Do deficiently informed citizens live in a deficient democracy?

Are voting and other democratic functions corrupted and/or negated when significant news is denied, distorted, diverted and/or dissipated?

Some information is, wrongly and rightly, kept secret for strategic reasons. However, when we are confronted with the results of past policies and actions there are no strategic reasons for secrecy. The obscuration of history to protect the reputations of politicians, officials, civil and military comes behind the need for the citizenry to be well informed so that their inputs to the democratic processes may be better in the present and the future.

As is currently the case with the “West’s” leaving of Afghanistan, such information is available if energetically sought and/or stumbled across, but it is sufficiently backgrounded or submerged so that it does not reach the general or national consciousness. It is restricted to a minority who can be disregarded by those who seek to engineer undemocratic secrecy. When the national consciousness is insufficiently unaware, then there is minimal effect on our “democratic” government.

Currently, we have lots of news about the Taliban take over, the horrors they bring and will bring and the huge harm and deprivation that has and will be done to female Afghans. We are not being told about the Afghan government which preceded the first Taliban takeover.

In 1978 the P. D. P. A (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) came to power. Its reforms included equal rights for women and minorities, free medical care and a mass literacy campaign.

By the late 1980s, 50% of university students, 40% of doctors, 70% of teachers and 30% of civil servants were women.

Between 1979 and 1989 the U.S.A armed and financed the Afghan mujahideen at a cost which rose to $630 million per year. Known as “Operation Cyclone”, it was one of the longest and most expensive covert C.I.A. operations ever. The mujahideen were also supported by MI6.

In 1979, the U.S. Kabul embassy stated, “the U.S’s larger interests—would be served by the demise of the P. D. P. A government, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.”

“In 1995 the Taliban rises to power. It bans poppy cultivation, cracks down on crime, curtails the education and employment of women, who are required to be fully veiled and forbidden to go out alone. Islamic law is enforced via public executions and amputations.”

What do you think about secret policies which were planned and paid for in the knowledge that they would result in avoidable deaths, cruelties and the severe stunting of the lives of half the people of Afghanistan?

Might we now work to make our political, civil service, and social leaders more accountable, realistic and communicative? Ditto “our” mainstream media, not least the BBC, for which we pay,

Might we work to make ourselves more diligent and less trusting?

“The task is to keep the lost opportunities of the past alive.”
(Z. Bauman)

* Steve Trevathan is chairperson of Lyme Regis and Marshwood Vale Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I think anyone capable of critical and objective thinking back in the day could see that ‘the plucky mujahideen’ weren’t the wisest choice of allies. Tho’ not the makers of the Bond franchise (‘The Living Daylights’!).

    It was a case of ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. Forgetting the key bit: ‘only as long it suits them to be so’.

    I’d say the best thing would be to teach critical thinking and history (and not just the Tudors and WWII!) from an early age in schools.

  • An interesting take on being deficiently informed, especially given the volumes of omissions

    Firstly the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a Communist Party. Important omission

    Secondly the party never garnered any significant electoral support in prior democratic elections. Important omission

    Thirdly, it “came to power” via a bloody military coup. Important omission

    Fourthly, it was this military coup that ushered in the start of the neverending conflict and instability that has rocked Afghanistan until this day. Important omission

    Fifth, it was a communist dictatorship. Important omission

    Sixth, the communist dictatorship and its implementation of socialism was utterly unpopular within the Afghan populace, which organised against it. Important omission.

    Seventh, the PDPA invited the Soviet Union to occupy it. Important omission

    Eighth, it was this that internationalised Afghanistan’s conflict and pulled in world powers into the country’s affairs that has continued to this day. Important omission

    Many omissions it seems

    Most authoritarian dictatorships (fascist or socialist) can tout promising social outcomes initially. But all real liberals know that authoritarian governance stagnates, crumbles and can never last or deliver long term. It’s why it’s always the job of real liberals to make sure those seduced by transient superficial outcomes achieved by an authoritarian regime (or authoritarian measure) realise it will not be part of lasting progress. The biggest danger to liberalism is not authoritarian forces themselves, but “liberals” seduced by authoritarian forces who then become mouthpieces for authoritarianism within liberal movements

  • Nigel Jones 9th Nov '22 - 3:25pm

    Thanks James for information on Afghanistan and your general point of even Liberals being seduced by authoritarians who happen to do what they agree with. We have just occasionally had comments on Lib-Dem voice saying how dare someone vote a certain way or support a certain policy when they are supposed to be Liberals like me.
    Someone once said that people really like dictatorship ‘so long as the dictator does what I want.’

