Point of VIEW.

A purely analytical perception...


Afghanistan
Afghanistan, A World Truly Turned Upside Down

  The Low Rent District

   

Afghanistan, Our Predictions as of 1-28-04

But first let us set the stage:

Muslims 2, Christians 1

The history of interaction between Muslims and Christians is one of massive contradictions and while on the surface things seem politically correct, the undercurrent boils with Arab Mosques having gone into the business of turning out young men only interested in meeting God sooner rather than later and bringing along a few Christians for the ride.  While the Muslim world openly welcomed disenfranchised Jews during the Diaspora and at literally all other times, the unwelcome visits by Christian proselytizers arriving with both bibles and swords was not only unwelcome but was usually met with significant antipathy. While both the Christians and the Muslims fervently believed that only they offered the truly righteous path, the "Crusades" emphasized the fervor with which the then hapless Europeans were willing to go in their desire to separate the Muslim's from their lands or whatever else was available, their religion and their lives and yet this was accomplished in the name of a then corrupted hierarchy that had thrown the Continent into a state of ignorance, intolerance and disease.  Perhaps in the final analysis, these missions to the Holy Land and environs were undertaken by the Church in order to take the people's minds off of their misery.  

The under-whelming Christians, although extremely lathered up by their fanatically misguided religious leaders; as far as war was concerned always talked the talk and walked the walk but when push came to shove could not find their way to first base with a flashlight at high noon in the middle of the Sahara desert. They sermonized a better game than they were able to practice on the battlefield and were very reminiscent in a futuristic sense of many of the Arab Kingdoms today who are long on threats and weak on delivery.  In spite of the Christians getting roundly trounced numerous times, the Muslim bashing pastime allowed the "Dark Ages" to take on  some minimal historical importance other than for the simple fact that European based education and learning had taken a backseat to abject stupidity. If only to add insult to injury, the ill fated fanatics from Europe regularly had their heads handed to them by the Arabs and at the same time allowed the fabrication of such Muslim All Star's as Saladin who freed Jerusalem from Christian interlopers. What was even worse about these silly armed pilgrimages was the fact that many of them were only created to exploit religious antipathy and turn a tidy profit at the same time for insatiable religious leaders who were on the sidelines cheering their legions forward while selling religious trinkets and poor advice from a safe distance.  

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire had its roots in this epoch struggle and it was only in the early stages of the 20th century that Europe once again became, for all practical purposes  a "Christian" continent having been wiped clean of those that they called infidels.  However, while the Jews and the Muslims had gotten along well over the years, the followers of the Koran felt that the "Middle East" was their own territory as long as the Jews were invited guests and knew their place. Moreover, Jews were one thing, Israel was quite another. When Israel was brutally inserted by the United Nations into the "Middle Eastern" mix, it was like suddenly planting a burr into the saddle of a bucking bronco. The Christian Infidels  had once again set foot onto holy territory, but this time they had accomplished it by proxy. Many philosophers have recently commented on the fact that if Belgium and its Christians had been dropped into Palestine instead of the Jews, the result would not have been materially different. We would concur. 

Causing Trouble

Effectively, Saudi Arabia which didn't gain its independence until 1932, was already within the hotbed of Arab extremism in the 1920's.  Their future leader, Ibn Saud, along with his henchmen  was an early visitor and pillager of the mosques in Mecca and Medina in 1925. "Sayd's armed supporters, in a frenzy of iconoclasm, first leveled Jannat al-Baqi, the "heavenly orchard" in Medina, where one of the original associates of Muhammad was buried under the prophet's supervision. Thousands of his early companions were also interred at the site, as were the imams Hassan and Hussein, venerated by Sunni and Shia Muslims. All these graves were wrecked by Saud's minions who then looted the treasure at the prophet's shrine. 

The Saud party went on to demolish the cemetery in Mecca where the prophet's mother, grandfathers and first wife, Khadijah were buried; then to smash many more honored sites; devastating the architectural achievements of Arabia, including mosques and even Muhammad's house. Only the tomb of the prophet was pared, after an outcry from traditional Muslims. The spree of vandalism was accompanied by wholesale massacres of Muslims suspected of rejecting Wahhabism, a fanatical strain of Islam that emerged in Arabia in the 18th century and has periodically disturbed the Muslim world." New York Post, Stephen Schwartz, October 1, 2001. 

Saudi Arabia is a country polluted with controversy. Their beliefs are far more alien to the Western World then we would even believe at first glance. Those in Saudi Arabia are Wahhabists and the original Fundamentalists as well and in spite of the fact that the leaders preach peaceful co-existence, they are able to proselytize by exporting substantial sums of money. However,  they are capitalists when it comes to their creature comforts and for this reason  we are often confused as to where they actually stand. 

Wherever the country may officially be from a governmental standpoint, there are many rich people in this land that have their own ideas about Saudi Arabia's international role. Most of these people believe that their brand of religion should be imposed upon non-believers at any cost. Many of these folks are rich and religiously pro-active and thus, there is no room in the region or in the world for those that don't share these views. While for a time these beliefs appeared localized, more recently however, with people like bin Laden coming more into focus, the picture becomes much easier to paint.  A look under these thinly  veiled disclosures the true faces of this country. In one respect they are part of the world community but in another, their money is supporting extremists throughout the region. They are a much more difficult foe to deal with, they do not get their own hand dirty, they leave that for their conscripts.    

In a major concession to survival, Saudi Arabia allowed  American military men to walk on their hallowed land during the gulf War and beyond. Moreover, this was in spite of the fact that if they hadn't; Iraq with led by the irrepressible, Sadam Hussein would have them for lunch. By this time, without the help of the of the unified force that outed Sadam, he would now probably be summering in Cairo and have palaces sprinkled around the area in such exotic locations as Beirut, Tehran, and Casa Blanca. It seems, that one Arab can torture, maim, and murder another Arab but Allah forbid, a Christian or Jew doing the same thing. There is just too much unpleasant history for any logic whatsoever to prevail in our lifetimes. We will being doing penance for the historical blunders of our forefathers for decades to come. 

However, the Saudi's are continuing to actively teach absolute hatred of the west in their schools for some strange reason. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. These folks that have learned their lessons well in Saudi educational hate factories will one day be the same people that will overthrow the country and send its deceitful leadership to its just reward.

A Touch of History

Afghanistan did not achieve independence as a country until 1919 which was early relative to others in the region such as Pakistan and India. Moreover, until that time the country had served primarily as land route for traders and travelers journeying to and from Asia and Europe. The Muslim Religion spread to Afghanistan during the seventh century when Arab invaders forcibly introduced  it to the country’s more mountainous regions. As the years passed, Afghanistan extended its influence throughout the region reaching as far as the northern part of Indian and the eastern part of Iran. Yet in spite of this dominance over significant territory, from a religious point of view, Afghanistan continued adhere to the precepts of the Islamic caliph located in Baghdad.  

The East Versus the West

The first occasion that the United States had to get involved in the newly reformulated Afghanistan was in 1955 when the U.S. Government was approached by the Afghan  military for aid and training of its army. At the time, the Russians were making rather aggressive overtures in the region and the country, not wanting to become absorbed by the Russian Bear was desirous of being able to protect itself. In spite of the tensions between the U.S. and Russia, then President Eisenhower thought that Afghanistan was a tad too remote logistically for us to do any good and rejected their overture. Extremely interested in staying independent and not wanting to be thwarted entirely Afghanistan left with no other recourse turned northeast for their assistance and found Russia an extremely  willing ally. The Russians obliged with equipment, training and infrastructure development which included the building of some of the first paved roads in the country. The American State Department took notice of what was going on and upped the Russian ante by building a few roads, but by this time the Russians had already made their point.  

Although independent before much more heavily populated Pakistan, Afghanistan in more recent years has become a more or less a supplicant to that country’s bidding. However, at this point, Pakistan was allied with the West being one of the best friends money could buy so the Russians not entirely content with their loose alliance with Afghanistan determined install their own government their in order to offset the West's influence next door. However, Russian intelligence was highly flawed and believing that they would be welcome, they  invaded the country on April 28, 1978, and installed a Communist figurehead as Afghanistan’s leader. 

An interestingly sidelight to the Russian takeover was the fact that the hapless Afghan Government had picked  that very same date to host an international conference on education. Because numerous countries had accepted the Afghan invitation and the fact that there were no hotel rooms available in Kabul to accommodate all of the arriving members of the conference, all foreigners were conveniently ordered out of the country to make room for the arriving conventioneers. The bottom line became the fact that not only were there no foreign observers present to witness the coup but the international conference visitors had not yet arrived. Thus, the invading Soviet hoards from the north were able to dissect the country to their heart's content  under a veil of extreme darkness.

The Big Bear of the North Arrives to an Empty Theater

The delegates never made it in and no one from the outside ever witnessed the Russian carnage that followed. However, the Russian trained military carried out their mission with razor sharp precision and the country’s communication facilities were soon under the domination of the invaders. When the dust had cleared, Noor Mohammed Tureki, a communist party hack had become the very unpopular president of the country. Furthermore, as it turned out, Tureki was not a nice man at all and gradually started a concerted program of eliminating his enemies. With Russian assistance he showed exacting precision in eradicating his potential competitors for power. However, these tactics did not win him much favor with the populace and Tureki became a very detested leader.  

The United States, which up to this point had been left out to dry, tried to make the best of a bad situation and sent Afghanistan a brand spanking new ambassador who  was historically long on making friends and short on knowing what to do with them when he had won them over. It did not take too long before he found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The glad-handing, not-to-swift  U.S. Ambassador, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was kidnapped and held for ransom by a violently  anti-government faction that indicated in no uncertain terms "that unless their relatives were who were residing in local jails weren’t promptly released, sadly but summarily, the American Ambassador would be dispatched to the hereafter".  In spite of the fact that Dubs had become superficially friendly with the new Afghan leadership, the relationship only went so far; the hard nosed Afghan leadership was clearly not particularly interested in negotiating with the kidnappers and local police, finding the location where Dubs was held captive, with their submachine guns. Negotiation was one of those things that had never been deeply ingrained into Afghan culture and just become the lovable Dubs was in the firing line did not create  much concern.

The police opened fire and unloaded clip after clip into the dilapidated hotel. As a matter of fact they did not stop shooting until each member of the police team had totally expended whatever ammunition that they had brought. When the dust had finally cleared, no one was left alive in the hotel; chamber maids, managers, room clerks, kidnappers along with affable Ambassador Dubs had all been eradicated. An unpleasant beginning and end for a man who had only been ambassador to the country for a matter of several months. Moreover, many of Dubs cronies insisted that although the somewhat dim Ambassador had worked long and hard at the task, he had yet to master the spelling of the name of the country.   This action also served as a quick primer for the United States relative to the strange ways of this country and its new leaders. The United States Department of State threatened to retaliate for this outrage with a strong note to the country's president but  decided against it when they were told that he couldn't read.  

Picking and Choosing

Afghanistan during these formative years was something akin to the Wild West. Not more than a year later, Tureki himself was eradicated and Hafizullah Amin a former graduate student from Columbia University in New York assumed the Afghan leadership, once again with a knowing nod from the Russians. Amin, was incapable of handling the reigns of leadership with panache and  immediately started strutting around like a peacock and acting like he owned the country. Once again, the natives were become restive with their enforced leadership as the believe that Amin was becoming a tad overbearing. The villagers started to become edgy and Amin was beginning to receive nasty threats became apprehensive about his longevity and appeal to his Russian friends for support. The ever loyal Russians not only arrived en masse came but they went right to the Royal Palace at Darulemen where Amin was ensconced; however they had their own agenda that did not include that haughty and over bearing fop that they had put into office.

The Russian General  wasted little time and he gravely announced to his men that they should kill anyone that walked out of the palace door. After giving those orders the general went inside where he found Amin being entertained by a nubile Afghanistan woman and he promptly shot the two dead. When he had finished with that he went from room to room in the palace killing everyone else that he saw. After completing what he termed a mercy killing, he walked triumphantly out the palace door where he was shot by his own troops. They told their superiors that they were only obeying orders to shot anyone coming out of the palace, and were later exonerated. This event according to anecdotal folklore was what really started the Afghan War with Russia.  

The Gathering Clouds of War

A Civil war ensued with Russian forces holding sway in the cities and the Afghan hordes controlling the countryside. During the Afghanistan war with Russia, the lines of demarcation were carefully drawn. It was simply a matter of the Free World against Communist expansionism. Moreover, it was at this time that United States bought and paid for Pakistan's support along with its loyalty and for that and other reasons they become highly involved in the struggle on America's side. An excerpt from an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on October 12, 2001 by Peter Fritsch puts that into perspective:

       "The ties among Pakistani, Kashmiri and Afghan militants trace back to the early 1980s, when Pakistan allowed entry to anyone arriving to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan. Pakistan's ISI intelligence service and a radical Islamic political party called Jamaat-e-Islami organized reception committees, receiving funds from Saudi Arabia to funnel fighters to the Afghan resistance. An estimated 35,000 Muslim fighters from 43 countries arrived under that covert program between 1982 and 1992. Many of their weapons were made in the U.S. 

         ... When the U.S. a decade ago considered branding Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, say military analysts, Pakistan's government moved Kashmir militant groups to eastern Afghanistan. It shifted responsibility for their training to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Then in 1996, when Mr. bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan, the terrorist leader established training camps for Kashmir fighters in the Afghan city of Khost. This move say analysts, cemented Pakistan's support for Mr. bin Laden's hosts, the fundamentalist Taliban rulers of most of Afghanistan."  

Pakistan Enters The Picture Stage Left

Effectively, the Pakistani Government had moved their attention from the troublesome Kashmir area to that of Afghanistan and had in large part used the Afghan people living their to act as their proxies. This was not a great stretch because India had fallen under the Russian sphere of influence and the Pakistani's felt that anyone that India was affiliated with was automatically their own enemy. As more or less a repayment for Pakistani help during the freeing of Afghanistan from the Russian's, a grateful bin Laden and the Taliban set up terrorist schools and training camps for those from Kashmir to assist them in their ongoing battle against India.  

The war waxed and waned, but the Russians were eventually defeated and when it was over the various war lords uniformly attempted to concurrently assume control of the  country. Pakistan however watched the insipient  bickering going on for a time and when they had seen enough, pulled the fat from the fire by literally creating the Taliban and installing them as the keepers of the kingdom. The Taliban did not disappoint, as their first act, they banned all arms in the country. This accomplished a number of imperative objectives. It made travel secure for the country's residents for the first time in decades and in spite of the Taliban’s harsh religiously oriented regulations, many people gravitated to their rule because the country was now at least to some degree at peace. Afghan citizens could finally travel almost the length and breadth of the country without going through numerous shakedown check points, paying homage to this war lord or that one. No longer were people being held up on the road by local highwaymen.  However, while the war lords had been temporarily broken, they were hardly unbowed and continued their attempts to take back the country from an ever shrinking base which ultimately consisted of only a small sliver in the northern part of the country. These ill fated warlords  created the so called “Unified Front” or “Northern Alliance”. However, this was at best a misnomer due to the fact that they were never unified or allied and for the most part hated one another. Their military operations were hopeless because these warlords couldn’t even agree on what day of the week it was and let alone handle the logistics of battle against a disciplined foe.   

Bringing the Devil To Diner

There is no question that Pakistan was responsible for installing the Taliban as numero-uno in Afghanistan and for that reason many people believed that the Taliban sprang directly from Pakistan’s womb. This is not entirely correct; in reality, the Taliban descended directly from a branch of the Indian Sunni religion called Deobandism which had its origins in a small town in northern India. From there, the religion gained some popularity and for some obscure reason, schools were created by the religion’s followers in Pakistan.  When those in power determined that it was time to bring law and order to Afghanistan, the students and teachers in those schools were uprooted and told to take over.  It was like giving a pristine religious order their own country. Something that the Taliban found too enticing to resist.

Their entrance upon the landscape was first noted in 1994 when Mullah Mohammed Omar led a faction of Taliban in the hanging of an Afghan militia commander whose soldiers had raped numerous women from the region. This gave the Taliban some immediate cache among the townspeople and Omar was quickly elevated to the role of leader of the religious group. Eventually, with the backing of the Pakistanis, the Saudis and local merchants desiring egress throughout the country, the Taliban were soon on their way to control of the majority of the country.  Little did these folks know what they were letting themselves in for. 

Who's For Diner

A few years later, a gangly fellow by the name of bin Laden showed up in Afghanistan 1996 with a lot of bucks along with a brand spanking new concept for his friends in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan military. He postulated that the Taliban military, instead of riding around the country on mostly  highly irritable, cantankerous camels while carrying rifles that went out of style during the Russian Revolution,  they should arrive in battle driving highly mobile and well armed jeeps and light trucks, brandishing highly polished brand new weaponry. This would add both panache and fear to their efforts to control the country.

This single strategy allowed the Taliban to continually outflank their usually immobile opposition. By the time their enemy realized that he was being attacked from the front, the Taliban were usually behind them as well, not only taking large chunks of land in the process but also capturing large numbers of  soldiers and military equipment. The soldiers were usually given a choice of becoming Taliban converts or were hastily sent to their makers and their equipment was used to garner even more territory. This methodology obviously created many serious religious believers in short order. The Taliban later boasted that they had been able to convert  a higher percentage of infidels into their religion than any single sect in history and they were most probably right.   

However, while this scenario worked well in the conquering of most of Afghanistan for the Taliban military, it would also become their Achilles heel upon a concerted attack by the “United Front” along with American bombers. Those that are converted by the sword are often not the most loyal of followers and there is little question that these “freedom fighters” of both sides would sell out to either the highest bidder or whoever looks to be the eventual victor. But then again, this is Afghanistan, a strange place where rules are made to be broken and the only real religion is cold cash. 

Money is the Root of all Evil

Thus, with the beginning of efforts by the United States to remove the Taliban forcibly or otherwise, the first thing that the Americans did was to cut-off of all funds of any kind the could possibly reach the area. With Afghan and terrorist funds out of reach for the duration, an  ever increasing number of play for pay fighters began deserting what suddenly appeared to be a sinking ship.  The Taliban were not only aware that their own military was about as porous as a sponge but they also realized that volunteers to aid in their defense were not going to be easy to come by, at least voluntarily. Thus, they began to  take hostage senior family members in exchange for getting the requisite number of  volunteers needed for their military. While this creates a great deal of cannon fodder in the early stages of a campaign, these lightly trained warriors were not going to be major supporters of the Taliban cause and naturally they were the first to desert when the opportunity presented itself. 

The Taliban caved in and the country was taken back by the warlords. In a moment in time, the country slipped backward 200-years and was literally reclaimed by those from which it had been taken. The United States and their allies had overextended themselves and we in a similar position to where the Russians had found themselves not too long before. The coalition forces controlled the cities and the warlords controlled the country.  Once again there was a hefty fee charged by the keepers of the roads for getting from here to there.  

Life Under The Taliban

Tough Guys and Little Boys 

One of the problems with life in Taliban-less Afghanistan without the governess of the Taliban is the fact that it is still a totally male dominated society with few alternatives for courtship, dating and other means of sexually horsing around. Men are not only scarce because of the years of consistent warfare that has taken a severe toll with soldiers in the field but more importantly  the fact that there are no particular rest and relaxation facilities available in these parts. Making matters even worse is the fact that the Afghanistan women are for the most part nondescript and even if there was a raving beauty among this mixed bag, hiding under the shawls, masks, scarves and body coverings, you could really never tell. The guys here-abouts consider being macho a way of life and you can’t tell anyone’s testosterone level without a scorecard. Talk is big around the campfires at night and their sexual conquests becoming ever more significant with each telling. But the truth is that in these parts, guys don’t really hang out with gals very much, in reality they really hang out with guys and fawning all over a woman is considered creepy, after all, they are inferior aren't they? Thus, with everything going in that direction, over the decades this has become a society that lends itself to high percentages of extreme male homosexuality.  

However, under Muslim law and spite of the fact that homosexuality is religiously frowned upon, it is accepted here as a necessary part of daily life and not so strangely, in most cases it is easier for men to date each other than it is for them to go out with women. While the Taliban overtly attempted to wipe out this quirky Afghan custom, they failed miserably because they simultaneously took away the alternatives. Thus, in a place where there was little enough to do to begin with, after the Taliban got finished there was no way to engender normal heterosexual dating relationships as the veiled woman had to be escorted everywhere by her family. Moreover, as though adding insult to injury, during their regime the Taliban leaders created something called the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which took a very hard line on homosexual activity.

However, as its name would indicate it was mandated to carefully look into what we would consider normal relationships as well and this agency with a name that  became more than a mouthful to say without taking a breath soon was playing havoc with heterosexual relationships as well. These folks were known to be against anything that was worth doing between a man and a woman.  

This ministry which must have been populated by a cadre of hormone free eunuchs who not having anything else to do with their time but practice an insidious form of sadism, more often than not, condemned those that were caught in the act of “doing” with it their homosexual partners. These mean spirited folks seemed to take great delight in sitting around and thinking up new ways to punish anyone that broke any one of the thousands of new rules these folks were constantly thinking up. One of the great crowd pleasers that they created was to push enormous walls unto the offending parties until they were dead. Of course, as time went by, everyone became an offending party. If you didn’t have sex you were a latent homosexual, if you were a woman and attempted to have a relationship with a man, you would be punished by the sex patrol. If the affair was between married parties but not with their own mates, this was a severe crime punishable by death or worse. So, the Taliban had covered all bases and there was nothing left that was either fun legal.  

However, with the American occupation, the sexual police have gone the way of all flesh along with their creators, the Taliban. However, no new movie theaters or dance halls have been erected to replace the ones that were destroyed in the fighting or those destroyed by the sexual police. Most women still walk the streets covered head to foot with some sort of sexless garb and for the most part when they venture outdoors, they are obligatorily escorted by a close relative.  “Back in the 19th century, ethnic Pashtuns fighting in Britain’s colonial army sang odes talking of their longing for young boys…Homosexuality, cloaked in the tradition of strong masculine bonds that are a hallmark of Islamic culture and are even more pronounced in southern Afghanistan’s strict, sexually segregated society." With so much sexual strangeness in their history, it is no wonder that this has been a difficult land to bring the order out of the chaos.

Cultivating Friends and Folks of Other Varieties

As far as the Taliban were concerned, drugs were merely a means to an end. Although, these were theoretically very virtuous and god-fearing people, when they wanted to make a point they could do some very strange things. Few of us realize that in spite of the fact the Taliban controlled over 90% of the country, they were only recognized by a few countries and were never allowed representation in the United Nations. This annoyed their leadership no end and they embarked on a multifaceted plan of action to make their point.  

The country was poor but geographically well placed and the merchant caravans had historically crossed Afghanistan when moving goods from Europe to Asia and back. The Taliban came to the conclusion that they were in a most favorable spot from a geographical point of view to cultivate the plants that produce heroin; poppies. While historically some heroin had been produced in mountain border regions close to Pakistan, this was only a minor regional preoccupation but far from a national project. By turning the entire country into a gigantic poppy field it would make this desolate country, from a botanical sense at least look like the Garden of Eden. Not only would it provide subsistence for starving farmers but it would create a tax base from which the Taliban could more effectively operate the government. Most important of all, the Taliban leadership believed that it would cause the world to look up and take notice when Afghanistan became by far the largest producer of this drug in the world. They would become the biggest at least at something was the rallying cry.  

