No, America Didn’t Create the Taliban, and It’s Not Responsible for Afghanistan’s Pre-2001 Woes

April 30 2021

In the wake of the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, reflection has turned to America’s role in the Soviet-Afghan war, which lasted from 1979 to 1989. The widespread story about this war is that the CIA provided arms and other forms of support to anti-Communist jihadist rebels fighting the Soviets and their Afghan allies—and thereby drawing the Kremlin into a costly protracted conflict it couldn’t win. According to this version of events, the U.S.-backed Afghan mujahidin were an earlier form of the Taliban, who would—in a supposed tragic irony—go on to attack America and engage Washington in a costly, protracted conflict of its own. Though satisfying to a certain kind of anti-imperialist, writes Emran Feroz, this story gets much wrong:

[This] analysis suggests that the CIA funded the mujahidin, synonymous with al-Qaeda, and thereby made 9/11 possible. The Afghan freedom fighters who resisted the Soviets are uniformly either Taliban or al-Qaeda, two labels used interchangeably, ignoring . . . the distinction between the two groups. [In reality, the rebels] were far from united and followed different ideologies across the Islamic spectrum. None had any connection to al-Qaeda, which was formed much later by what was a radical splinter group of the so-called Afghan Arabs. These Afghan Arabs were followers of Palestinian Islamist leader and ideologue Abdullah Azzam.

The U.S. Stinger missiles [provided to the mujahidin] were just a small part of the larger Afghan tale, but they became crucial in saving lives. For some, it might come as a surprise that Soviet helicopters, which destroyed whole villages, irrigation canals, and acres of arable land and waged mass destruction on thousands of Afghans, could not be defeated through peaceful protests or sheer political activism.

Indeed, [the] popular narrative of American blundering also tends to cover up the reasons for the Soviet invasion, its brutality, and the murderous nature of the regime it was intended to prop up; . . . tens of thousands of innocent Afghans were imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the [Afghan Communist] regime. . . . Even students, peasants, and laborers were not safe. A lot of those who succumbed to their ghastly fates at the hands of the Communists were targeted simply because they prayed five times a day, betrayed any sign of religiosity, were people of some standing and influence, or criticized the mass-murdering regime that was in power.

The [Afghan Communist government] and its Soviet backers claimed they were upholding women’s rights and secularism, even as they were using rape as a weapon of war in Afghan villages and in the regime’s torture dungeons—much the same way as the Assad regime is doing in Syria now.

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Read more at Newlines

More about: Afghanistan, Jihadism, Soviet Union, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter