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Unformatted text preview: g fat), eggs and meat.
Nan, the flat bread which is the mainstay of Afghan cooking, is rationed severely. In recent blizzards there have been reports of people freezing to death in bread queues.
Among the black-market prices charged in the capital, where the
average civil service salary is less than Pounds 30 a month, were
sugar at Pounds 5 a lb, petrol Pounds 20 for 20 litres and meat at
Pounds 4 a lb.
Either the Kabul of the time was a city of such startling discrepancies,
which is not impossible, or the first fragment might be an exaggeration
designed to ridicule the Soviet soldiers.
The Afghans, as is the case in (98) above, are often framed as the
victims of the Soviet occupation. The government army is referred to as A A qualitative analysis of war news 175 ragbag army awaiting the final showdown and appears as completely incompetent:
(107) The primitive nature of the Afghan military machine was demonstrated by the facilities at the checkpoint at the village of Tangiye
Pol-i-Charki where our car was halted. Water was being drawn
from a well and the only cooking equipment was a rusty charcoal
grill. On the hillsides some of the hundreds of Soviet tanks left to the
Afghan Army were silhouetted on the snowy skyline, a basic error
that made them easy targets as one Westerner with military experience pointed out.
Despite such derogatory evaluation, when a broader perspective is applied
the image of a humanitarian catastrophe predominates:
(108) A member of the small UN team still in Kabul said: “Now that the
Russians have gone, this has become very much a human story
rather than one about East versus West.”
The Americans fare no better in the picture of the world emerging
from The Times. When it comes to creating political forecasts on the future of Najibullah’s government, they are referred to as the gung-ho
Americans refusing to be realistic, while President Reagan is so puerile
that instead of a briefing before a diplomatic journey he is shown films:
(109) They are showing films about Russia to President Reagan to help
put him in the mood for next week’s trip to Moscow. For the sake of
a happy summit, they had better keep him away from Rambo III.
The only reasonable nation on the scene are the British. Unlike the
Americans, they are capable of accurate political calculation, as suggested
in (110a), as well as unprecedented selfless sacrifice, in contrast to the
(110a) The British, who have the best record among Western diplomatic
missions for the accuracy of their forecasts about the volatile Afghan situation, are more cautious 176 Chapter IV (110b) Now that the Russians have gone, many of the most severe casualties in Afghanistan’s continuing “dirty war” are being treated by a
three-strong British volunteer surgical team, working in nightmare
conditions in a heavily fortified Red Cross hospital which treats the
wounded from either side.
Because of the shoot-to-kill curfew ordered by the beleaguered Afghan Government, the British team have to travel the 100 yards between the hospi...
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