The Taliban were right on every count, the country became by far,  the global leader in the production of illicit drugs, farmers prospered, tax collections increased substantially and the world indeed took notice of what was going on. As a matter of fact, there was even some money left over from the sale of drugs for Osama bin Laden to continue his good works. Do gooders from all over the globe complained bitterly that the cheap heroin being produced in Afghanistan was hooking a good part of Europe and wasn’t creating a lot of good will for Afghanistan with countries in the Middle East such as Iran whose population was rapidly getting hooked. But the Taliban believed in equal opportunity sharing of the wealth. The mass production of heroine in Afghanistan was destabilizing the world market for this drug and other countries that were dependent on its production and sale started to yell foul to everyone that wanted to listen. Dealers complained that their livelihoods were being undermined.

Enter The United Nations Stage Right

There was no question that this now became a matter to be dealt with by the United Nations. “What would it take for you to stop making heroine?” the people at the UN naively asked the Taliban? “Well, you people don’t think enough of us to even admit we exist let alone give us representation in your august body, so why should we care about what you think about what we do the replied?”

However, the cleaver folks at the UN had a pre-scripted ready retort.  “What if we recognize the Taliban as the rightful leaders of Afghanistan and take the UN seat away from those other guys that really are all living somewhere else anyway?” Naturally, the Taliban leadership responding that this was something that indeed sounded like a good deal and believing that they had made a pact with the good folks at the United Nations, proceeded to order their farmers to destroy the poppy crop. And there was more to come. The UN had added, “Moreover, if you destroy the poppy crop in really short-order, the United Nations will see to it that you will get all the aid money can even think of using”. This was indeed too good to be true as far as the Taliban leadership was concerned.  

We Destroy Images of God Because They Are There

However, in order to celebrate the deal that had been carefully carved out with what they believed was the highly honor-bound United Nations, the Taliban decided to celebrate this momentous transaction by outlawing any images of human beings. They called on the international community to help them celebrate by announcing that they would be having a forth of July in March and as part of the national celebration they would be blowing up the two largest statues of Buddha in the world on international television. Shockingly for them this announcement was was not well received by the international community. Moreover, this represented the last straw to many and for the most part, no one sought to provide any additional aid to this really bizarre collection of misogynists anymore. However, in spite of this insular thinking, the offer of UN membership seemed to survive and the poppy fields for the most part were destroyed. The United Nations declared victory over the Taliban and proceeded to stiff them out of every single part of the agreement.     

Well, you can certainly understand that this action by the Taliban caused a lot of grumping among the farmers but in the end, all of those cultivators that wouldn’t go along were strung up by their short hairs and that can really smart.  It wasn’t long before national starvation returned in earnest, but the drug purveyors had indeed seen the light. Afghanistan had amazingly gone full circle from a place that harvested literally  no poppies to a country flooded with them and back in the space of just a few years. This had been a literally  amazing national performance from a horticultural point of view. Moreover, in an economic sense, the country had gone from being an economic cripple to a state of near-health and back again in a flash. But the then strange leaders of Afghanistan thought that the process was worth it because they could now join the UN and take their place within the society of nations. They turned out to be both insane and naive.  

The Poppies Are Gone, Now Give Us Our Prize

Afghanistan religious zealots picked up the phone and called the United Nations to inform them that they had been good little boys and as they had promised, had eradicated the notorious crop that strangely had seemed to be bothersome to everyone. They went on to tell the people at the UN that the nation was now once again agriculturally bankrupt and economically poverty-stricken. They would appreciate under the circumstances to have the United Nations’ promises fulfilled, both the membership they had promised along with the now critical economic aid.

The national economic situation had become critical while twisting into a pretzel for the folks at the United Nations. Unemployment had skyrocketed and starvation was running rampant throughout the country. Fighting was still going on in the north, religious crackdowns were occurring all over the country, women were being persecuted and their rights taken away and most important, civil rights had vanished. The United Nations asked for some time and after theoretically making a thorough investigation of the fact that the Taliban controlled country was indeed, now a very solid candidate for membership from the standpoint of keeping their word, the New York based organization determined otherwise. They were informed that the Taliban leadership would have to hang on for awhile in order for the United Nations to determine if they had really changed their evil ways for good. However, by this time, it no longer mattered anyway because with the American bombing of Kabul, Taliban leaders were now forced to address a much different agenda.  

Meanwhile Back At The Ranch

As were know, the Taliban were defeated in short order and the country resumed normalcy with the now ebullient War Lords once again retaking lands that they said historically belonged to them. Moreover, many of the people that tilled the land that produced the poppies had become deeply in debt to the prolific Afghanistan money lenders who kept them alive from crop to crop. When the Taliban had halted production based on the UN commitment, the poppy growers not being able to repay their loans quickly became the equivalent of indentured slaves. Having nothing to gain by sticking around, when the fighting started they left town for neighboring Pakistan with their families, their livestock and their poppy seeds in tow before becoming fodder for the locals.  Moreover, this group of land holding nomads returned when the fighting ended these were among the first to return and naturally the first thing they did upon moving back in was plant their precious seeds. This pleased the money lenders no end.  However, everyone else became concerned but today, the Americans, interested in economic stability in the country have turned their checks to what has become massive production of heroine.   

However, it wasn’t only the replanting of poppies that would restore Afghanistan to its former ignominious glory. The officials announced that the people would be once again allowed to go to the movies which was a rather hallow commitment because all of the theaters had been converted to mosques and the projection equipment destroyed.  They were told that they could also go to local dances with women who would not have to wear coverings on their faces. However there was a small problem,  there were no bands to play music, there were no halls to hold a dance and no women that were not afraid to leave their houses without being covered.

They announced with great fanfare that the children could go back to school. However, there were no longer any school buildings standing and anyone that was capable of teaching had long ago left this forsaken country.  It turns out that in spite of the fact that the people could now do pretty much what they wanted, there was no one to do it with r any place to do it in. Moreover, the Warlords had once again established their system of national tolls and it now became impossible to get from here to there without being shaken down. If you didn’t have the money, you were either robbed for what little else you carried, sold into slavery or murdered if got very lucky. So if there had been a place to have a good time, you couldn’t have had one anyway because you couldn’t have afforded to get there. American declared victory and there was a celebration for a time.  Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group had this to say about it:

       "...warlords and regional militia pose an immediate threat. Some originally were financed and allied with US forces in the fight against al Qaeda after 9/11. A few have appeared willing to identify their futures with a new national Afghan government; but must have claimed land, resouces and property and used their armed miltias to maintain those claims. They also have sued those forces to intimidate, threaten and pursue their own stake in the porcess leading up to the constitutional Loya Jirga."

Under the asupices of the United States governance things have not imporved relative to the heroine trade. According to Antoinio Maria Costa who is the executive director of the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Afghanistan poppy crop brought in $1.2 billion to farmers and traders in 2002 which was twice the yearly budget of the entire Afghan Government. Moreover, it was equal to the amount spent by outsiders on recontstruction. "This means that there is an enormous amount of meoney available to corrupt the political process. More than 3,600 metric tons of opium poppies were produced last year, and it is estimated that the yield will rise to 3,800 tons in 2004. Drugs also threaten efforts to produce a functioning judicial system." To add insult to injury, Mr. Costa added that the terrorist in Afghanistan were financing their attacks through drug trafficking and worse, they were literally holding the local farmers hostage and forcing them to grow the poppies. United Nations statistics once again showed that Afghanistan was leading world production of the crop and that in 2003, it would have upped production once again. However, what are you going to grow when ceral crops bring in only one-tenth of the amount of money that the illicit crops do? After all, they have to feed their families and we have not offered them an alternative that works. 

The Warlords Get Paid Back In Spades

The United States was caught between a rock and a hard place in Afghanistan due to the fact that there really weren't any good guys involved on either side. The Warlords were thrown out by the Taliban not because of the fact that they were superior in a military sense, they were able to win because in the people's minds the Afghani's had come to the conclusion that they were only the lessor of two evils. When the time came that it became international clear that the Taliban had overplayed their hand and were about to be sent packing; the U.S. was badly in need of foot soldiers that were capable of doing the war's dirtywork. The only way to get these men was to make a deal with the Northern Alliance or the Warlords.

When the war had been successfully concluded, the Americans kept their word and annointed the senior warlord from each sector to what became known as Provincial Governors. However, once they were ensconsed in power the warlords immediately went back to their old ways and they started literally taxing their "subjects" for breathing. Worse yet, all of the relief donations from charitble groups and other nations had to go through that pipeline and by the time, the funds had been cleansed, nothing much was left for the intended projects.

Because the Warlords have been left in place, infrastructure development has slowed to a crawl and the appears to little progress will be made going forward unless there are changes made in the system. However, the situation in Afghanistan is fragile to say the least and numerous attempts have been made on the life of Pakistan's leader by terrorists. Adding to the problem is the fact that Karzai, Afghanistan's president has not taken a decissive role as a leader and because of that fact, the warlords have taken liberities that they would not have dared to take under other circumstances. The New York Times in an article entitled Afghanistan's Future, Lost in the Shuffle by Sarah Chayes stated: "The proble is, no matter what they say, these warlords aren't going to behave. They are not reformable, because it is not in their interest to reform. The warlords' livelihood depends on extremism and lawlessness. That's how they draw their pay; that's what allows them to rule by the gun in an unofficial martial law, looting villages under the pretext of mopping-up operations, extracting taxes and bribes, crushing opponents."

The Americans would have little trouble getting rid of these nasty people, however with what is going on in Iraq has stretched the military very thin. The warlords still control their own militia and at times, they are needed to put down terrorism. While the warlords cannot be counted on to do much more than feather their own nests, it is still in their interests to play ball with the United States. Thus, it appears as though the status quo will be with us for some time to come. No one can afford to take the first steps toward reform and it is the people who will be paying the price. An interesting statement was made by Mark L. Schneider, Sr. Vice Presdident of the International Crisis Group at a heariing of the House International Relations Committee Hearing on Afghanistan on November 19, 2003.

           The US military and its allies brought a speedy end to Talibaan and al Qaeda control over the   state apparatus in November 2001; but plans for postwar Afghanistan stalled as Taliban forces and significant elements of al Qaeda escaped to Pakistan. Although Pakistan law enforcement has acted against al Qaeda, the Pakistan miltary government - whose security service have long and deep ties to the Taliban remains passive or negligent when it comes to the Taliban. There is virtual consesnsus among diplomats, press and others that the Pakistan government of President Pervez Musharraf maintains an "insurance" policy of sorts with the Taliban in theevent the west were to abandon the country as it did a decade ago, and a radical Taliban government were to return to power."

A Free Country Once Again, Thanks To The American Way

Indeed Afghanistan was once again a free country with all of the benefits that freedom has to offer. People could go to the church of their choice if was still standing and the  women no longer had to wear veils which disguised them as used clothing stores. Moreover, women could openly date and keep company with those of the other sex. However, many of the men had been killed in the two-decades old strife that had torn apart the country and those that were left had developed some rather strange habits to say the least. In spite of their newfound freedom, there was not much for anyone to do here but kind of hang out. But wait, there was one thing that everyone could get involved in that would help the country out of its doldrums. They could go back to growing poppies.  

But these benifits are offset by numerous problems that continue to plague the country. For example; it has been estimated by Unicef that 67 percent of the women that live in rural areas have developed goiters because of iodine deficiency. This affliction can cause mental and phsical retardation, miscarriages, defness and problems with breathing. The further from the cities that you travel, the worse the situation seems to get and among the most prevailant problems is the fact that the salt in Afghanistan is not iodized and there is not enough profit or money avaiable to create the process that would eliminate the problem. Fistuma Assefa of Unicef stated that, "Just one hour from Kabul you find retarded people, both phiscially and mentally. There's a lot of abortion and stillbirths. You see it in animals too, you see placentas from aborted fetuses in all the mountain areas in February and March. It was a shock to see so many goiters and nothing happening to remedy it." Unicef is trying to help but salt continues to be sold by Pakistan salt purveryors with a note saying that it is ionized when it is not. 

The United Nations Has Only Class Folks As Members

They godless folks now running the country already had United Nations recognition anyway so they didn’t have to be good little folks anymore. As a matter of fact, they pointed out with some pride that most of the United Nation’s membership was not comprised of what you would call good little folks.  After all the people pointed out, there was the evil empire, Russia, they were members in good standing, there was Iraq who had recently attempted to destroy their own civilians as well as most of their neighbors, they were certainly still members and in good standing. And the Syrians, the country that had invaded Lebanon and turned it into a vassal state, who invaded Jordan, started three wars with the Israelis and wiped out a substantial part of their own population, they had even been promoted to a seat on the Security Council for their efforts.

Then there was North Korea which starved 2-million of its own people to death and created slave labor camps, Cambodia, where Pol Pot and his merry band had surgically murdered over ten-percent of the population and created an agricultural state where there had once been industry. It seemed true indeed that if you were already a member of the UN you did not have to be good anymore and Afghanistan had long ago achieved that exalted status. The new Afghanistan was already a card carrying member of the UN, they could go back to raising and selling drugs and in this case no one would even bother them about it.  As a matter of fact, they would be less of a burden that way everyone determined.

Most countries were not to happy about the fact that they would have to supply Afghanistan with aid to get back on their feet anyway. If as a member of the United Nations they could sell drugs with impunity, they could become a legitimate card carrying country again. Look at the standing of Columbia and Mexico, each time they ran into trouble the United States bailed them both out in spite of the fact that they were both transshipping drugs into that country. “Wow, does anyone here have any poppy seeds left over from the Taliban?” they asked. Luckily several of the more astute had indeed stored the precious seeds possibly thinking about this very day, when the country would once again join their fellow countries and resume their place in the world community.  

“So long as the drug trade flourishes, law-enforcement officials said. It will fuel political rivalries, foster corruption and undermine the authority of the central government. But because opium farming remains one of the few viable economic activities, officials added, any intense eradication effort could imperil the stability of the government and thus hamper the military campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.” [1] 

The statistics are staggering, “…Afghanistan’s production of raw opium fell from a world-record peak of more than a million pounds in 1999 to a mere 40,600 pounds this year, a 96 percent decline, according to the United Nations Drug Control Program. …In late April, the children will (once again) slit the flowers’ fat bulbs and scrape the ooze into a sack. Buyers will pay the farmers $100 or more per pound, at least one hundred times what fruits and vegetables will bring. Then thousands of tons of opium will be hauled by trucks, taxis and mules over the mountains to Pakistan. Refiners will turn it into hundreds of thousands of pounds of heroin worth billions of dollars to millions of addicts all over the world “[2]  

And when the poppy crop is cultivated, scraped, sacked, trucked, refined and sold to a waiting market it will not be a day to soon for many. Forget about the number of people in Afghanistan that will be able to feed their families again, we are talking about all of those addicts around the world that went into mourning when the Taliban was trying to cozy up to the powers that be at the United Nations in exchange for a seat. Just the mere statement by the Afghanistan people that they were going back into poppy raising caused the international price of opium to drop precipitously. Inevitable addicts how had great concerns  that soon the price of heroine would soar, supplies would drop and their live’s would become a living hell could now breath a sigh of relief. Addicts are now satisfied that with Afghanistan’s rulers safely back in power and their seat at the UN assured, their supply of heroine will continue to arrive at a timely basis and at a good price.   

“This time last year, the Taliban stopped Gul Haider from growing his traditional opium-poppy crop. But now that the Taliban have been ousted from Nangahar province, Mr. Haider is back in business. “I just planted today,” the stooped 70-year old tells a visitor, showing off the two and a half acres he has freshly sown with the plant that produces heroin. “This is my land” What Mr. Haidar sees as a cash crop, the U.S. and its allies see as one more headache to deal with while trying to help build a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Despite international efforts to curb Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation, Mr. Haidar says every farmer in this region of eastern Afghanistan also plated opium last week; three other farmers readily confirmed doing so.” 

“…Shah Rasul, 45 years old from Kus Saidan village, says he sold four kilos Wednesday for 45,000 Pakistani rupees apiece: That’s about $750 a kilo, more than seven times the going price of two years ago. Mr. Rasul says he and his family of 30 people had to live off savings for the past two years. He sold his stock to Afghans of the Shinwari tribe, who cross mountain paths into Pakistan, whence the opium proceeds by various routes west to market. The same day, Mr. Rasul says, he planted 10 jeribs with opium seeds – in effect betting that the new government won’t restrict poppy cultivation or destroy fields already planted. “There is no government yet,” he says. “We don’t know what the new policy will be.”[3] 

The Cultivation

However, in this arid environment with little money available for fertilizer, poppies require almost no water and they grew in poor soil with little or no nutrients. They produce substantially more income than does wheat and other alternatives crops so you can readily understand the gravitation of the local farmers to this disingenuous crop. Everyone is literally in on the game and while it is no longer openly flaunted, many senior government officials of the new regime also need to feed their families and they too are involved in this deadly occupation. While little evidence may exist of the buying and selling of the product as it did in the old days, there is no secret that this is once again the country’s primary cash crop. “Just about everyone in this district is tied into the poppy crop. The deputy mayor, a military commander, has an opium shop. The director of education owns two acres of poppy fields. The elders who run the local decision-making council grow poppies too. With the stores closed, they said they would hide their stockpiles and arrange liaisons with buyers in the vast desert or nearby mountains.  

They knew drugs were bad, but so was hunger. ‘It is against Islam, it is against human beings, it is against international law, it is against everything, but it is something we have to do,’ Haffi Abibullah, the watchman at Mr. Sattar’s[4] office and a district police chief, said of his own poppy fields.”[5] 

“American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan’s opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world’s heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs.”[6] 

The bottom line is that the one that will really get rich here will be the tribal leaders recently installed by the American Government. These are the people that the United States has to work with in order to bring order out of the chaos that is called Afghanistan. In order to properly court these folks, there is going to have to be a certain amount of looking the other way, and for the moment, that is the way things are going to be, like it or not. Protestations to the contrary, even the most conservative projects forecast that enough raw heroin will be produced in Afghanistan this year to supply the world’s needs for the next 2 years. Even if next year’s crop is still born, the country will be back in the saddle again as the world’s premium supplier of this drug. What indeed have we wrought? And yet, the world has not even consumed what remained in the warehouses after the Taliban banned opium production. That in itself is going to last another year at least.  

I Am Reviewing The Situation

Several ideas were floated in attempt to prevent the flood of opium about to hit the market and both were rejected. The first was to buy the entire crop at whatever the going price would be from the farmers directly. Cooler heads figured out that this would only encourage the poppy growers to increase their production next year. The other idea in retrospect appears equally as foolish. Send emissaries to the farms armed with cash who would watch as the farmers would plow up the poppies and destroy them. This had all of the worthless elements of the first idea as the following years crop would only be larger and addition problems as well. But most important of all, there were not any people that anyone was aware of that could walk around Afghanistan without an army backing them up forget about walking up to a local farmer and striking up a conversation with him relative to his cash crop. The inspector would probably have been dead the second he crossed the property line. Second of all, once anyone got wind of the fact that there was that much cash being disbursed, the poor soul doling out them money would soon become plant fertilizer. So much for bureaucratic thought.  

The Germans finally came up with a plan that would work. They would train a police force that would have expertise in this field of poppy destruction and payoffs while creating a force large enough to back up whatever plan that would be determined best by the United Nations. While everyone was applauding the ever-inventive Hessians, it was pointed out that the plan would take five-years before it could go into effect. At current rates of production, that would allow the creative Afghan farmers the time to store enough poppies to supply the world’s needs, whatever that may mean, for the next decade or so. Maybe a better plan would be to forget about any plan at all.  

 Losing Track of Time and Souls, The Marastoons

In Afghanistan, in the old days there were few beggars. It is not necessarily the fact that things were so much better than they are today but more logically because in those days, the populous of the country had substantial pride and did not want foreign visitors seeing their indigent population begging for alms on the streets. It was determined that these people would be picked up by local police and placed in what was called “marastoons” which when literally interpreted means “place of aid.” And indeed that was exactly what they were. Inmates would be sheltered, feed and provided the necessities of life until the beggars could get on their feet once again and find work. Interestingly enough the marastoons were self-sufficient, having certain sources of income financially dedicated only to them so that they would not become a local budgetary item and run the risk of being closed down when the government tax collections went dry. Moreover, some marastoons such as the one in Kandahar owned property from which they derived substantial income.  

The system worked well in that the marastoons provided for a literally unlimited number of homeless people and to the outsider at least, it appeared the Afghanistan Government did not have any hopelessly poor people. Moreover, in theory the marastoons were only temporary quarters for the indigent as they could leave whenever someone would guarantee to care for them. However, this was the rub. Many of these folks didn’t have families or next of kin. They were street people poor and simply and not so strangely, no one ever seemed to want to come to take these folks away. Those that were not called for seemed to stay forever locked into a state of benevolent despotism, being caught in a strange vortex of bureaucracy and literally locked up forever.  

The marastoons were first established by the Afghanistan Government in 1930 and in the early 1960s, management of them was passed to the Red Crescent Society an affiliate of the International Red Cross. Although these organizations did not devote substantial resources to these institutions, for the most part they ran them in an equitable fashion using whatever resources were at hand. However, the situation began to change for the worse in the late 1970s when the country went to war with Russia and the already difficult economic conditions in Afghanistan became much more bleak. From that point on, things went rapidly downhill and by the time the Taliban were removed from government positions, the marastoons had been literally forgotten about and their sources of income had dried up.  

Too Many People And Too Little Time

While the Red Crescent stayed in charge, they were consistently operating these establishments from behind the eight ball, as the Afghanistan Government could no long afford to step in and replace the sources of funds that had been used to support these organizations. Moreover, after the Taliban took power, the Red Crescent had been placed on a short leash as this group of religious fanatics were really not interested in independent organizations operating freely within their closed circle. By the time the marastoons were over-run by the Northern Alliance in late 2001, these facilities had deteriorated dramatically. However, in Afghanistan, that was the rule and not the exception so that for a time these places did not particularly stand out as being overly rundown. The fact that the people living in these now forlorn places were no longer taken care of in the larger sense was not a lot dissimilar than what was happening all over the country as the social systems here had totally broken down. “The six inmates at the Kandahar marastoon say that the Red Cross used to bring them blankets but that no one has come for years. “I’m cold, I’m cold,” Mr. Saba (One of the inmates) said on a recent day, trembling either from the chill or palsy. “Bring me some more blankets please.”[7] 

Moreover, years earlier, meat had been eliminated from marastoon inmate’s diets and for the most part they were served a vegetable gruel, which occasionally would be hot. Blankets were in short supply and clothes were unavailable. Reading material was unavailable and recreational facilities were non-existent. Living conditions plummeted to substantially less than subsistence levels when the war ended. Moreover, when these places were liberated it was found that some of the inmates had been ensconced within these buildings for decades and that many were incarcerated not because of being indigent but because of the fact that they were guilty of political crimes such as complaining about how the Afghan Government was run.  

A Person Left Behind

Upon further examination it turned out that should anyone be picked up for espousing a cause deemed irreverent by authorities, they would be summarily locked up in a marastoon. Moreover, if they were unlucky enough not to have any family that knew where they were, they would stay for eternity or whenever Hell froze over, whichever occurred first. Moreover, these folks that disagreed with the government were considered to be dangerous and were chained to their cells.  Mr. Saba who we referred to above was a particularly shocking case. It seems that he was one of those “political prisoners” and had been secreted here some 35-years ago. He was an educated man when he was incarcerated, a rarity in this country and a high school teacher to boot. When he was found it soon became apparent that he could read and write at least three languages while his keepers were totally illiterate. They did not even know he was literate because they were not.  

However, he had not had anything to read in decades, he had not had meat to eat probably for years, his clothes were in taters and he spent his days chilled to the bone. No one seemed to know why he was in the marastoon but then again no one particularly cared. Strangely, the Red Cross had gone about their business of caring for him as best they could with the resources they had available, but never raised a cry relative to the fact that this gentle soul had been chained in his cell for literally decades. 

