Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Tragedy. . . of Pro-War Propaganda

It is a horrible image: a woman with her nose cut off by the fundamentalist Taliban as punishment for violating their particularly backward interpretation of law and morality. But is it worse than the image on the right? A girl with her face burned and scarred simply for being in the wrong place in the wrong time during an American raid in May of 2009?

Time's argument is the familiar one that the Taliban are so awful, so barbaric, that the United States is obligated to protect Afghan women from their return to power, no matter what. (See the recent Unrepentant Marxist for a useful post noting Time's grim history as ruling class mouthpiece.) But the Time article omits the truly backward interpretation of law and morality, the one that grants the American military (including its spy agencies) the unfettered right to assassinate whom it pleases whenever it pleases, "collateral" damage of innocent bystanders or surrounding communities be damned.

As I have argued before, the problem is that American violence against Afghan civilians is just as bad as Taliban violence. Americans seem to be oblivious to the horror being committed in their name first by Bush and now by the Obama administration. And as I have also argued before, the problem is that war will not solve the problems of the Afghan, or for that matter American, people. The Time article itself notes that the horrible disfigurement shown on its cover was done since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, in an area outside the control of the Afghan central government: U.S. military might did not protect the woman on the surely as it consigned the one on the right to agony.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has done massive amounts of work documenting and arguing against the Taliban's anti-women policies, and they've been recognized in the media for doing so. But their understanding is deeper than that of the media: RAWA argues for the defeat of the Taliban along with the defeat of the Karzai government and for the end of the American occupation. RAWA calls for the Afghan people to rise up against U.S. war criminals. (And for the record RAFA also condemns the ruling Afghan Communists of the 1980s).

Time magazine is trying to claim there is humanitarian good in the war in Afghanistan. But this is just not true. The question "What happens when we leave Afghanistan" is asked here by Time on its cover as pure propaganda: juxtaposed with this photo we are meant to make an immediate emotional answer. This is a false question, because the answer to the question "What happens when the U.S. stays in Afghanistan" is just as bad.


  1. I visited this blog for selfish reasons, however, I,m glad I came as the content is certainly insightful and thought provoking. The views expressed here reflect an understanding of the modern world which questions recieved wisdom and popular assumptions. well done, now, I can here to ask for help. A hard drive melt down has destroyed my entire Jazz albums and Funk/Soul compilation files. M'Boom, Brother Ahh, Eccentric soul compilations etc, any advice on where to go to replace this loss. Seems like all the old blogs have either gone off line or private. Thanks

  2. Hey Lord Haw Haw. Thanks for the kind note.

    Sorry to hear about your loss! It is indeed hard times in music blogland.

    You know right? Best RSS feed of jazz/funk blogs. I will send you my email... I can't promise to upload a million things for you, but if there's a couple choice replacement bits I can help you with I will do so. Also a neat trick if you google something and a link seems gone, you can try clickinging the "cached" link and sometimes you can find things that aren't still supposed to be alive.


  3. "conventional" wisdom says that if the American public was privvy to REAL photos of the cost of war, what we do to civilians and other "collateral damage." that we'd stop war immediately, that we'd be ashamed. The more I read about how truly evil so many Americans are, the radical right comes to mind, I have a feeling they would be cheering on the sidelines (safely ensconced in their LaxyBoy recliner in Alabama or Kanasa of course) and they would be calling for MORE devastation and murder of 'them' like so many ancient Romans watching gladiators fight to their deaths.

  4. Hey Casey.

    Now I know it was a much bigger deal than Afghanistan, but you're close in age to me. You must remember Vietnam. When I was a kid it was all we heard about on TV; all my family talked about; the biggest issue outside school. People cared. They don't seem to now. Making a movie about the Iraq war is like a a guaranteed way to make a movie that nobody goes to see. I find it all very bizarre.