Over the last several weeks, substantial questions have been raised about the context and slant of the Time Magazine article and cover about the consequences of a U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. The Feminist Peace Network covered these issues extensively (see below), including looking at a CIA document released by Wikileaks that makes it clear that such stories have been an actively encouraged U.S. policy used to drum up support for the war.
Leaving aside that the horribly maimed young woman whose haunting eyes pull at our heartstrings from the Time cover was injured last year while U.S. forces were firmly in place in Afghanistan, the New York Observer is now raising questions about the accuracy of the story and also the impartiality of the Time reporter,
But there was more than a question mark missing from the Time story, which stressed potentially disastrous consequences if the U.S. pursues negotiations with the Taliban. The piece lacked a crucial personal disclosure on (reporter Aryn) Baker’s part: Her husband, Tamim Samee, an Afghan-American IT entrepreneur, is a board member of an Afghan government minister’s $100 million project advocating foreign investment in Afghanistan, and has run two companies, Digistan and Ora-Tech, that have solicited and won development contracts with the assistance of the international military, including private sector infrastructure projects favored by U.S.-backed leader Hamid Karzai.
In other words, the Time reporter who wrote a story bolstering the case for war appears to have benefited materially from the NATO invasion. Reached by The Observer, a Time spokesperson revealed that the magazine has just reassigned Baker to a new country as part of a normal rotation, though he declined to say where.
The New York Observer goes on to flesh out this very troubling conflict of interest and should be read in its entirety. However, it isn’t just Baker’s impartiality that is at stake here. It is also the accuracy of the story itself in claiming that this woman’s injuries were inflicted because of the Taliban,
And what about Aisha, a new war emblem? While it’s long been evident that women have suffered unimaginable horrors under customs practiced in Afghanistan, Aisha’s brutal mutilation occurred in 2009, almost eight years into the American invasion.
Meanwhile, in a story light on specifics, there remains some question as to whether the unnamed Afghan judge who ordered Aisha’s mutilation qualifies as a “Taliban commander” in any formal sense. And if Aisha’s is the face of the notoriously cruel Taliban justice system, the Taliban aren’t taking credit. A Taliban press release on August 7 condemned the maiming as “unislamic” and denied that the case was handled by any of its roving judges — to whom many Afghans are now turning, distrustful of Karzai officials.
In the long run, the NATO-backed president, Hamid Karzai, may not be the friend Aisha and other persecuted Afghan women so desperately need. Last August he signed the Shia Personal Status Law, allowing men to starve wives who withhold sex and to punish those who walk outdoors without permission. Under this law — passed by a parliament that is 25 percent female as mandated by the new Afghan consitution — Aisha’s decision to leave home would have been considered a crime.
The veracity and impartiality of this piece need to be fully investigated and Time’s credibility as a ‘news’ magazine needs to be thoroughly questioned. It is abundantly clear that the mainstream media in this country did precious little fact checking when they became complicit in selling this war beginning in 2001 and it is also clear that this sort of mis-use of the media is being encouraged by our government. In the absence of journalistic integrity or a government that truly represents the people, our job is to call it out and refuse to accept the ‘truth’ when it is found to be lies and to insist on an end to this unacceptable war.
Here are links to previous posts on the Time Magazine article:
- Time Magazine Once Again Trots Out The Tired And Inexcusable ‘We’re In Afghanistan (And Have To Stay) To Protect Women’ Mantra
- CIA Document Calls For Using Afghan Women As Messengers To Humanize The War
- NYT ‘Article’ On Afghan Women Sounds Familiar
- More On Using Afghan Women To Sell The War
- CEDAW, UNSC 1325 And Afghanistan