There is not much question that as time goes on here a number of Mr. Saba’s will be uncovered as international personnel delineate the ravages that occurred in this place. Most of those that would have been Mr. Saba’s contemporaries have long ago died of malnutrition, the cold or possible even of acute boredom. He is just one of a long line of victims of governments that have other agendas, relief agencies that were overburdened and understaffed and an unforgiving land that could not produce enough to give care to the homeless or politically estranged.   


 

[1] U.S. Fears a Glut of Heroin From a Volatile Afghanistan, Tim Golden, The New York Times, Monday, April 1, 2002.

[2]  With Taliban Gone, Opium Farmers Return to Their Only Cash Crop, Tim Weiner, The New York Times,  11-25-01

[3] Until Afghanistan Gets A New Government, Opium Growers Are Planting Crops Again, Steve LeVine and Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2001.

[4]  The drug control chief of Helmand Province has 10 employees and no money to pay them with or no vehicles to use to get anywhere. 

[5] A Village at Source of Heroin Trade Fears Crop Eradication, Amy Waldman, The New York Times, March 13, 2002.

[6]  U. S. Fears a Glut of Heroin From a Volatile Afghanistan, Tim Golden, The New York Times, Monday, April 1, 2002.

[7] Red Cross Oversees Afghan ‘Place of Aid,’ Where a Man Has Been Chained for 35 Years, By Craig Smith, New York Times, February 25, 2002.

 

BOOK TWO, FLASHING BACK TO ANOTHER TIME

Dealing Drugs

In spite of the fact that the Taliban control most of the country, there are any number of anomalies that continue to exist within Afghanistan. Most of the country’s trade is conducted by those holding onto the remaining sliver of territory due to the fact that they also control many of the passages in and out of the country. In addition, surprisingly enough, Afghanistan’s local currency is printed in Moscow and the Russians aren’t exactly what you would call friendly to the Taliban. In the meantime, the main source of revenue enjoyed by the Taliban has been substantially cut back when they ordered the destruction of their poppy fields and a halt to the export of heroin. 

However, that has not made a substantial dent in the warehouses and farms in the territory controlled by the United Front who quietly continue to supply a very high percentage of the world’s drug needs. This aspect of those Afghans allied with the United States will be carefully played down by the current administration in Washington as well they should. However, bin Laden did hire a number of folks with advanced chemical degrees from all of the best schools in an attempt to improve the potency of Afghan heroin so that he could send special shipments of this refined cocktail to the United States. It was his feeling that this would turn the Americans into brain warped maniacs wandering the American streets in perpetuity looking only for their next fix.   

However, cut-backs aside, there is little question that bin Laden and his cohorts in the Taliban were getting a substantial over-ride on opium production and shipments. In particular, bin Laden’s network was providing protection for both the smugglers that carry the purified drugs into Pakistan and Iran and the Afghanistan plants that turn opium in heroin. No less an authority than Drug Enforcement Administrator Asa Hutchinson admitted not only the fact that he had heard of the plot but also testified at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources  that drug trafficking was an important revenue stream for the Taliban.  

A United Nations report was more candid which stated that the Taliban used the money from the illicit drug trade to fund “the training of terrorists and support the operation of extremists in neighboring countries and beyond.”   Whatever was going on, there is little question that the Taliban were breaking every rule of the Muslim religion by continuing to deal in drugs while they made a big to-do about the fact that had seen the light and were giving it up. Hardly, the Taliban a socked enough heroin away in factories along their border with Pakistan to supply the world for the next decade and although, many of their farms no long produced poppies, it was not because of any religious oriented retrenchment on their part.  

What's Sauce For The Goose

When people get involved in wars they do many strange things. Those in the Northern Alliance thought  that the Taliban had come up with a really good idea and assigned the farmers in the areas that they controlled to the task of growing the flowers as well. When questioned as to why they had gotten into such a terrible business, they were told that the money that they made from dealing in the drugs would be used to fight the Taliban.  That would seem like as good a retort as any that we can think of at the moment.  

However if  anyone thinks that the heroin traffic from the Taliban held territories has stopped, all they have to do is take a gander a couple of paragraphs of this story written by Jason Burke on September 9th, 2001 for the Observer. Jason went on a ride with the with the 53rd commando anti-narcotics company in Iran who act to interdict shipments of drugs coming from Afghanistan’s Taliban controlled areas. The story speaks for itself: 

In a huge neon-lit basement under a gray office block in central Tehran is the Iranian Drug control Directorate’s pound. Outside exhaust fumes has stained the concrete a hundred shades of gray The walls are the color of a cancerous lung. Inside is the world’s biggest single pile of drugs. Stacked on shelves, or on the concrete floor, in hundreds of f\blue and black plastic barrels, in scores of rice and wheat sacks, in eviscerated pomegranates, in lovingly resealed coconuts, in boxes and pouches and satchels and rucksacks, is a ton of refined heroin, eight tones of morphine, 90 tons of opium, five tons of hashish and two tons of cannabis. It’s about half of what the Iranian anti-narcotics forces have seized in the past eight months.  

Start with just the heroin. It is stacked in small packages roughly the size of a small packet of frozen peas. I am looking at a million grams of smack. Take a deep breath and smell the o0piium. Suck its earthy, musky scent deep into the lungs. Then try to comprehend the amount that is stacked here: the barrels, each neatly tagged and labeled with the location and date of the seizure, stand hip high and two feet across. There are 480 of them. You need 10 kilos of opium to make a kilo of heroin. So the compound holds, more less, enough opium to make nine tons – or nine million grams of smack. That’s half a billion pounds’ worth. In one corner is a stack of 20 4r5 kg fertilizer bags. When a guard takes out a Stanley knife and slits the plastic of one,. A light-green herb spurts out. The weight of the stacked sacks above it has crushed the cannabis and it is now so fine it trickles and piles and pools like sand as it runs to the ground.  

You can hardly see the warehouse floor. There are some patches of bare concrete dully reflecting the fluorescent light, but it is mostly obscured by piled lumps of chestnut-brown opium, heaps of lemon-colored morphine spilled from bags, bright-green cannabis and hundreds and hundreds of scattered broken chunks (some the size of a cigarette packet, others as big as an airport paperback) of warm, moist, black hash. Altogether, properly refined and distributed, the drugs I am looking at have a street value of around a billion pounds. Then I tell the men who guard it – paid pounds 50 a month – how much the drugs are worth in the West, they think I’m joking.   

Every year, the stock is cleared out. The heroin and the hash is burned on  a huge and well-publicized pyre, and the opium is sold to pharmaceutical companies to be turned into painkillers. The size of the seizures makes Western drugs-enforcement officials’ eyes water. An average of 16 tons each month were seized between July and December last year. But in Afghanistan, a decent harvest of opium totals 4,000 tons. 

A Conundrum

As we entered upon a new reality, the United States was faced with problems that are unique in their history. Believing that we have been the world's good guys and offering a protection and opportunity to the globe's homeless we are having trouble understanding that we are indeed, still the "Ugly American's." In spite of billions in aid and a strong belief that we are doing right, suddenly we find that all of our efforts can fit in a small cocked hat. After the Second World War ended we were able to buy ourselves the hearts and souls of those in the west with our money. We are facing an enemy who may not able to be bought and who is not going to go away. 

We are indeed  facing a bit of the old physics conundrum of what happens when an irresistible force comes into contact with an immovable force. Any movement by either side to palliate the situation will appear as weakness and therefore cannot be tolerated. Bin Laden was spread all over Afghanistan with nearly 60-bases and 13,000 men under his aegis according to a memo filed with the United Nations in 1999 by the Russians. Heavily represented in this group from the top down were senior Pakistan military personnel. The Russian report goes on to add that In addition to the Pakistan support staff, there are training instructors from countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya

The Players, A Scorecard

In the meantime, while Afghanistan was at this time over 90% controlled by the Taliban, there are any number of other players in the region who make up a loose confederation known as the "Northern Alliance." Far from being an alliance at all, this group of fighters probably would take on each other if the price was right or if they got bored. Their bickering among each other is seemingly endless and even if the "Alliance"  was able to rid the country of the hated Taliban,  any peace among them would probably at best be short lived as they would undoubtedly turn upon each other in due course. Fighting is regular sport in Afghanistan and is treated more as a game that everyone in the country plays.  Those that lose the game often pay a mortally high price and because of this and other factors, the residents of the country have a minimal longevity to look forward to.

In order to bring order from the chaos, only one very interesting possibility existed and that is to bring Muhammad Zahir Shah out of retirement and put him back on the Afghan thrown. This was a position that he had left both hurriedly and unceremoniously in 1973.  Young Muhammad had assumed control of the nation in 1933 at the age of 19 and ruled the country primarily by proxy for 40-years; assigning day-to-day management to a group of conniving relatives that gave the word incompetency a new meaning. While the king, "Aala Hazrat" {Highest Lord} was in receipt of a medical overhaul out of the country, he was forced to give up his royal position by one of his more inadequate cousins, Muhammad Daud. It was none other than Daud  who after having hopelessly screwed up the job of prime minister  was bound and  determined to try his hand at running the whole ball of wax. Daud firmly believed that although he was admittedly horrendous at handling the insignificant matters effecting the country was convinced that he could more than contend with the more serious of the nation's matters. Soon thereafter and  under Daud's pathetic leadership the entire country predictably unraveled and started its slide into its present literally anarchistic state. 

Do I Really Want To Work For A Living?

Moreover, it may well be that the former king who is happily ensconced in a sumptuous villa in the best neighborhood in Rome, no long wants to be king and at 86 years of age would like to spend his remaining days in peace and quiet and away from the guns of war that rage in Afghanistan. The king has not been any closer to Afghanistan than his Roman villa in over 28 years and would be going back to a place that is a mere shell of its former self. This is the one spot on earth where instead of the old adage that time has stood still, the country if anything has gone backwards in high gear. However, there is more to the story than meets the eye, the ex-king in spite of his splendid lifestyle is hopelessly indigent and is being supported in his declining years by an unknown benefactor country that has been footing his bills. If the king receives a message that his allowance would be cut off unless he report back to Afghanistan, although somewhat infirmed, he would be forced to take the job, However, the converse might be true as well, the benefactor could announce that good King Shah would be cut off forever if he ever really seriously considered the offer. 

In the meantime, the French always the first to make their international feelings known, voted the King the most likely Afghan choice vote and this was upheld by a vote of their congress in a close 381-0 ballot . The French say that the King is a Pashtun and as such represents the largest number of Afghanistan people. It is especially convenient that he is a member of Durrani sub-clan, something semi-elite within a country where elitism does not exist. Rumblings have it that the king would not at all like to be anointed by the West. 

There has been a lot of hard feelings expressed here over the years against other countries and if the United States, NATO, china or Russia  had anything to do with his reassuming office, it would be better than an even chance that he would not live out his first year in office. However, the talk is that if he gets the nod, he would call a loyal jirgah which in English means, a meeting of the other Afghan leaders and it would be they who would determine who and what kind of government the country would have. If however, they determined that he should be the Monarch, good King Shah would probably accept the challenge. The former King's 37-year old grandson is his spokesman and he put the entire matter into perspective: "Afghans are sick of war and the culture of the Kalashnikov. They will welcome an American attack if it means the end of the Taliban."

Moreover,  the feeling out process went on and in a telling poll that was conducted by American authorities, almost 50-percent the people of Afghanistan thought that the ex-king was the best solution to their problems. However, Mullah Omar only was able to round up slightly under 10-percent of those polled illustrating the total unhappiness of the people with the Fundamentalist regime. In the meantime, the feeling out process continues and the king has enjoyed a notoriety of late,  unseen since he was accosted ten-years ago by a man claiming to be a Portuguese newspaperman who pulled a knife on him and attempted to eviscerate him on the spot.  Whatever finally unravels itself from this situation, the various groups allied against the Taliban should be careful that they do not revert back to a monarchy. Essentially, this could be like going from the frying pan into the fire and Afghanistan seems to have suffered quite enough, thank you. 

The Scenario At The Time Was ---

Should Afghanistan leaders not back down and turn over bin Laden, the scenario we will follow is really rather simple in spite of the fact that our government has not addressed it in detail. Before we discuss our short synopsis of what is going to happen we would like to point out that we believe that the United States has no particular interest in working out anything at all with the recalcitrant Taliban. Their prodigious and their ideas are archaic and not consistent with a globally inter-related social system and economy. We believe that by harboring bin Laden they themselves have provided the fodder for the world to rid itself of a thorn in everyone’s side once and for all. Trust me, this is war is not going to be the big deal that the administration is making it out that it is. At best we are talking about a police action with few American casualties and let me tell you why.  

There is no question that the United States is facing a substantial amount of antipathy from the Muslim world and we wouldn’t want to put all of our cards on the table too early in the game. Before this entire affair is over, it will be more far reaching than any one can imagine at the moment but for now, the United States is going to deal only with the Taliban and bin Laden along with related terrorist groups under his command. Thus, it must be a Muslim group that leads the charge in this matter and as luck would have it they are readily available. We are talking about the group that was formerly headed by Ahmed Shah Massoud who as we have pointed out earlier was murdered recently in typical Taliban style, by  suicide squad. Those underlings who willing to give up their lives in the name of Allay and their Taliban leaders. Because of the way Ahmed was murdered, his  followers are more than chomping at the bit to get even and they represent an effective force more than capable of dealing with the Taliban under select circumstances. All of this hogwash about large numbers of American casualties are utter hogwash.  

Russian Logistics Were Not Relevant

While the Russian's had an extremely hard time in Afghanistan, there were two sets of reasons for their problems. The first is something that the United States can probably overcome without too much trouble. While the American Army is composed only of volunteers, the Russian military was a conscript force that really didn't want to be there in the first place. Not only didn't they want to be there, no one really was able to give them a logical reason why they were there. Worse yet, they were under-equipped,   over vodka-ed and lacked competent leadership. They had the wrong weapons, the wrong clothes and the wrong attitude. In addition, they were supporting a morally  corrupt unsupportable regime that was being backed only because of the fact it was communist. The troops had no rallying point and when they were hit by disease caused by weather conditions and putrefied food and drinking water, they crumbled. The Russians were essentially done in by themselves, not the Afghan fighters. In the end, Russian loses caused by the war itself as opposed to disease and other non-military causes were surprisingly only about the same as were caused by the terrorists on September 11, 2001, in Washington and New York. 

However, the Americans will be facing some of those problems, but they will hardly be facing the Russians which was the situation in 1989. Fundamentally, you had to highly technical powers showering incomprehensible weapons of destruction into the hands of illiterate peasants that for the most part could barely tell which end of the piece held the munitions. Russia lost the war because the Americans supplied their forces with stingers which neutralized Russian technology. The Taliban has no technology and the American air support will become of the "stinger" of the coming battle. The Northern Alliance will be re-supplied by Russia, The United States, NATO and China among others. They will have more weaponry available than the country will be able to utilize in the next 100-years. This would be a different kind of war, indeed. 

Well, Not Exactly

However, there is little question that this place is no walk in the park. As Valery Guskov a Russian army major said in an article that appeared in the New York Daily News by Fred Weir, "'Don't go there, you cannot win, Everything you think you know about war turns out to be different in Afghanistan. Any peaceful peasant or shepherd by day can creep into your camp and slit your throat at night. They are all fanatics, everyone of them. The only tactic that ever worked for us was to make sure no potential enemy was left alive, but there were always more of them.' 

"As threatening as the enemy are disease and extreme weather conditions. Guskov described how, in the desert heat, Soviet machinery broke down, tires melted and tank engines exploded. The bitter mountain cold froze weapons, paralyzed vehicles and sidelined more men with frostbite than the Afghan fighters ever managed to kill. A powerful wind that Soviet troops called the afghanets overwhelmed military operation and left a fine residue of red dust that scrambled radio equipment, ruined food supplies and destroyed vehicle transmissions. When the Afghan fighters took refuge in high mountain bases, the air was too thin for Soviet helicopters to chase them, and fighter-bombers had difficulty maneuvering among rugged mountain peaks."

The circumstances which we refer to consist only of a couple of really minor additions to what those forces already have at their disposal. If that group could get substantive air support, they could run through the Taliban lines like a hot knife cutting butter. They might be a tad under armed but by buying substantial numbers of additional heavily armed transcripts will not represent a major problem at all. Once the program begins and the people in the countryside see the progress that is being made by the invaders in securing additional territories, it would be expected that these people will begin to join the civil war on the side of the dissidents. Historically the Taliban were only a minor faction created by Pakistan only fairly recently, once that support is taken away, that crutch will disappear. Contrary to popular opinion, the Taliban leadership represents only a small fraction of the people in Afghanistan and it is only the fact that they are ruling a police state in which people are not allowed out of their houses after 6:00 PM that they continue to control the population. These people cannot do worse and they are well aware of it. 

Our Prediction Was--

So, as we see it, step one requires literally no American ground support and should result in only limited loss of life and minimal additional anti-American sentiment because it will be the Muslim’s that are going to be fighting other Muslim’s; we will only be providing support. In addition, this is not going to be a long war; on the contrary, it will be amazingly short. Taliban can only put together 35,000 military men, many of which will switch sides when given the opportunity and as the tide of battle begins to turn. In addition, much of the Taliban army is going to be stuck on guarding the Pakistan border due to their newfound problems in that arena. For all intents and purposes, this war will be over in three-weeks or less.  No one in the region has any particular sympathy for these people and when they cease to exist, few tears will be shed.  

Our very limited land actions will consist of the Special Forces, The Delta Force, the Seals and other elite units being dropped both into the base camps that trained the terrorists and as well as other places where bin Laden and his associates were believed to have had headquarters. There aren’t going to be any people in those camps other than the peasants that live in the region. This will be more of a forensic exercise in which leads will be sought-out to connect inter-related terrorist organizations and to hopefully get a list of their members names and cells It is possible that this mission will have some success and it might well be that some of these elite forces will be attached to our allied forces  to provide sophisticated training, advanced weapons systems and air–ground coordination. Don’t hold your breath, if war comes, it isn’t going to take a long time; you can count on it.  

Another County Heard From

However, in this country nothing is ever easy in Afghanistan as Rudyard Kipling pointed out in "The Young British Solider"

     When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,

      And the women come out to cut up what remains,

      Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains

      An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.  

The next steps will take a lot longer and will be much tougher, tune in here for the next predictions.  

 

BOOK THREE, THE REAL STORY

Geographically Speaking

This pathetic country exactly half way around the world from the United States that sits on a plateau over 6,000 feet high. In other words, the entire country rests at a somewhat higher altitude than that of Denver, Colorado and the size of the state of Texas. This is a country where the sheep and camels have the right of way and where people and animals share the same water and sanitary conditions at the same time. For this reason and others, disease is extremely prevalent in this country and maladies such as amoebic dysentery, diphtheria, meningitis, cholera, hepatitis, plague and typhus are omnipresent. As a matter of fact, it was hepatitis that had as much to do with beating the Russians as did the mujahedeen.  

It has been estimated that as many as two-thirds of those that died here did so of hepatitis caused by the unsanitary conditions in the country itself, the soldier’s unwillingness to drink the putrid tasting purified water the military supplied and an unsanitary easting environment with putrefied food a daily morsel.  Medical supplies are in short supply and are only brought in by the much hated aid groups which are helping the Afghans in spite of literally untenable conditions under which the government mandates that they must work. Childbirth deaths here account for the highest total in the world, over 16-percent of births and along with disease it easily accounts for a life expectancy of only 42-years. But in a country as pathetic as this one, life is not worth a lot.  

A Rich Infrastructure

There are just a tad over 30,000 phones in a country with almost a thousand times as many people putting telephone access at one-tenth of one-percent of the population however, if you had a phone who would you call anyway? There is no national television and no FM. There are five AM radio stations and what few newspapers that exist are controlled by the government. That is not a major problem as only a small percentage of the population can read or write. Anyone that had half a brain left this forlorn place many years ago and Afghanistan was left with the illiterate, the compulsive and the doomed. This country indeed suffered a more devastating exodus of talent than any other country on earth and for good reason.  

Rain falls now and again here and drought has become a constant companion to farmers. Almost ninety-percent of the land has become agriculturally non-productive because of the lack of rain along with the drain off of the topsoil because of the forests have been cut down for use as kindling. In addition the necessary and constant over grazing has done in what little was left. Fertilizer does not exist and for a time the only cash crop the country had were the poppies grown for the manufacture of heroine. There are few paved roads and even those that are unpaved lead nowhere. Maybe it is the altitude that makes these people a little strange but, there is nothing on this planet as bizarre as the thought process of those in charge. The are the consummate professionals when it comes to biting the hand that feeds them. 

Charity By Any Other Name? 

Shelter Now seems to be an innocuous enough name for a Christian denominated foreign relief organization. The Taliban accused this German based charity that was operating in Afghanistan of proselytizing its people by holding religious information sessions illegally within the country’s limits. Shelter Now’s headquarters were raided by Taliban police who took away 24 aid workers for the crime of teaching another religion to the Muslim Taliban. However the Taliban are not entirely wrong in the case of Shelter Now and the organization probably had a lot of religion squeezed into their aid packages. To say that the Taliban were really annoyed with the action of this agency would be an enormous understatement. Eight foreigners were still in jail after the Trade Center had already become dust, they consist of two Americans, four Germans, two Australians as well as their assistants, 16 Afghans. For whatever the reason, those in charge of the Taliban have made it clear in international circles that these proselytizing charities were really attempting to undermine the country’s structure. Mullah Saqib the judge and jury was totally objective relative whether these people were guilty or not:

When we see certain things with our own eyes, it is proof and no longer speculation. Let me give you an example of what is on the tape. They are praising Jesus so much that they are putting him above God. Under the cover of humanitarian assistance, they are offering bread to our poor people and then asking them to convert to a religion that was canceled out by the advent of Islam. If you find any suspicious books, cassettes or papers, particularly those about Christianity of Judaism, report it immediately to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or to the Supreme Court, so that punitive measures can be taken…We don’t call these people criminals, we call them the accused. The charges have not been proven yet. Always remember that when someone is caught for a crime, we cannot call them a criminal until that is decided by the court.” 

In any event, those arrested continue to rot in jail and many other Christian oriented charity workers based in Afghanistan believe that they are going to be next. The penalty for what was done is not too severe here, it is hanging by the neck until dead and Mullah Saqib indicated that “exemplary punishment” of the guilty was in order. I really believe that this guy had made up his mind before the trial even started. However, there will probably be an interruption in case by the American Special Forces and their friends before this is over. However, the mind patrol wasn’t finished and soon thereafter another raid took place.  

Police raided the International Assistance Mission and Serve, giving the people in both agencies 72-hours to leave the country. International Assistance Mission was an American charity that was running two eye hospitals as well as several clinics. In addition, International was also a focal point for the distribution of food and the shelter. Moreover, for many people in Afghanistan these were the only hospitals for hundreds miles around to offer this kind of specialized treatment, but now the workers that had staffed both the hospitals and the clinics are headed for the Pakistan. Serve is involved in servicing the health care market in Afghanistan and providing shelter to many of those that are homeless.  

The Religious Police

And why don’t you make the leap of faith that you are walking down a main street in Kabul, Afghanistan and the religious police determine that in spite of the fact that you are unfamiliar with local customs, your beard has been recently trimmed and that this is a particularly heinous action relative to insulting Allah. You need a lawyer and you need one really bad. Well, this is not going to be your day, you don’t speak the language, there are no phones, there are no lawyers and even if there were you couldn’t easily find one from jail. There are no yellow pages and there is no information operator. There just plain isn’t anything. Even if a lawyer was available and he was just what the doctor ordered, what would be the procedure? Would the trial be conducted in Dari  or in Pashto?  Would he have the right to look at the record, could he question witnesses in court, should he be a Muslim or a non-Muslim, what was the composition of the court and the jury? And in reality, would there really be a jury? Who would decide their fate and under what laws were they being tried? 

