I have never read a more astounding collection of misrepresentations and outright falsehoods than those put forth by Mr. Lawry de Bivort in his comments on Afghanistan in the Aug. 13 Watch. A few facts:
According to every opinion poll over the last few years, a majority of Afghans want U.S. and allied troops to remain in Afghanistan. You can look it up; it’s a matter of public record. “Our occupation has basically been a massacre, particularly of civilians?” I’m sorry, but that is an outright lie. Our military’s ineptitude and over-reliance on firepower has resulted in an inexcusable amount of civilian casualties, but we have never deliberately targeted non-combatants; in contrast, the Taliban have regularly attacked schools, bazaars, medical facilities and public transport with suicide bombers and car bombs. Read the reports from the U.N., NGOs and human rights observers; an overwhelming majority of the civilian deaths in Afghanistan have been at the hands of the Taliban.
De Bivort talks about fears of a future “civil war” in Afghanistan. Sorry again, but the past internecine warfare in Afghanistan has consisted of proxy invasions by Pakistan, not outbreaks of civil war. The Pakistanis want to reduce the country into a fiefdom under their control, to use as a military base in event of their next suicidal attempt to make war on India.
During the Soviet occupation, the Pakistanis funneled most of the military aid we and others supplied to a homicidal fanatic named Gulbuddin Heckmatyar, who spent more time fighting other Afghans than he did resisting the Soviets. When he failed to take power, they invented the Taliban, recruiting them in the refugee camps in Pakistan and training and arming them with funding from our Gulf Arab “allies”), The Taliban are ethnic fanatics, exclusively of the Pushtun tribal group, and their policy toward the 60 percent of Afghans who are not Pushtuns resembles the Serbs’ toward the Bosnian Moslems. Indoctrinated with the repulsive Sunni extremism of Saudi Arabia, they have publicly sworn to exterminate the two million Afghan Hazaras who are followers of the Shi’a brand of Islam. They are almost as hostile to the moderate Sufi-flavored brand of Sunnism most Afghans believe in. During their period in power, they murdered tens of thousands of Hazara civilians, blew up Sufi shrines and mosques, and assassinated literally hundreds of mullahs who disagreed with their murderous theology. (And it is important to note that only a minority of Pushtuns are in favor of Taliban; most see it as a stalking-horse for Pakistani expansionism.)
A final note on my credentials regarding Afghanistan: I’ve traveled there more than thirty times since 1972, as an anthropologist, human rights investigator (my reports on Soviet war crimes were published by Helsinki Watch), and journalist for the likes of The New York Times, NPR, Mother Jones, Smithsonian, Time Magazine, Sierra (on the country’s environmental problems),The Washington Post, etc., etc, etc. i not only have many friends in Afghanistan, I have relatives, in-laws, there, who are as dear to me as any other kinfolk of mine. Given that, perhaps you can excuse my anger at blithe misrepresentations of a country I consider my second homeland. I don’t really care much about America’s geopolitical policy in South and Central Asia – it has been far too cynical and downright dishonorable – but I care passionately about the people of Afghanistan and their future.
– Rob Schultheis
Category: Letters to the Editor