Afghanistan: A sort of consensus

The impression one gets with a quick look at the Finnish media in the week beginning October 8, after the United States and Britain started bombing Afghanistan, is that most commentators agree with what the world's two leading military powers are doing. The support they received for their actions from the United Nations and the European Union seems to leave no room for doubt. The general tone of all mainstream comments is that, basically, this is an international war against terrorism, and it concerns all nations of the world. So better shut up and accept the bombings.

Despite this seemingly blank cheque for the Bush administration and his British friends to do what they want, there are, however, quite a lot of reservations in the Finnish commentaries. They touch, first of all, on the possibilities of victory now that Washington and London have made the crucial decision of starting a war in a country that for more than two decades has suffered enormously from a succesion of calamities: a civil war, then a foreign invasion, a civil war again, and lastly an extremely reactionary and retrograde rule by Taliban, a bunch of religious fanatics from Koran schools, run, ironically, with money from Washington's most important ally in the Arab and Muslim world, Saudi Arabia. The end to the long calvary of the Afghani people is far from sight; only Allah, or whichever deity is invoked, knows whether the the US and British bombings with their "collateral damage" will bring it any nearer. Reports of floods of refugees, even before the bombings started, don't augur well.

A typical Finnish mainstream press commentary is the editorial in Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday (9 October 2001), when the editorialist had had more than 24 hours to ponder the situation. The newspaper writes that the political task in Afghanistan is more difficult than the military one, which is extremely complicated even by itself. The editorialist refers to the delicate situation of Pakistan and especially of Saudi Arabia whose "political health a long drawn-out war might destroy". So the leading liberal daily of Finland apparently thinks that there is some "political health" in Saudi Arabia, a country whose political system is from the Middle Ages, or, for that matter, in Pakistan, a military dictatorship armed with nuclear weapons.

As for the purely military aspect of the bombing campaign, Helsingin Sanomat thinks that even there the danger of failure is great. "In order to succeed, the Taliban doesn't need any victories; it only needs to survive ... over the winter." As a conclusion, the editorialist notes that the war in Afghanistan, "despite its dramatism", is only part of the story, a world-wide police operation against terrorism. And that operation “promises to be very difficult and long".

As a  reminder that there are individuals and organisations in Finland that don't accept the bombing of Afghanistan, there's an editorial in Uutispäivä Demari (12 October 2001), which criticises this kind of dissidence. Uutispäivä Demari is the main press organ of the Social Democratic Party, the leading force in the government. The editorialist refers to the views of the small Communist Party as well to those of the youth federations of the Green Party and the Left Alliance, the latter two being smaller components in the government coalition. They all condemn the bombings.

Uutispäivä Demari writes that these "organisations don't put any value to the fact that the anti-terrorist actions have the backing of both the UN Security Council and the European Union". The editorialist calls this kind of thinking "inconsistent and one-sided," because at the same time the groups which take this stand, of course, condemn terrorism, and say that those found guilty should be brought to justice.

On the editorial pages, at least, the Finnish mainstream press has had only very little, if any, debate about the US and British bombing of Afghanistan. Everybody seems to hide behind the resolutions of the UN and the EU. This is also one way of avoiding accusations of being "soft on terrorism".

See also:

From the archive:

"I am not at war, are you?"

24 September 2001

"New epoch has begun"

13 September 2001



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