The trial began and once again Mullah Noor Muhammad Saqib was not optimistic relative to what the eventual results would be. He said that the evidence had revealed  “the height of evil.” Thoughts returned to some of the Mullah’s opening statement, “We’re going to produce evidence and proof that will convince the world and you people. You will be satisfied with the proof against you.”  

Not On Good Behavior

As we have seen, the Taliban have not been recognized by many nations, possibly three and with good reason. Be that as it may, there are certain other exigencies that come into play relative to international politics that may appear irregular on the surface but stripping off the sometimes confusing upper layers of the interactions, there suddenly becomes a certain logic to what would normal appear to be bizarre proceedings. China has a very serious internal problem in their province of Xinjiang which is located at the extreme far western quadrant of the country. That province has strong ties to the Muslim Religion with a substantial number of people that make up its population being of that faith. For the most part, China had literally outlawed religious practices throughout the country after the long-march but because of Xinjiang' s location being so distant  from Beijing, the people of there continued practicing the faith in an uninterrupted fashion.  When the United States declared its war on terrorism, China quickly tucked in and started to give chapter and verse about why the were entitled to the same rights. Sun Yuxi, a Chinese official in the Foreign Ministry when talking about these folks said the following:

        "We have conclusive evidence that the East Turkistan elements have participated in terrorist activities. It's openly stated in their guidelines that they will engage in violence against China. We also have evidence that they have colluded with international terrorist groups. They have engaged in bombings, assassinations, poisoning, abductions and robbery . We hope that our fight against the East Turkistan forces will become a part of the international effort against terrorism, and it should also win support and understanding."

With the of emergence of Fundamentalism throughout the Muslim countries of the world,  the fact that China was not steadfast in eliminating that religion has come back to bite them in the hand. A subversive Muslim Fundamentalist group called the Uighurs that has become closely allied with the Taliban and other equally seditious groups has  been operating in that area and has been involved in countless bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. Moreover, the Uighurs have required an oath of allegiance from entire Muslim population within their region and Xinjiang has literally become a country within a country. These folks are unquestionably dancing to a different Chinese drummer than any one else.  Expansionist minded China does not give up any of its land even grudgingly to anyone and is not about to allow the province to secede in spite of demands by the Fundamentalists to allow that to occur. However, the Uighurs are difficult to fight because of their extensive training in guerilla warfare along with the area’s treacherous terrain. After an attack, the Uighurs are easily capable of blending into the mountains when China sends out search and destroy patrols and as opposed to Russia and their war with the Chechnya's, there are really no pitched battles because the enemy is more of an enigma than a reality. Because of these successful hit and run tactics the Uighurs have only gained in strength as time has gone on.  

Another Party Heard From

While China has become incensed with Afghanistan for training Uighurs, they are not in a position to physically stop them because of their own bizarre allegiances with rogue states such as Pakistan, Iran and  Iraq. While all of these countries are Muslim, Pakistan in particular has been a Chinese ally for many years. After Russia had allied itself with India, China and Pakistan literally developed a joint defense strategy and it has been said by intelligence sources that China is at least indirectly responsible for their atomic capability. Furthermore, the only reason that Pakistan could have ever gotten North Korean missiles would be with Chinese consent proving beyond a doubt that there is obviously a very pro-active arrangement between the countries.  

China being faced with the choice of invading Afghanistan to put a stop to the strange practices of the religious leaders in that country or trying the diplomatic route was dissuaded by Pakistan from a frontal assault and convinced China to give the fanatics a little more time to come around. Not only did China agree, partially because they had virtually no other choice, but they went a step further by supplying some aid to the Taliban in the hopes that this would be enough to convince them to rid themselves of the Uighurs. Chinese diplomats regularly visit Kabul as well as the Afghanistan embassy in Pakistan. Some of the companies in China with government encouragement are supplying infrastructure assistance in communications and heavy industry in that country much to the consternation of other nations.  

Friend of The Friendless

The fact that Afghanistan seems to have been implicated of at least being guilty of sheltering Osamu bin Laden who, even if he was not involved in the bombing of the World Trade Center was unquestionably implicated in the killing of American Citizens in other parts of the world. The United States is in the process of arranging a license from the rest of the world to clean up the mess caused by the Taliban once and for all. There is little question that the bombing has also scared the daylights out of Pakistan and that they will be forced to cooperate one way or the other with the American consortium. Thus, many countries will probably want to join in the cleaning up process and it will eventually be an alliance of the strange. Iranian, Chinese, Russian and American interests could well coincide in this perceived battle between good and evil to a degree where their forces could well work together in rooting out the evil within the inside of this country. Iran has become a regular route of Afghanistan drug traffickers and a high percentage of those at the border have become addicted due to the Taliban; China has an extremely difficult Muslim problem in their Westernmost province which is over 50% by people of the Muslim faith and where guerrillas are fermenting as much trouble as they can; the Russians believe that the Taliban has bee exporting aid to the rebels in Chechnya and the situation in the United States situation speaks for itself.  

Let The Punishment Fit The Crime

Many have said that the United States should bomb the Taliban back into the Stone Age but it has carefully pointed out by sociologists that they are already there. These are people that were the battleground in a war that was fought between the United States and Russia with the population becoming proxy soldiers for either one side or the other. There were numerous armies aligned on both sides, primarily made up of Afghan citizens that waged a war possibly more destructive to a country than any in the history of warfare. It was that war that sent Afghanistan into the Stone Age, whoever even before it started, they didn’t have a long way to go to get there. After over twenty consecutive years of the most vicious warfare ever seen on the planet, there was little of value for the opposing armies to capture. The Afghans lost what little they had left, their lands became unproductive, their factories were destroyed and their cities lost their infrastructure. It is under this backdrop that one group survived, the Taliban. These people need little luxuries and seem to revel in poverty. There is little that can be done to them by taking more away, there is already almost nothing left.  

In the meantime, it was time to count the winners and losers of this war. Russia clearly suffered a dismal defeat and retreated back to Moscow like a dog with its tail between its legs. The Taliban won a big time victory emerging from the fighting as the most powerful force among the numerous guerrilla bands in the country. This was quite an accomplishment for a small group of religious fanatics whose army was so relatively small and ill equipped that it was perceived to be a joke by allies and opposing forces. However, the ingredient that the Taliban had was perseverance, a characteristic that at time can conquer even the toughest foe.  

The Evolution Of A Terrorist

The United States appeared to have gained a major Cold War victory but could only enjoy their status for a short period of time until they learned the hard way that their triumph was pyrrhic to say the least. The last but not least  was a rather young and wealthy Saudi Arabian that was somewhat of a swashbuckler that had volunteered to fight for Islam in the far reaches of Afghanistan. He was in many respects apparently on the American side and was somewhat of a charismatic leader attracting many of the young Muslims to his command. His name, Osama bin Laden and he was to become quite a thorn in the American side of the remaining years of his life.  

Whatever bin Laden had become, the Taliban was not sure what to do or say when the bombs finally struck in New York. The senior spokesman for the Taliban, Kandahar Abdul Hai Mutmain not knowing what to say but believing that some message must be sent said the following: 

These days, Osama bin Laden’s name has become very popular and to an extent it has become a symbol. These days, even to the common people, Osama bin Laden’s name is associated with all controversial acts. Osama bin Laden does not have such capabilities. We still hop sanity prevails in the United States. We are confident that if a fair investigation is carried out by American authorities, the Taliban will not be found guilty of involvement in such cowardly acts. Killing our leaders will not help our people any. There is no factory in Afghanistan that is worth the price of a single missile fired at us. It will simply increase the mistrust between the people in the region and the United States.” 

Who really is this guy that seems to hate the United States with a passion and why does he feel that way. Considering the fact that bin Laden was the last son of man who was born in South Yemen (Hadramout), worked as a porter as a young man and then migrated to Saudi Arabia where attempted to make his fortune. He became an instant success in the construction business as bin Laden’s dad soon became the favorite of the King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and as such he was given all of the big construction projects in the country. Mohammed had made his mark by being able to build a palace more quickly, more cheaply and more elegantly than his competitors. This impressed the Royal Family no end and he was given such major assignments such as the building of all of the major mosques in the country.  

The bin Laden Family Tree

Although bin Laden’s dad is long dead, the company is now a highly regarding international construction firm by the name of Saudi Binladin Group with revenues in 2000 estimated to be over $5 billion. They have been involved in projects encompassing irrigation, airport construction, army infrastructure, highways and housing are just some of the areas that they are involved in. They were even involved in the reconstruction of central Beirut. The bin Laden group is so close to the Royal Family that they do no advertising because of the fact that no matter what they said, someone could interpret it as being inappropriate and you don’t do that when you have those people in your hip pocket. This may be one of the largest companies in the world that does not advertise. To give you some idea of its size, the construction company has over 40,000 employees in Egypt alone and is the largest private company operating in that country. They are represented throughout Europe and the Middle East with offices and employees in France, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Egypt, London, Curacao,  and Geneva where the group’s international activities are located.  

He rebuilt Al-Aqsa and added major extensions to Mecca and Medina. However, these masterful additions were built at an enormous cost to the country and bin Laden contributed nothing to their erection other than his profiteering. While this is the way things usually work in this part of the world, these actions would eventually come back to haunt the family after Osama adventurous spirit had become totally irrepressible. However, back to the story line. Soon, his construction company was the largest in the country and the envy of the Arab world. He had accumulated a multi-billion dollar fortune and preceded to die in 1968 when bin Laden was only 13-years old. Bin Laden’s dad, Mohammed Awad bin Laden left approximately 54 children by any number of wives when he passed away, however, bin Laden was the only son of his Syrian mother Mohammed’s estate was split among his twenty sons of which bin Laden was said to have been the most pious. To give you some idea of the size of this estate, bin Laden received the paltry sum of $300 million as his share as the youngest son; hardly a favorable position and today even have the Snapple franchise in Saudi Arabia along with some extremely valuable telecommunications companies.   

When Mohammed died, control of the family interests reverted to Salem bin Laden who was King Fahd’s closest friend thus keeping close ties to the royal family. In addition, the construction business and other interests of the family were used by some of the Royal Princes to get a springboard into business. Among them Prince Mohammed Ben Fahd and Prime Daud Ben Nayef are greatly indebted to bin Laden family support. Salem died in a plan crash in 1988 and control of the construction group primarily passed on to a triumvirate made up of Hassan, Yeslam and Yehia bin Laden. 

Bin Laden's Wives, All Four of Them

Bin Laden married his Syrian cousin when he was seventeen, a custom among Saudi Muslims. His father had entertained the cream of Islamic scholars and leaders during their frequent pilgrimages to the country. In later life he was able to use these early contacts to good avail. His early marriage did not hold back Osama from living the good life one bit, he had the requisite polo ponies and a fabled collection of the wines and liquors in his Saudi Arabian home in which such niceties were considered against the Muslim Religion. Even in exile, bin Laden’s favorite pastime is riding Arabian horse. Osama was a reasonably good student and attended the King Abdul Aziz University which was located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and he graduated that school at the age of 23 with a degree in civil engineering. However, bin Laden also was known to frequent every high-class nightclub from Cairo to Beirut. He was known for his propinquity for bar room brawls once he had a little too much to drink and because of his tall (Over six-feet tall) but lithe frame, he was regularly beaten up but due to his combative nature he did not give up and would always be seen at the same bar on the following night looking to get even.  

Although Osama was never known as a religious fanatic or a political zealot, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan he went ballistic. His ability to contribute massive amounts of money to the Afghan guerillas was a ticket to a leadership role where he seemed to excel in unique forms of warfare. He started visiting Afghanistan soon after the Soviet invasion and came back dramatically changed. He was touched by what he had seen and began proselytizing wealth Saudi’s for aid to the Afghan cause. He collected money, arms and other supplies and returned often with even more. He made short trips to that country until 1982 when he planted roots in Afghanistan by brining in construction materials and used his expertise with that equipment to direct the building of large projects that would aid in their war effort.  

Getting The Terrorist Ball Rolling

He became ever more proactive as time went on and in 1984 he started the construction of training camps. He also traveled throughout the Arab world attempting to enlist conscripts to his cause. He was for the most part very successful especially with fighters from Syria, Egypt and Algeria. It was at this more or less formative stage in his life that he fell in with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad faction that instilled within him the need to proselytize all Muslim activists to throw off whatever yokes that tied them to the “infidel” regimes. As time wore on the guerillas with the help of the American Central Intelligence Agency started to pry the Russians loose from their control of the Afghan cities.  Bin Laden is said to have fought in five major battles in which he led his own troops and numerous small skirmishes that he participated in with others.  

The Afghans were becoming more successful as the recently CIA provided stingers were bringing down Russian helicopters by the handful. However, a lot of the credit for these gains should rightly go to bin Laden who was instrumental in using his money and his ingenuity in setting up scores of guerrilla training facilities which produced thousands of highly trained troops. In addition, to some degree during this period din Laden started keeping accurate records of his battles, his men, his resources and the times and places where these events occurred. This was unheard of among the mujahedeen and his complex became known as Al-Qa’edah or “The Base,” the organization that later gained international recognition for its episodes of countless murders of innocent people which occurred if only to gain recognition for their cause. When the war in Afghanistan had ended, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia not only as a hero but as a celebrity as well. He was in great demand as a public speaker but was also put out a series of fiery speeches on cassettes which were the equivalent of a gold record in that region.  

Once it appeared that the Russians were rapidly becoming dead meat, bin Laden turned his vision to his more universal dream, that of uniting all of the Muslims against those that were considered to be the infidels, primarily the Russians and the Americans emerged at the top of his hit list. When the United States saw which direction the Frankenstein Monster which they had created was headed, they proceeded to freeze whatever funds of bin Laden’s that they could get their hands on as did his own government, Saudi Arabia.  

Not Exactly Poverty Stricken

While this turned out to be a substantial amount of money, it was only a tiny dent in Osama’s purse. However, the war between the United States and bin Laden really got hot when the Saudi Arabian Government invited American Troops into their country for protection against Iraq’s expansionist theories. It seems that the thought of these troops being stationed near the place Muhammad’s birth was so appalling to him that he was repulsed. Moreover, bin Laden was so obsessed with the idea that the infidel Americans should not set foot on Saudi Arabian territory that he made a proposal to that government in which his construction company would provide earth moving equipment to build various fortifications and that he would individually train the army. This nave suggestion was turned down without any debate. 

Although his reaction was probably more of the reaction on a bad hair day than anything else, his views became increasingly planted in concrete as time went on. The fact that if the United States had not arrived in Saudi Arabia, the country would now be part of greater Iraq. Bin Laden’s skewed logic seems to scream out that Saudi Arabia would have been better off with a Muslim Madman at its helm rather than having no change in government but American Troops stationed on its soil. Once fixated by this convoluted position, Osama became transfixed with his badly flawed theory and tended to harden his stance in spite of the fact that it could not even be justified. However, Saudi Arabia wasn’t really all that excited about bin Laden being their standard bearer. 

The intelligence people in Saudi Arabia found out that he was using their country as a transshipment point for contraband war materials purchased in Yemen. This action got his passport pulled, his citizenship annulled and his recording contract voided and he headed for Sudan where he felt that his activities would be substantially more appreciated. He had now become an enemy of Saudi Arabia as well.  The Saudi’s attempted to both  kidnap and assassinate him on numerous occasions.  However, in a tactical error, the bin Laden family while disowning their brother did not disown his children who continued to profit from the generosity of the contracts that they received from the Saudi Government for numerous projects including the building of barracks for American personnel  stationed there.  

Getting Even

In an attempt to get even with the country of his birth he became part of an organization called “Advice and Reform Committee’, which was billed as a non-violent politically activist group that was trying to reform Saudi Arabia. Under their guise he published numerous inflammatory papers giving chapter and verse about everything he believed was wrong with  both that government and their conduct. This did not sit at all well with the rulers of the country and in 1995 when a car bomb exploded in Riyadh as an anti-American protest, four Afghans were made to confess their involvement in the scheme and they implicated bin Laden.  

When things got too hot for him in Sudan after the country started taking SCUD missiles aimed at Osama, he was once again asked to move elsewhere. He moved back to his beloved Afghanistan and proceeded to blame the United States and in order to make sure that his words would be remembered he became involved in the horrendous bombings of the American embassies in Africa and the attack on the destroyer Cole in Yemen. The words he uttered though were the classical Arabic of the Koran and this pseudo intellectual madman always punctuates his points by referring to Allah. While he has a hard time with the language, no one else speaks it and it has made bin Laden a little difficult to understand.  

However, bin Laden made his position clear with the statement that it was  “the duty of Muslims everywhere to kill Americans.” A five-million dollar price was put on bin Laden’s head by the American Government but no one knew about it. Bin Laden responded by beginning testing of various poisons as exemplified by numerous reports of dead animals killed on the property the he used as a test site. He has also attempted to buy nuclear components and chemical weapons and should any serious weapons fall into this man’s hands, the entire world is no longer safe. In the meantime, bin Laden married the bosses daughter in Afghanistan and in a sign of undying loyalty, the Mullah was wed to bin Laden's daughter to if nothing else, make the cheese more binding. That isn’t to say that bin Laden is true only to Mullah Mohammed Omar’s daughter, because he spends equal time with his other three wives as well.   The same can be said to Mullah Mohammed who also supports a small harem.

Not only is bin Laden willing to use whatever weapons he has at his disposal no matter how lethal to make his point, but his is intelligent, patient and exacting. It has been said that when he plotted the bombing of the American Embassy in Kenya, the preparation went on for no less than five years and that a full scale model of the facility was extensively used in trial runs. Moreover, bin Laden has been said to have planted “submarines” or people that have blended into another society only waiting for the day to come out of their chameleon like disguise and dress in their true colors in order to do their master’s bidding. Intelligence sources indicate that bin Laden’s organization Al Qaeda acted as the intelligence center for guerrilla groups in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Kashmir, Lebanon, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Yemen.

Just Some Guys Hanging Out

The makeup of the Al Qaeda include groups such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Gama Islamiya; Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Hams on the West Bank, Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group and others. The Wall Street Journal states that Al Qaeda had bank accounts in London, Vienna, Dubai, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Khartoum and other places as well. In the meantime, the same article points out that bin Laden in spite of claims to the contrary may well have a lot less money that he is given credit for. The go on to point out that most terrorist cells operate on a bootstrap going second class whenever possible.  Many of the terrorist carried satellite telephones so that their conversations could not be detected.  

You see, the Taliban Government was not about to tell the people about it, television and other media were banned by law in the country and so the reward became a mute point. However, the United States had made the mistake by not offering the reward by airborne leaflets dropped by plane in the countryside nearby where it was believed by the intelligence community that bin Laden was located. They should have included a map of where bin Laden’s head should be delivered outside of the country, along with an offer of citizenship and a new start in the United States.  Not a bad reward for a Afghan peasant that had a yearly income of at most $200 to look forward to, the only entertainment in town, the killing of those that had stepped out of line and a bread line that stretched for miles.  

In the meantime, the Taliban were not sitting idle waiting for the inevitable American attack. They were issuing important news announcements about what they were going to do to the United States if they dare come their way. The principal speaker was Mullah Muhammad Omar the supreme leader of the Taliban who although usually quite reserved had a bucket full of non-sequiturs ready for the Americans. He told his people, “Don’t be cowards, I am ready for sacrifice. I don’t hold my power dear to me. The people you see in other countries are afraid. What is their reason for fear? Every Muslim must hold steadfast in Islam and courage. Whoever turns from Islam and courage watches his courage turn to dust.  This is the same Mullah Omar who is known for his "world view". 

Leadership Qualities

This is a man who took a slug of shrapnel in the brain from the Russians and it caused him two rather severe problems The first is the fact that he was blinded and the second was even worse. It caused the Mullah to become mentally unstable according to his own doctor. The Sunday Telegraph indicates that this problem creates both fits, depression and childlike behavior, "where he sits in the driver's seat of one of his cars, turning the wheel while making the noise of an engine."  Informed sources indicate that he  never set foot in country other than Pakistan and who listens only to the Afghan Government's controlled radio station. Unbelievably, there is every reason to believe the bizarre story that Omar has only met two non-Muslims in his life and has never knowingly allowed himself to be photographed. 

The fact that Omar lost an eye in fighting against the Russians could be part of the public relations campaign that was built up around him when he became Amirul Momineen (leader of the faithful) in 1996. And guess what, his son-in-law; master builder bin Laden  built Omar a brand new home in Kandahar complete with a bomb shelter. We in the West should get a warm and fuzzy feeling relative to winning the hearts and minds of these people when we realize the stooges that are running things here. Under normal circumstances, these jokers could not pass muster as deliver boys in a Chinese carryout restaurant.

Every Muslim should be ready for holy war and take strength from their faith in Islam. People of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, you are aware of the incident of the United States, if America is now pointing fingers at us, it will be the third imperialistic attack on our country, During the British and Russian invasions of years past, there was no Osama bin Laden or Taliban so don’t blame Osama. I swear by Allah that if we hand over Osama even then the Americans will look for excuses to attack.”  

Good Friends

I think that clarifies the position of the Taliban leader and when you analyze what he is saying it sounds even more like gibberish than it did before. We also have it on good authority that both bin Laden and Omar hang out in Kandahar and are often together, after all it is believed that Omar is bin Laden’s father-in-law. We believe they deserve each other and maybe they were out to blow the whole town apart.   

In any event, the Afghanistan Government strongly backed bin Laden and put their heads in the sand, however, this was more of a macho instinctive reaction than a logically thought out process. As the cold realities of life gradually start to sink in, there have been serious questions raised by the mullahs as to the reasons for continuing to harbor a madman. With modern weapons supported by control of the skies, there seems to be little question that the Taliban  could be history in short order once the opposition forces are properly supplied.  

However, the war between the Taliban and its former allies against Russia continued to rage on the Northern Front of the country. While the Taliban had gained control of at least 90% of the country there opponents who were supported by most of the rest of the world still maintained the United Nations Seat along with recognition nearly every other nation on earth. The leader in the campaign against the Taliban was Ahmed Shah Massoud who underwent an interesting experience two days before the World Trade Center was destroyed in a suicide attack. He was approached by two suicide oriented guerillas dressed as journalists and carrying phony identification. They probably had a bomb hidden in the television camera that they were purportedly going to use to interview the opposition leader. Once on camera, the bomb was detonated, instantly killing the two guerillas and fatally injuring Ahmed Massoud.  

An Untimely Death 

Maybe someone should have paid attention to the modus operendi of the Taliban and it just could have been that the American Tragedy could have been prevented.  Massoud was an extraordinary warrior; so superb that a cult arose  that whispered about his legendary feats in Afghanistan and another cult did the same among the Russians that had fought him. The Russian mustered the best of what they had in, troops, equipment, rockets, planes and tanks. Massoud had only horses and rifles. The Russians happened upon the legendary Afghan hero seven different times and each time monumental battles were fought with neither side giving an inch.. Each time, the elite of the Russian forces took his measure and each time they were forced to fall back to lick their wounds. Many said that he had the strength of Allay behind him and could never be killed. They were badly mistaken.  

