, August 4, 2010

Selling the big lie

Aided by a compliant media, the Obama administration and Pentagon officials are trying to spin a new crop of lies about the necessity of war to "liberate" the Afghan people.

AS MORE revelations about the brutality and barbarism of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan emerge, the Obama administration and the Pentagon are countering the truth with more lies--and a shameful public relations offensive aimed at passing off endless war as "liberation."

Meanwhile, the voices of ordinary Afghans--and the toll of the U.S. war on their lives--are being ignored by politicians and the media alike.

The release of nearly 92,000 classified documents relating to the war by the WikiLeaks Web site has helped expose the facts about the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan.

For one thing, they reveal the extent to which Washington's war, now the longest ever fought by the U.S., has done what seemed impossible a few years ago--rehabilitate the image of the Taliban, the country's formerly despised ex-rulers. The WikiLeaks documents also reveal the terrible impact on ordinary Afghans--subjected to indiscriminate bombings, massacres by U.S. soldiers, and rampant corruption by U.S.-installed stooges.

But the Obama administration and the military is responding to these facts with lies.

First, they claimed that the documents didn't matter because they only covered the period up to December 2009--before Obama's "surge" strategy went into effect. Then, the line was that the WikiLeaks information was "old news" that didn't reveal anything new about the war.

When it became clear that those explanations were falling on deaf ears, the White House and Pentagon escalated. They now accuse those who leaked the documents of endangering the lives of both U.S. military personnel and Afghan civilians who may have worked with coalition forces. "The truth is [those who leaked the information] might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family," said Adm. Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In other words, accuse the messenger of murder.

Malalai Joya on the Time Magazine's cover
France24, Aug. 1, 2010: Malalai Joya, a leading Afghan activist for women's rights and politican who featured among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010, spoke out against what she calls the manipulation of public opinion over the plight of Afghan women: There is no doubt that the Taliban are misogynist barbarians but the US can be a good match for them for the war crimes that it has committed in these nine years, killing around 8,000 civilians in their military operations.'s Glenn Greenwald wasn't alone in pointing out that the WikiLeak documents weren't responsible for putting Afghans at risk, but rather "ten years of bombings, air raids, checkpoint shootings [and] drones." Add to that the Obama administration's green light to a new surge of combat forces and stepped-up "targeted assassinations."

The people with blood on their hands are the U.S. military and the politicians who continue to support and fund the war--and their cheerleaders in the mainstream media.

Just how craven has the media response been? On the Washington Post Web site, former Bush administration speechwriter and torture proponent Marc Thiessen called--literally--for war on WikiLeaks founder Julien Assange. ( )

"Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States," Thiessen claimed. "This means the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business."

Thiessen went on to argue that the U.S. has the legal authority to kidnap "Assange or his co-conspirators anywhere in the world," even if such a kidnapping violates international law.

This begs the question: Does Thiessen think the U.S. ought to use Predator drones against Assange? Or perhaps a Navy SEALS assassination team?

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FOR THOSE who aren't convinced that Julian Assange is responsible for all war-related deaths in Afghanistan, the political-media establishment is sending another message--that the leakers are obstructing the U.S. from all the good it's doing in Afghanistan.

Time magazine made the point starkly on the cover of this week's edition--it features a photo of a young Afghan woman named Aisha whose nose and ears were cut off by her Taliban husband after she ran away from him. "What happens if we leave Afghanistan?" reads the headline.

There's something unspeakably cynical about Time's use of such a heart-wrenching image in a calculated attempt to gloss over the cold facts revealed by WikiLeaks and others about the violence and devastation that the U.S. occupation is inflicting in Afghanistan.

In fact, the young woman pictured on the Time cover was mutilated not in the "long ago" days of Taliban rule, but last year, when tens of thousands of U.S. "liberators" were occupying her country.

The U.S. has failed utterly to marginalize the Taliban since they were toppled at the end of 2001--on the contrary, support for the Taliban has only grown with the crisis of the occupation. What's more, the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul is dependent on support from warlords whose behavior toward women is every bit as savage as the Taliban, as even U.S. officials admit in their honest moments.

