Propaganda and the war in Afghanistan

Posted on April 7, 2010

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Editorial, BurningIssue exclusive.


Truth normally becomes the first casualty of a war. In an era when the West, led by the United States is spending hundreds of millions of dollars in what is called ‘psychological operations,’ it is becoming harder for journalists to excavate the truths of war and human suffering.

This  does not mean that the Western media can get away with its usual journalistic errors, which are mainly the outcome of sheer lack of understanding about eastern religions, languages, cultural practices and political systems.   The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, and before that, Iraq are genuine example about how the Western media’s general failure to get things right really messed up the overall situation which has already killed hundreds of thousands of people because of military operations and terrorist activities.

The role of propaganda in case of Iraq is much well known, however, relevant attention has never been paid to the application of deception techniques used by propagandist firms, the US state and independent contractors in Afghanistan. These techniques are very complicated in its nature. An evolving consensus within the American establishment suggests that the Afghan war is  now a war of perception that requires institutions of the establishment to manufacture the information that makes mass media consumers  believe that the war is going in the right direction—when really its not!

Since 2002, the US Defence Department has come up with elaborate plans to ‘embed’ journalists with divisions of the US Army taking part in combat operations. These actions have denied journalists and media consumers access to alternative viewpoints. Despite having spent more than $200 billion in Afghanistan since 9/11, the average American taxpayer has virtually no clue about the roots, tentacles or functioning of the Afghan society in general and non-state actors like the Taliban and AL-Qaeda in particular.

This is mainly  because through a series of public relations maneuverings, which included daily press briefings, embedded journalism, disguising of public relations professionals as journalists and the training of US politicians and generals in the art of public speaking and deception has generally led to the silencing of dissent in mainstream Anglo-Saxon media. The  hugely negative impact of these massive PR campaigns can be gauged by the fact that most Americans today are unaware of the massive killings and serious collateral damage that are taking place in a conflict which is now seen by many international experts as spreading out far and wide.

The state’s media management apparatus, coupled with the nightmarish reality of compliant journalists, many of whom do not even understand Afghanistan’s languages and cultures, has only ensured that acts of corruption within the US establishment, the gross massacres of the Afghan people and further destruction of their society goes generally unreported. The entire issue of Afghanistan has become  more complicated because of the ongoing media wars in the United States. As US establishment and PR industry continue to keep Americans in the dark about the actual facts of the war and behind the scenes policy making, hundreds of Afghans are still dyeing and homes and entire villages are being destroyed by the massive firepower of the US and NATO forces.

By toeing the established agendas of the US lawmakers and big corporate businesses at the expense of genuine human tragedies and journalistic accuracy in Afghanistan, the US media has not only self-inflicted a major credibility crisis to the once considered noble profession of journalism in the US, but also has it made many millions of Muslims feel angry and isolated in a globalized world.

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Posted in: Editorials