All posts by Victor

A view from Afghanistan

I received this message today. It’s the opinion of an Afghani who spent the last 35 years of his life living in the US. Worth reading it!

Dear Friends,

The following was sent to me by my friend Tamim Ansary. Tamim is an Afghani-American writer. He is also one of the most brilliant people I know in this life. When he writes, I read. When he talks, I listen. Here is his take on Afghanistan and the whole mess we are in.-Gary T.

Dear Gary and whoever else is on this email thread:

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 I 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

An eye for an eye makes whole world blind

It’s raining in NY and I’m exhausted. Last night I spent most of the evening chatting with my best friend from Buenos Aires about what the real solution for this situation could be. We remembered a similar situation that city had two live twice: the bombing and total destruction of the Embassy of Israel in Buenos Aires and two years later the brutal bombing of the Argentinean Association of Israelian Communities (the authors of both attacks haven’t been found yet after more than ten years). I also remember the time I spent in Jerusalem in 1989 and the deep feeling of injustice and anger I felt when I saw the heavy boots of Israelian soldiers crashing the heads of two unarmed Palestinean kids. “An eye for an eye makes whole world blind” said another friend of mine today quoting M. Gandhi and I thought that that reflected exactly what my feelings are today.

Surreal New York

Today was yet another surreal day, with deserted streets, barricades, and a constant cloud of smoke everywhere. Lower Manhattan was truly a war site. The smell from the debris is still coming through my window. You could see people wearing masks in the streets (I made one out of an old tshirt). Spent most of the morning replaying to emails and answering calls (the cellphones were working ok this morning and then connection went bad again throught the rest of the day). In the afternoon I took my bike and tried to visit a friend of mine who lives in Lafayette and Spring. I’ve got stopped by the police on Houston and Lafayette. People can’t go through to or get out from Houston. My friend had to come all the way from his appartment to see me. Before he got out he checked with one of the cops that he would be re-admitted into the area later on. We took our bikes down Lafayette, which was mostly empty. The dust and smell coming from downtown was really thick. After I left my friend I went to see some other friends in Brooklyn. Crossing the Brooklyn bridge was an incredible experience. I had to go all the way East and take the FDR along the Hudson. Below Houston you could only see cops, firemen, paramedics and all sort of uniformed people. Almost no civilians. The sight from the Brooklyn bridge was depressing: the bridge was empty and when you looked back, a big cloud was replacing what before was a classic landmark of Manhattan, the WTC. The view from the Brooklyn Height Promenade wasn’t better, but at least you could see a crowd, walking in silence and slowly, like carrying a weight on their shoulders. But not everything was sorrow and mourning: you could see lots of gestures of solidarity everywhere. Brooklyn firemen getting ready to assist their Manhattan counterpart, flowers on the benches of the promenade, etc. In Brooklyn the atmosphere (and definetly the air) was clearer. I went through Prospect Park and could see people picnicking, rollerblading, etc. By dusk I went back home and then met some friends for drinks. The streets of the East Village, normally very noisy and crowded on a night like this one, were still empty. The only noise came from the emergency trucks and cars going downtown. I have lots of footage from today but haven’t had time to publish it. I’m supposed to go to London tomorrow, but still unsure about this. If I stay, I’ll upload those images.