (Who wasn't on the U.S. payroll) who liked George W. Bush or wanted the American presence there. They think we are just an aggressive military nation that attacks randomly and for strictly financial gain.
I think Iraq was a real serious mistake that has cost more lives than can ever be counted, and ruined our strategy of gaining any ground in Afghanistan.
The media doesn't cover things that didn't really happen, if that makes sense. I spent two months in Afghanistan asking to be shown a school that Americans rebuilt and five weeks in Iraq asking the same thing, and they were never able to get me close to one, Then I open emails from people who slam the press for not covering the rebuilding of Afghan and Iraqi schools. These groups would have us thinking that Americans are running all over these countries helping kids and it sadly, isn't the case at all.
I have spent time personally covering the more positive aspects of our miltary at war in both Iraq and Afghanistan and while we have had support in doing this, the number of entities beating down our door to see and support these 'positive' reports has been minimal.
I regret nothing, and especially treasure the contact from families of the soldiers and Marines that I have featured in different stories. Still, it is disappointing to see the lack of positive response to positive reports.
I don't think the problem in the world is that reporters are ignoring new war zone school construction. What I see are issues that revolve around a lack of cultural understanding and the ever-present poverty and war damage in these places cannot be ignored.
American press and broadcasters should send more reporters in and garner new support for the people who live in these places where we wage war. Bonding the American people with the Afghan people would only increase support for their eventual freedom, if I dare use the word.
Another glaring problem that underscores the inability of America to harness its own energy, involves Afghan interpreters who seek refuge in the U.S. after serving with the Army and Marines.
They need to be utilized by the Department of Defense and used to train Americans about Afghan language and culture before they deploy. It would increase the war effort and make Americans safer.
Instead the DoD brings interpreters or 'terps' as they are often called, and drop them off with a host family with no hope of employment.
I have two Afghan friends currently in the states who were fantastic on combat patrols, speak four different languages, and today can't find employment with the U.S. government.
This is the breakdown of Afghan cultural groups according to the Website: afghanistan.saarctourism.org: Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%
Pashtun people live in the southern part of Afghanistan; with a concentration in the Kandahar area. They speak Pashtun whereas people in the north of Afghanistan speak Dari. Tajik's are a cultural group seen in much of the country along with Uzbek people.
Hazara people are of Asian descent who have traditionally been discriminated against by the other ethnic groups. As a result of this, Hazara's are one group Americans can almost always trust, when hunting and fighting the Taliban.
At the end of the day, most of these people just want to be able to feed their families at the end of the day and have some degree of personal safety. They aren't different in their hearts, but they are very different in terms of culture.
An example of our lack of understanding is seen in the decision of our former President to cancel the Afghan's Children's Fund just a couple of years after starting it.
The program was one of the few ways people could contribute to the poverty stricken people of Afghanistan.
I fear for the future of our military as we increasingly reengage the Taliban and other anti-Coalition militias in this section of the world.
I remember a service for a Lieutenant who was killed when I was in Afghanistan; and how sad that loss made everyone.
Grown men cried as the commander called out the Lieutenant's name repeatedly during a roll call during which he would never answer- "here".
Some people are saying that we, like all nations before us that tried to tame and conquer Afghanistan, will in fact never accomplish that.
The nation is tribal and the terrain is mountainous and loaded with more unexploded land mines than any other country in the world.
You don't take HUMVEE's off roading in Afghanistan; you stick to the roads, or whatever is left of them.
What you see along these roads are old Soviet tanks that were defeated in battle; the crews almost always killed with no remorse by a nation under occupation
Sadly, as I look back at my time covering the war in Afghanistan, and consider where it is going today, my heart feels heavy. It makes me think of this excerpt from Kipling's famous poem, "The Young British Soldier".
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
-- Rudyard Kipling
Poems like this are inspired by the most horrific situations that people have ever endured. When you see the conditions that people in Afghanistan live under, you can not help but admire their survival ability. It is also easy to see why the average lifespan is 42, according to Wiki Answers.
I believe that with the right approach, truly setting out to win the hears and minds of the people the right way, we could help Afghanistan greatly.
It starts with increasing relations, and keeping American laisons in place who don't leave the country on cue every 12 months when a deployment ends, effectively terminating any progress that had been made in local relations.
Indiscriminate bombing is another huge issue that has turned many of our former allies against us. I have written before that a common saying among the brighter minds in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan is, "Have you created a terrorist today?"
That is what abuse brings; retaliation from people who used to like you. Big problem with people so dedicated to their cause that they don't really care if they live or die.
The Taliban have a clear history of being cruel toward women and many of my Muslim friends tell me the group is nothing but a band of criminals with a distorted mindset that is anything but a good example of their faith.
If it is possible to actually defeat them, then that would obviously bring a degree of peace to a seriously downtrodden gender.
We have to realize though, that what we are fighting for has little to nothing to do with our daily lives here in the United States.
Soon we will be at a point where the majority of people we are fighting were just children when the U.S. was attacked on September 11th, 2001.
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