Mir Tamim Ansary is a well-known Afghani now in the West and this excellent piece on his homeland has been doing the rounds on the web and is well worth a read about what life is like in Afghanistan. And below we have published an American response to this from Stephanie Grimsley.
And I thought about the issues being raised especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and even though I’ve lived here for 35 years I’ve never lost track of what’s going on there. So I want to tell anyone who will listen how it all looks from where I’m standing.
I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.
But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think “the people of Afghanistan” think “the Jews in the concentration camps.” It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban and clear out the rats nest of international thugs holed up in their country.
Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan , a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.
We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.
New bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely. In today’s Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to move around. They’d slip away and hide. Maybe the bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they don’t move too fast, they don’t even have wheelchairs. But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn’t really be a strike against the criminals who did this horrific thing. Actually it would only be making common cause with the Taliban — by raping once again the people they’ve been raping all this time
So what else is there? What can be done, then? Let me now speak with true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden is to go in there with ground troops. When people speak of “having the belly to do what needs to be done” they’re thinking in terms of having the belly to kill as many as needed. Having the belly to overcome any moral qualms about killing innocent people. Let’s pull our heads out of the sand. What’s actually on the table is Americans dying. And not just because some Americans would die fighting their way through Afghanistan to Bin Laden’s hideout. It’s much bigger than that folks. Because to get any troops to Afghanistan, we’d have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You see where I’m going. We’re flirting with a world war between Islam and the West.
And guess what: that’s Bin Laden’s program. That’s exactly what he wants. That’s why he did this. Read his speeches and statements. It’s all right there. He really believes Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam and the West, he’s got a billion soldiers. If the west wreaks a holocaust in those lands, that’s a billion people with nothing left to lose, that’s even better from Bin Laden’s point of view. He’s probably wrong, in the end the west would win, whatever that would mean, but the war would last for years and millions would die, not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? Bin Laden does. Anyone else?
Mir Tamim Ansary
An American response
By Stephanie Grimsley
I recently read your article from Mir Tamim Ansary. As an American, I found the piece disturbing. I am sure Ansary is sincere. I am sure he is likely a good person who fears war. I am also sure that he still loves his country, Afghanistan, and equally sure that he does not love this country and what it stands for in the way that we must — fear of Osama, fear of war, fear of loss cannot and should not be used to stop action against a crime which cannot go unpunished. The thought of allowing these crimes to go unpunished is repugnant not for revenge or mere retaliation but because not taking action would kill far more than the thousands we have already lost — it would kill something far more precious, America.
I, like most of my fellow Americans, have long sympathized with the plight of a down-trodden and broken people in the Middle East. This is why our country continues to send peace corp workers, Red Cross, and hundred’s of millions of dollars in aid to those people. Hate, guilt by association and annihilation of an entire country and people would not be a path that I, nor anyone that I know would choose. However, I also believe that crimes as heinous as those committed on my fellow countrymen must be punished. This does not mean that citizens of countries in the Middle East should be punished unilaterally, but it also does not mean that I would send more money, more aid, and continue on a path of good faith waiting for those that would harm me and that which I love to strike again.
He compares Osama to Hitler and the Afghans to the Jewish people. Yet, the Jewish people fought Hitler every step of the way. They did not passively allow him to harm their countrymen, and many German people also fought Hitler on behalf of the Jewish. It was these German countrymen who sheltered our soldiers, who hid Jewish people in their attics, who refused to allow evil and fear to determine their fate. They lost their lives; they lost their homes; they did not lose their will to survive or their conviction to do the right thing in the face of extreme difficulty or even death.
Certainly Mr Tamim Ansary states that he also believes those actions should not go unpunished, yet the remainder of his article describes the American people as ready to bomb orphans, anxious to annihilate a civilization, and prepared to start World War. I have a nineteen year old brother who just joined the army, I have beautiful children who I hope never to have to explain why those they know may not ever return to us. However, I have another fear that is much greater than war, or the loss of loved ones, or even of world war — that what has become a way of life in the Middle East will become a way of life here.
Fear is a horrible thing ripping away everything that is wonderful and beautiful in life. We Americans come from a strong stock: made stronger by the obstacles each generation and each ethnicity has overcome. Bound not by race, religion, or geography — we are made one by our common belief that we control our future, our success, and our country. My grandfather of German decent fought a war against his own home land because what was dear to him was the freedom to choose his own life, to control his own destiny, and to make a better life — America. It was not a war he wanted to fight; he never discussed it with us. But it was his gift to me, to my children, and to all other Americans. I will sit passively by and allow a gift bought with so dear a price to be taken from me by terrorists or fear.
I know that hatred and desperation can overcome a people that are poor and down-trodden and how appealing a message of domination and blame can be — this is why so many joined the Nazi cause. However, I also know that even if you are crippled, poor, hungry, and beaten down, taking the path of least resistance and waiting for someone else to rescue you is also not the only, or best course of action. Yes, Afghanistan is being ruled by the Taliban; yes, the government was purchased with Osama’s money; and, yes, they are a poor people with little means to defend themselves. But if they would be free, they must take action and surely if we Americans are to remain free we too must take action.
This will not be pleasant. We will likely lose much of what is dear to us: our privacy, convenience, and perhaps even our dear soldiers. Although I do not want a war or to see any more innocent people die, I want even less for my children to grow up in a country any less beautiful and powerful than the idea of America. If we would be free, if we would continue to be America, we must stop those that would destroy us. And we must stop them because if we do not, no one else will — not even those people whom they have enslaved in Afghanistan.
Sincerely, Stephanie Grimsley