Oct 2, 2007

A post ideological afghanistan

By Sanjar

I went to General Staff College the other day, senior army officers and generals go to GSC for specialized training and in service skill building. GSC is the most prestigious military academy in Afghanistan. Around twenty brigade and regiment commanders came to kabul from around the country to participate in two week seminar, telling them what is happening in the country and how things are developing. I thought it would be useful to talk with them and get them on our side.

I am happy I went there to talk with them, so I could give them a different perspective into issues. most of Afghan Armed Forces (AAF) general and senior officer undergo extensive training by Americans, security contractors such as Dycorps and other NATO mentors. AAF, especially police force is the public face of the government and the most important pillar of law enforcement. But AAF has been accused of corruption and low discipline. The government, Nato and international community haven’t thoroughly looked at the decision making process and judgment of commanders, and it’s connection with the kind of training they acquire as well as it’s significance in AAF performance.

The trainers in GSC and other AAF academies decent in the compound without much knowledge of where they are, an official in GSC who wanted to remain anonymous told me, a visiting American trainer after a few days in GSC found out that he was in Afghanistan. Foreign AAF trainers might have the best skill and knowledge but they are detached from Afghanistan and lack communication and language ability to pass optimal skills to Afghans and to learn about Afghanistan. Even if foreign trainers were willing to communicate more effectively and in a trust building manner they wouldn’t be able to do it because they rotate every three months and that wouldn’t give them a chance to learn much.


The time of communication in GSC is very persuasive and designed to reform social attitude of the Afghan officers, persistent seminars comprises social influences capable of producing substantial behavior and attitude change through the use of persuasion tactics, via interpersonal and group-based influences. this could be considered.

I am sitting there and waiting for my turn to tell them about Afghan media. Before me Colonel O’Brian from US army is telling them about the importance of media in covering the success of army. But he could not outline a single story afghan or international media on afghan army and it’s potential influence on public perception.

All the examples he give was either about WW II or Vietnam or Balkans or Cold war. O’Brian also mentioned the name of broadcasters and agencies, it was either CBS, BBC, NPR or some other western agency. I do think O’Brian was sincere in telling them media is important and the army should help media cover the war but the way he was telling has proved to be counterproductive. The commanders of Afghan army get to hear about western journalism and they start to respect western journalism. We have seen western journalist have been provided with information by the army that they would never offer to afghan media, western media has been extended especial courtesies while Afghan media has been restricted by the army. When a discussion started on the latest military stories in media, Afghan generals were of course talking what they have seen on Afghan broadcasters but O’Brian was saying “I can’t comment on that, but there was a story on BBC…..” since he was leading the discussion he went on to analyze the story. I think this is a great way to undermine Afghan media. If the significance of Afghan media is not stressed by O’Brian, an Afghan commander would less value it. O’Brian tells all sort of anecdotes about some little town paper and how they mobilized the town community, these sorts of anecdotes glorifies American way of living and indirectly misrepresent afghan media. Glorifying American way of reporting and journalism would negatively represent Afghan media in the eyes of army generals.

Colonel O’Brian continues his speech on media, the discussion comes to Aljazeera and the officers condemn the station for having links with Taliban and Alqaida. O’Brain says; Aljazeera is not the example of a good media, what kind of journalism is propagating the message of hatred. It’s bad media. They are showing footage of Taliban crimes. Medley a civilian media advisor to NATO adds; media professionals deny any link between media and violence, but there is, media has exacerbated a conflict to genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Taliban had a radio station, Radio Sharia, propagating their version of Islam.

Clearly, O’Brian and Medley, two senior Nato representative (one military and the other civilian) don’t understand that Aljazeera has a broader agenda which extends behind reporting. If Aljazeera gets exclusive footage from Alqaida and Taliban it shows they are doing a good job. Alqaida and Taliban are the hot topic and Aljazeera is a new channel which came up with format to get access to the hot topic and audience survey shows Aljazeera is growing. This is what media business is about. O’Brian and Medley also forgets that their media promotes violence to and it’s more graphically than Aljazeera. When I was studying in Poland I was attending physical exercise and i was asked, as one does, where I came from. When I said Afghanistan, the girl promptly responded; Oh, Rambo 3, this tells a lot. Since the 1980s and especially since 2002 Hollywood's depiction of Afghans has gradually shown signs of vilifying Afghans.

Western media and especially Hollywood not only portraits a violent picture of Afghanistan but it also slanders and humiliate Afghans too. A new Hollywood movie is, called Domino, about four gangsters, one of whom is an Afghan. The Afghan guy betrays his friends and steals their money and sends it to Afghanistan for the war against American, at the end of the movie the Afghan guy blows up a business tower in a suicide attack. In this movie Hollywood shows all sorts of stereotypes that are attributed to Afghans. Domino might be considered as one of the most subversive films released by a major studio since Fight Club.

Hollywood network productions such as 24, escape from Afghanistan, the Beast, September 8 shows Afghan villains. Hollywood misrepresents Afghans and their collective identity. Hollywood pictures showing Afghans holding hostage and bombing buildings and civilians only reinforces western stereotypes of Afghans being untrustworthy, irrational, cruel, and barbaric

The 2004 film Alexander by American director Oliver Stone, portraits a negative and inaccurate picture of Hindu Kush people. the movie portrayed Afghans as poor, gay, barbaric farmers that lives in caves and spends their time killing innocent neighbors. Alexander marries Rukhshana in Afghanistan; the movie shows that Afghans are so gay that Alexander and his army arrive to save their women.

A new Hollywood movie called "300" which shows a battle between Spartans and Persians. The movie portrays Persians as "deranged, ghastly, ruthless monsters."

The 2007 film 300 was widely criticized for its "racist” portrayal of Persian combatants at the battle of Thermopylae. 300 depicts the east and specifically Persians decadents sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks and the west in general. If 300 had been made in Germany in mid 1940s or earlier it would be studied today alongside ‘The Eternal Jew’, a movie with the central thesis that characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasiteas, a textbook example of how racist fantasy and myth can serve as an incitement to total war.

We are living in a post ideological era; neither Hollywood nor Aljazeera is considered inflaming. But I believe the American Colonel and the Afghan Colonels still lives in the cold war era and think in ideological terms.

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