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January 29, 2002 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-29

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14 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Sof the 1-11 ..


War reporting 'intens(

By David Enders
Daily News Editor
Since the war in Afghanistan began in Octo-
ber, journalists from around the world have
risked their lives to feed an increased appetite for
news from the region.
"It's pretty disorienting at first. It's the most
intense thing I know," Sebastian Junger said.
Junger spent time traveling with Northern
Alliance troops in Afghanistan in November for
an article in the February issue of Vanity Fair.
Junger was also in Ann Arbor Saturday promot-
ing his book, "Fire."
Junger said the case of Robert Pearl, the Wall
Street Journal reporter apparently being held
hostage in Pakistan, is a good example of the
unpredictability of reporting from unstable areas.
"He undoubtedly didn't think he was in any
sort of danger, but he wasn't anywhere close to
the front line;' Junger said. "What I learned is
that the situations that look the most dangerous
are not always the most dangerous. The times
when I've felt most at risk, I wasn't at the front
line," he said, recalling a situation in Sierra
Leone about a year and a half ago when he met
some particularly hostile armed rebels. "You cal-
culate what the risk is and what you're getting for
it. If you're just going to get another photo of a
tank shooting, then it's not worth it."
University journalism fellow JavedNazir also
understands the risks of reporting in a war zone.
Nazir is the former editor of the Frontier Post, a
"progressive and democratic" newspaper in
Lahore, Pakistan.
"Covering a war has always been a hazardous
assignment - but I think before people take
these jobs they know what they are getting into,"
Nazir said. "It gets the adrenaline flowing."

fellow Javed
Nazir faces a
possible death
sentence if he
returns to.
Pakistan for
publishing a
letter to his
newspaper that
was considered
"There's a big
price to be paid
for being a
journalist in my
country," says
Nazir, former
editor of the
Frontier Post.
"Journalists on both sides face a mutual suspi-
cion," of spying for one country or the other,
Nazir said. "People like me have been fighting for
more freedom to report from India and Pakistan.
"It's true to some extent that some journalists
did have links to Pakistani and Indian intelli-
gence agencies," he said, adding that when he
would travel to India, the first thing he had to do
was report to police "so they can put someone on
my tail."
"In the wake of September 11, some Indians
wanted to go to Afghanistan through Pakistan,
and they were prevented," Nazir said. Pakistani
officials feared "the Indians might misreport and
try to report that Pakistan is as hopeless as
Nazir faces a possible death sentence if he

' but perilous
returns to Pakistan. His newspaper was burned we essentially don't know from an independen
down last year for printing a letter to the editor witness what really happened in a major battle;
the Pakistani government considered blasphe- he said. "Journalists are relaying a lot of infor
mous. "There's a big price to be paid for being a mation directly from the Pentagon."
journalist in my country, and some of us are The number of civilian casualties during
quite prepared to pay that price," he said. bombing in Afghanistan has also been a point o:
In the case of the war in Afghanistan, Collings contention. Some estimate that as many as 3,50(
said there has been more access for the media civilians were killed through the beginning o:
than in past conflicts. "Compared to the Gulf December. The actual number is far from clear
War,the American media have had more access and tallies are often not even discussed on net-
in a number of cases because the Pentagon didn't work newscasts.
control as much territory in Afghanistan as they "The full extent of civilian casualties is
did in the Gulf War," he said. unknown. I think some American news media
Collings said the role of the media in the Viet- have made good efforts to find out, but I thini
nam War has also shaped the way the U.S. gov- they could do more," Collings said. "The BBC
ernment has since granted media access in, did a lot more coverage of civilian casualties
conflicts. than the American media.
It was the lack of American control in "If I had to speculate, it may come back to
Afghanistan that allowed Junger to travel freely this insular approach that maybe the public
to the front lines. doesn't want to know how terrible the war is."
"The northern alliance was completely open. The subject of civilian bombing victims has
Sometimes what they said was wrong, but physi- been Nazir's largest problem with the American
cally there was no restriction on access, and we media. "If you want to be objective you have tc
could go anywhere we wanted, including places watch the European media," Nazir said, adding
that were quite dangerous," Junger said. that there is some backlash in the region toward



Nazir said he's disappointed there has been lit-
tle investigation into the deaths of journalists in
the region. "Journalists are not expendable."
University communications studies lecturer
Anthony Collings recalled being held at gun-
point in Beirut, Lebanon. "It was extremely dan-
gerous for journalists. They risk their lives trying
to bring us the truth," Collings said.
Getting the story
In situations that do not present physical dan-
ger, the greatest challenge journalists face is
often access to areas and information, especially
when there is tension between two governments.
Nazir faced it anytime he covered anything in
India and said Indian journalists had the same
problem in Pakistan.

