October 06, 2004


Two of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's 30 ministers are women; about 20 public management posts are filled by women; and 21 per cent of all state employees are female. Good news, right? Progress and everything? Not according to Paul McGeough:

Only two of President Hamid Karzai's 30 ministers are women; only about 20 public management posts are filled by women; and 21 per cent of all state employees are female.

Just 21 per cent? Why, Afghan women are barely better off than when they were being stoned to death for talking to men.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 6, 2004 02:22 PM

I finally saw the film "Osama" on DVD last night.

It's the first feature length film produced in Afghanistan after liberation. It's about a young girl forced to dress as a boy in order to support her mother and grandmother who are destitute because of Taliban policies.

People like McGeough who can't see what a dramatic improvement has occured for women there are simply beyond taking seriously.

Posted by: JDB at October 6, 2004 at 02:53 PM

And how does this compare with other nations, especially in the West, but also among third world gangster regimes which always get a pass for their behavior from 'progressives?'

Question: How many stable, free market democracies have been built in less time than Afghanistan has been free?

Posted by: Cosmo at October 6, 2004 at 03:01 PM

When women were being shot in the head at the Kabul stadium Mcgeough didn't give a rat's ass. Now that Afghanistan is a struggling democracy he crawls out of the woodwork to complain.

We laugh at these leftist but you know what? They aren't funny. Paul, you're a fucking worthless piece of shit.

Posted by: Amos at October 6, 2004 at 03:09 PM

And by the way, what percentage of Australian politicians are female. About 21% I'd guess.

Posted by: d at October 6, 2004 at 03:10 PM

I'm confused. McGeough's article admits things are better off, Tim.

"When the Herald visited a city business this week, the receptionist sat beneath a poster-sized copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - wearing dangling earrings, jeans and a fitted jacket for which, three years ago, she would have been flogged. People stopped to stare as her woman boss, with a gorgeous bob-cut and no scarf, drove her own four-wheel drive off the premises."

Exactly what are you trying to say, Tim? Are you really suggesting McGeough has no right to report on the situation of women in the new Afghanistan? To report on what has been improved and what still needs to change?

If you read the article, you'll find that he is not in fact complaining that "just" 21 percent of state employees are women. He is saying that the number of female ministers and women in public management posts is seriously disproportionate to the large number of women employed by the government.

Have a little read and a think before you go on another of your suspiciously defensive tirades, Tim.

McGeough's angle, that things have improved but there's still a long way to go, isn't all that different to what the American government's been telling us. Get the goddamn chip off your shoulder and start paying attention.

Posted by: Karl at October 6, 2004 at 03:20 PM

Amos, at the time you're referring to, Christopher Kremmer was the Herald's man in Kabul and he was indeed reporting on the football stadium executions. In fact, I remember using some of his reports to write a story on Afghanistan waaaaay back in 1997.

And d (if that is your real name), what point are you trying to make? Even if you didn't pull the figure that 21% of Australian politicians are female straight from your arse, how does that detract from the seriousness of the Afghanistan figures? 2 out of 30 ministers is just a little bit less than 21%, buddy.

Does no-one think here anymore?

Posted by: Karl at October 6, 2004 at 03:29 PM

What do you mean, any more? :)

Posted by: Michael at October 6, 2004 at 04:00 PM

Hey, wasn't this the guy who constantly droned on and on about anti-american dribble, culminating in a fabricated the story about the Iraqi PM shooting detainees in the police station?
And now he pops up in Afghanistan, all of a sudden like? A bit suspicious, don't you think?

Did he have to high tail it out of there before he got his raggedy behind tanned well and proper?
Or is it a strategy of Fairfax to undermine EVERY US initiative in the world?

One wonders ...

Posted by: mark at October 6, 2004 at 04:18 PM

The numbers are only so low because Karzai has personally been executing women in police stations all last year.

Posted by: PW at October 6, 2004 at 04:19 PM

Darn, mark (sort of) beat me to the joke...

Posted by: PW at October 6, 2004 at 04:20 PM

Mark, McGeough hardly popped up in Afghanistan “all of a sudden like”. He was there from the beginning of the American campaign, then headed over to Iraq for a while. You seriously don’t remember the three journalists killed when the Taliban ambushed a Northern Alliance tank they were riding on in November 2001? McGeough managed to stay on the tank and survived. You seriously don’t remember all the interviews he gave when that happened? You’re obviously inexperienced in using the facts.

And Mark, once again, read the goddamn article. It’s not undermining the US initiative at all. In fact, it’s highlighting problems the American government has also highlighted. It acknowledges the improvements which have come as a result of the American intervention. Considering the American stance on this issue, to make fun of someone addressing the plight of women in Afghanistan is distinctly anti-American. Nay, inhuman.

Posted by: Karl at October 6, 2004 at 04:49 PM

McGeough's got less credibility than a used-car dealer. I'm waiting for his exclusive on how Karsai personally shot eight of his opponents -or maybe it'll be more this time.

On any decent paper, this turkey would be reporting from Siberia by now.

