RE: [Fwd: Afghani-American View]

From: Bill Douglass (
Date: Sun Sep 16 2001 - 17:54:03 MDT

Fortunately we can now see that this Afghan-American fellow appears to
have been wrong about Pakistan, at least so far. I was quite concerned,
as well, that Pakistan wouldn't cooperate with the US. On that point,
I think we are fortunate that the country is currently ruled by a (secular)
military dictator, as opposed to the Islamic Prime Minister he overthrew,
Nawaz Sharif.

No one likes a dictatorship, military or otherwise, of course, but there
are slim odds that Sharif would have supported the US in a conflict with
Afghanistan. He is an Islamic fundamentalist, and while in power made
no secret of his intentions to forcibly convert Pakistan to an Islamic
state with Sharia law, not unlike Afghanistan under the Taliban.

I remember when he announced his intentions, in 1999. I was spending
a lot of time in India at the time, and could almost feel a national
shudder as Sharif showed himself to be a religious zealot and thug (with
awful consequences for regional stability and especially the Kashmir
issue). We shouldn't forget, either, that it was Sharif's government
which set off the nuclear detonations which led many to (rightly) worry
more about regional stability.

Anyway, I'm not sure this Afghan fellow is right when he asserts that
the Afghan people would love to see the Taliban overthrown. I'm sure
the analogy with Jews under Hitler is a *huge* stretch, and I think it's
inappropriate, really. Though I don't know for sure, I fear that many
Afghans actually *support* the Taliban, which of course would have major
consequences for any type of operation we try there, pointing towards
another Vietnam-type situation, especially in a ground operation.

There was an article in _The New Yorker_ earlier this year, in which
the correspondent traveled to Afghanistan and found that *many* people
he spoke with seemed to genuinely support the Taliban. I'll try to track
it down and at least post the reference; unfortunately the New Yorker's
online archive is very limited.

It sounds quite odd, of course, to hear that *anyone* in Afghanistan
could support a brutish, oppressive regime like the Taliban. However
we have to keep in mind that:
a, many of the citizens are themselves Islamic fundamentalists
and b, the people went through hell fighting off the Soviet invasion.
 Whatever else the Taliban are, compared to fighting the Soviets they
have offered at least a measure of stability, as well as self-(Afghan
as opposed to Soviet) rule, and they're running the country in accordance
with strict Islamic law, which many people there *want*.

I shouldn't throw the word "many" around too lightly, because national
surveys and such evidence is nonexistant. However, I think it's very
safe to say that the number of Afghans who support the Taliban in a deep
way is not insignificant.

Best to all,


>I've been hearing a lot of talk about "bombing Afghanistan back to
>the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO Talk Radio today, allowed that
>this would mean killing innocent people, people who had nothing to do
>with this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept collateral
>damage. What else can we do?" Minutes later I heard some TV pundit
>discussing whether we "have the belly to do what must be done."
>And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because
>am from Afghanistan, and even though I've lived here for 35 years
>I've never lost track of what's going on there. So I want to tell
>anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I'm standing.
>I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no
>doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity
>in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.
>But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even
>the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant
>psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a
>political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis.
>When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the
>people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps."
>It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this
>atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would
>exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear
>out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country.
>Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban?
>The answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated,
>suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there
>are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country with no
>economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has
>been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered
>with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These
>are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown
>the Taliban.
>We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone
>Age. Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it
>already. Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level
>their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done.
>Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut
>them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did
>all that.
>New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at
>least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the
>Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They'd slip
>away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled
>orphans, they don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs.
>But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't really be a strike
>against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would
>only be making common cause with the Taliban--by raping once again
>the people they've been raping all this time
>So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with
>true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in
>there with ground troops. When people speak of "having the belly to
>do what needs to be done" they're thinking in terms of having the
>belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any
>moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let's pull our heads out
>of the sand. What's actually on the table is Americans dying. And not
>just because some Americans would die fighting their way through
>Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger than that folks.
>Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we'd have to go through
>Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan
>would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You
>see where I'm going. We're flirting with a world war between Islam
>and the West.
>And guess what: that's Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what he
>wants. That's why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It's
>all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It
>might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world
>into Islam and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the west
>wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that's a billion people with
>nothing left to lose, that's even better from Bin Laden's point of
>view. He's probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever
>that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would
>die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden
>does. Anyone else?
>Tamim Ansary

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