Not Beyond Help, Only Beyond Will

"Villages Lie Beyond Help" screamed the headline on a recent Post-Standard cover. The article told the moving story of Afghan villagers slowly starving to death.

A companion article titled "New U.S. airstrikes mop up hot spot", included reports from a Pentagon spokeswoman who noted that American aircraft flew 118 sorties and conducted four airstrikes two days earlier. It also quoted extensively from "U.S. government spokesperson" Tony Blair (also known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain) saying that the international community would not turn its back on Afghanistan as it had in the early 1990s.

Once again our media fails to provide the information needed to connect the dots. In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, humanitarian agencies warned us about the staggering potential for starvation in Afghanistan. The U.S. government ignored that information and went to war, bombing an already ravaged country. They did drop thousands of single-serving food packages, an action decried as cynical by many international aid organizations.

After the Taliban government collapsed, the one clear success of the war effort, the U.S. government continued to provide little more than lip service in response to the looming crisis. We’ve all read about the difficulty of getting food aid to the many remote Afghan villages where starvation threatens to kill many hundreds of thousands. Where are the actions to secure major roads to allow aid to flow freely? Why not reassign some military helicopters to deliver aid to some of these remote sites? This would make up for an awful lot of donkey trips.

Despite the rhetoric of caring for the people of Afghanistan, the U.S. government’s inaction on the humanitarian front speaks louder than words. It is difficult to explain the lack of response as anything other than callous. By saying that the villages "Lie Beyond Help" we can pretend that there is nothing we could do to remedy the situation. In fact, they are not beyond help, only beyond the will of our government.

I’m sure that millions of people in other parts of the world are hearing this story reported differently. Just as they have heard about the civilian casualties in Afghanistan (according to reputable sources now significantly higher than the number killed in our country by the suicide assaults of September 11). And their media is reminding them that the goal of bringing to justice those who planned the original attacks is far from achieved.

For democracy to flourish in our nation we must demand better of our media. Their complicity in ignoring this grim situation reinforces the cycle which led to September 11. In the process we help plant the seeds for the next generation of anti-U.S. fighters. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Andy Mager is the Co-Coordinator of the Syracuse Peace Council.