Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

‎”Kennis Nederlandse trainers over Kunduz lijkt beperkt” (knowledge of the Dutch trainers about Kunduz seems limited) is the headline of De Volkskrant daily this morning and I imagine how an ignorant Royal Dutch Marechaussee (military police) officer instructs the local Afghan police force: “Look that is how we do it in Holland!”

At the same time I imagine the improbable reversed situation of an Afghan military or police functionary training Dutch police officers at the Dutch Police Academy in Apeldoorn: “Do you understand?  That’s how we do it in Afghanistan!”

Should it be rather the Dutch politicians who need such a training before deciding to send a police training mission to Afghanistan? An impossible proposition almost for sure, because who would determine who would be the Afghan trainers for such a mission in the Netherlands, which fraction of Afghan society would such an instructor represent? Now we are ready to reverse this question and think about who has been selected in the Netherlands to train Afghan policemen. Or, can policing be made in something blank and objective non dependant on local standards and social complexities? I doubt it.

Photograph from: ourmediaindymedia.blogspot.com

Surprisingly the military  mission which is presented to the Dutch public by the government as only a civil-police training mission, has been supported by two opposition parties, D66 (Democrats 1966, a mid course party ) and Groen Links (Green Left, a mishmash of christian, ecologists and former party communists). Dutch peace activists protested in February this year by protecting with their own invented ‘Kurduz Police Force’ the Green Left Congress from Taliban intruders.

A photo documentation can be found here and there is also some apparently uncut video documentation at YouTube. A more formal description of the Dutch police mission to Kurduz in Afghanistan is at the Wereldomroep web site, the world wide broadcasting service of the Netherlands that because of its critical tone is now on the government lists of non-supportive media whose budget will be scrapped.

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IMAGES THAT PREVENT US FROM THINKING… is the subject of an article in Le Monde Diplomatique of this month. The article starts with the the portrait of Bibi Aisha, on the cover of the july 29. issue of Time magazine, the Afghan woman with her nose cut off by her father in law because of an affront to his authority, an act supported by a local – supposedly Taliban – official. The display of this horrific picture triggered a fierce debate, because of the emblematic way it was used with the descriptive accompagning text: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan.” One may confront this implicit argument for Western involvement in Afghanistan and its continuation, with images of civilian casualties by NATO and American forces, especially the structural case of ‘collateral damage’ as a result of always imprecise air attacks.

In the words of Serge Halimi of Le Monde Diplomatique: “Will there be more mutilations “if we leave Afghanistan”? Well, “our” presence has not prevented the people of Afghanistan from being mutilated. The Taliban have plenty of pictures of civilians who have lost limbs or been killed by western missiles. Perhaps Time will publish one. Will it make the front cover? And what caption will it carry?”

July 2010 front cover of Time magazine and a elsewhere published photograph of a demonstration in Kabul August 2010: "Afghan protesters hold placards during a demonstration against U.S. forces and NATO in Kabul, Afghanistan Sunday, Aug 1, 2010. More than 400 demonstrators have marched toward the presidential palace in Kabul to protest the alleged killing of 52 civilians by a NATO rocket strike in the south. NATO has disputed the report of civilian deaths."

The photograph of the Kabul demonstration has been published (just one example of its usage) by an American news web site cleveland.com with the header: “Holland bails out on Afghanistan war, adding pressure on Germany, UK to scale back.”

In Holland itself this news item on a demonstration against US Forces and NATO has – as far as I can conclude after 15 minutes of precise web searches –  not been published. Which is in line with the general strategy of embedded journalism and evasive reporting on civilian casualties,during the years of military involvement of the Netherlands in Afghanistan. I can not recount any serious attempt of the Dutch press to come up with a civilian body count of the Afghan War. Quiet some money must have been invested in embedded reporting, but serious ‘open source’ research (which is much cheaper to do) of casualties of this war other than “our own” boys and girls have not been undertaken. A case of death by ‘friendly fire’ of Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan may be found back in the national Dutch news lines over weeks, but the fate of the the local population during all kind of disastrous incidents and the needed debate of how casualties are counted at all, just does not exist. It makes me remember the ‘news’ on the Vietnam War before 1975 (the Fall of Saigon) and how it was often implicit that when a town or village was under attack, the victims that fell in such an operation could only be ‘insurgents’, Vietcong or their allies. The same thing seems to happen now, with only another insurgent stamp: Taliban.

This being said does not mean that either the Vietcong or the Taliban were or are to be exempted from any criticism on their deeds. We may better try to be conscious of the underlying process of  imposing an emblematic picture  of ‘the enemy’, a phenomenon for which the German language has one single word ‘Feindbild’ (Ennemy-Picture). A ‘Feindbild’ is a generalised picture and mostly pre-cooked in written language and later on may get a visual expression. Often the caricaturist lends a helping hand to typify the ‘enemy’ by enlarging what is seen as typical features of the face, the rest of the body and the way of clothing. The racist and non-racist dividing line in the  depiction of  face and ethnicity  is often hard to draw.

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