News from a distance

Afghanistan’s been in the mainstream news a lot more than normal these last few weeks. I scan the headlines of a couple of dozen headlines each day but have stopped reading them. They all seem so very distant.

I couldn’t figure out why at first. It’s not because I claim some special vantage point by virtue of living here, from where the comments of others, more knowledgeable than me, appear further away from this country. Far from it.

It is because the majority of these articles are not actually about Afghanistan, not in any independently meaningful way. They are about NATO, Canada’s troop levels and next elections, arguments between Germany and the US, about Paddy Ashdown, about America’s policies on the war on terror or the war on drugs.

Not what these wars mean to people in Afghanistan. Not what the future of NATO is for Afghanistan.

If these articles mention the 500 dead from the cold and snow, or the families that have sold a child for ten dollars (why is the price always included in this, as if the shocking thing is not that someone’s been forced to sell their own child, but how little money they have done it for? Not only are they evil parents, they’re bad capitalists to boot) just to survive, it is to give otherwise dry articles a bit of ‘colour.’ The focus remains on the danger to NATO, the threat of terrorism to Europe.

In the mainstream news at the moment, Afghanistan is an exotic but incidental background to the manoeuvrings of more powerful players.

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