Today, thanks to global TV networks such as CNN and the BBC, we can watch 24 hour coverage of the crisis in Afghanistan. We can watch in amazement as Coalition laser guided bombs fall directly on Taliban positions, watch in horror as we see the bodies dragged from the rubble, be it in Afghanistan or the United States, and we can watch in distress as we see images of Afghan refugee camps filled with staving children. The world is watching Afghanistan, once again the ‘west’ has ‘discovered’ a country only when its interests are at stake. Its called ‘CNN syndrome’, and it is disgusting.
In 1990 Iraq invaded its southern neighbour Kuwait and the media flooded into the region. Not only was there oil at stake but the masses love to hear about a good war as long as it does not touch them (“no news, like bad news”). The resulting Coalition build up (Desert Shield) and offensive liberating Kuwait (Desert Storm) was publicized around the world on a scale never before seen. The world discovered, through the global media, that in fact Saddam Hussain, the leader of Iraq was not a nice guy (a common misconception considering the USA used to support him), and the media had a field day painting him as the devils advocate. The war was a one sided land slide in favour of the Coalition forces. The casualty rate was low for the Coalition and victory was quick (not to be confused with easy, just ask the people who fought it) when compared with past wars. The public loved it. After the war the media packed up its equipment and went home, the show was over. So there were no cameras when loyalist Iraqi forces used chemical weapons to put down rebellions all over the country. No one cared.
When Indonesia invaded East Timor in the 1990’s the media (with the exception of the lone voice of John Pilger) did not turn up, there was no money involved and no big wars to be fought. The world did not even blink. Nor did they blink when reports filtered out of mass killings
all over East Timor. No cameras, no interest.
Tibet has been occupied by China since the 1950’s, and yet there is no Western money at stake, no war. With no cameras, there is no interest. Now and then news and images of atrocities committed against the people of Tibet reach the eyes and ears of people, who wonder how such a thing is possible, and then wait for the next piece of news. No interest.
During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the media was interested. The mighty Soviet empire was at war, the safety of the ‘free world’ could be at sake. The cameras were there, the interest was there. Then the Soviet forces withdrew, and so did the cameras. And even though Afghanistan soon dissolved into bloody and bitter civil war, no one cared, and there were no cameras.
Until now. Now once again the masses are interested, the mighty US has been attacked and is responding with force. The media have poured into Afghanistan.
And now the world has discovered the people of Afghanistan, discovered a people who have been living in refugee camps for years now. They have little in the way of basic human necessities, most are under fed, and every winter thousands die when the lack of warmth and shelter hits this already deadly
So now we are acting as if we have just discovered the situation, or it is in some way new. Happily enough people have responded with generosity and urgency. Relief is coming in from around the world on all levels. The situation is urgent, but it has been for years now. This is the upside of ‘CNN syndrome’.
Now the entire world is focused on Afghanistan, supplying those in need, and trying to topple the ‘evil government’ we have just discovered existed (dispute the fact that many Taliban guns were bought with money from the CIA). The cameras are there, the interest is there.
But there is a problem. It is all very well that we suddenly begin to pour money into the Afghan people who so badly need aid, but why is no one caring about the rest of the world? Does the fact that Afghanistan is now the centre of attention some mean the rest of the world does not need aid too?
Have the crisis’s somehow corrected themselves? Why aren’t we caring? Does the rest of the world no longer deserve aid? There are millions of people world wide who are in situations as bad if not worse than the Afghan people, why are we not pouring aid and sympathy to them too? The answer is sickeningly simple; no cameras, no interest. ‘CNN syndrome’.