Friday, March 24, 2006



The first time I visited Afghanistan was in 1969. There are no trains that go there and most people who had visited before me-- i.e.- before Cold War/Great Game rivals, the Russians and Americans has circumnavigated the country with a paved highway-- had gone as part of armies (starting with Alexander the Great, a gay Greek who married a tribal chief's daughter, Roxanna, and culminating with the slaughter of a British Army in the late 19th Century). I drove a VW van.

Driving from London to India for a couple years was quite the adventure but nothing came close to the Afghan part of the trip. "Oh, my God," I wrote at the time, "we're back in The Bible." I didn't really mean it in a religious way-- at least not consciously-- but as a way of saying that driving into Afghanistan was more like traveling back in time than just traveling in geographic distance. I loved it! Until the Russian invasion-- and then the equal and opposite reaction: the U.S.-backed Taliban-- completely and utterly destroyed Afghanistan, I would always answer the inevitable question about my travels-- "what was your favorite place?"-- with one world: Afghanistan.

After Bush thought he conquered Afghanistan and helped set up a puppet government in Kabul, something which vaguely approximates a city and, even more vaguely, a national capital, he declared victory and made up a bunch of absurd tall tales about guaranteeing the rights of women and religion and democracy-- as though Bush knows anything about democracy-- and other alien Western values (free markets, maybe?... who knows half the nonsense this clod is always babbling about?)

Anyway, before I get into the story about Abdul Rahman, the 41 year old Christian convert Bush's puppet Afghans want to execute for renouncing the Muslim faith, I want to say a few things about Afghanistan as I remember them. I spent a winter in a small remote village up in the Hindu Kush. Not one person in the village spoke fluent Farsi, the language of the educated class and the language spoken in Kabul; they spoke Pashtun. Not one person had ever experienced electricity. Not one person had ever heard of the U.S. or Europe. Not one person could read. There wasn't a pen or pencil in the village. I stopped talking about how the U.S. was sending a man to the moon when I got paranoid that they might think I was hopelessly insane. Nice folks though; I probably would have died without their assistance and generosity.

Their language and vocabulary seemed to preclude anything too abstract. In fact, if you knew the relationship between two people you also knew the entire conversation, word for word, that would ensue between them. It was frighteningly formulaic-- and unrelated to conversations I've had with Afs in Farsi or, more recently, with refugees in English.

But George W Bush relates to Afghanistan like it's a somewhat more behind the times West Virginia. He's welcome to his own ignorant suppositions but we have a problem when he bases our foreign policy of them. And his lies.

During a speech in West Virginia, Bush said the United States expects Afghan authorities "to honor the universal principle of freedom." Unless the Russians taught them that one, it's not likely they ever heard of it.

The law they know is Islamic law-- which is pretty clear about the fate of poor Mr. Rahman-- and just because Bush was either misled by his handlers about the Afghan "constitution" or, just as likely, he made up a fairy tale about it himself to tell the American public, there is no reason to believe anyone there ever seriously even thought about as foreign and abstract concept as "freedom of conscience" or "freedom of religion." That was a pack of lies from a weak and ignorant president for his weak and ignorant partisan fundamentalist base. The Republicans are to weak and frightened to face reality. They think they can decree it. It worked for them in Florida and Ohio-- thanks to the active intervention of still unjailed characters like Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, Ken Blackwell, Bob Taft, Tom Noe... not to mention Dielbold-- but it doesn't work where people are paying attention. And attention is about all the Afs have left.

I'm guessing Bush will be able to bully his Afghan puppets into sparing Mr. Rahman's life. If that's the case, they better spirit him right out of the country because he wouldn't make it to the next corner alive. And I assume we'll never hear about a similar case; they'll just handle them more quietly.


At 3:25 PM, Blogger newc said...

Bush is not your enemy you foolish "Jew". Islam is.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Howie, you have a flamer!

Just wanted to say I've been reading you for the last couple of months (via FDL) and I've been very impressed. Keep up the fine work.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


although I do not agree 100% with everything you say about Afghans (knowing how much other Afghans have suffered from the Pashtuns) very good comment, nice to see a comment by someone who know what he is talking about (since you have been in Afghanistan).


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