Posted by: Freddyboy at October 6, 2004 at 04:57 PM

... the Herald's man in Kabul ...

Jesus, Karl, you're not George Negus are you? Or do all you boot-wearin' forrin correspondents talk like that?

That's okay, I'll play your game whether you wear boots or pyjamas.

Let's say Paul, the Herald's man in Kabul, really is interested in showing how good thing are but feels compelled to point out problems. Here's how he could have written those sentences:

Two of President Hamid Karzai's 30 ministers are women; about 20 public management posts are filled by women; and 21 per cent of all state employees are female. Which is more than a couple of years ago. But there's still room for improvement, as both the Americans and Karzai himself admit. Karzai told the Herald that he hoped to have 5 women as ministers by this time next year, and wanted another 20 women in public management posts by 2006.

You see, you can be a reporter, remain polite and include criticisms at the same time.

It's all in the emphasis, old son.

Now, go and have a bex and a good lie down.

Posted by: Hanyu at October 6, 2004 at 05:25 PM

As d said, what percentage of Australian politicians are female?

For all our supposed equality, in my career, I have been openly turned down for jobs at various times, and told so, for sex, for having children and for my age.

So, whats the big deal if only 21% those of public management in afghan after 18 months out of the taliban regime are female.

After all, Afghan has made great progress and what we see is the likes of Paul pay lip service to their ideas of equal rights for all only. As I know from personal experience.

For once we see a government (the USA) who are not just paying lip service to freedom, and the rights of the downtrodden, they have got out there and removed the Taliban and removed Saddam and are doing their best to create a climate where freedom can prosper round the world.

I applaud our government in Australia for supporting that vigourously. It did my heart good to see those women in Afghan get a new chance at freedom and equality.

For them to have as many as 21% of women in public management is to be applauded.

I am sorry these types like Paul want to lie and twist and make progress look like nothing all the time. Personally I prefer honesty.

Posted by: dawn at October 6, 2004 at 05:29 PM

Karl think of Dan Rather accepting fabricated evidence on George Bush to make his case about Bush's national guard service.Then imagine the credibility Rather has now regarding anything pertaining to Bush. That is how a lot of people feel about McGeough.I think he has forfeited his right to be seen as impartial regarding anything linked remotely to American interests in Iraq or Afganistan.He seems more of a crusader than a reporter.

Posted by: gubbaboy at October 6, 2004 at 05:35 PM

Only 97 per cent of women are no longer getting flogged with car aerials for walking unaccompanied, showing their faces etc.


Posted by: fidens at October 6, 2004 at 06:02 PM

"...the Herald's man in Kabul"

Actually, I was mimicking the news lingo, Hanyu. You know, the way that Tim Blair bloke sometimes does? Way to address the relevant details! Do you work in a comic store or run a Star Trek website by any chance?

I'm not sure how you've perceived McGeough's report as being impolite. Regardless of the ill-thought articles he's put out in the past, this one's pretty good. It's time to read the article rather than the byline. On the whole, I don't really like Mr Bush, but even I'll admit he's done some good things in the world - same thing's happened here with McGeough.

I don't know why you're suggesting McGeough include comments and pledges from Karzai which have never been made. Exactly how is this sticking to the facts? Perhaps this would be the story in a perfect world where Karzai has time to respond to every journalist's questions and feels comfortable making such a pledge, but it clearly hasn't happened here. Your point is utterly irrelevant. I'm laughing so hard my chair's rocking.

And there's no need to follow up the statistics with a comment like "...which is more than two years ago". I think it's safe to assume everyone is aware that Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, who were all men. The bears kind of gave them away. It would be a statement of the bleeding obvious and a waste of column space.

In this paragraph (again, no-one is keen to look at the rest of the article), it need not be said that things are better off for women in Afghanistan. This is obvious to anyone with half a brain, including McGeough, who gives a few examples throughout the story. We don't need news spoonfed to us like babies.

McGeough's point here is not to criticise the Americans. He may not be heaping praise upon them either, but I think it's clear his intention is to stew some much-deserved sympathy for war widows and women in rural areas, who are clearly not seeing the changes yet which are occurring in Kabul.

It's all very well to say he should express more sympathy for the Americans, but it's the women who deserve it and having sympathy does not automatically incriminate the people in power.

I think the thing to realise here is that while McGeough was clearly and blatantly opposed to the US in Iraq, this is not entirely the case with Afghanistan.

Now, where's that Osama fucker.

Posted by: Karl at October 6, 2004 at 07:38 PM

I think it's safe to assume everyone is aware that Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, who were all men. The bears kind of gave them away.

Yes,I always thought there was something of the wild kingdom about the Taliban.

Posted by: gubbaboy at October 6, 2004 at 08:30 PM

Did McGeough say any of these women were conducting personal executions of prisoners?

Posted by: Sortelli at October 6, 2004 at 09:39 PM

I find it hard to take anything McGeough says seriously. Not after his slanted, false, or just plain silly stories from Iraq, and then his cut-and-run back to Australia.

