Saturday, 13 February 2010

Why has the opposition to war fallen silent?

Brigadier James Cowan, commander of British forces in Helmand province, has declared that "Operation Moshtarak will mark the start of the end of the insurgency." And so 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops descended upon central Helmland in a joint offensive with the aim of securing government control in the region. The first casualties were 20 "militants" and two NATO troops.

According to Gordon Brown;
This day will be long remembered as the day when a new phase of the campaign to win the support of the people of Afghanistan was initiated. And I'm very proud of the exceptional role that British forces have played in that.
If the rhetoric seems unconvincing, it is worth bearing in mind that this operation comes at a time when US-sponsored night raids are causing great terror for the Afghan civilian population. Whilst that reality goes all-but unreported, Moshtarak has already received extensive coverage from a mass media for whom strategy recieves intense debate and morality and legality are undeserving of comment. The BBC's coverage is a case in point, but the offerings of Sky News, CNN, and other major networks are also instructive.

By contrast, for Dissident Voice, Ron Jacobs offers the following analysis;
Perhaps, there was once a time when most westerners could pretend that the US-led onslaught against the Afghan people was a good thing. Perhaps they convinced themselves that because the government of that country had allowed Osama Bin Laden to live in the mountains there that there was reason enough to attack his neighbors and destroy what remained of their nation. Perhaps, too, westerners (especially US citizens) believed that the true purpose of the US-led military mission in Afghanistan was to capture Bin Laden and destroy his terror network.


However, that time is long past. The war has gone on for more than eight years without any sign of cessation. Indeed, since Barack Obama took up residence in the White House, the casualties in that war have spiked. There are at least 40,000 more US troops in the country since that date last January and another thirty or forty thousand more getting ready to go there. In addition, the number of mercenaries has similarly increased .The reasons provided for this escalation range from going after terrorists to creating a civil society. As I write, another offensive against Afghans is being prepared. It primary purpose is to install a governor appointed by the US-created government in Kabul. No matter what the reason, it is painfully clear that those of us expecting a truthful explanation for Washington’s presence in Afghanistan will not receive it from those who continue to send troops and weaponry over there. Nor will they receive it from those in Congress that continue to fund this lethal endeavor.

Yet, the antiwar movement–which should know better–remains virtually silent. A day of bi coastal demonstrations is planned for March 20, 2010, but otherwise there is not even a whisper of protest. Students go to classes while their generational cohorts in uniform face the prospect of death and killing. Antiwar organizations send out the occasional email or call for action, but there is no action. Congressmen and women ignore the letters and faxes constituents send them asking that they refuse to vote for the next war-funding legislation. Furthermore, these legislators refuse to make the connection between the destruction of the US economy and the trillion dollars spent to kill Afghans and Iraqis the past eight years. The media rarely covers the war except to promote the glory of the men and women sent to do America’s dirty work. There is no critical debate in the mainstream media. Opponents of Washington’s imperial program–rarely acknowledged in the mainstream media at any time–are now completely ignored.
The observation rings true on both sides of the atlantic, and the dilemma seems inescapable. Faced with growing public opposition to war, the media has simply shut out dissent. The already commonplace use of soldiers (especially dead ones) as totems to ward of criticism of military policy has increased a thousandfold. And the anti-war movement, whilst not short of analysis or slogans, is doing little to resist this.

Turning this trend around will be a difficult one. It requires hard work and organisation at a grassroots level, and even that cannot come about without the realisation that - at present - such does not exist. We know what we should be aiming for, but the question is whether we can get there. As Jacobs says, this "is a huge task, but it is the one we must undertake."