A job well done?
Reporting from Afghanistan in the last months
has been by no means uniform, especially in the
case of American television news networks,
which scrambled to send reporters to
Afghanistan after Sept. 11.
"I think generally American news media has
done a good job covering the war in Afghanistan
and the tension between India and Pakistan,"
Collings said. "There were quite a few stories
'that didn't get covered despite the freedom of
American media. No American news media
actually witnessed the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, so

the way news is reported on American stations.
"The American media has been very jingoistic."
Junger said he thought the American media
has done a good job covering the conflict, but he
did take issue with what he felt was a misrepre-
sentation of the army with which he traveled.
"Probably the most notable thing is that many
of them had a pretty cliched opinion of the north-
ern alliance that was already formed; they
seemed very ready to write them off as a 'bunch
of warlords.' That's a great insult to the leaders
over there who are very responsible, kind men. It
really pained me to see them dismissed like that,"
Junger said.


Continued from front page w

That's when the face-off started. I asked him what he
meant, and he had an answer. "Take the example of the
recent media coverage of this area. My units have been
criticized for letting the Taliban just walk across the bor-
der like it's a joke. It's not true. Every day, 7,000 people
cross the border to Afghanistan from Chaman.
"Also, every day 4,000 Afghans come to this side to
work for the day."
So, I asked, of what significance was that? "It is
linked to the tribal culture, to tribal economics. For
thousands of these people, borders are nothing. Fami-
lies, shopkeepers, cross it every day. Just because the
American media comes here and sees thousands of
people with turbans crossing the border, they think
that the Taliban are being allowed. Not everyone with
a turban is an Afghan, or a Talib. He could be Pak-
istani. A Pathan, like you.
"We have our own methods, and they work well."
But what about the question of murder and execu-
tion? About how the low figures for murders in Spin-
boldek may be skewed because the Taliban were
reported to execute many, sometimes without trial? "I
have heard about the strictness of the Taliban," he
said. "I cannot comment on the science of numbers. I
can say this. When it came to stopping civilian-crime,
tribal warfare, et cetera, they (Taliban) were a law and
order body other people should learn from."
OK, so the colonel, as a military man, was open to
the idea of strict military/police control over a violent
civilian constituency - there is ample research and
news analysis that civilian crime under the Taliban
was at an all-time low during their regime in con-
trolled parts of Afghanistan, probably due to harsh
enforcement mechanisms. But what about Pakistan?
Could he see those rules being applied there? Would
he not send his daughters to school? Not allow his sons
to listen to music? "Of course not," he responded, point
blank. "You should pick good things, not bad."
I could see where the colonel was going with this.
Pick the Taliban's law and order ideal, not their oppres-
sive social policies. Help the Americans by making fair{
arrests for them, but don't trust their media because it
screws up on understanding the intricacies of the
region's complicated tribal culture and economy. Best of
both worlds. Pick and choose. No absolutes.
Maybe that's why the colonel is doing well. But so
are other people. Last weekend, I saw Sebastian Junger
at a local bookstore, doing a reading and discussion on
his latest work. Junger is a contributing editor for Vani-
ty Fair, author of "The Perfect Storm" and modern
media's most probable answer to Marco Polo. He's an
award-winning journalist, but after his talk the other
day about his trip last year to Afghanistan, he might as
well be a young Rush Limbaugh.
To stick to the proverbial information guns, Junger
was lambasting Pakistan, now a front-line state in the
ongoing global campaign against terrorism, for the high
crime of waging a proxy war in Afghanistan by employ-
ing the Taliban against the northern alliance. The Tal-
iban and their Pakistani backers were bad, Junger said.
The N.A, that rag-tag army, that proud motley crew, was

A Pakistani Frontier Corps serviceman inspects a truck en route from Kandahar, Afghanistan, in Chaman at the Afghan border for smuggled merchandise and Illegal refugees.

