For an American cable news organization to embed reporters with the Taliban would be a bold move. CNN isn’t bold. But on Saturday evening it took the moderately risky move of airing a Norwegian journalist’s film of life with Taliban fighters.
“Some people might see this and think that you are trying to humanize this force which is attacking American troops,” Anderson Cooper says to Paul Refsdal. The problem being that if we see a Taliban commander embracing his children we might make a dreadful connection: such a scene must have preceded many a drone attack in which militants and their families have been eliminated. Refsdal simply says: “I show what I saw. I show the everyday life of the Taliban.”
Supporters of the war, however, better shield their eyes from such images — at least if they want to cling to the fiction that American forces are pitted against fanatical inhuman monsters.
As for the attack that is shown in the clip below, the Pentagon claims no such attack occurred. Cooper seems to infer from this that the Taliban has an inflated view of its own capacities. That’s one way of reading it. Another is to recognize that attacks against coalition forces are so frequent that the only ones worth recording are those that do damage — as though the only bullets a soldier need worry about are the ones that hit their target.
However CNN might have attempted to insulate themselves from criticism for airing this documentary, it’s likely impact will be this: that many Americans come away seeing the Taliban for what they are — an indigenous fighting force defending their homeland. In America’s war of independence, the militiamen who drove out the British, no doubt saw themselves in exactly the same way.