By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
All I ask is that you not hate the Afghans, who always called me “brother” and took care of me, who would defend me or any other guest with their own lives, and that goes for Osama bin Laden, whom they believe to be innocent because the United States in its arrogant stupidity has until now refused to answer repeated calls for proof. (Last year, after the embassy bombings, my Afghan friends kept saying, “Just prove to us that he‘s guilty and we’ll cut his throat ourselves! Why does your government not explain?”) Try not to hate these people, many of whom are even now so grateful to you with a personal gratitude you would not believe unless you met them, because the CIA once helped them to get their country back without your expressing much interest in the matter. And they are similarly grateful to all their Muslim brothers who came from Saudi Arabia (as did Osama), and to the others who came from Chechnya and Bosnia and Pakistan and all over the world to fight and sometimes die in that absolutely justified jihad against the Soviets.
Now some of those freedom fighters have become terrorists and some of them remain in Afghanistan. Hate them if you like, don‘t hate the Afghans. Don’t hate the Taliban, that government of fanatics and semiliterate dogmatists; so many educated people have died or fled since the Soviets came in 1979! Taught in the madrassahs, the religious schools, these men do the best they can, operating by the only law they know, the Qur‘an. Under them, Afghanistan has become safer and more peaceful than it has been for many years. Their policy toward urban educated women is brutal. So is their treatment of Shias, Tajiks and other minorities. But in their favor it must be said that rural women, who make up most of the female population, were never really educated and now they are much, much safer from rape and theft. Believe it or not, many of them adore the Taliban.
No Afghan government within sight is any better than the Taliban. In the words of many people, “The leaders are all war criminals,” and that goes for their main opponent, the Northern Alliance, which controls about 10 percent of Afghan territory, and whose recently assassinated leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, the “Lion of Panjshir,” was a brave fighter against the Soviets, and then in the civil war a butcher of Afghans. It is the Northern Alliance that we are now extolling as our friends and exemplars. Well, why not? Nobody’s interested in Afghanistan.
Who murdered those people in New York? I don‘t know. I hope that our government does. But I swear to you that it wasn’t “the Afghans,” who have suffered a thousand times more than we have and who still want in spite of everything to call us “brother.” That, no doubt, will change when the bombs begin to fall.
William T. Vollmann is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including An Afghanistan Picture Show (now out of print). His new novel, Argall, will be published by Viking next month.
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