But all this seems to have escaped the U.S. media. On her first show as the new host of ABC's This Week, for example, Christiane Amanpour thrust the Time cover at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and demanded: "Look, Time magazine, this week, has this as its cover--a girl whose had her nose and ears cut off by the Taliban. You know, to put it right down to its basics, is America going to abandon the women of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan again?"

Pelosi responded: "Well, first of all, we're in Afghanistan because it's in our strategic national interests to be so, for our own national security, to stop terrorism, to increase global security. The women of Afghanistan have been a priority for many of the women in Congress--and men, too, but the women have taken a special interest."

It's true. The women of Afghanistan have been a "priority"--every time U.S. leaders need a rationale for staying in Afghanistan or a claim of what the war has accomplished to counter the overwhelming evidence of destruction suffered by ordinary Afghans.

But it is a false claim. Women in Afghanistan have not been liberated--on the contrary, they continue to suffer terrible oppression at the hands of the U.S.-backed regime and its warlord allies.

In fact, Pelosi's first sentence contained the truth of why the Obama administration remains committed to staying in Afghanistan--because it's "in our strategic national interest."

Time isn't alone in having suddenly "rediscovered" the question of women's rights at a moment of crisis for the occupation. It was a favorite topic for the right-wing, anti-women Bush administration in the early days of the war, and it has been a popular excuse for liberals to climb on the pro-war bandwagon.

And the same goes, apparently, for the CIA. As Luncinda Marshall of the Feminist Peace Network pointed out ( ), one of the WikiLeaks documents is a CIA memo citing flagging support for the war among NATO allies, including Germany and France--and it includes a section titled "Appeals by President Obama and Afghan Women Might Gain Traction."

The memo states: "Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women's ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory."

As Marshall writes, "Whether it is possible that Time published this piece as a concerted part of a government public relations effort is not clear, and I'm not suggesting that it was, although it should certainly be investigated. But what is clear is that such a campaign exists with callous disregard of the human rights of Afghan women or respect for a free press."

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FOR MORE than a century, every imperial conquest carried out by the U.S. has been cloaked in more noble and palatable terms. Political leaders talk about "justice" and "liberty" and "democracy," rather than the truth--conquest, colonization and exploitation.

The victims of the American empire don't have any difficulties seeing through the rhetoric. Like Samia, a 26-year-old woman who participated in a demonstration of hundreds of Afghans on August 1 in Kabul. The protesters directed their anger at both the Taliban and the U.S. In particular, they were demonstrating about a deadly traffic accident in late July involving an SUV driven by DynCorp International contractors that killed four Afghans.

As Samia told the Washington Post:

Many times, NATO troops and these cars have killed our innocent people. They never care whether we are Afghans or animals. We want NATO troops and American troops to leave Afghanistan. Even with their huge army, they couldn't do anything in the past 10 years. And in the future, they won't be able to do anything. The result will be just death and casualties, and our innocent Afghan women and children will die.

Samia is right. The U.S. war on Afghanistan won't bring "liberation"--not to women or anyone else--because it is fundamentally about ensuring and expanding U.S. power in the region, not delivering democracy to people who are seen as expendable by U.S. rulers.

As Malalai Joya, a former member of the Afghan parliament who was thrown out for challenging the U.S.-backed regime, said in a speech in New York City last year:

From the sky, the bombs of the occupation forces are falling, killing civilians. And on the ground, there is the Taliban, and also these warlords. So we have three kinds of enemies. But the withdrawal of one enemy--these U.S. occupation forces whose government sends them for war, and that also support the corrupt mafia system of Hamid Karzai with more money and guys--will make it much easier to fight the enemies that are left...

No nation can bring liberation to another nation. These are nations that can liberate themselves. The nations that pose themselves as liberators to others will lead them into slavery. What we have experienced in Afghanistan and in Iraq proves this point.

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