Honest reporting from Afghanistan would tell us there is no prospect of victory for the West, and little hope of an orderly withdrawal leaving a stable state behind

US troops urinate on dead TalibanYou couldn’t make it up. Or perhaps you could. I heard on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme yesterday that 17 people had been beheaded by the Taliban in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan – for going to a party with music and dancing.

Who wouldn’t receive that news with fear and revulsion? People executed in the bloodiest way for doing things that millions of people around the world regard as harmless and enjoyable.

The problem is, it wasn’t true. The full facts are still unknown but they suggest that no one was beheaded. Maybe, we’re now told, it wasn’t about going to a party. Some say it was about a dispute between Taliban commanders over the two women killed in the incident. Others that these people were executed because they were spying for Nato forces.

I don’t know what the truth is, so I won’t speculate. But the point is, nor do the headline writers and reporters who tell us these rumours as though they were facts. At one point yesterday the Today programme did report that one source were saying the dead people had been spying but it was not contained in the headlines. I listened for any correction of the report today, but heard none.

Anyway, the damage is done: violent Taliban behead people for partying becomes what people remember.

There is a rather different attitude to crimes committed by Nato troops in Afghanistan. Yesterday too the US authorities announced how they were dealing with US soldiers who burnt the Koran at Bagram airbase, leading to mass rioting throughout Afghanistan, and with a group of Marines who urinated on the bodies of dead Taliban.

None of them will face prosecution, as even the country’s corrupt president Karzai demanded. Instead they have been ‘disciplined’ – hardly an onerous result.

The reporting of these events betrays no outcry at the lenient treatment of these men or any sense of the outrage there must be in Afghanistan.

Double standards in reporting are not new. But those who oppose wars have a duty to look behind the headlines at what is really going on – not just in Afghanistan but in Iraq, Libya and Syria as well.

What the double standards in Afghanistan reflect is the fact that the Nato forces are losing the war. This weekend – less reported than the beheadings that weren’t – the Taliban attacked an Afghan army checkpoint, killing ten soldiers.

Another ‘green on blue’ attack by an Afghan soldier also left two more US soldiers dead. These attacks by the soldiers who are supposed to be US allies are growing, reflecting either Taliban infiltration or more likely widespread distrust of the western troops among the Afghan population as a whole.

The war is unravelling. It is not winding down but continuing its grim course. The failure of the occupation cannot be covered up by horror stories about what will replace the troops.

There is no prospect of victory for the West, and less and less prospect of an orderly withdrawal leaving a stable state behind. Obama’s troop surge has been a failure, even as casualties have escalated.

Honest reporting of the war would tell us that. Don’t hold your breath.

From Stop the War site

Lindsey German

As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.

Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.

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