If he's trying to become a better reporter, he needs to practice some anger management.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 7, 2004 at 12:27 AM

Karl’s view of McGeough’s story: “It acknowledges the improvements which have come as a result of the American intervention.”

The SMH's view: “Three years after the defeat of the oppressive Taliban regime, little has changed for rural women and the country's war widows. Paul McGeough reports from Kabul.”

Posted by: tim at October 7, 2004 at 01:20 AM

Jesus, now I know what it feels like to be badgered by an adolescent missionary. Karl, for the sake of your loved ones, lighten up.

Do I work in a comic shop or Star Trek web site? If you need to believe that to make it through life, then run with it. Neither pursuit seems particularly dishonourable to me, but there you go.

I run a business in Hong Kong. It has nothing to do with comics (though at one stage I actually read Chinese comics to improve my slang). I can hardly remember any of them now, but one about a basketball team seems lodged in my mind. It was called something like 男儿当入樽 [nan'er dang ru zun], which I'm sure has an English title that bears only passing resemblance to the Chinese so I'm not going to translate it. Does anyone here remember the English title, just out of interest?

My business here has a lot to do with manufacturing on the mainland and several other countries southwest of here, but that's all you'll get from me in public. You could, after all, be a dangerous lunatic for all I know.

As for Star Trek, I can name three characters from the show (Scotty, Spock and Captain Kirk), but I've never seen an episode or watched a movie. Many years ago I saw Parkinson interview William Shatner. I remember Shatner making a joke about the big bang theory, and describing a fight scene with an alien monster. I thought he was pretty darn funny, but my good feelings towards the guy never translated into watching his show.

You know, those days when I read comics about high school basketball teams were good. I spent a lot of time with a dictionary during the day and a lot of time at night practicing on pretty girls. Which probably explains why they looked askance at me when I tried out my hip street talk. I probably sounded like a thirteen-year-old.

Which is about what my listening is for you right now, Karl. But I'm not a Chinese girl being entertained by a good looking foreigner, so I'm going to go find someone more interesting.

Posted by: Hanyu at October 7, 2004 at 01:51 AM

I think I detect Karl's identity. He might be a certain underemployed ABC foreign bureau staffer of my acquaintance.

Or maybe not. Hard to tell; he's just as stupid.

Posted by: tim at October 7, 2004 at 02:42 AM

McGeough is welcome anytime he'd like to drop by up here in Parwan province and ask any of the women here if they feel things are better than under the Taliban.

Posted by: Major John at October 7, 2004 at 04:08 AM

Karl, you're a fine example of someone who thinks by ideology instead of brains. Let me explain: in journalism, which I've practiced for 35 years, a main element is context. Context is required for accuracy. Accuracy assumes not everyone has read previous articles on the subject so background, i.e., context, is used to explain the story.

McGough fails as a reporter for failing to provide his readers the proper context. He also modifies his figures with "only," which is clearly subjective and therefore out of context. "Only" 20 percent implies there may have been more at other times. But to report there were none under the Taliban would give the reader some sense of change, which is what we call "news."

Posted by: Gary at October 7, 2004 at 07:03 AM

Now, now, Karl's right. All you have to do is ignore what McGough actually writes ...

Then you'll see things Karl's way.

Posted by: Robin Roberts at October 7, 2004 at 12:14 PM

Tim, I'm well aware of how the SMH interpretted McGeough's story. It was disgraceful and has people reading it as biased from the beginning. And no Tim, you don't know me. And you might think I'm stupid but I'd expect that. I think you're incredibly stupid too. We're even.

Hanyu, sorry about the Star Trek and comic store jibe. You clearly took it far too seriously. Lighten up.

Gary, I'm a journalist too. I'm sure you're familiar with style guides that say a certain level of assumed knowledge is acceptable. It's in most of them. If it weren't acceptable, you'd find articles that go on for entire sections, like an email correspondence that copies in all past correspondence. You'd think someone would know this after 35 years in the business.

Posted by: Karl at October 7, 2004 at 04:05 PM

"Gary, I'm a journalist too .... You'd think someone would know this after 35 years in the business."

So, Karl, are you disagreeing with Gary because you think he's:

(a) wrong;
(b) too old to do a decent job;
(c) not up to your standards?;
(d) not blindly supporting a fellow journalist (either you or McGeough)?

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 7, 2004 at 04:32 PM


Did I say Gary's too old? No.

Did I say he's not up to my standards? No - I've never even read him.

Did I say he should blindly support a fellow journalist? No - I think you'll find I've been quite suspicious of McGeough's Iraq coverage too.

I think you'll find from reading my post properly that the answer is a) I think he's wrong.

Love the way you blew that one out of proportion. You should work for News of the World. You were just aching to paint me as an evil Gary-hater, weren't you? This despite the fact I responded to one of his posts last week saying how much I agreed with him. Just because we disagree on some things doesn't make us enemies, mate.

Posted by: Karl at October 7, 2004 at 07:17 PM