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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Reporter charges U.S. demonized Taliban

Kathy Gannon, an Associated Press correspondent, who worked the last 18 years reporting from Afghanistan, is battling to dispel myths about recent events in the region.

“After Sept. 11, I was struck by how much misinformation was out there,” Gannon said in a speech Tuesday night at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. The hall was packed with students and community members.

Gannon said she believes people have been creating myths about Afghanistan and “repeating these lies until they were true.” Her book, “I Is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan,” is a report on what happened in Afghanistan before and after Sept. 11.

Gannon explained that her book’s title, “I is for Infidel,” was inspired by propaganda sent out by the United States during the years Afghanistan was at war with the Soviet Union. Gannon recalled the time the United States was pushing religious fervor against the “godless communists” and were teaching the Afghanistan people to read. The United States printed books titled “I is for Infidel, J is for jihad, K is for Kalashnakov,” Gannon said. It seems now that her books state “D is for democracy,” she added.

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Gannon also spoke on the Taliban, which she said were rarely reported. She explained that the United States-backed Mujadin government had left the country in shambles while the Taliban formed in response. “There was such lawlessness and anarchy,” said Gannon “the Taliban just wanted to clean up.”

The Taliban met little opposition when they moved from city to city, reported Gannon. She noted people would lay down their weapons when they encountered the Taliban because they were looking for order. She said when the Taliban walked into Kandahar, the leaders and commanders fled the city for the Taliban to run.

“In Afghanistan strength is important,” she said. “It is what people will follow.”

Gannon said the reason Taliban leaders became infamous was because people viewed them negatively for their connection to Osama Bin Laden. Even though it was really the Mujadin Government that provided him sanctuary in Afghanistan.

“We rejected and demonized them,” Gannon said. “And turned them into evil-doers.” As a result of this, the years following Sept. 11 really allowed the repressive religious parties to come into power. To Gannon, it seems that Afghanistan’s history of violence is repeating itself, and the United States-backed Mujadin government has only helped accentuate this cycle.

“At the end of the day,” Gannon said. “The price will be paid by the Afghanis and Pakistanis.” Gannon will return to the region to do more reporting while awaiting a residency visa for Tehran, where she will be the Iran Bureau Chief for the Associated Press. Until then, she will continue her book tour.

-Ian Summers is a

Journalism 101 student

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