  • Steve Trevethan 9th Nov '22 - 5:34pm

    “In the 1950s and1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle. Though officially a neutral nation. Afghanistan was courted and influenced by the U. S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, accepting Soviet machinery and weapons and U. S. financial aid. This time was a brief, relatively peaceful era when burqas became optional for a time, and the country appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society. Progress was halted in the 1970s, as a series of bloody coups, invasions, and civil wars began continuing to this day.”
    (From “The Atlantic” 02/07/2022)

    If you look at the photo of the women studying medicine at university, not wearing burquas, you can see that the West’s support of the Taliban has been, and is, a disaster for Afghanistan and its women. The other photos featuring President Eisenhower have interesting messages too.

    Might the U. S. government have supported an organisation which it ordered its troops to fight against, with all the suffering which ensues?

    Might it help conversations such as this, if sources were given as well as opinions?

    “The person who proves me wrong is my friend” [Socrates}

    Might t

  • The article speaks of deficiently informed citizens and goes on to say “in 1978 the P. D. P. A (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) came to power. Its reforms included equal rights for women and minorities, free medical care and a mass literacy campaign..”
    The Brittanica entry writes “In April 1978 Afghanistan’s centrist government, headed by Pres. Mohammad Daud Khan, was overthrown by left-wing military officers led by Nur Mohammad Taraki. The new government, which had little popular support, forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anti-communist population. Insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these—known collectively as the mujahideen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those who engage in jihad”)—were Islamic in orientation”.
    I very much doubt that you would find many ordinary Afghans thar would find common cause with the authors characterization of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
    The US had little direct involvement in Afghanistan before the 2001 attacks by Al Quaeda, beyond the covert support of CIA cold war operations and private citizens (aka “Charlie Wilson’s War). The tide of the war turned with the 1987 introduction of U.S. shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles and Gorbachev’s decision to withdraw Soviet forces. The Reagan administration was focused closer to home with covert support of the Contras in Nicaragua and became embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal. This might be a better example of secret US operations, rather than an Orwellian rewriting of the history of Afghanistan’s communist government.

  • Steve Trevethan 11th Nov '22 - 8:04am

    Irrespective of the comments of commentators of all sorts and sizes, the « West » faces at some crucial questions:
    Is the Taliban’s treatment of women fair, decent and efficient?
    Was this known when the « West’ » started supporting the Taliban?
    What does the « West » propose to do to rescue Afghan women from their avoidable plight?

  • The Taliban movement has its origin in a network of religious schools, established in Pakistan by another Islamist party, Jama’iyyat Ulama al-Islam.
    In the early ’90s, some 4000 madrassas (boarding schools) sprang up all over Pakistan, especially near the Afghan border (where two million Afghan refugees were living in camps).
    In 1993 Jama’iyyat Ulama al-Islam joined the government of Benazir Bhutto. The coalition was headed by the Pakistani People’s Party (PPP). Under this aegis, the madrassas of Jama’iyyat Ulama al-Islam trained their pupils within a military and political framework. Out of it came the Taliban movement, under the supervision and responsibility of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).
    The Saudis decided to finance the Taliban movement. Jama’iyyat Ulama al-Islam and the Taliban belong to an Islamic school of thought known as Deoband, named after the Indian town where it was founded in 1867. This school is based on a separatist, reactionary interpretation of Islam. Deoband is very close to the Wahabi school, to which the Saudi royal family belongs.
    The rest, as they say, is history. It was Saudi members of Al Qaeda that carried out the 2001 attack on the World Trade Cente and Pakistan’s ISI that directed the efforts of the Taliban to recover control over the territory of Afghanistan after their ousting by ISAF forces in 2001.

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Nov '22 - 8:20am

    As the Saudis were responsible for the 9/11 attack, why did the U S attack Afghanistan?

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