Thursday, 14 August 2008

Space for Propaganda

"Aid group suspends Afghan operation after three women are killed in Taliban ambush" titled the online edition of The Guardian today a report by Jason Burke from Kabul. Here's an excerpt:

"Three western women working for an American aid organisation have been shot dead in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. The women - a British-Canadian, a Canadian and a Trinidadian - were travelling by car in the eastern Logar province when they were attacked yesterday morning. One Afghan driver was also killed and another seriously injured.

The women worked for the New York-based International Rescue Committee, which has now suspended all its humanitarian aid programmes in Afghanistan.

A Taliban spokesman, Zahibullah Mujahed, claimed responsibility, telling the Associated Press news agency that the insurgents had targeted "the foreign invader forces".

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, described the attack as unforgivable. "It is not in our culture to kill women," he said in a statement. "This unforgivable incident without doubt was carried out by enemies of Afghanistan, by non-Afghans.""

Should Mr Karzai's choice of words imply that other cultures find killing women acceptable? Moreover, why distinguish, when it comes to killing, between men and women at all? Or between civilians and soldiers, children and the elderly? Victims are victims, whether they are wearing uniform or civilian clothes, whether they are men or women, young or old. Whenever I hear that an attack claimed "innocent victims" I can't help wondering whether there is such a thing as a "guilty victim" and if so, whether the killing would be then okay ...

Likewise unhelpful (if the goal is to avoid killing) is to say that the killers were "without doubt ... non-Afghans" since the Taliban (aren't they mostly Afghans?) claimed responsibilty. I know, I know, one shouldn't take the words of politicians too seriously ... but publishing such statements without questioning them is not journalism, it is offering space for propaganda.

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