Massoud became part of the government that assumed power when the Russians left but these former friends were only comrades in arms, they somehow could not manage the peace. There were great religious and social distinctions between the players in this drama, the Hazaras, the Pathans, the Tajiks, the Turkmen and the Uzbeks. They couldn’t agree on whether the sun was shinning or not and it was under this backdrop that the strangest cut of occurred, the Taliban were literally invented by the Pakistani’s. We are certain that they really didn’t realize the monster that they had given life to but they never could have done it without a lot of help. The former allies were double crossing and double dealing on another. There was not a word that wasn’t broken and their wasn’t a day in which more didn’t die. When the smoke had cleared, all that was left was the Taliban and Massoud, the rest had faded into the dust.  

It wasn’t long thereafter that Massoud died of shrapnel wounds. Even the hard hearted French were upset over this occurrence and Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said, “It appears to be confirmed that Ahmed Shah Massoud, the head of the Afghan opposition, has died. This assassination causes me great sadness.” Why the French even cared whether Massoud is living or dead is somewhat of a mystery but then they are often even a mystery to themselves. However, the bottom line of this situation is the fact that Massoud may have been the glue that held both those forces allied under him and his own men together. His death could not have come at a more inappropriate time for the United States who will need strong leadership  to  bring down the Taliban. The Russians considered Massoud the best of the guerrilla leaders that were aligned against them and he had become a folk hero there. He had become a high ranking official of the Afghanistan Government that immediately preceded the takeover by the Taliban.   

Maybe a New Name Would Help  

While any relationship with Osama bin Laden is being reevaluated by all concerned, terrorists included. Being affiliated with the man is becoming somewhat akin to signing your own death warrant. However, even those that have relationships with the extended bin Laden Family businesses are taking another look because of the negative fallout after the destruction in New York . It may well be that ABN Amro said it for everyone else, “Simply having the name “Binladin” is a reputation risk.” That is not a single indication that the family is in any way involved in their brother’s bizarre doings but as in explosion, it is often the innocent that are caused to suffer. In order to put any possible connection to Osama to rest, Abdullah Awad Obood bin Laden his uncle and the head of the family said: “The family has no  connection with his works and activities and the family expresses the strongest denunciation and condemnation of this sad event, which resulted in the loss of many innocent men, women, and children, and which contradicts our Islamic faith.” 

While for the most part, it is true that the family has long ago disowned their brother, however, blood is often thicker than water. Mohammed Jamall Khalifa just happens to be Osama’s brother-in-law and it was he that was a principal benefactor to the Islamic Army of Aden; you remember the group, they were the guys that took all of the credit for the bombing of the USS Cole. Just incidentally, one of the airline hijackers is a member of Mohammed’s organization.  

In the meantime there are a number of major companies that do regular business with the bin Laden family. Among others we have General Electric, Motorola, Flour and Citigroup Inc. These relationships will be evaluated as time goes on and there is little question that the economic effect on the family will be substantial. In the meantime many question whether or not bin Laden really was involved in World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters. I for one don’t believe that it is important one way or the other. We have just had a change in administration in Washington and we are now under a different kind of administration, one that seems to have a foreign policy as opposed the crme puff appeasement concepts of the Clinton Administration.  

Talk About Not Minding The Store

On his watch, the American Military has lost its luster due to an administration that seemingly had another agenda. Our international relations have labeled us as a toothless tiger which allows every madman on earth to take a free shot at our people and a moral corruption that only a mother can love. It is readily apparent that Bill Clinton’s enormous publicity allowed him to pursue a policy of a public relations without any known direction or purpose. Let us give you a few of Bin Laden’s statements over a period of time and ask yourself what our government was doing. The first group of statements by bin Laden were given at camp in Southern Afghanistan and for the most part the questions were lollipops thrown at him by followers. We will give the entire question and then paraphrase the answer.  

Q.                 What is the meaning of your call for Muslims to take arms against America in particular, and what is the message that you wish to send to the West in general?

R.                  The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. ..We know a least one reason behind the symbolic participation of the Western forces and that is to support the Jewish and Zionist plans for expansion of what is called the Great Israel. Surely, their presence has no meaning save one and that is to offer support to the Jews in Palestine who are in need of their Christian brothers to achieve full control of the Arab Peninsula which they intend to make an important part of the so called Greater Israel … 

Q.                 Many of the Arabic as well as the Western mass media accuse you of terrorism and of supporting terrorism. What do you have to say to that?

R.                  …America heads the list of aggressors against Muslims. The recurrence of aggression against Muslims everywhere is proof enough. For over half a century, Muslims in Palestine have been slaughtered and assaulted and robbed of their honor and of their property. Their houses have been blasted, their crops destroyed. And the strange thing is that any act on their part to avenge themselves or to lift the injustice befalling them causes great agitation in the United Nations which hastens to call for an emergency meeting only to convict the victim and to censure the wronged and the tyrannized whose children have been killed and whose crops have been destroyed and whose farms have been pulverized. … 

Q.                 What is your relationship with the Islamic movements in various regions of the world like Chechnya and Kashmir and other Arab countries?

R.                  …It all goes to say that Muslims should cooperate with one another and should be supportive of one another, and they should promote righteousness and mercy. They should all unite in the fight against polytheism and they should pool all their resources and their energy to fight the Americans and the Zionists and those with them. They should, however, avoid side fronts and rise over the small problems for these are less detrimental. Their fight should be directed against unbelief and unbelievers. … 

Q,.        We heard your message to the American government and later your message to the European governments who participated in the occupation of the Gulf. Is it possible for you to address the people of these countries?

R.         …All people who worship Allah, not each other, are equal before Him. We are entrusted to spread this message and to extend that call to all the people. We, nonetheless, fight against their governments and all those who approve the injustice they practice against us. We fight the governments that are bent on attacking our religion and on stealing our wealth and on hurting our feelings. And as I have mentioned before, we fight them, and those who are part of their rule are judged in the same manner. … 

Q.         In your last statement, there was a strong message to the       American government in particular, What message do you have for the European governments and the West in general?

R.         …It is not enough for their people to show pain when they see our children being killed in Israeli raids launched by American planes, nor does this serve the purpose. What they out to do is change their governments which attack our countries. The hostility that America continues to express against the Muslim people has given rise to feelings of animosity on the part of Muslims against America and against the West in general. Those feeling of animosity have produced a change in the behavior of some crushed and subdued groups who, instead of fighting the Americans inside the Muslim countries, went on to fight them inside the United States of America itself. The Western regimes and the government of the United States of America bear the blame for what might happen. If their people do not wish to be harmed inside their very own countries, they should seek to elect governments that are truly representative of them and that can protect their interests. … 

Q.                 American Politicians have painted a distorted picture of Islam, of Muslims and of Islamic fighters. We would like you to give us the true picture that clarifies your viewpoint… .

R.                  The leaders in America and in other countries as well have fallen victim to Jewish Zionist blackmail. They have mobilized their people against Islam and against Muslims. These are portrayed in such a manner as to drive people to rally against them. The truth is that the whole Muslim world is the victim of international terrorism, engineered by America at the United Nations. We are a nation whose sacred symbols have been looted and whose wealth and resources have been plundered. It is normal for us to react against the forces that invade our land and occupy it ... . 

Q.         Quite a number of Muslim countries have seen the rise of militant movements whose purpose is to stand up in the face of the pressure exerted on the people by their own governments and other governments. Such as is the case in Egypt and Libya and North Africa and Algiers and such as was the case in Syria and in Yemen. There are also other militant groups currently engaged in the fight against the unbelievers and the crusaders as is the case in Kashmir and Chechnya and Bosnia and the African horn. Is there any message you wish to convey to our brothers who are fighting in various parts of the Islamic World?

R          ... Tell the Muslims everywhere that the vanguards of the warriors who are fighting the enemies of Islam belong to them and the young fighters are their sons. Tell them that the nation is bent on fighting the enemies of Islam. Once again, I have to stress the necessity of focusing on the Americans and the Jews for they represent the spearhead with which the members of our religion have been slaughtered. Any effort directed against America and the Jews yields positive and direct results - Allah willing. It is far better for anyone to kill a single American soldier than to squander his efforts on other activities. ... 

From here forward we once again paraphrase questions and answers. In this case the questions are those of John Miller of ABC. The transcription is provided by PBS and the time is shortly before the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.            

                  Q.         Mr. bin Laden, you have issued a fatwah calling on Muslims to kill Americans where they can, when they can. Is that directed at all Americans, just the American military, just the Americans in Saudi Arabia?

                   R          Allah has ordered us to glorify the truth and to defend Muslim    land, especially the Arab peninsula ... against the unbelievers. After World War II, the Americans grew unfair and more oppressive towards people in general and Muslims in particular. ... The Americans started it and retaliation and punishment should be carried out following the principle of reciprocity, especially when women and children are involved. Through history, American has not been known to differentiate between the military and the civilians or between men and women or adults and children. Those who threw atomic bombs and used the weapons of mass destruction against Nagasaki and Hiroshima were the Americans. Can the bombs differentiate between military and women and infants and children? America has no religion that can deter her from exterminating whole peoples. Your position against Muslims in Palestine is despicable and disgraceful. America has no shame. ... We believe that the worst thieves in the world today and the worst terrorists are the Americans. Nothing could stop you except perhaps retaliation in kind. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets, and this is what the fatwah says ... . The fatwah is general (comprehensive) and it includes all those who participate in, or help the Jewish occupiers in killing Muslims. (A small amount  of text not translated}  

               Q             Ramzi Yousef was a follower of yours. Do you remember him and  did you know him?

R          After the explosion that took place in the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef became a well known Muslim figure. Muslims have come to know him. Unfortunately, I did not know him before this incident. I of course remember who he is. He is a Muslim who wanted to protect his religion jealously from the oppression practiced by America against Islam. He acted with zeal to make the Americans understand that their government was attacking Muslims in order to safeguard the American-Jewish interests.            ...

Wali Khan Amin Shah was captured in Manila. American authorities believe he was working for you, funded by you, setting up training camps there and part of his plan was to plan out the assassination or the attempted assassination of President Clinton during his trip to Manila.  

Wali Khan is a Muslim young man; his nickname in Afghanistan was the Lion. He was among the most courageous Muslim young men. He was a close friend and we used to fight from the same trenches in Afghanistan. We fought many battles against the Russians until they were defeated and put to shame and had to leave the country in disgrace. As to what you said about him working for me, I have nothing to say. We are all together in this; we all work for Allah and our reward comes from him. As to what you said about the attempt to assassinate President Clinton, it is not surprising. What do you expect from people attacked by Clinton, whose sons and mothers have been killed by Clinton? Do you expect anything       but same exact treatment by some equal reciprocity? It would only stand to reason.    

The federal government in the US. is still investigating their suspicions that you ordered and funded the attack on the US military in Al Khobar and Riyadh.
 

We have roused the nation and the Muslim people and we have communicated to them the fatwahs of our learned scholars who the Saudi government has thrown in jail in order to please the American government for which they are agents. ... We have communicated their fatwahs and stirred the nation to drive out the enemy who has occupied our land and usurped our country and suppressed our people and to rid the land of the two Holy Mosques from their presence. Among the young men who responded to our call are Khalid Al Said and Abdul Azeez Al... and Mahmud Al Hadi and Muslih Al Shamrani. We hope Allah receives them as holy martyrs. They have raised the nation's head high and washed away a great part of the shame that has enveloped us as a result of the weakness of the Saudi government and its complicity with the American government ... . Yes, we have instigated and they have responded. We hope Allah grants their families solace.

                 Q          You've been painted in America as a terrorist leader. To your  followers, you are a hero. How do you see yourself?

R.                  As I have said, we are not interested in what America says. We do not care. We view ourselves and our brothers like everyone else. Allah created us to worship Him and to follow in his footsteps and to be guided by His Book. I am one of the servants of Allah and I obey his orders. Among those is the order to fight for the word of Allah ... and to fight until the Americans are driven out of all the Islamic countries.

Q          No one expected the mujahedeen to beat the Russians in Afghanistan. It came as a surprise to everyone. What do you see as the future of American involvement in the Middle East, in taking on groups like this?

         Allah has granted the Muslim people and the Afghani mujahedeen, and those with them, the opportunity to fight the Russians and the Soviet Union. ... They were defeated by Allah and were wiped out. There is a lesson here. The Soviet Union entered Afghanistan late in December of '79. The flag of the Soviet Union was folded once and for all on the 25th of December just 10 years later. It was thrown in the waste basket. Gone was the Soviet Union forever. We are certain that we shall - with the grace of Allah - prevail over the Americans and over the Jews, as the Messenger of Allah promised us in an authentic prophetic tradition when He said the Hour of Resurrection shall not come before Muslims fight Jews and before Jews hide behind trees and behind rocks.  

We are certain - with the grace of Allah - that we shall prevail over the Jews and over those fighting with them. Today however, our battle against the Americans is far greater than our battle was against the Russians. Americans have committed unprecedented stupidity. They have attacked Islam and its most significant sacrosanct symbols ... We anticipate a black future for America. Instead of remaining United States, it shall end up separated states and shall have to carry the bodies of its sons back to America.       

Q         What do you see as the future of the Saudi royal family and their involvement with America and the US military?

R          History has the answer to your question. The fate of any government which sells the interests of its own people and, betrays the nation and commits offenses which furnish grounds for expulsion from Islam, is known. We expect for the ruler of Riyadh the same fate as the Shah of Iran. We anticipate this to happen to him and to the influential people who stand by him and who have sided with the Jews and the Christians giving them free reign over the land of the two Holy Mosques. These are grave offenses that are grounds for expulsion from the faith. They shall all be wiped out.                            ...

Q          Describe the situation when your men took down the American forces in Somalia.

R          After our victory in Afghanistan and the defeat of the oppressors who had killed millions of Muslims, the legend about the invincibility of the superpowers vanished. Our boys no longer viewed America as a superpower. So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier. America had entered with 30,000 soldiers in addition to thousands of soldiers from different countries in the world. ... As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War in which it destroyed the infrastructure and the milk and dairy industry that was vital for the infants and the children and the civilians and blew up dams which were necessary for the crops people grew to feed their families. Proud of this destruction, America assumed the titles of world leader and master of the new world order. After a few blows, it forgot all about those titles and rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace, dragging the bodies of its soldiers. America stopped calling itself world leader and master of the new world order, and its politicians realized that those titles were too big for them and that they were unworthy of them. I was in Sudan when this happened. I was very happy to learn of that great defeat that America suffered, so was every Muslim.                            ...

Q          Many Americans believe that fighting army to army like what happened in Afghanistan is heroic for either army. But sending off bombs, killing civilians like in the World Trade Center is terrorism.

R.         .. After our victory over the Russians in Afghanistan, the international and the American mass media conducted fierce campaigns against us ... . They called us terrorists even before the mujahedeen had committed any act of terrorism against the real terrorists who are the Americans. On the other hand, we say that American politics and their religion do not believe in differentiating between civilians and military, between infants and animals, or among any human groups. ...

Our mothers and daughters and sons are slaughtered every day with the approval of America and its support. And, while America blocks the entry of weapons into Islamic countries, it provides the Israelis with a continuous supply of arms allowing them thus to kill and massacre more Muslims. Your religion does not forbid you from committing such acts, so you have no right to object to any response or retaliation that reciprocates your own actions. But, and in spite of this, our retaliation is directed primarily against the soldiers only and against those standing by them. Our religion forbids us from killing innocent people such as women and children. This, however, does not apply to women fighters. A woman who puts herself in the same trench with men, gets what they get. ...

Q          The American people, by and large, do not know the name bin Laden, but they soon likely will. Do you have a message for the American people?

R          I say to them that they have put themselves at the mercy of a disloyal government, and this is most evident in Clinton's administration ... . We believe that this administration represents Israel inside America. Take the sensitive ministries such as the Ministry of Exterior and the Ministry of Defense and the CIA, you will find that the Jews have the upper hand in them. They make use of America to further their plans for the world, especially the Islamic world. American presence in the Gulf provides support to the Jews and protects their rear. And while millions of Americans are homeless and destitute and live in abject poverty, their government is busy occupying our land and building new settlements and helping Israel build new settlements in the point of departure for our Prophet's midnight journey to the seven heavens. America throws her own sons in the land of the two Holy Mosques for the sake of protecting Jewish interests. ...  

Bin Laden still had some additional thoughts on his mind as he motored down and was determined to include them in his tirad: 

The Words Of A False Prophet

"The American government is leading the country  towards  hell. ... We say to the Americans as people and to American mothers, if they cherish their lives and if they cherish their sons, they must elect an American patriotic government that caters to their interests not the interests of the Jews. If the present injustice continues with the wave   of national consciousness, it will inevitably move the battle to American soil, just as Ramzi Yousef and others have done. This is my message to the American people. I urge them to find a serious administration that acts in their interest and does not attack people and violate their honor and pilfer their wealth. ... In America, we have a figure from history from 1897 named Teddy Roosevelt. He was a wealthy man, who grew up in a privileged situation and who fought on the front lines. He put together his own men - hand chose them - and went to battle. You are like the Middle East version of Teddy Roosevelt.  

I am one of the servants of Allah. We do our duty of fighting for the sake of the religion of Allah. It is also our duty to send a call to all the people of the world to enjoy this great light and to embrace Islam and experience the happiness in Islam. Our primary mission is nothing but the furthering of this religion. ... Let not the West be taken in by those who say that Muslims choose nothing but slaughtering. Their brothers in East Europe, in Turkey and in Albania have been guided by Allah to submit to Islam and to experience the bliss of Islam. Unlike those, the European and the American people and some of the Arabs are under the influence of Jewish media. ... "  

And If You Don't Believe That One Just Watch Him Dance For Joy On Video

If you took the time to read the above, it is crystal clear that bin Laden admits that he has been behind any number of horrendous attacks against U.S. Installations and personnel. The only thing that went wrong was the fact that the Clinton Administration got caught sleeping at the switch and should have addressed these actions in much stronger terms. When you let people get away with this you send the wrong message. Hopefully, this administration will send one that cannot be misinterpreted. 

The State Department's Opinion

Afghanistan

  Updated June 18, 2001

Travel Warning:  

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan.  We continue to receive threats from terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan, who do not distinguish between American military and civilian targets. U. S. Government reserves the right to retaliate against the facilities of those who harbor terrorists, as well as the terrorists themselves. 

The Department of State urges Americans who decide to remain in Afghanistan in spite of this warning to exercise extreme caution, to monitor their security situation closely, and make plans for responding to a sudden deterioration in security conditions.  All U.S. personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul were evacuated in 1989, and no other diplomatic mission represents U. S. interests or provides consular service. 

In addition, frequent military operations continue in various regions of Afghanistan, sometimes involving intense fighting.  Americans remain vulnerable to politically and criminally motivated attacks and violence, including robbery, kidnapping and hostage-taking.  The estimated 5 - 7 million landmines scattered throughout the countryside pose a danger to all residents and visitors to Afghanistan.  

U.S. citizens who decide to enter Afghanistan in spite of this warning are strongly urged to register and obtain updated security information at the American Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, or the U.S. Consulate in Peshwar, Pakistan. ([1]) 

An Invitation Too Good To Turn Down

The United States and its perceived enemies often meet under the strangest of circumstances and in some of the most bizarre locations on earth.  Such was the meeting between the United States and Russia in Afghanistan during the “Cold War” when the two countries used Afghanistan as a place to test their weaponry.  This hot spot caught fire in 1978, when Noor Taraki and his successor Babrak Karmal, both ardent communists, had assumed some power in Afghanistan and then were besieged by Moslem fanatics.  They invited the Russians to assist their undertakings. 

The Russians, who shared a border with Afghanistan, came fully prepared to move into the neighborhood with almost 100,000 troops and modern weapons.  The people of the third poorest country on earth welcomed the Russians with open arms; well, maybe not all the people, but at least some of the people.  The Russians considered Afghanistan just another step in their manifest destiny, and they installed a corrupt communist puppet regime that had little regard for the citizens' social and religious customs. 

Most of the population consists of highly religious Muslims, and the communist puppet masters were typical communists, atheist to the core.  Although there was a diversity of belief, Russia soon become enmeshed in some serious problems while trying to maintain control.  Someone in the foreign language department of foreign affairs in Moscow made a fatal flaw in translation of the Afghanistan language.  For some odd reason, this intelligence genius determined that “mujahedin” meant mixed green vegetables, not "holy warriors of great tenacity, guts and resourcefulness of a nature not found anywhere else on earth.”  When this intelligence error was uncovered by a more literal translation, it was already too late.  In retrospect it is easy to see how Russian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan grew very confused, then very depressed and then very often very dead.

A Religion of Guns 

The mujahedeen takes military culture to a new dimension; they worship their arms almost as much as they worship their God.  From a logistical point of view, the Russians controlled only the cities, while the armed peasants reigned supreme in the countryside.  For the most part, the rag-tag partisans controlled the roads, while the Russians controlled the airports.  Those in the countryside represented various religious and social orders with no particular fondness for one another. This alliance of religious fanatics was implausible and its longevity questionable.  Petty jealousies led to only intermittent cooperation, and between blowing up Russian helicopters and soldiers, in their free time these various factions turned their guns on one another. The United States for once picked the right side, but as we shall see, it was “right” only for a short time. 

Competition between the rival Afghan factions promoted a constant game of “king the hill,” in which the groups would take turns dominating the country.  Whenever that occurred, the other factions would go home for some rest and relaxation, not wanting to fight the other guy’s war.  The Russians were unquestionably a match for any individual tribal group, so that when a bunch of tribes went on vacation, the Russian Army would go on the offensive and punish the dominant faction.  This brought matters back into equilibrium, and the others, energized by their R&R, would pick up their weapons and go back to war.  In spite of these anomalies, the Afghan people were unquestionable fierce fighters; if nothing else, their bravery caused the Russians substantial pain and suffering. 

The battle waxed and waned for a time, with neither the Russians nor this hodge-podge of disparate armies, actively backed with arms and money by the American government, getting the upper hand.  The Americans, in uncharacteristic fashion, donated almost stone-age weapons to their side because the Afghans were conducting a guerrilla war, while the Russians were forced into fighting a high-tech war with helicopters, guided missiles and observer satellites.  The Afghans always knew where to find the Russians, who were always in the cities, but the Russians could never really fathom what the partisans were doing or where they were based. 

This motley group of warlords, drug dealers, tribal leaders, religious fanatics and mujahedeen played cat and mouse with the Russians in a constant game of attack, capture and withdraw.  These “Freedom Fighters” did not have the firepower to sustain their success, even with substantial supplies from the Americans, but they were able to inflict awesome damage on their oppressors.  This expensive stalemate terminated only when the United States grew weary of the game.  The United States had never quite had the courage to give the fierce Afghan warriors tools sophisticated and efficient enough to win the war because the U.S. was anxious to control the spread of highly sophisticated armaments throughout the Islamic world.  On the other hand, the American people were growing weary of another interminable war, and a national election was forthcoming. 

Bringing In The Iron Duke

The CIA, ever the strategist, played its trump card; it had a little weapon in its arsenal called a Stinger.  It was a portable, shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile that could bring down a helicopter from some distance with the extra benefit of being extremely accurate.  More important, it was lightweight and could be carried great distances by one man.  With this kind of weapon, the Afghans could spread terror throughout the world – and this was exactly what the Americans were worried about.  Making matters infinitely worse, the Afghans were better at copying weapons than the Japanese were at copying electronics. 

Ultimately, the U.S. State Department, also desperately needing a victory, instituted some ludicrous controls over the Stingers, and the American government decided to allow these awesome weapons to be given to some of those fighters, but only those who traveled with the American Cadre.  The Stingers started to disappear, and the handwriting was clearly on the wall, for the Afghan fighters had already set up production lines to manufacture the mighty mite.  Pandora's box was breached and the black furies released. 

