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Jun. 22 2010 - 8:45 pm | 151 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Where Are The Afghans In The Afghanistan Debate?

Surely by now you’ve read True/Slant contributor Michael Hasting’s wonderful profile of General Stanley McChrystal — one that has landed the General in hot water and may even lead to his departure from his spot as top commander in Afghanistan. If you haven’t read it, I’ll have to ask you to stop reading this and go read that first, it’s a great look into the minds of the leadership of American troops in that country.

However, while the nation’s attention is refocused to America’s longest war (it recently surpassed Vietnam in length), there’s still one glaring gap in the coverage of the conflict. Namely, there still isn’t any real coverage of actual Afghans in the war.

Watching television coverage of the McChrystal episode today, I saw all sorts of big names — Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer — dissect the news of McChrystal’s thoughts about Obama and the White House leadership team. Yet who I didn’t see on, and who I never see on the airwaves, is actual Afghans invited on to respond to the day’s news about the war in their country.

When you think about it, that’s a very disturbing absence. International forces have well over a hundred thousand troops fighting in a country with millions of people in it, and those millions of people don’t even seem to be important enough to mention in the debates in our nations’ capitals. This sort of marginalization of the people whose country we have a massive troop presence serves to dehumanize them. We’re always talking about what we’re going to do to them, or winning over their public opinion, or what we want from them. We never ask them to speak for themselves, to explain what they want in the country they were born in. Rather, we seem to obsess over the opinions of generals like McChrystal, foreign transplants who do not have the same organic roots and wisdom that being a native bestows.

Then again, this problem isn’t limited to Afghanistan. It seems that whenever our public figures (media and politicians) talk about the world — even countries we happen to be fighting in or occupying with hundreds of thousands of troops — the natives of those countries are pushed aside, and we’re much more eager to know Sarah Palin’s opinion on the matter than the indigenous person who has lived their whole life in the country.

If we’re serious about becoming a global community in the 21st century, then we need to expand the range of voices we allow in our public debate. And the first place we need to start is by ending the exclusion of the voices of the people who we fight our wars in. After all, the decisions our policymakers make as a result of the conclusions of our public debates matter much more to the natives of these countries than they do to us.


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4 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 6 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    They are nowhere, due to them being the noose which is used to tie off the worlds problems, only they a tool used by the American system to forward their international goals. http://cliveshome.blogspot.com

  2. collapse expand

    The Afghans are where they’ve always been–in the almond groves, in the poppy fields, in their beautiful mountains and valleys, here and there in their strange (to us) and gorgeous land. They wait and watch and kill the mercenary thugs from brutal foreign powers who wish to exploit them and and their minerals and force them to live in a “nation” (as if nations had not long been discredited).

  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Jilani,

    News is a commodity, an item for sale, at the end of the day no different from soap or automobiles. There is a market for news, a place where the purveyors of news meet the consumers of news. Money is exchanged for news, if the consumer wants the news for sale.

    Here is my bet, if some news organization, in the US anyway, were to actually provide a news story based on what Afghan’s think about the war, there would be considerably fewer buyers than an otherwise similar story based on what some American thinks. American news consumers don’t want to know what Afghans think about the war, for the most part.

    Now that may be a story, in and of itself, but I also doubt that that story will have much of an paying customer base either.

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    About Me

    I'm a recent graduate of the University of Georgia who has found himself smack dab in the middle of Washington, D.C. working as a reporter-blogger for ThinkProgress. I'm here to do what so many young people set off to their nations' capitals to do: change the place for the better.

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