Free speech, Iran & the Taliban
By Richmond Gardner at May 25, 2009
I don't know if I'm exactly disappointed by the Iranian action against Facebook. In order to be disappointed, one has to expect good things. I guess I'm miffed that Iran has failed to come up even to the sorry free speech standards set by G. W. Bush, who had set up "Free Speech Zones" at Republican campaign events, usually allowing protesters to set up only in places that were at a good distance from where they could be seen or heard. Bush's 2004 campaign rallies were often by-invitation-only affairs.
In any event, Iran has decided that as supporters of Reformist candidate Mir Husain Musavi were using Facebook to help conduct a campaign for him, that they would shut off access to Facebook. This is a pretty sorry response that shows a real lack of confidence, demonstrating that the Iranians have an authoritarian fear of free speech.
Bad news for the US, the Taliban in Afghanistan is showing smarts and savvy in the public relations component to their fight against the government of Hamid Karzai. The US dropped a number of bombs in a battle near Farah, Afghanistan, on May 4. On May 20, the American command finally came out with an interim report on the Afghani casualties.
By contrast, the Taliban typically engages in a firefight with US and/or Afghani troops and the US has timed them at being able to get a report on the air with the BBC in 26 minutes after the firefight has concluded. One of the big problems of course, is that the US doesn't want to put out anything false, so that results in some unavoidable delays. The US is trying to do better and to respond more quickly.
In what's a clear case of good news, Pakistan had a few battles with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but had aroused suspicions as to whether they were really and truly fighting or whether they were conducting a campaign that consisted more of press releases. The Pakistani military took a strategic hilltop overlooking the valley, then invited Aljazeera English to the hilltop to film the fact that, yes indeed, the hilltop was now in their hands.