That was the American Government's first mistake in the region; the second was destroying its historic relationship with Pakistan, an American proxy in the region, which had been willing to carry out U.S. wishes for a price.  American fondness for Pakistan was realistic and based solely on their constant wars with India, then a Russian client.  Pakistan during that time was the best friend the Americans could buy in the region, and as such was authorized to distribute CIA largesse to the Afghans of its choice.  This funding indirectly facilitated the Taliban's (composed mainly of religious students of the extremist kind) rise to power. 

Russian casualties soared from the minute the Stinger came into the war zone.  Worse yet, the Russians’ Afghan client cities, which were armed fortresses, could no longer be reliably re-supplied.  Without arms, food and medicine, Afghanistan quickly became to the Russians what Vietnam had been to the French and the Americans: a place to declare victory and leave as quickly as possible.  This is exactly what they did.  The New York Times, wrote of the state of Afghanistan at that time: "… Afghanistan was virtually obliterated as a functioning state, with thousands of villages in rubble, at least a million people dead, and another five million living abroad as refugees, mostly in Iran and Pakistan." 

In September 1991 the United States and Russia signed an agreement to stop meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan.  However, both signatories to the accord broke the agreement within days.  The United States never stopped supplying money and armaments to Afghanistan, including Soviet rifles that had been supplied to Egypt when it was a client of the USSR.  The CIA cleverly assumed that the continued American involvement would go unnoticed.  Apparently neither side was serious about the agreement, and the Soviets continued to support the Communist Movement in Afghanistan as well.  However, by this time it was deader than the proverbial Dodo Bird. 

Carving Up The Turkey And Its Not Time For Thanksgiving

The insurgent Afghan victors could no more agree on how to carve up their country than a guy with a plastic knife trying to carve up a Thanksgiving Turkey.  A number of lackluster leaders stepped to the plate, but all had been weakened during the battle for independence, and were unable to maintain control.  A new party appeared out of nowhere and began an extensive public relations campaign, informing everyone who had an interest that it was the logical successor to Afghanistan’s leadership.  It was led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, a young religious zealot with one eye and 29 followers.  His group was originally funded with nickels and dimes collected by the Saudi's and the Pakistani's. 

Their message was classic: join us or die.  This tart point soon evolved into one of the world’s greatest public relations coups.  The Taliban quickly succeeded beyond its wildest aspirations by selectively maiming, bombing, beheading and poisoning its enemies, as well as a few friends.  This was a powerful message to the people of Afghanistan, who if nothing else, understood the power of logic. 

On the other hand, card-carrying members of this alliance would gain community, religion, safety, family and God, along with the right to bear arms.  Everyone was free to join, if they would just follow the rules.  This seemed to be Nirvana, at least when compared with the alternative, and the Taliban (“seeker of truth”) quietly filled the leadership void that had existed since the Soviets’ hasty departure.  The pre-existing factions were forced back into the countryside and everything continued as it had.  The Taliban were now fighting their former allies for control of the entire country, but this time they had the advantage. 

In early times, the Afghan villages had strict social and religious rules, thought to have evolved from the necessity for each village member to have a strict responsibility toward each other and the outside world as well.  Violations of this code included amputation for thieves, blasphemers and adulterers, and the reasoning was simple and straightforward.  If you stole from your neighbor, slandered him or had an affair with his wife, you would be unable to work well with him or might end up in a fight with him.  Such behavior was censured because these early village states were at war with the rest of the world.  In a country that had been totally annihilated with considerable help from the outside world, many Afghans concluded that things couldn't get any worse, so why the crazies from the Taliban might as well have their turn at running the nut house. 

A Different Point of View 

The Taliban interpreted life rather simply, whatever it says in Koran was the word of God and that was the way things were going to be. If there was any question as to what god meant, that would be determined by the Taliban Religious Police. Religious Police you say, what's that? Well, it seems that there is a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Taliban dominated region of Afghanistan and the 32,000 men that are anointed by the ministry to determine the way things are to be done. For example, it is not allowed to wrap food in newspapers because of the fact that the paper's writings may contain religious sayings. Foreigners are not allowed to play loud music, eat port or drink alcohol. Soldiers are not allowed to smoke and men are not allowed to trim their beards. Life is strange in Afghanistan and stranger still are the religious police, who for the most part are primarily recently graduated high school volunteers who have had a thorough training in religion, thus qualifying them to enforce their teachings with torment, whippings and even death.  

Some of the more educated Afghans, weary of war, looked the other way when women were sent home from their jobs, as demanded by the new regulations.  These same women were permanently expelled from school, because the Taliban thought that female education was unnecessary and a negative social influence.  Dancing was banned, as was the trimming of men's beards.  They were forbidden to wear nail polish, jewelry, sheer stockings, high-heel shoes, short hair and colorful or stylish clothes.  Couples were not allowed to attend picnics or wedding parties.  They could not buy children's toys, or read or publish magazines, newspapers and most books. 

The Taliban also banned applause, New Year’s Celebrations, television ([2]), kite-flying, bird keeping, music, VCR's, liquor, satellite dishes, photography or the painting of living things, gambling, viewing women's faces and legs, leather jackets, brown paper bags, pigeon-flying, dog-racing, unaccompanied travel by women, card playing, computers and phonographs, and a host of other activities that they considered sacrilegious. Technically, manufacturing activities were banned as well.  If you are traveling to Afghanistan and want to keep current on what you can't do, additional things that the Taliban are against can be seen by going to their Website (would you believe?), www.Taliban.com.  A few examples are listed below: 

Drive of Kandahar Police Against Antisocial Elements: The Kandahar police in a drive against antisocial elements yesterday, rounded up different criminals from around the city.  They arrested a man and sized …240 song cassettes and packs of playing cards from his possessions.  All the things were then set on fire while the culprit was handed over to the police.” 

Television Seized and Smashed in Kabul: The religious police have started their country-wide campaign of destroying televisions, VCR's, satellite dishes, etc…. On Tuesday, here in Kabul, hundreds of television sets and other instruments of immoral pastimes were seized from markets and work places and then destroyed.  These means of corruption were, in some places, even thrown out of the windows in high buildings to smash on the streets below.  A source revealed that the campaign would be carried on with the same fervor and zeal until the time of the complete destruction of these instruments of moral depravity.  Aug 9, 1998.” 

The Have Punishments That Are Unique

These guys were just warming up and sending out a message when they unloaded this one: 

Punishment on Trimming Beard and Keeping Un-Islamic Hairstyle: The religious police…arrested several people in different crimes during several raids in different parts of the city.  They arrested and gave sharia punishment to 13 shopkeepers for not offering congregational prayers….Similarly, dozens of people were given punishment for trimming their beards….Meanwhile, the religious police gave hard sharia punishment to three taxi drivers who had allowed unescorted women to sit in their taxis and issued an order according to which no women could go the doctor even for medicine unless accompanied by a male relative.  Similarly, some private schools for women were also ordered to be closed, which were open in homes….According to an official of the religious police…some weak elements were trying to pave way for indecency and dissension among women under cover of education; therefore, all such schools have been order to close down.  July 19, 1998.” 

Can you image the International Red Cross doing the following?  Maybe they were just fortifying themselves for life in Afghanistan: 

Liquor Seized at Kabul International Airport: A large amount of liquor was seized from Kabul International Airport.  This liquor was being smuggled by the officials of an international welfare organization, and it was shipped from Islamabad, Pakistan to Kabul, when it was seized by the Taliban security forces.  Later, liquor is burnt in fire…previously also; liquor bottles were recovered from the officers of Red Cross International organization during search Kabul airport.  July 26, 1998.” 

You know how difficult things have gotten when the Red Cross is determined to be a subversive organization.  They were probably going to attempt to bribe officials in order to get permission to supply sick people with medicine and to give starving people free food.  Can you imagine the officials in Pakistan, who might be the only friends the Taliban ever had, allowing subversive organizations such as the Red Cross to transport contraband across the border? 

Prohibition of TV, VCR Essential to Save Society from Destruction:  An edict was issued by the religious police ordering the destruction or disposal of all TV sets, VCR's, videocassettes, etc. in the country within 15 days.  ’No one is allowed to keep these things in their home or shops.  Selling or dealing in such goods is strictly prohibited from now on.  Restriction is imposed upon mechanics of corruption and depravity,’ the order maintained.” 

In an interview, the deputy head of the Taliban's religious ministry said that they had no other option but to cleanse the society of corruption and moral depravity.   "We had banned all television, videocassette recorders, videos, satellite dishes, audio cassettes of recorded songs and music from the country when we took control.  But the ban had not been strictly imposed, and taking advantage of our leniency, people are watching TV in their homes.  So we have decided to remedy this."  July 19, 1998. 

All Quiet On The Western Front

This war was the kind the Taliban knew how to fight, and they have been able to totally control the people through religion, something the Russians were never able to do.  There were no helicopters to knock out of the sky with sophisticated weapons; there were no aerial transports to destroy as they lumbered fully loaded in airports around the country re-supplying the enemy.  There were no Russian troops longing to go home in a country that they could never subdue.  This was an enemy that could fight by the old rules, but also made new ones as needed in order to maintain a tight grip on the overall situation.  This group started with only a handful of followers, and when they took control of most of the country, the Taliban forces numbered less than 3,000.  The difference was that these 3,000 were organized and dedicated, whereas their opponents seemed to be out to lunch. 

To make matters even stranger, the Iranians, who shared the Taliban’s fundamentalist Muslim orthodoxy, do not support their co-religionists’ Islamic religious zeal.  They supply weapons and money to Ahmed Shah Massoud, just one of a group of many pretenders to the crown of Kabul.  The Iranians have formed some sort of convoluted alliance with the French to re-supply Massoud, who has been fighting the good fight in Afghanistan for over 30 years.  You would think that by this time, the guy would be getting tired. 

When the smoke cleared, the Russians realized that their defeat did not end their encounters with the Taliban.  According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, "Russia considers the stepped-up military activities by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan as a real threat to the commonwealth's southern borders."  The Russian government, no longer the monolithic Soviet Union, but the newly “democratic” Russia, was particularly concerned that the Taliban would start exporting its strange theocracy to the Muslim dominated former Russian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  One cannot blame the Russians for opposing the delivery of this type of fanaticism to their back door, but you can also understand their reluctance to engage in military action against their own people.  The Russians couldn’t even subdue Chechnya. 

But They May Ruin The  Neighborhood

The Taliban are not known for their command of the social graces.  In spite of the fact that they unquestionably control the largest slice of Afghanistan, very few countries have recognized the Taliban regime, including the United Nations.  The United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only nations willing to acknowledge their existence.  Maybe  the Afghans believe they can invite visitors to their Kabul National Stadium (constructed by the United Nations) on Fridays at 3:30 in the afternoon for a little entertainment, they will rise to the top of the social five hundred.  Imagine the surprise when the invited audience, instead of an exhibition of dressage, witnesses mujahedeen amputating the limbs of thieves, and flogging and killing others.  An experience that Nero would have found to his liking, but not exactly the key to admission to the horsy set. 

Nevertheless, the Taliban demonstrated their absolute control by quickly altering the national flag and raising it in front of a national audience at an important event.  They had chosen their weekly “Friday Wall Collapsing on Robber When Tank Crushes It” as the entertainment.  This was always a big event and an ideal time to unveil the new flag, since everyone’s eyes would be fixed on the arena floor.  The audience gasped as it was raised over the main coliseum in Kabul, for the new flag was just a piece of plain white cloth, yes, just a piece of plain white cloth.  One of the startled spectators remarked that in case of renewed hostilities it would double as a bandage or the willingness to surrender.  However, this was not exactly what the ever-resourceful Taliban had in mind.  To them the piece of cloth represented peace and purity, and they were stunned when audience did not seem to fathom the significance of this surreal design masterpiece.  But this was only the first day of the Taliban era, and things quickly went downhill from there. 

The Taliban were convinced that men lusted after women, and that a woman who revealed any part of her anatomy affronted Allah by unleashing men’s baser instincts.  Soon after taking control of most of Afghanistan, they established rules that would prevent man's natural lust from interfering with either his work or his religion.  While this kept the noses of Afghan males to the grindstone didn't do much for the women, who became virtual cult hostages. 

Universally Bad

The Physicians for Human Rights (“PHR”) stated: 

"The extent to which the Taliban regime has threatened the freedoms and needs of Afghan women is unparalleled in recent history.  Taliban policies of systematic discrimination against women seriously undermine the health and well being of Afghan women.  Such discrimination and the suffering it causes constitute an affront to the dignity and worth of Afghan women, and humanity as a whole....To our knowledge, no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment from showing their faces, seeking medical care without a male escort, or attending school…" 

The report indicates that in their opinion the Taliban emerged from a group of educated rural Pashtun youths mostly recruited from refugee camps and religious schools in neighboring Pakistan.  It further found fault with the Taliban  interpretation of the Sharia (Islamic law), but after so many years of killing and with so many regimes coming and going before the Taliban took over, there really had been no laws, no courts, no judges, no nothing.  Who was to say whether the Taliban analysis was true to the Muslim Religion or not. 

But that hardly mattered, and the Taliban kept upping the ante: 

"In public, women must be covered from head to toe in a burqa, a head-to-toe cloth covering with only a mesh opening to see and breath through.  Women are not permitted to wear white (the color of the Taliban flag) socks or white shoes, or shoes that make noise while women are walking.  Also, houses and buildings in public view must have their windows painted over if females are present in the household." 

The Physicians for Human Rights were so offended by the Taliban that they proposed a number of measures to get them to change their minds.  Among those suggestions were the following: the re-evaluation of aid to Afghanistan, recognition of women seeking escape to other countries as refugees permitted asylum, foreign investment to be curtailed and that the Taliban should not be given the Afghanistan Seat at the United Nations until they change their act.

Now You Have Really Angered Me

This action only angered Taliban leadership, and the religious army immediately ordered bus drivers to put up curtains on their buses so that women could not be looked upon by even the driver himself.  As if on a roll, they then ordered separate buses for women and men and made it illegal for women to drive.  Bus drivers should hire prepubescent boys to collect fares from women passengers, as no mature man should look at them.  As a warning to bus drivers to adhere to orders to the letter, the Taliban declared that any bus driver wearing long hair or shiny clothes or playing music would be subject to a severe beating.  In addition, the drivers were charged with insuring the boys collecting fares avoided looking at the women passengers.  Should the boy look at the women who were depositing their fares, the driver would be flogged.  The flaw in this concept was the driver’s location behind a screen.  He couldn’t see either the boy or the women.  This problem did not phase the Taliban religious leaders, who indicated that God, would indeed know, and would send them a message. 

Moreover, even if a woman were to go outdoors with a close relative, she must wear a burqa covering her body from head to toe.  If that wasn't bad enough, the prescribed burqa costs six months salary, and for women who are not working, it is terribly difficult to come up with the price.  Thus, all of the women in the neighborhood are forced to share the same garment, and even if a woman has money to buy food and has none in the house, if her time to use the garment has not arrived she must go hungry until the burqa  becomes available to her. 

It is also illegal for either men or women to have sex if they are not married.  The penalty for not complying with this edict is 100 lashes in public for both the offending man and woman.  If both the man and women engage in this unbelievably irreligious act, and both are married to others and found together, under any circumstances, the penalty is a bit more severe.  The offending couple is to be stoned to death.  But they are not talking about just being caught in bed with someone, for walking down the street with someone that was not a relative also qualifies.   

In addition the Taliban issued an edict that made it illegal for women to drive a vehicle in the country even if they were in the process of saving lives. They said that female drivers are "against Afghan traditions and negatively impact society." In a related action, the Taliban ordered all ethnic Hindus to wear a yellow cloth on their shirt pockets so that they could easily be distinguished from Muslims. Their excuse for this outrageous actions was simple, the Hindus did not have to obey the Muslim customs and this would save them from the embarrassment of arrest by the Taliban religious police. Adding insult to injury, the Taliban closed two United Nations bakeries which were providing bread to Afghanistan poor because of their employment of women. They followed up that insensitive act by beating up the staff at an Italian charity hospital because men and women were eating in the same room. 

Well, No One Said That These Guys Were Brain Surgeons

Especially interesting was the case of the women that were working for the United Nations World Food Program who were baking and serving bread to almost 400,000 impoverished people a day in Kabul and almost four-million people across the country. This comes to 200,000 tons of bread annual at the approximate rate of 4.4 pounds of bread per family per day. While their is a price for the bread so that it does not go to waste, the subsidy provided by The World Food Program and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, covers about 90% of the foods cost and in this forum almost $80 million a year is being spent in Afghanistan for the program. The United Nation's agency is financing over 250 bakeries in Afghanistan of which only 45 are totally operated by women. Approximately 500 women are employed in this capacity in the country earning about $20 a month. These jobs are particularly critical to the women involved because most of them are widows with families to support. 

 Not only had the World Food Agency and the United Nations been providing this service for five years but in many cases, the five pieces of bread that each person was being given in most cases probably represented the only food that these people were receiving at all.  The loss of the program caused the formerly impoverished people to immediately become beggars causing massive congestion on Kabul's streets with hungry people ensconced at every street corner with their hands out.  Inconceivably, all that the United Nations wanted to do was hire a large number of people  to conduct a survey analyzing the food distribution needs of the country. It seems that this year's drought is one of the worst to ever the country and the ensuing famine has to some degree reached into almost every Afghan household. The last time the United Nation's team had redone their list of needy was five years ago. The UN team was concerned that many of the people on the list may have moved away, some no longer needed aid and many new families were in dire need that had not been in that position the last time the list had been redone. 

Because of the fact that in Afghanistan, the only people that women can talk to are other women.  The Taliban wanted their own people to do work;  the United Nations worried about getting skewed figures opted for bringing in its own personnel. Push came to shove and finally the Taliban said they would not allow UN chosen people roaming around their country and they certainly didn't want any men to go door to door, interviewing Afghan women, who were not allowed to talk to them by the Taliban's strict interpretation of their religious law. . Eventually, the United Nations was forced to give in because they became concerned about many of their former bread line customers starving to death. The end result only hurt the Taliban who undoubtedly will come with an unreliable report, once again effecting its own people. 

The World Food Agency put the situation in Afghanistan in a memorandum on June 8, 2001. "There is mounting evidence of emerging widespread famine conditions in the country, reflecting substantially reduced food intakes, collapse of the purchasing power of the people, distress sales of livestock, large-scale depletion of personal assets, soaring food-grain prices, rapidly increasing numbers of destitute people, and ever swelling ranks of refugees and internally displaced persons."

On April 23, 1999, the UN Human Rights Commission condemned the Taliban’s misogyny.  The United Nations Commission indicated that women had been discriminated against beyond contemplation.  The Commission's report indicated that the Taliban should cooperate in an "urgent investigation of these heinous crimes, with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.”  By consensus, the Commission determined that the Taliban had committed, "widespread violations, including the rights to life, liberty and security of person, freedom from torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” 

Women are not the only ones ordained to a life of misery under Taliban rule.  Many years of fighting in and around the City of Kabul, have orphaned hundreds of children.  There is no one to care for them, and orphaned girls come in for a particular kind of hell.  As we have discussed before, members of the female gender are not allowed to go to school.  Therefore, what does a child who has neither a home nor parents do by themselves? 

Not Exactly What You Would Call A Good Situation

Orphaned boys, at least, are sent to a school paid for by an international agency, ASHIANA, a Swiss based charity, but the girls just live in the streets and are left to fend for themselves.  Most spend their days collecting garbage and wood to sell and burn.  If the girls are lucky, they will be housed in an orphanage at night, but there is a scarcity of medicine and what little heat there is, is supplied by the International Red Cross.  There is no money for clothes and less for doctors because all of the other relief agencies have left Afghanistan in protest over Taliban policies.  Even the usually taciturn International Red Cross was recently ready to pull up stakes over the abduction, beating and robbery of 10 of its workers in Afghanistan. 

In addition, the Taliban don’t make going to classes too appealing for the children; between the harsh discipline they receive and a heavy quotient of religious training, it is not exactly fun. Moreover, previously, young male children going to school were obliged only to wear caps in deference to their religion. Apparently, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who many have indicated had no toys when he was a child, has indicated that school children will now be obligated to wear uncomfortable turbans.  It is not just the fact that the wearing one of these “fashion statements” is extremely uncomfortable, but moreover it is expensive. In a country where the average wage is about $10 per month, a turban that costs between $1.50 and $15.00 can become quite a budgetary problem. However, when compared to the fact that women must wear burqas that cover them from head to toe, the boys actually get off extremely easily. Interesting enough, mature men are only obligated to where these turbans only if they work for the government, all other men need only cover their heads, which is what the schoolboys were doing in the first place. I guess it all boils down to the mode, Mullah Mohmmed Omar is in when he gets up in the morning.  

Another Taliban gift to the children of Afghanistan is the plethora of land mines that are liberally strewn around the countryside; any where between 5 and 10 million to be inexact.  The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) put the figure at between 5 and 7 million, made up of fifty varying varieties, ranging from the anti-tank specials to the anti-personnel variety or what would be called in the nomenclature, the human killers.  The Human Rights Organization, Halo Trust, said the number of mines of all types was over 6 million, and the United States Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs sets the number closer to 10 million, they and the Russians should know, best as they know how many they shipped there.  Thus, Afghanistan ranks as one of the deadly dozen most heavily mined countries in the world, joining the ranks of such highly desirable vacation hideaways as Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Nicaragua and Sudan.  If you took all of the mines in the ground in all of the world's countries, half of them could be located within the narrow list of these 12 countries. A terribly dubious honor.  

Landmines create two major classes of people in Afghanistan, the first being refugees (over two million Afghans have left for Iran and Pakistan alone), almost solely because of mines.  One of the most startling statistics we have ever analyzed is that fully 17% of all Afghans are disabled, a staggering 3.5 million people.  The actual number of disabled people is actually twice as high, because the 17% figure only counts those people who require some sort of ongoing treatment or the addition of artificial limbs.  The other class of people denominated in this “land mine based” culture is Afghanistan’s astounding orphan population.  Although there are no hard statistics, the United Nations Children's Fund found that two of every three children interviewed living in the Kabul area (not a place that is known for mines) had witnessed someone being killed, mostly by mines.  Moreover, seven out of 10 children had lost a close relative from the disastrous cause. 

The World's Cellar, Rats and All

A piece that appeared in The News International, November 6, 1998, by Ismail Khan deserves special attention: 

"…The continuing civil war, it (UNHCR) said had severely affected the economy of Afghanistan.  Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has fallen substantially since 1982 because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption of trade and transport.  The UNDP now rates Afghanistan as 171 out of 173 countries in terms of greatest poverty and least development.  According to ICRC statistics, the most dangerous activities to rural populations are tilling fields, herding livestock and foraging for wood and food.  Overall, national figures on the rate of landmine-related injuries and death are not available, but casualty estimates indicate that landmines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) cause an estimated 10 to 12 civilian casualties per day.  Recent MSF and ICRC surveys suggest that this figure is too low, since many victims never get to treatment centers because of lack of transportation, significant distances, or impassible roads." 

