The editorial boards and oped writers of our mainstream media in discussing the war, continue to cite “enduring American faith in the values of freedom and democracy” as the underlying purpose of our effort. The New York Times, in fact, cited the “purity of U.S. values” such as civil rights, religious tolerance, and women’s empowerment as a justification for our occupation of Afghanistan.
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Instead of debating how the United States began this fool’s errand twenty years ago, the mainstream media is highlighting the chaos that has enveloped our defeat, as if there is an elegant way to lose a war. Instead of assessing the decision making of the Bush and Obama administrations, which led to 130,000 U.S. combatants in Afghanistan, the media are castigating President Joe Biden. But it was Biden who warned Barack Obama 12 years ago not to listen to secretaries of defense Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates and not to get “boxed-in” by their Pentagon. It was Obama, not Biden, who campaigned in 2007-2008 on the basis of Afghanistan as the “good war.”
The mainstream media still has not acknowledged that U.S. covert military operations in Afghanistan began in the Carter administration before the Soviets made their decision to invade. Jimmy Carter’s anti-Soviet national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, deployed clandestine teams from the Central Intelligence Agency to Afghanistan in order to draw the Soviets into the country. The immediate successors to Carter and Brzezinski then armed the anti-Soviet mujahideen forces who eventually formed the leadership of the anti-American Islamic forces that returned to Kabul after 25 years. In 1979, the media carried the lies of Brzezinski and his successors, who argued that Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan was an aggressive move to gain influence in Southwest Asia and even a warm water port on the Indian Ocean. The fact that the Kremlin was trying to prevent the spillover of Islamic fundamentalism into the Central Asia republics was downplayed by government spokesmen, politicians, and pundits.
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The Greek historian Thucydides wrote 2,500 years ago that wars were fought for a combination of honor, fear, and self-interest. But American presidents and their supporters in the media understand that their constituencies want to believe in high-minded values that deal with democracy and human rights as a justification for the use of force. Democracy and human rights had nothing to do with the losing wars fought in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan over the past 50 years, but the press continues to do the bidding of the government.
Most of what is available in the media on national security emanates from official spokesmen; much of it is designed to misinform the American public. The media repeat the U.S. government’s line regarding the need to confront “rogue” states, when these so-called rogue states are in fact “failed” states that are rendered inoperative with the introduction of U.S. force. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are examples of U.S. national security teams not knowing the difference between a rogue state and a failed state.
U.S. media have had much to say about the losers in America’s forever wars, particularly the young servicemen and women, although little has been said about the lost lives of innocent civilians, particularly the 70,000 Afghans and Pakistanis. And virtually nothing has been said about the winners in these forever wars, particularly the leading weapons manufacturers and their stockholders. An investment of $10,000 in the top five weapons manufacturers in 2001 would be worth $100,000 today. And then there is the success of the military general staff: in World War II with 12 million fighting men and women, there were 7 four-star generals and admirals. Today, with 1.2 million fighting men and women, there are 44.
The rapid and complete collapse of the Afghan government we were propping up clearly demonstrates the failure of our military and intelligence forces, and our plans and policies over a twenty-year period.
Goodman gives an accurate assessment of US media portrayal of the US and Afghanistan. I remember the Reagan Administration’s embracing the devoutly religious mujahadeen as America’s allies against the godless communists.
The title of the essay is “the Miserable Performance of the Mainstream Media”. Goodman uses phrases like “the mainstream media”, “the media”. There is no suggestion of US mainstream media being only one of the streams readers are exposed to. When addressing American readers this is of course accurate. Even here in Berlin, when I was being interviewed by American Voices Abroad members a couple years ago (one of whom vouched for me “I saw him at the demo”, lowering the chance I was an agent provocateur sent by the Berlin police, or US military, or I don’t know what these innocuous deluded people with an average age of 60 or so were thinking) I was asked if I read the New York Times or the Washington Post. This was an either/or question, because determining which of these strains of thought I followed would yield useful information about who I was. Saying “both” would have been o.k., I think, but my answer of “uh, yeah, sometimes” wasn’t what they were looking for. The NYT and the WP are the sources of American liberal news.
What struck me about this article, however, is that Goodman’s points about the US media and Afghanistan could equally well be made about the US media’s treatment of any other US military involvement during my lifetime. In 1991 Bush Sr. would use the US military to save the helpless incubator babies of Kuwait just as Bush Jr. would ten years later use the US military to ensure equal pay for the equal work of Afghani women. The US press who had tears of admiration in their eyes as they accompanied the brave men and women who searched in vain for WMDs would not long after shed tears of mirth as they watched George W. Bush joke about the absence of the WMDs which he’d used to lie the US and UK into war. Any soul-searching done after the fiasco of Judith Miller’s NYT “reporting” failed to prevent the paper serving as a mouthpiece for years of Robert Mueller fiction. And today? Today the NYT condescendingly writes of the UK being “rattled” by the US’s wee hours of the night departure from Afghanistan. US consumers of US media show no sign of refusing to continue being treated as dupes.