In these last weeks, the Afghan War has once again been front-page news. Yet only a single reporter -- the heroic Carlotta Gall of the New York Times -- has thought to focus on the subject of how the Biblical-style floods in Pakistan might affect the U.S. war effort and the overstretched supply lines that play a major role in supporting U.S. troops there. While you could learn about rising violence in Afghanistan, the perilous state of the Kabul Bank, and many other subjects, reporting on the floods and the war has been nil, with even speculative pieces on the subject largely nonexistent.
We know next to nothing about how U.S. supplies are now getting to Afghanistan, or how much the cost of getting them there has risen, or how this might affect U.S. operations in that country. Given the scale of the catastrophe and the degree to which the U.S. is embedded in the region, you might at least expect the American media to be flooded with commentary on what the event could mean for us. Think again. As Juan Cole (who runs Informed Comment, which offers the best running commentary available on the Middle East and whose most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World) indicates, this startling journalistic blank spot is just a modest part of a far larger blankness when it comes to one of the truly horrific weather events in modern memory. Don't miss Cole discussing flooded Pakistan on the latest TomCast audio interview by clicking here or, to download it to your iPod, here. Tom
The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened Don’t Tune In, It’s Not ImportantDon’t think we haven’t been here before. In the late 1990s, the American mass media could seldom be bothered to report on the growing threat of al-Qaeda. In 2002, it slavishly parroted White House propaganda about Iraq, helping prepare the way for a senseless war. No one yet knows just what kind of long-term instability the Pakistani floods are likely to create, but count on one thing: the implications for the United States are likely to be significant and by the time anyone here pays much attention, it will already be too late.
By Juan Cole
The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions that the country is central to American security. Now, with new evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American television and out of popular consciousness.
Few Americans were shown -- by the media conglomerates of their choice -- the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing. The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated.
The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned. Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories -- of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land. That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit. (The print press was better at covering the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.)
In his speech on the withdrawal of designated combat units from Iraq last week, Barack Obama put Pakistan front and center in American security doctrine, “But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Even if Pakistan were not a major non-NATO ally of the United States, it is the world’s sixth most populous country and the 44th largest economy, according to the World Bank. The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country’s modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid. If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right.
More here: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175292/tomgram:_juan_cole,_the_media_as_a_security_threat_to_america__/