The Taliban has a vendetta against just about everyone, and recently they went out of their way to really irritate their once-friendly neighbor, Iran.  Some genius in Kabul came up with a new method of killing people on the cheap by herding men, women and children together, stuffing them live into a shipping container and then letting it bake in the sun for about a week.  When the container is dumped at the local garbage site, a substantive number of people will have been murdered without the expenditure of one nickel.  This particular type of genocide has been reported by the Human Rights Watch as a result of a particular incident in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif: 

"The scale of violations in Afghanistan and suffering of the civilian population warrants the urgent attention of the world community.  The special rapporteur is horrified by the latest reports from Afghanistan, which are profoundly disturbing and indicate a worsening pattern of grave human rights violations.  Even animals, such as donkeys, goats and sheep were killed, and since the streets were crowded with people going about their normal life, numerous shopkeepers, beggars and 35 boys selling soft drinks in the street were killed in this manner." ([3]

Courting Disaster 

Recently, the Taliban lost some men in a pitched battle, and held the town in which their death occurred accountable.  The Taliban army went into a killing frenzy, and in so doing made a serious miscalculation.  In their anxiety to containerize the entire town as rapidly as possible, they rounded up ten diplomats from neighboring Iran and containerized them along with the locals.  Tehran really became upset about having their high ranking officials baked alive; wouldn't you just know it, before you could blink an eye, 200,000 armed Iranians were standing on the Afghan border looking very mean.  Eventually, very high level discussions between the two countries cooled emotions down a bit, but Iran no longer views the Taliban as a pet puppy dog. 

Nearly going to war with Iran created a gloomy feeling in Kabul, and the clergy invited the citizens to the Olympic sports stadium for some excitement to improve everyone’s disposition.  They drove two thieves were into the stadium and summarily dumped them into the clutches of Taliban physicians with surgical scalpels.  Faster than you say Jack Robinson, the right hands of the crooks were severed and displayed to the adoring crowd of 30,000.  The crowd jeered as the thieves were thrown into the back of a jeep, sans one hand.  

The signs on walls all over Kabul proclaimed next week's event, which would be much bigger and more grand.  The supreme leader of the Taliban, Mjullah Mohammad Omar was going to give the crowd a particularly good show.  Three men accused of "buggery" would be partially buried alive and a bulldozer would then bulldoze a wall onto their heads.  Everyone in the country was well aware that Mohammad Omar was ingenious when it came to dealing with criminals, but this was his most imaginative idea yet – and he is only thirty-six years old, with little experience at this sort of thing.  A quiver went through the throngs as they contemplated their leader coming up with bolder and more entertaining ways of killing people as time went on.  Mohammad certainly had taken the edge off of the Iranian problem. 

Moreover, there was a down side to this entertaining diversion.  No one could believe that anything could top this event, and the government did not want to disappoint the people.  After all, there was little the people were able to do under the barren Taliban regulation, and an occasional maiming at the stadium seemed to pick up everyone’s spirits.  And yet, tickets weren’t moving quickly enough and concerns were becoming evident.  In order to keep clientele coming to the stadium, the government would have to come up with something extra special. 

Just Being A Sadist Doesn't Make Him A Bad Guy

Well, the ingenuity of these guys is amazing, and they came up with an new spectacle: a multiple simultaneous lashing.  In Afghanistan gambling is punished by a mandatory sentence of 39 lashes, with police officials holding the offender’s arms and legs.  In this particular instance, a small private card game was raided by the Taliban religious police.  It was a stroke of luck that so many players could be lashed at the same time.  Unfortunately, the overall turnout was not satisfactory to the Taliban leadership.  A government wag pointed out that a woman could be sentenced to 100 lashes in public for doing just about anything, so why would the general population get excited about a couple of guys in a card game getting 39.  Clearly the Taliban leadership would have to come up with something better than that if they want to keep the crowd happy.  On bad hairs days in Kabul, after the victim has received the required number of lashes, a substantial amount of salt is rubbed into the wounds so that the skin puffs up. This is repeated on a regular basis should the prisoner become cantankerous or if the crowd is in the mode.

The Taliban leadership tried again, and this time they picked up a guy for sexually assaulting a boy of twelve.  In this particular punishment, the Taliban decided to have a tank knock down a wall, which would collapse on the hapless prisoner breaking every bone in his body, and therefore justice is considered done.  In this case, it didn’t turn out exactly the way the Taliban had intended.  While the tank gave the wall a good push, and the whole thing collapsed on the guy, burying him beneath the ruble, things didn’t work out according to expectations.  The crowd cheered ecstatically when he was pronounced dead on the spot, and some in the multitude indicated that this was finally the kind of thing that made everything in Afghanistan worthwhile.  Imagine the disappointment on the following day when security officers announced that the child molester was still alive.  In the normal course of events, they had taken him to the hospital after he was crushed by the wall and doctors there, found a pulse, and soon thereafter he sat up.  After thorough tests were run on him, it was determined by the medical staff that he was really none the worse for wear. 

Moreover, he could not be punished further, because under Islamic law, if a criminal survives his punishment, he must be allowed to live.  Imagine the shock when the crowd – who were convinced that the guy had died – found out that the pervert was in reality an 84-year old married man who had even given up sex with his wife because of his advanced age.  "I was wrongfully convicted for sodomy.  And God has proven my innocence.  My whole body aches with pain, but thank God I have returned from the jaws of death," said Shuma Khan.  Taliban extremists retorted that no one is perfect with the exception of God.  Besides, if they were more careful with their convictions in the future, what would the people do on Fridays?  This was truly a conundrum. 

Second [RAS1]offenders always allow the ticket scalpers to increase prices for stadium tickets, and these guys really rake in the money when a public amputation is held at the stadium.  In this particular case, the double amputations took two forms.  first was for six unlucky guys out for a good time who made the mistake of disguising themselves as Taliban Military Personnel and robbing a few passengers on a downtown Kabul bus.  For this act they were relieved of their right hands and left feet.  However, the crowd was really waiting to see a thief who had already lost his right hand lose his left for stealing $200 worth of carpets.  He was forced to parade around the circumference of the stadium showing his newly stumped left hand while the crowd roared its appreciation. What an event!  These Taliban guys sure know how to put on a party. 

This kind of entertainment, though, is not confined to Friday afternoons at the stadium. For instance, the Taliban leadership castrated and hanged the former communist president of Afghanistan and his brother and then left them swinging from a lamppost in downtown Kabul for three days.  They would have left them up longer, but the bodies were attracting flies and starting to smell. 

Everyone really got it on in downtown Kabul recently when a mother, home alone, determined to rush her critically ill child to the doctor.  She left the house correctly clothed for the occasion, but a teenage Taliban guard determined that a woman's place is in the home and fired his Kalashnikov machine-gun at her.  Luckily for her, she did not die on the spot, and others in the crowded marketplace intervened.  Taliban religious authorities, when questioned regarding the incident, indicated that the affair was entirely her fault, as "she had no right being out in public in the first place."

A Rather Strange Spectacle

When that didn't sell to well with the crowd, the Taliban needed a patsy and so arrested all of the butchers in Kabul, taping their butcher knives to their heads and loaded them in open trucks for a parade.  It seems the butchers had raised their prices higher than Taliban religious leaders thought necessary, so Taliban soldiers paraded them through the town, beating them as they cried out admission of their crime of overcharging.  A great time was had by all.  Many of the people on the crowded thoroughfares remarked that this was even better than the previous day, when a petty few thieves were paraded down the streets by the soldiers with blackened faces and Afghani money shoved so tightly in their mouths that they were barely breathing. 

Kabul is not popular with tourists for obvious reasons:  “Packs of rabid dogs roaming parts of war-ravaged Kabul have been attacking people and infecting them with rabies.  In the last five days, 24 people, many of them children, have been treated at the hospital for rabies.  In nearby Ghazni province, treatment has not been available, 90 people died of rabies last month.”[4]  “The rich people can go to Pakistan for treatment, but the poor people have no choice….All they can do is stay here and wait to die."[5]  Officials at the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul are calling it an emergency.  They didn't have figures, but they said that many of the bite victims have died, either because they arrived at hospitals too late for treatment or were unable to buy the medicine. " 

So as we bid adieu to beautiful downtown Kabul and head off into the sunset, we are concerned about some of our remembrances.  This is a truly religious land that believes in purity for its own sake, and yet while they say they protect women's rights, they keep them uneducated and literally hold them under house arrest; that is, unless they are the wives or female relatives of senior Taliban Officials.  These women are being sent to the finest schools in Europe. 

Nirvana Right Here On Earth

Drug addicts, dealers and manufacturers are put to death in most horrible ways, while Afghanistan produces and sells to the West more opium and heroin than any other country in the world.  The Taliban has banned the use of Internet and computers in the country, but you can check out the Taliban’s own "home page," where they proselytize the global hackers and viewers.  They make large waves when punishing criminals and murderers and yet, very often, their verdicts are faulty because the judicial infrastructure has been decimated and there are no secular courts.  However, they fervently believe that when an innocent person is punished, it is God's Will. 

Afghanistan always had enough food for all of its people under previous regimes, but today cannot feed even a fraction of it population because the women who used to join their men in the field to pick the crops can no longer go outside their homes.  The result is that much of the crop rots.  Starvation, especially among the young, has become the rule, rather than the exception.  According to the most recent United Nation's statistics, 40% of Kabul’s population now exists on handouts of food, either from charitable agencies or from begging. 

The Taliban have offended their friends and enemies alike and have fashioned a country that will soon have the lowest standard of living in the world.  These religious fanatics have driven out of Afghanistan every relief agency that sought to provide help to their people, except for the International Red Cross, and are now an inch away from losing them.  The Iranians were early supporters of the Taliban form of literal Koran interpretation, and Afghanistan received substantial assistance from them.  The fearsome armies of the Iranians now sit on the border with Afghanistan, geared up to invade at a moment’s notice.  The Taliban have also embarrassed their Pakistani brethren.  The Saudi's, who support the Taliban only because they don't want the dubious distinction of having the world's worst record regarding women's rights, are also about to pull the plug. 

Himmler Would Have Been Indeed Proud of These Guys

The Taliban are outdoing the Nazi’s in their sadistic religious rule.  Even Hitler had the courage of his convictions and never brought the name of God into the equation when serious killing had to be done. He did he work in the name of ethnic cleansing, a sadistic and bizarre conception. When the Taliban put someone to death or cull out those of another race, it is always being done in the name of Allah. 

In any event, a new word has crept into the vocabulary of the countries surrounding Afghanistan: “Talibanization,” meaning the export of religious destabilization in the form of Islamic fundamentalism.  The Pakistanis have already seemed to been overcome by this form of religious stupefaction through their porous borders with Afghanistan.  The active participants at the moment in this passive war are now, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia matched up against Russia, India, Iran and the four former Soviet Republics that border on Afghanistan, the home base of the Taliban.  Why on earth, you ask, would the Pakistanis, living right next door to these nuts, want to have anything to do with them.  The answer is uncomplicated, since the Pakistan Government is far more concerned with their border with India then they are with their Afghan border.  Pakistan does not have a lot of friends since the Cold War ended, and they have seemed to have used up their international usefulness.  They don’t have anyone interested in coming to their aid, should India decide that all of Pakistan really belongs to them.  Hence, the Pakistanis hope centers around the possibly that India wouldn’t want to get involved in a war with Afghanistan. 

In any event, during the Cold War the U.S. chose both Pakistan and Afghanistan as allies.  Russia’s friends were America’s enemies and vice versa.[6]  While this may well have been appropriate at the time, the United States had unleashed a gigantic plague.  The Afghanis set up camps around their country that: 

“Became virtual universities for promoting pan-Islamic radicalism in Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Jordan, the Philippines and Bangladesh.  Americans woke up to the danger only in 1993, when Afghan-trained Arab militants blew up the World Trade Center in New York, killing six people and injuring 1,000.  The bombers believed that just as Afghanistan had defeated one superpower, the Soviet Union, they would defeat a second.  One of the main recruiters of Arab militants for the Afghan jihad was bin Laden.  As the richest and highest-ranking Saudi to participate in the struggle, he was heavily patronized by the ISI and Saudi intelligence.  

Bin Laden left Afghanistan in 1990, but returned in May 1996.  Soon he turned on his former patrons and issued his first “Declaration of Jihad” against the Saudi royal family and the Americans, whom he accused of occupying his homeland….Kenya, Tanzania and the United States accused bin Laden of financing terrorist camps in Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Egypt and Afghanistan.  A few days later, America fired cruise missiles at bin Laden’s camps in eastern Afghanistan, killing nearly 20 militants, but leaving his network unharmed.  Washington demanded bin Laden’s extradition; the Taliban refused to comply.” ([7]

Please, No Autographs

The Taliban are so mysterious and circumspect that hardly anyone in Afghanistan even knows what the leader, Mullah Muhammad Omer, even looks like.  He will not allow pictures of him to be taken because of Muslim law, and as we have pointed out previously, the country has a ban on television.  The only generally known fact about him is that he has only one eye.  What is known is that Umad is not a city dweller and is content to make his decisions from afar.  Even with little inter-reaction between the leader and the people, the autocratic nature of the government and the severe penalties for disobedience to the religion or government, or maybe because of it, the people in power command more than a modicum of respect.  

Another strange player in this ugly game is the Islamic Jihad which started in Egypt as the organization that did in Anwar el-Sadat. Sadat was on the reviewing stand gazing upward gawking at the sleek Egyptian jets streaming by faster than the speed of sound. He was hit by Sergeant Hussein Abbas bullet right in the neck. No sooner was Sadat pronounced dead, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad announced their existence and the fact that they had done the deed. It didn't take long for the Egyptian government to find out a lot about the organization from Sgt, Abbas who by this time had been placed on a rack or some similar device which would insure his cooperation. He proceeded to inform the Egyptian Government that this was a rather large and well organized group and that it was dedicated to the downfall of the Egyptian Government and its replacement with a Fundamentalist twang to it.

Another Player In This Strange Scenario

This event occurred over twenty years ago and yet, in spite of all of the Egyptian Government attempts to make it go away, it has only become stronger and more pervasive. At first, its members were summarily jailed and tortured while today, laws have been passed that have almost given the Fundamentalists legitimacy. The leaders of the organization, Ayman-al-Zawahiri a prominent Egyptian surgeon and Muhammad Atif a brilliant military strategist have been forced to leave the country because of their very vocal efforts to dislodge those in power. Naturally they found a strong ally in bin Laden who offered them the run of the house in Afghanistan, a country that has never turned down the admission of a master terrorist. The deadly duo joined with Osama and have been not only accepted into his inner circle but they become singularly important cogs in his terror campaign. They have brought money, conscripts and military planning into an operation that had previously been hit or miss. 

The conscripts that they added were those with the really special skills that are required of terrorists such as the ability of planting explosives in hospitals and schools under the cover of darkness, those with the ability to create masterful forgers of passports, money or edicts and those with the ability to convince, the naive and uneducated to give up their lives for a cause that they really don't even come close to understanding. This is an army in which the privates are delegated all of the dirty work and their senior officers are never put into harms way. Those that were in charge  of the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the lowest ranking conscripts in the organization and there was not a senior member that came even close to giving up his life. In the name of Allah these masters of psychological warfare are able to convince ignorant followers that by dying they will find fulfillment but their leaders seem to always be following a somewhat different course. It has not dawned on them as yet that they are only small pawns on a massive chessboard and are being moved around at will by a group of madman who are unwilling to assume the same risks as those required of their conscripts. 

As time progressed, the Jihad and the Al Qaeda began to take on similar trappings and today it has become a major stretch to tell them apart. The Islamic Jihad recently seems to have lost its  early visions and instead of concentrating on the fall of the Egyptian Government they have joined bin Laden in conspiring almost unilaterally against the United States. They have now become truly international terrorists as they have exponentially expanded their horizons into hoped for class struggle, the Christians and Jews against the Muslims. It almost seems like a repeat of the battles waged during the Middle Ages between two highly ignorant and religiously motivated groups. The difference today is the fact that only one side is ignorant and interested in picking a fight. 

The New York Times in an article entitled, "Forged in Egypt, Is Seen as bin Laden's Backbone" by Neil MacFargquhar put it into perspective, "The toll in Egypt mounted throughout the decade, with 1,200 police officers and Islamic militants killed, although the number of Islamic Jihad members killed is put around 25. Some 16,000 people with suspected links to Islamic movements remain jailed, according to human rights organizations. 

In reality, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad has split into two specific groups, the first are the Egyptian Fundamentalists who feel that they have been had by their leaders. The fact that they have unfinished work in Egypt and yet are out scouting new fish to fry, the so called crusaders have gradually been eased out of the local infrastructure. However, not to worry, they have attached themselves to greater causes in February of 1998 such as the Islamic Front For Fighting Crusaders and Jews, which is formulated with the idea of attacking American interests throughout the world as their primary. This has taken some of the steam out of the Egyptian Fundamentalist Movement as some of their brightest stars are now sharing sheep kabob in the Afghanistan mountain ranges.

Running The Economy At Full Throttle  

Guess which country produced 75% of the world’s illegal opium?  Guess who is the world's biggest opium exporter?  Guess which country considers it a crime to grow, cultivate, sell or use opium?  You get the prize if you guess Afghanistan is the correct answer to all three questions.  If you ask, "How can that be?" you ask a question where the answer isn't at all simple.  First of all, the country is really poor, and the stuff that is grown and later manufactured, upgraded and exported has been estimated by the United Nations Drugs Control Programme (UNDCP) to have a street value of just over $10 billion.  That's up a resounding 16% over the previous years harvest. 

“Around Kandahar, poppy fields stretch as far as the horizon.  In Herat, the Taliban have set up model farms where farmers learn the best methods of heroin cultivation.  The U.N. Drug Control Program reports that Afghanistan produced 4,600 metric tons of opium in 1999 – twice as much as in the previous year.  Afghanistan now produces three times more opium than the rest of world put together.  Ninety-six percent of it is cultivated in Taliban-controlled areas, making the Taliban the largest heroin producer in the world.  The Taliban collect a 20% tax from opium dealers and transporters – money that goes straight to the Taliban war chest.  The Northern Alliance imposes a similar tax on opium shipments crossing into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  Drug dealers operate the only banking system in the country – offering farmers credit in advance of their poppy crop.  This criminalized economy has weakened states throughout the region.” 

“Whereas Afghan opium was exported to the West through Pakistan in 1980, there are now multiple export routes through Iran, the Persian Gulf states and Central Asia.  As these routes expand, so do the beneficiaries.  U.S. officials claim that, with most of his bank accounts frozen, bin Laden now finances his operations through opium.  Chinese officials report that drug smuggling from Afghanistan is similarly funding the Uighur opposition.  Uzbekistan’s government has drawn a direct drug-smuggling link between Afghanistan and the Ferghana Valley, where the IMU is based.  The civil war in Tajikistan was partly fueled by Afghan drugs, and Pakistan’s economy has been crippled by them.  Furthermore, according to governments in the region, heroin addiction is growing, there are now five million addicts in Pakistan, three million in Iran, and one million in China, largely in Xinjiang.” 

“We have not tried to separate poppies from other crops when it comes to collecting taxes.  Most of our energies are currently spent on the war in the north, not accounting procedures,” said the governor of Qandahar.  “We hope to eliminate the poppy fields in the future.  We will not then have to worry about which crops are being sold or taxed after they are eliminated.” ([8]

When approached about the situation, the Taliban did not even think of denying the facts.  They didn't want to talk about all of the drug addicts and sellers in their own country whom they had for being involved in opium commerce.  They would only talk about what they would do if the United Nations recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and turned over that seat to them.  "If the Islamic Emirate (the Taliban) is accorded recognition without condition by the U.N., the Emirate will seriously ban unconditionally cultivation of poppy throughout the country," stated Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban Islamic militia leader, in what must be considered a definite maybe. 

“Poppies are grown in 10 of Afghanistan’s 29 provinces, and 8 of those 10 are under strict Taliban control.  The UNDCP estimates that 96% of the raw opium produced in Afghanistan comes from Taliban-held areas.  The Taliban have stated that cultivating, producing and selling illicit drugs is strictly forbidden by Islamic law, ’growing a crop that will produce an illicit drug is evil and against Islamic law, just like using an illicit drug,’ declared the governor of Qandahar province, Mullah Muhammad Hassan.  ’This is written in the Koran.’” 

“The suspicion is that the Taliban militia is benefiting handsomely, financially, from the opium industry, with funds going towards supporting their war effort.  They freely admit to collecting taxes on poppies and opium, which, they say, is done under the terms of Sharia, or Islamic law.  The assistant director of Pashtani Tjarati Bank, Taliban’s Central Bank in Qandahar, which includes the tax department, explained that a landowner must pay 10% on whatever amount he makes on his crops over the course of a year.  This tax is called usher, meaning tenth.  He must give five per cent of usher to the poor directly, then have the remaining five per cent divided between the local mullah and the central Islamic government, the Taliban.” 

“As for the opium merchants, they must pay two and a half per-cent tax, known as zakat, from their total assets which is also distributed to the poor.  When it comes to government expenditures and supporting the war effort, the bank’s assistant director says the Taliban are only using money coming in from import duties, collected at Customs Houses based in cities near major border crossings, such as Qandahar, Jhalabad and Heart.” ([9]

Iranian’s security forces are always finding drug smugglers trying to get through their rather porous borders with Afghanistan.  In this war against drugs, Iran estimates that it has spent over $900 million fighting the drug trafficking.  “Some 200,000 soldiers and members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have been mobilized across Iran’s entire eastern border to wage war against drugs coming from neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan on their way to markets in Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf.  Late last month, the governor of Iran’s southeastern border province of Sistan-Baluchistan, Mahmoud Hosseini, told AFP that in recent years, 2,800 Revolutionary Guards, soldiers and police had been killed in clashes, 1,240 in his province alone, despite the strengthening of border defenses.” ([10]

Trading Self Sufficiency For Starvation

Already, the people that lived in the countryside and produced agricultural and dairy products, which had originally had made the country self sufficient, have pulled up stakes and moved into Iran and Pakistan.  As a result, Afghanistan no longer produces any hard currency products, ([11]) nor has any realistic method of feeding their own people.  In a momentous decision, the Taliban ruling council determined that the best dollar per acre cash crop available was the growing of poppies for opium or heroin production.  Farmers were given inducements to begin production and laboratories were set up at key points throughout the country to turn the innocent flowers into the deadly, but profitable drugs.  Trade routes were laid out, and drug-marketing associates were enlisted in Pakistan, Iran along with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. ([12])  Afghanistan, already faced with having the third lowest average income in the world and having been wracked by incessant wars over the last two decades, didn’t really give a damn what the rest of the world thought about their new cash crop.  

Afghanistan lies on all of the critical trade routes in that general region, being at the crossroads between Iran, Central Asia, the Arabian Sea and India.   Because of its strategic importance, almost every country in that part of the world has taken a crack at dominating the country; and every single attempt has been unsuccessful. From a military point of view, unbelievably, Afghanistan has not lost a war since Alexander the Great marched through laying waste to everything in sight.  However, this victory was pyrrhic for Alexander, who had to marry a local princess to get out of the place alive.  The people of Afghanistan remained highly independent, having no particular friends or alignments and a host of potential enemies. 

Under these conditions, the Taliban have been able to institutionalize their massive movement of drugs across the borders without any particular fear of being ostracized or retaliation.  “Opium is our only gold,” explained one poppy farmer from Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province, the country’s leading opium production province which provides 57% of Afghanistan’s total production.  “For many years, it has been very difficult feeding my family.  I know that opium is bad thing, but through selling it, I now have enough money to feed and clothe my family and I have also been able to rebuild our house, which was destroyed by the Mujahadeen several years ago.” ([13]

The Taliban are purists in their fashion and for the most part, they practice what they preach.  So why drugs, they are an exception to their fervent religious beliefs?  The truth is, there are three excellent reasons for what is currently going on in Afghanistan.  The first is that the Taliban, who now control over 95% of the country, ([14]) have not been accepted as the true government by anyone of any importance in the world.  The Taliban leadership feels that it is imperative that they be accorded the respect as the government of a sovereign nation, the same way  that every other nation on earth is treated, no matter what their political views. The Taliban, although other pariah type nations exist all over the globe, believe that they have been singled out for censure and are not into masochism. 

