Friday, July 28, 2006

American Journalism Review has an important story about how the U.S. news media aren't paying nearly enough attention to the escalating war in Afghanistan, the country that launched our war on terror because it's where Osama bin Laden lived.

An international coalition led by the United States invaded Afghanistan with great fanfare, deposed the ruthless Taliban regime and helped establish a new elected government along with international pledges to fortify the state and build up its infrastructure. For years the U.S. government touted Afghanistan as a poster child for purging terrorists and building democracies.

But neglect and diverted attention have helped lead to a Taliban resurgence, escalating violence, minimal central government control of provinces and an economy largely dependent on the illegal drug trade. In other words, Afghanistan is at risk of returning to the state it was in before the world intervened -- the last time nobody was paying attention to it.

Afghanistan is the best modern example of how dangerous it is to overlook what appears to be an isolated catastrophe -- in my book I quote from an editor's column discussing how "Afghanistanism" used to describe editors' predilection for arcane news nobody cared about. But maybe if the news media had turned America's attention to Afghanistan sooner, Sept. 11 could have been prevented, or at least come as less of a shock.

The idea that journalists have largely turned away from this story again is a sad commentary on our short attention span. It's on us to do better.

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