Pentagon’s Hollywood Touch In Kabul: ‘The Afghanistan PR Show’

COLUMN/ Awbuck Qandoe

New Delhi: These days, the internet, social media, TV channels, newspapers and tabloids are soaked in shallow visuals that are part of the single greatest act of trickery in modern war history.

American soldiers lulling Afghan babies to sleep with fatherly care.

Troops kneeling down and cheerfully welcoming Afghan children.

Female soldiers doing high-fives with evacuee Afghan women.

Marines dutifully handing out water bottles to poor Afghan kids.

US forces lovingly greeting little Afghan children with flowers.

These scenes of American-Afghan bonhomie and bonding at Kabul airport during the evacuation operations – masterfully engineered by the US Department of Defence – are so cheap and obvious that they remind us of the worst breed of Hollywood war movies.

This is the power and sway of military propaganda.

For 20 years, the Great American War Machine has murdered and mutilated Afghan civilians in more ways than we can ever imagine.

Pentagon’s fighter-jet boys have bombarded countless wedding parties, just to get a kick out of it or shore up their assigned quota of killings.

They have raped, looted, pillaged, harassed, humiliated, killed, tortured, abducted, tormented and done all sorts of pervert things that only the US military has the proven credentials of doing.

Yet, despite knowing well that Afghanistan’s soil and soul is now soaked in Afghan blood for an eternity – thanks to the illegal occupation from 2001 to 2021 – people have simply fallen for the US military’s propaganda tricks.

Every single image of a cheerful-looking US soldier cuddling up to an Afghan child is a stark reminder of the thousands of kids gunned down, bombed to bits or maimed through landmines and torture by American forces.

Every single image of a smiling female US trooper putting an arm around an Afghan woman is a firm reminder of the thousands of women who died in crossfire and who just chillingly disappeared.

Every single image of an American soldier gently holding Afghan babies is a dark reminder of the airstrikes that US warmongers carried out on family gatherings in poor Afghan villages that had nothing to do with harbouring Al-Qaeda or Islamic State.

The power of the American military PR has shown how short-lived public memory is. People are adoringly looking at these visuals and sharing them around with a gripping frenzy – ‘Check this out, Afghan baby in a US soldier’s arms. So touching, so sweet.”

Well, that’s not so sweet.

No amount of sweetness of a one-off PR interaction at Kabul airport can make up for the bitterness left behind by US soldiers as they exit a trampled and mangled Afghanistan on August 31, 2021.

For the record, America’s invasion of Afghanistan that began on October 7, 2001 was technically as unauthorised as it was unlawful.

Here’s the position that had been taken by the United Nations when the US government decided to go invade Afghanistan as retribution for the ghastly 9/11 terror attacks.

Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, to which all coalition countries are signatories and for which its ratification by the US makes it the “law of the land”, prohibits the ‘threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state’ except in circumstances where a competent organ of the UN (such as the Security Council) has authorised it, or where it is in self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter.

The UN Security Council did not authorise the US-led military campaign, but then many people argued it was a form of self-defence under the UN Charter, hence a legitimate act.

It’s like shifting the goal posts after your opponent has taken the penalty kick.

To talk about a war in numbers is to dehumanise the misery. But the numbers behind Afghanistan’s collective misery are so brutal and so chillingly gigantic that it is worth revisiting.

Nearly 7,800 Afghan children were killed as a result of the American invasion and the deadly domestic turmoil between 2010 and 2020.

Over 3,200 women lost their lives across Afghanistan during that same time period.

More than 47,200 Afghan civilians died due to the devastating 20-year occupation and its side effects.

To interpret the visuals at Kabul airport as heart-warming is to dishonour and insult the thousands of innocent Afghans who died during these 20 years.

In fact, military PR is not a new game for the Americans. They have played this game many times in the past, and quite successfully.

They bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bits, but made sure – through smart PR tricks – that they never got blamed for international terrorism.

They mowed down the Vietnamese, but successfully projected the acts as collateral damage from an ideological war against the Soviets.

They perpetually occupy West Asia and protect the region’s orthodox dictators, but never get charged with protecting human rights violators.

They are in the habit of regime-changing around the world, but always manage to sell the interventions as a necessary push for ‘democracy and freedom’.

Noam Chomsky, noted critic of America’s foreign policy misadventures, spent his lifetime calling on people to wake up to the fact that the US military is the world’s most dangerous terror organisation.

But Mr Chomsky’s message is only a whiff in a cyclone of blinding American military propaganda.

The US war machine is not only good at invading countries. Importantly, it is good at also invading our mind space with propaganda.

Let’s not get charmed by the images from Kabul airport.

(The above post is an opinion piece)

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