good. Good had finally prevailed in the form of a U.S.-
led invasion of the country. G.I. Joe had beaten Cobra,
and Cobra Commander had lost his turban.
Now, he proposed, all was well on the moralistic,
military, and philosophical Afghani front. All Ameri-
ca needed to do now was "hang out" in the region.
It was beautiful. Junger spoke and a hundred Ann
Arborites lay breathless in the impressionable sands of
his sexy new book, aptly titled "Fire," readily available
for everyone (to feel like Marco Polo) for $24.99.
Yes, Pakistan had waged a proxy war. Yes, it had
used the Taliban, or Cobra, for its purposes against the
northern alliance. But the N.A. was no G.I. Joe. The
truth of the matter is, and shall remain, that the infor-
mation missed out (oranot relayed) by Junger is more
complicated, more fluid, and more bitter than most
would like it to be:
The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan - proba-
bly the ultimate goal of the U.S. strategy there in the
1980s - lead to Afghanistan being left out of the
U.S. "national interest" paradigm.
For the lethally armed and battle-hardened

Mujahideen, the decade-long military, intelligence and
finance based relationship with the United States now
seemed like a one-night stand, with the U.S. walking
away almost as soon as its goals in the region were satis-
fied. The political vacuum in the country was imminent,
and so it came. The fall of the USSR in late 1991 gave
another impetus to this group, who were now trying to
come to terms with power-sharing; basically fighting for
the political crumbs over the table the Soviets had left.
Inevitably, violence ensued. Battle lines were drawn
between groups, mostly split along religious lines. All
armed up with no one to fight but themselves, the for-
mer Mujahideen found Afghanistan in a civil war,
drought, a refugee exodus, and the overthrow of the
quasi-government which was a de-facto successor
after the Soviets followed. By 1996, the Taliban,
mostly student-warriors from seminaries in Pakistan
(the same seminaries which had been the hot-bed for
recruiting the Mujahideen for the anti-Soviet struggle
led by the U.S. in the '80s), as well as mercenaries
who had been called in for Jihad, Inc. by figures like
Reagan and Zia-ul-Haq from all over the Muslim
world, were ruling over the capital, Kabul..
The same ferocious-looking, bearded individuals
President Reagan had met at the White House in 1985
and introduced as "the moral equivalent of America's
founding fathers" were now raping Afghanistan, caus-
ing thousands more to flee across the border. Pakistan's
intelligence service, a praetorian state-within-a-state,
started calling the shots, trying to control the chaos in
the region, but only created more problems because of
lack of democratic oversight in a country which had too
many of its own problems.
That's where the problem lies. In the avoidance of
small, truthful detail. I've heard the term "Jihad" thrown
about on Fox, in Poli Sci 460, in Muslim Student Asso-
ciation forums, in Friday sermons at mosques. I've seen
it painted on the walls of the Pashtun enclaves in Quetta
and Arab neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I've heard rants
ahAt the Talihan and their terror Osama and his nlots.

A) President of Pakistan, he's one of the most
praised statesmen of current times: America's new
ally, apprehender of mullahs and militants.
Wrong. Musharraf is actually the gentleman who was
being shunned by the international community before
Sept. 11. He was called a usurper, a hawkish junta gen-
eral, a philanderer of democracy. On a visit to Pakistan,
Bill Clinton was apprehensive about shaking hands with
him for the cameras. George W. Bush could not remem-
ber his name in a pre-election Newsweek interview.
Even though he had been marginalizing relations with
the Taliban and Islamic militants in his own country and
approaching peace with India before September 11th, he
was still a "dictator." In "Western eyes," Musharraf's
proud uniform was, till recently, his biggest failing.
Q) Who is Osama bin Laden?
A) Oh, I know him. He's the bearded/psycho/mili-
tant/mullah/jihadi/sadist/terrorist mastermind guy.
Leader of al-Qaida, Enemy of Democracy, Dr. Evil of
the Islamic World, conniving apocalypse from the
Jihad Cave with his sidekick, Mullah Omar.
Wrong again: Osama is a former Mujahid of the
Afghan War of the 1980s, where the US., Saudi Arabia,
and Pakistan were the primary donors and facilitators of
an international jihad against the Soviets. He has issues,
sure, but so would anyone who recruits and trains
jihadis for the CIA. He's not ticked off at McWorld, so
to say. After all, he wears American camouflage jackets
and a Timex. He's got some crazy ideas, but so would
many here if 20,000 bearded and turbaned mullahs
decided to park ten squadrons of F-15s in Detroit to
scare away the weak Canadians, sort of like Americans
are doing in Saudi Arabia to fend off the Iraqis.
This quiz was brought to you by Common Sense: Our
world has to change with political realities, not idealistic
parables. Men in uniform don't exclusively indicate the
end of egalitarianism. Generals aren't necessarily
demons of democracy. And chickens, particularly rich
and crazy ones, always come home to roost, especially
i.a * 4..a.. ,r....:n. .,.4am-, a +-

.~ N . AhW

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