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Media has duty to cover nation-building efforts

Remember that war the United States fought in Afghanistan? I know, that is so last year’s war, but apparently, things are not entirely on the right track in that country. What makes it even worse is that nobody seems to care.

At least, that is what impression I get, as there is virtually no news about what is going on in the country as of late. Most news organizations have already pulled out of Afghanistan, and CNN followed this week.

And it is not that there is nothing to report that makes these reporters leave.

Hamid Karzai, the installed leader of Afghanistan, recently called the governors of remote regions of Afghanistan to Kabul because they did not send taxes to the capital but kept them for themselves. He threatened to step down, which, according to The Economist, is pretty much the only thing he could have done, as he has no power to enforce these laws.

To make it worse, the governors keep the money to build their own armies. Ismail Khan, a governor in the west of the country, has already amassed an army that is bigger than the central government’s. He is expected to make about $300 million from taxes on exports to Iran, allowing him to further expand his army if he is allowed to keep the funds.

Unless these tax revenues start to make their way to Kabul, it will also be almost impossible to rebuild the infrastructure, school systems and other areas of the country necessary to help the economy recover.

Foreign aid only accounts for $80 million yearly, but the return of the missing revenue would boost the country’s budget to an estimated $600 million.

With such large amounts of revenue going astray, there seems little chance of building a stable democracy. The most likely scenario seems the return of the newly “liberated” country back to the corrupt leadership model that was in place before the war. It might even help terrorist groups like al-Qaida regain a foothold.

But why can I only read about this in the Economist, a British publication, and do not hear anything about it from any American news source?

If I was unaware of this, even though I listen to WMNF radio and read a number of daily newspapers, it seems a safe assumption that most Americans are also in the dark regarding recent events in Afghanistan.

This is a scary prospect. Not only could everything that soldiers fought for in the war, not to mention all the money spent, turn out to be in vain, but the American public might not even be told of what will ultimately be a failure.

News organizations like CNN are in the business of making money by selling commercial airtime, for which they have to get the highest ratings. But the drive for ratings should not come at the expense of a newsorganization’s duty to inform its viewers.

Rebuilding a country is clearly not as exciting a media story as the war that precedes it. But it is the success or failure of the rebuilding of both Afghanistan and Iraq that will determine whether America’s two recent military successes are recorded by history as prudent or ill advised.

A democracy can only work if the voting public knows how well the current government is doing its job. The media, however, is not adequately covering the nation-building efforts in Afghanistan.

So how can the public make an informed assessment? It probably cannot, and this might be in the interest of the current government if they were doing a bad job and did not want anybody to know.

No government can be relied upon to keep the public notified of anything other than its glorious successes. The responsibility, therefore, falls upon the news media. Without media coverage, the nation is denied the information it needs to make its judgement in the ballet box.

Sebastian Meyer is a junior and the Opinion Editor