Last year, an internal report commissioned by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees Voice of America and other U.S. government-supported foreign news outlets, examined the “perception of U.S. international media in Afghanistan.” This study, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, concluded that Afghans saw U.S.-backed media as “useful” and “essential.” Far more intriguing, however, were the observations embedded in the responses of 60 Afghans from Kabul Province who took part in the survey.
You’ll recall that, in 2001, the Bush administration launched the Afghan War with a host of explicit and implicit promises to the people of Afghanistan: the vanquishing of the Taliban, the establishment of peace, the promotion of women’s rights, genuine economic development, support for education, and so on. “We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirations,” said President George W. Bush in April 2002. He then invoked the patron saint of nation building from the post-World War II era as he offered an unambiguous pledge to Afghans that Washington would transform their country. “By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.”
Fifteen years later, however, Afghans surveyed about two U.S.-funded news programs offered responses that hardly suggested halcyon days had arrived.