The second point is even more important, the fact is that superpower induced conflicts have decimated the country, reducing manufacturing to almost its most rudimentary elements and, for the most part, the farmers who were able to pack up, have left for greener pastures.  What then does Afghanistan have left, since it has no manufacturing, no agriculture, no infrastructure and no service industries any more? The third reason is a combination of the first two, if they have no manufacturing, they have nothing to export which will bring in hard currency, when they export drugs they are being ostracized by countries that do not recognize their existence. Therefore, what is the difference, their leadership contends? 

It is not illogical to expect that they would become a well-paid haven for terrorists like bin Laden and that in addition, they would work to achieve the position as the leading wanabee drug supplier to the world.  We believe that all of the outstanding issues regarding terrorists and drug dealing are extremely negotiable in the Taliban mindset.  If they could only get large enough subsidies that would offset their losses in giving up smuggling, drug harvesting and terrorism, they would probably opt for a change of pace and go reasonably legit.  On the other hand, they might not want to give up being a haven for terrorists and drug smuggling simultaneously, since that would leave them with any bargaining chips. For whatever it is worth, the Taliban did ultimately try to muzzle bin Laden and for a while he behaved like a good little boy. After all, these folks really had no friends in the world other than maybe the equally destitute folks in Pakistan and why stir up any more trouble than was necessary? However, bin Laden just couldn’t keep his mouth shut and without his handlers permission, he went on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera television station, which is watched all over the Mideast and read a poem that indicated that he had composed, which praised the suicide bombers who had attacked the destroy USS Cole last year. 

While this didn’t make the Taliban any new friends in the Western World, it embarrassed the daylights out of the Taliban who were trying to show everyone how good they were being, they apparently lost control of their emotions and Mullah Omar declared that any Muslim that converts to either Christianity of Judaism must be killed. Not knowing when to quit, they next declared that the celebration of Nauroz or the Afghan New Years was being eliminated because it was a totally frivolous and unnecessary western decadent holiday. On a roll they rescinded Mullah Mohammed Omar’s orders to treat their giant Buddha's ([15]) “with serious respect” and when Mullah Turabi impassively signed their death knoll, his army rolled out their Howitzers and blew one of the great historical and archeological treasurers’ to Kingdom Come ([16]). “We have obeyed the order of Allah by destroying the idols,” he proudly said. 

Creating A New Art Form

However, the former director of Archaeology in Afghanistan, Zemar Tarzi, saw things a tad differently, “I am devastated by the decree and what they have done the act will go down as a global cultural catastrophe. We must urgently alert world public opinion to this unacceptable decision. ” The decree read as follows: 

“All the statues in the country should be destroyed because these statues have been used as idols and deities by the nonbelievers before. They are respected now and may be turned into idols in the future, too…Zealous officials among the ruling Islamic militia recently destroyed several ancient relics in Kabul Museum, including the an exquisite Buddha statue about 2,000 years old, reports have said. Taliban officials have denied the reports but have refused journalists’ requests to visit the museum.” ([17]) 

In the meantime it also occurred to the Mullah that they were rather late in discovering the oversight of getting rid of these gigantic graven images; in order to rectify this situation, they brought out a large herd of cattle and slaughtered them on the spot in hopes that God would forgive their much delayed actions. “When the Taliban opened the National Museum ([18]) last week for journalists, little remained of the country’s cultural collections but some ancient pots and clay shards. “I knew that there was no future for us in Afghanistan,” one former Afghan official lamented. “But now we don’t even have a past.” ([19]) However, other Muslims didn’t see things the same way that the Taliban did in spite of their pedantic statements that they were the only ones knowledgeable enough to interpret the Muslim doctrine accurately. 

The head man at Unesco, Koichiro Matsuura, knows something about historic landmarks and thinks that the Taliban are crazy ([20]). “They are destroying statues that the entire world considers to be masterpieces, and this is being done in the name of an interpretation of the Muslim faith that is not recognized anywhere else.” Unspeakably, senior members of the Taliban added their voices to the torrent, but in a low whisper, “the act was surely that of a man possessed”, many said, however, by this time it was already to late. After the horse had already gotten out of the barn, the anticipatory folks at stated that “Unesco is seeking funds and a site to build a replica of the larger 53-meter (174 foot) statue and said on Wednesday, it was assembling a team of archaeologists for the project…Many small status were also destroyed under the Taliban order to rid the country of all images of animate objects.” ([21]

Now they think these things were worth something. These guys a Unesco make the bureaucrats at the United Nations look like an overachievers. If these reactive folks at Unesco think that they can instantaneously recreate a monument that had stood for almost 2,000 years with little or no wear because it was delicately carved right into the face of a mountain, protected for centuries from the elements, they are crazy as fruitcakes. Copies are not the original and the whole concept is more than a total waste of time. Better efforts could be put forward by trying raise addition money to save other structures of this kind being currently attacked by war, environmental conditions  and misuse, not works of art that have already become diseased because of man’s continuing stupidity. 

We Should Be Rewarded For Destroying A Decadent Civilization

Substantial after all the damage had been done, and it was becoming clear to the Taliban that their actions had only diminished their remote chances of becoming the designated members of the United Nations from Afghanistan. They then  started think up logical reasons for their indecent actions. However, the first thing that came to their community mind was the fact that Unesco itself was to blame for the Statue’s destruction. Moreover, the reason that was espoused was the fact that the organization, with the international mandate to preserve landmarks had offered a substantial amount of money to help in the preservation of the Buddha’s. In the minds of the Taliban, this was a gigantic insult, due to the fact that of the millions of children were going to be starving in their country because of the extremely cold winter and a lack of warmth and food. How could the international community, along with Unesco be so callous as to stand idly by when their children were dying?  Being highly insulted with the potential death of their children, they determined to send the rest of the world and object lesson in the form of the Buddha’s destruction. 

This argument hardly works, when you consider that the offer of money for the preservation of the Statues was not even considered until after the Taliban had announced that they would be destroyed and that the children were hardly dying from malnutrition because of the inclement weather supposedly crippling agricultural production because the Taliban crop’s had not even been planted yet. Moreover, it was the Taliban itself that turned the country’s agricultural production toward the direction of harvesting opium, which is hardly edible. In addition, the lamest excuse of all was the fact that the territory that the Statues were located was being highly contested by their enemies and they did not want these monuments to be captured by idol worshipers. A kind of, “if I can’t have them, nobody can have them argument”, which usually is uttered by small children that have no emotionally matured enough to be left outside on their own.  In addition, 24-year-old, Sayed Rahmatullah Hasimi, indicated that if the Taliban had wanted the Statues destroyed they could have done it years ago. This logic makes more sense, however, the Taliban have destroyed just about everything in their country and obviously had just not gotten around to the Buddhas at that time. Rahmatullah finally to the point; ‘you don’t recognize their government, it is a kind of resentment that is growing in Afghanistan.” 

The destruction of the Buddhas enervated Russia and India to do something publicly that, at least they were previously not overtly talking about. They openly began to supply massive amounts of armaments to the Taliban’s opposition in order to get rid of these religious zealots once and for all, while dramatically increasing the country’s overall destruction. The sad part of this whole state of affairs is the fact that Afghanistan was strategically located as an important stop on the “Silk Road” and in order to conquer the known world at that time, you historically had to take the “Silk Road” first. There were a lot of people that had an interest in being king of the hill and all of them were obliged to travel through Afghanistan to address the military necessity of world domination or even something slightly less. As a result, many of those wannabe and for-real conquerors that visited Afghanistan on their way to glory or death, left a striking memento of their visits. A startling number of these archeological treasures were left behind, but today, thanks to our Taliban friends, there is literally nothing left. 

We Get By With Some Help From Our Friends

Meanwhile the battle was raging between the Taliban and an organization called the United Front, which is a rag-tag operation headed by folks almost as bad as the Taliban are, but come from a different background. This organization is run by its President Burhanuddin Rabbani, out of the city of Faizbad, the largest city in the Badakhshan Province, which only has 100,000 inhabitants. However, the United Front which controls almost no territory in the country is recognized as Afghanistan’s legitimate government by just about every country in the world. The fact that they only control 5% of the total land mass of Afghanistan has literally nothing to do with recognition. However there are a few notable exceptions of those countries that seem to be in bed with Rabbani, such stalwarts as bin Laden and Pakistan think that the Taliban are just super. The United Front, who, as Afghans go, are not really great fighters. They have lost just about every battle that they have fought and have now been painted into a tiny little corner as the Taliban have gone about efficiently eliminating all opposition since they took power. 

However, every once in a while, the United Front comes out of its comatose state and is able to kill or maim a few random Taliban soldiers with lucky shots. However, this is not a good thing as far as the Taliban are concerned. They consider that this is an evil act that must be immediately punished or they will incur the wrath of God and usually assuage themselves by arresting a few hundred local villagers in the vicinity of where the encounter took place, getting  together an ad hoc firing squad and eliminating these pitiful souls to make up for their military losses. However, sensing that something was wrong about this, The Human Rights Watch went berserk over these actions and called in the United Nations. The scope of recently reported killings, the rights organization said, “could not have been carried out without the consent and knowledge of senior Taliban commanders.” ([22]) It appears that the Taliban, have once again stepped in a bunch of do

Moreover, one of the regions main problems is that the country of Pakistan, ([23]) is the Taliban’s only real ally in the region, and they are particularly anxious to see Afghanistan join the world community.  Keeping the Taliban dependent on them suits Pakistan just fine, and if the chips are ever down in their conflict with India, Pakistan is going to really need a friend.  The Taliban also make a strong case that their farmers would starve to death in about a month if poppy growing really were to become a crime.  “We would like to stop opium production and drug trafficking in our country,” explained Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Muhammad Stanakzai, “but poppies have been the crop providing an income for many farmers.  When we can find a substitute crop that will allow them to earn a good profit, we will have them switch to it.  However, we are not able to do so at this time.” 

Collecting A Piece of The Pie Is The Government's Responsibility

The economics the Taliban leadership are dealing with are extremely simple.  Forgetting what the public relations statements say, the Afghanistan government is probably collecting about 20% of the poppy growing farmer’s gross income in taxes.  If that same farmer were growing wheat, cucumbers, grapes or cotton, his income would be 80% less, thus even further diminishing the government’s tax collections.  In addition, poppies do not require the large amounts of water or fertilizers to survive that other crops would require.  In addition, the extensive irrigation systems that once ran the length of the country are now just pieces of scrap, and fertilizer has to be paid for in cash money that is not available.  Hence, you don’t have to look too hard too see the Taliban’s motivation behind their change in crop allocation.  As they see it, the government wins by their current agricultural output in increased taxes, in addition the farmers win and are able to better care for their families, reducing the need for governmental assistance. Moreover, today, other nations now come calling, at least attempting to cut down on the Taliban’s strange form of agriculture, something no one ever did before. 

The United Nations has estimated that over one million people are employed in the poppy growing, harvesting, manufacturing and transshipment business, and almost all of them are supporting families.  The Taliban say that this is a whole lot better than they were doing before.  Furthermore, U.N. officials indicated that Afghanistan’s opium production in 1999 reached the highest-level ever-recorded anywhere on earth.  The UNDCP released these findings following the completion of their annual Opium Poppy Survey, conducted by 90 surveyors nation-wide, believe it or not, thanks to the support of the Taliban Authorities.  Statistics released by the United Nation’s Agency showed that the area under cultivation increased from 64,000 hectares in 1998 to 91,000 hectares in 1999 – a 43% increase of the area currently cultivated.  “With 4,699 metric tons, Afghanistan accounts this year (2000) for a production three times larger than the rest of the world put together.  The second largest producer, Myanmar, is now no longer a legitimate competitor, coming in a distant second with 1,200 metric tons, while another 300 tons are the combined output of Laos, Thailand, Columbia and Pakistan.” ([24]

Should Pakistan lose its fragile ability to dangle the Taliban by the puppet strings, they could potentially lose an alliance that gives them a modicum of additional insurance against India.  Time is getting short, and tempers are starting to flair.  Neighbors are not going to allow the Taliban to continue transporting their brand of orthodoxy, their drugs and their smuggling across neighboring borders for too much longer.  It appears that the Taliban has pushed the envelope to far and to fast.  Should Russia and Iran along with possibly, India, decide that they have had enough of these folks, the Taliban, no matter what their fighting skill, would become chopped liver in about a minute; well, okay, two minutes cause they are really good fighters. Or as some say, better fighters than lovers because they really don’t have much to do with women. 

And Take Your Food, Medicine and Money With You When You Go

In the meantime, the people’s lives have degraded so deplorably in that country that a new phrase had to be coined to describe the current situation in Afghanistan relative to the view of the world at large. “Donor Fatigue Syndrome.” When the American and Russians first began using Afghan citizens as their proxies when they brought their arguments in the Cold War to that country, it appeared that assuredly, Afghanistan was where Armageddon must absolutely be fought, the world was sympathetic.  Not only did international relief agencies feel dreadful for those on both sides of the conflict that were being debilitated, displaced and debauched, but they wanted to help and they chipped in with clothes, medicines and money for shelter for all of the combatants on both sides of the conflict. 

When the war ended between the major powers in Afghanistan, due to the use of the American made “stinger”, relief agencies dug down deep once again and poured in aid by the basketful. When, the victorious tribes of combatants went after each other with a vengeance after the communists had been thoroughly vanquished, causing dislocation, disease and death, the relief agencies were first on the scene and helped out once again but were now receiving far less kudos for their efforts, as it appears that this debilitation was not going to stop anytime soon. People, it seems, want to give aid to causes where results are readily achievable, not those that drain on and on without hope or cure. Global donors were growing weary of what was going on in Afghanistan. Its relentless outrages were no longer headline news.  

When the fighting had ended, leaving the religiously fanatical Taliban, victorious, it left decapitated, diseased and desolate people strewn all over the cratered countryside; those same agencies reached way down deep into their pockets once again but came up only with a few coins because they had already been back to the well so often. It seems that each time they reached into their pockets, there was less money there. The aid organizations had eventually been exposed to the highly dreaded “donor fatigue” symptom. The scenario or horrors here had been unfolding for decades and if anything, no matter what anyone did, it just kept getting worse. This had originally been the most grisly soap opera on earth, but no amount of aid seemed to make a damn bit of difference. People believed that they were now only seeing television reruns of a horror to immense to comprehend. 

The scene had become almost surreal and appeared almost as rhombus strip, endlessly following the same road, leading ultimately back to where it had begun. The donors began to envision no conceivable benefit accruing to anyone over the long term in exchange for their largess, and it became readily apparent to all, that charity in Afghanistan was tantamount to pouring money down an enormous  rat hole. Do gooders became convinced that the end-result would not never change, it could only be deferred for a short period and sadly, that became the hew and cry of the international relief agencies, who had become weary from their efforts and browbeaten by their Taliban hosts. However, the worst was yet to come and the Taliban initiated their torturous reforms, causing derision, detainment and mandatory devotionalism. Their ardor only succeeded in sending the entire this tottering country back into the Stone Age from whence it had emerged only decades earlier. Moreover, the donors were appalled but by this time, non-plused.  

An extreme example of biting the hand that feeds you, occurred recently in Afghanistan when the Taliban ordered their farmers to stop growing poppy's and when that had been accomplished they then talked to the United Nations about giving them much coveted membership. The United Nations indicated that while they couldn't really argue about the fact that the Taliban had indeed performed a miracle in eliminating the problem so quickly, but that they would like to take some time to think the matter over a little more. After all, it had been the Taliban that had encouraged their farmers to grow the poppy's in the first place, what would stop the country from going back to the crop immediately after being admitted. This is a serious concern considering that no country has ever been ousted from that body no matter how much they may have deserved it. The United Nations is being cautious as well they should be. 

Maybe We Should Pray For Better Weather

However, from the Taliban's point of view, they have been had. A combination of severe drought and a lack of seeds or irrigation has destroyed their freshly planted crops of cotton, carrots, wheat, onions, tomatoes and corn and with little money left, Afghanistan's farmers are already in big trouble. Moreover, going from a time when Afghanistan was producing more heroine than the rest of the world combined to eliminating it completely in one year's time was quite a feat. But don't think that the farmers in the regions controlled by the Taliban did it willingly. Many were arrested and had  their fields burned when they refused to go along with the original edit. 

However, the United Nations is also quick to point out that the Taliban did not stop growing poppy's for their benefit,  it stopped growing the poppy's because Taliban religious leaders told the devotee Muslim farmers it was a violation of Islam. The history of religious rule in Afghanistan has shown that if you do not follow the religious principals proscribed by the religious police to the letter, you run the risk of being drawn and quartered or worse. If they did it because it violated their own religious laws, how could the Taliban claim that it was done because they had been promised representation in the UN. Taliban leadership could not have both ways the United Nations officials argued. 

No More Mr. Nice Guy

That isn't the way the Taliban see it.  Taliban leadership from Mullah Mohammed Omar on down is convinced that dealing with the West is a hopeless and worse yet, thankless task and nothing that they do will be recognized as constructive. However, the rest of the world is also very aware of the enormous stockpile of opium that the Taliban had placed in warehouses just waiting for the price to rise. This is something they have neither denied nor done anything about. Experts wonder why anyone should get a reward for rigging the price of the drug so that an entire nation can profiteer from its rise in price. With prices today, bringing six to seven times what they were only six months ago, effectively it would seem that once again, the Taliban was attempting to have things both ways. Furthermore, the United Nations is convinced that the Taliban really are not concerned about the welfare of their people, they are only interested in conquering the rest of Afghanistan and they thought that they would get international cooperation if the poppy crop was destroyed. 

Nothing they seemed to do meant a difference here and knowing that this was indeed the case, they had just run out of patience and funding for this Alice in Wonderland country where up is down and right is wrong. The mad-hatter seemed to be in charge and the queen of spades had disgustedly left for whatever horrors await in Pakistan.   “…In Afghanistan it is often hard to distinguish between the bad times and worse. Even without famine, more than on in four children die before the age of 5 and the average life expectancy is 44. Hunger has become a helpmate to other causes of death.” ([25]) Relief agencies have been reduced to paying bribes to Taliban officials in order to distribute what little aid they have available to what they believe are the preeminent recipients. Only in Afghanistan does altruism exact such an enormous toll. There is no glory, no satisfaction, and no respect. This appears to be the only land in the world where the devil himself has decided to pull up stakes, if even he can’t stand the pain anymore how can they?  

In the meantime, we want to give our “Dubious Distinction Award of 2000” to the Taliban for not only talking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time, but also being able to totally transform a country’s agricultural demography within a four-year period.  To be able to take a country that was into growing corn and cucumbers into largest producer of illicit drugs in world is one of the all time bait-and-switch moves the world has ever seen.  Nowhere in world history has this kind of transformation occurred, where a country knowingly opted for agricultural dependence, as opposed to political independence.  Historically, agricultural products that are produced in a particular area vary little over the years, and only serious and permanent weather variations have ever effected production.  There seems no question that the Taliban have converted a law abiding country into a band of drug smugglers and bandits, knowingly and with malice aforethought, and they did so in less time then it takes to issue an edict. 

The Giant Bamiyan Buddha’s 

This chapter has been canceled due to the fact that while it was in preparation, the Taliban Military blew up these magnificent statutes on orders from their Muslim Religious leaders. No reasonable rationale has been given for these appalling actions. 





[1] Afghanistan - Consular Information Sheet, June 7, 1999.

[2] Television may be pulsing through human consciousness in the rest of the planet, but in Afghanistan it is facing extinction. The Taliban mullahs, who control 90 to 95 percent of the country, have grievances against the medium that go far beyond the usual complaints about rotten shows. They contend that living beings should not be photographed, whether in still life or moving pictures, and this has led to rather unforgiving censorship. Television stations have been shuttered, television sets have been broken, television watchers have been thrashed.  The Last Stand of Afghan TV, Barry Bearak, Faizabad Journal, November 16, 2000.

[4] Dr. Allah Nawaz told the  Associated Press on June 3, 1999.

[5] Said Dr. Ghulam Sakhi, a physician in the health ministry's veterinary department. 

[6] “One-pound bars of hashish being sold here (San Francisco) bear a round gold stamp that says, “Smoke Russia Away.”  The insignia has a drawing of a semi-automatic rifle in the center and “Afghanistan” written on the bottom.”  Hashish Labels Boost Afghan Rebels’ Cause, Paul Liberatore, The San Francisco Chronicle, 6/2/1986.

[7] The Taliban: Exporting Extremism, by Ahmed Rashid, Foreign Affairs, November/December, 1999.

[8] The Taliban: Exporting Extremism, by Ahmed Rashid, Foreign Affairs, November/December, 1999.

[9] Afghanistan’s gold, IC Publications Ltd., 9/1/1997.

[10] Opium, weapons and ammunition seized in armed clash in southeastern Iran, Agence France Presse, 11/1/99.

[11] Other than the production and sale of drugs.

[12] “Although 25,000 Russian soldiers guard the Tajik border, drug smuggling from Afghanistan, which produces 70% of the world’s heroin, has increased five-fold this year.  Rival factories in Afghanistan compete to refine the purest heroin, whose price rises dramatically on the trail through Tajikistan to Russia.”  Taliban to unleash a flood of refugees, drugs;  Rory McCarthy, The Age, 10/17/2000.

[13] Afghanistan’s gold, IC Publications Ltd. 9/1/1997.

[14] “Four years after seizing power, the Taliban Islamic militia has made crucial gains in the past two months in the only area of Afghanistan still outside its control.  Now with Taliban troops sitting along western parts of the 1600-kilometer border with Tajikistan, the Tajik Government and its backers in Russia are increasingly apprehensive.”  Taliban to unleash a flood of refuges, drugs;  Rory McCarthy, The Age, 10/17/2000.

[15]  These statues were immense. The tallest stood 165 feet and the shortest was still over ten-stories high. They were created in the 2nd century and were considered by the former Afghanistan Government to be national monuments.

[16]  In intellectual circles, these giant Buddha’s were known more specifically as the Bamiyan Buddhas.

[17]  Decree form Taliban Orders Destruction of Statues, Agence France-Presse, February 27, 2001.

[18]  Kabul Museum has been closed to the public since 1992 after most of its collection was looted during fighting between Afghan warlords. Ibid.

[19]  No Future – And No Past, Taking an inside look at the zealotry of the Taliban. By Zahid Hussain, Newsweek, April 2, 2001.

[20]  Interestingly enough, many blamed the inactions of Unesco for the catastrophe. Most seemed to be saying that if Unesco had acted promptly and named the Giant Buddha’s as an internationally protected site, even the Taliban would not have dared to destroy them. Obviously, this line of reasoning  should not be pursued because of its flawed logic. The Taliban account to no one and have never showed remorse regarding any action they have taken. We would give the words of Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel, Afghan foreign minister as evidence of this. “Have you ever seen any decision of the Islamic Emirate reversed?”.

[21]  MSBNBC, Sri Landa Buddhists ask U.N. to mourn Afghan statues, Reuters.

[22]  Rights Group Tells of Taliban Massacres, Barbara Crossette, The New York Times, February 19, 2001.

[23] In  1980, the first processing lab was discovered in Pakistan.  Last year, more than 100 labs were located in just one border area near the Khyber Pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  There are so many addicts now in Pakistan that it has become a net importer of opium.  Pakistan Poppy Crop Signals New Heroin Harvest, Terry Atlas, Chicago Tribune, 5/9/98.

[24] Myanmar slips in the ranking, The World Paper, 11/1/99.

[25] In Hunger, Cold ad War, Afghans Flee for a Haven, Barry Bearak, The New York Times, March 2, 2001.


 

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