November 13, 2001
9:49 AM   Subscribe

While the cat's away the mice will play. When the cat is driven out by the Northern Alliance the mice will shave off their beards and watch TV.
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger (34 comments total)
This is already being discussed down here. Good link, though, tiger.
posted by jeffvc at 9:52 AM on November 13, 2001

Repost? Yup, this time I'm hoping to find out what people think about the effect the lifting of tyranny and oppression have on a country's populace. Not saying that the Northern Alliance are a bunch of liberals but to the people that have been living under the Taliban they might seem that way.
Is it a good thing to have the pressure released so suddenly? Should the Afghan people have had time to readjust to "freedom"?
(Taliquan, not Kabul...)
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2001

maybe next time, we can find out if scoob and the gang have any more wacky adventures.
i call shotgun in the mystery machine.
posted by moz at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2001

The best quote from the article...

"All the restrictions, on television, on shaving, on women," Mr. Asif said, waving his hand. "The Koran says nothing about such things. The Taliban people are a bunch of illiterates."
posted by silusGROK at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2001

Shall I repost my previous comment, the one I posted before this thread was deleted? I was saying that I don't think we can trust the Northern Alliance to be the defenders of the American Dream. Of course they're less oppressive and more liberal than the Taliban, but not completely so. The BBC's John Simpson reports that Northern Alliance soldiers have been summarily executing or beating Taliban members trying to leave Kabul. The question is: can the Northern Alliance, with its many disparate groups, be restrained enough to respect human rights and enter into a representative government.
posted by skylar at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2001

i'm sorry, tiggle.
posted by moz at 10:18 AM on November 13, 2001

Swift posted something interesting about the way the way the Northern Alliance behaves when they take over a town. I agree with skylar, it is much too early to be celebrating this as a victory of freedom and democracy. I also agree with Robert Fisk that, having supported the Northern Alliance, we are responsible for the atrocities that they commit. Of course, this is not the way President Bush or Prime Minister Blair will see it. US foreign policy depends on getting "foot soldiers" to commit our murders for us, so that we can shift the blame.
posted by jeffvc at 10:37 AM on November 13, 2001

JeffVC: Although we should be concerned about any alleged atrocities... and even the possibility of atrocities being committed, I don't think the US can necessarily be held responsible for the atrocities they commit -- any more than we can be wholly responsible for the Berlin Wall (the Soviet occupation of East Berlin being part of a general Allied Forces offensive).

That said, I'm very concerned about the real threat of retributive attacks (even though Mohammed's example urges otherwise)... but I don't think that the NA is necessarily the well-healed ally that your attribution of responsibility assumes.
posted by silusGROK at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2001

For those of you who subscribe to the print edition of the Times, on the front page of A Nation Challenged there's a group of photos showing Northern Alliance soldiers, smiles on their faces, executing Taliban POWs.
posted by mrbula at 11:08 AM on November 13, 2001

>there's a group of photos showing Northern Alliance soldiers, smiles on their faces, executing Taliban POWs.

hm, try as i might, i have a hard time being bothered by that. i must be a very bad person.

i suppose the US is to blame for the actions of these truly horrible savages. something tells me noam chomsky's saying this in a speech somewhere.

allah forbid the taliban face any sort of retribution. they shoulda just said 'bad taliban! BAD! BAD! no more lining us up in stadiums for our public executions!'
posted by aenemated at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2001

For the record, the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of civilians and prisoners of war. And God forbid that we demand the same standards of behaviour from proxy ground troops that would be expected from those representing our own countries. At least the NA commanders appear somewhat mindful of this right now, having trained up a police unit in the Panjshir valley.

As for the topic at hand, I suspect that every snatch of music in Kabul today will have the emotional charge of Beethoven's Ninth.
posted by holgate at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2001

'US foreign policy depends on getting "foot soldiers" to commit our murders for us, so that we can shift the blame.'That is sooooooo funny! Anyway, on a serious note, I like to keep in mind that while we have our goals in Afghanistan, there was already a war going on there and the NA doesn't need us to fire them up; the Talibans atrocities are coming home to roost.
posted by Mack Twain at 11:59 AM on November 13, 2001

Uh, I think part of the problem is not just with the NA but the citizens of these towns being set free. Some reports have stated that there were bodies of Taliban officials lying dead in the street when the NA rolled in. Seems the locals, once they figured out that the Taliban's time was growing short, decided to take a little street justice. In fact, in the article cited here, they broadcast to the people in town, not to kill the Taliban.

There were some signs that the Afghan tradition of taking revenge on deposed oppressors might stay dormant here. As General Daoud prepared to advance on Taliqan, he broadcast a radio message urging residents to spare Taliban collaborators and ethnic Pashtuns in the city.
posted by billman at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2001

The Alliance are not saints but this is a beautiful article---some small shred of reason for optimism in all this mess---and I just wanted to thank Tiggle for (re?) posting this piece. Thanks.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2001

Read it in full, after skimming it previously, and have to say: Please skim down to the part about the guy who buried his VCR to protect it from the Taliban. He celebrated the ruling government's exit by watching a weathered copy of "Titantic." Really. If you read that in a novel, you'd think, "Unreliable narrator."
posted by raysmj at 12:38 PM on November 13, 2001

Holgate... we can demand all we want, but in the end, we are merely one part of a very large chess game. We have sway... but the guy with a gun in his hand is the one who'll make the final decision.
posted by silusGROK at 12:55 PM on November 13, 2001

The trimming of beards kind of reminds me of the beginnings of my break with catholocism. You used to have to abstain from meat on Fridays, now it's OK. You used to have to go to Mass on Sunday, but now Saturday afternoons are OK. Your beard used to be a certain length, now the Don Johnson Miami Vice look is OK.

Nothing like consistency in matters of faith.
posted by fpatrick at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2001

fpatrick... on a complete tangent (which you started, by the way!), those are not matters of faith, but of religiosity. It's a small thing, but I'm into minutiae.
posted by silusGROK at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2001

So the Taliban's atrocities are coming home to roost, eh? I'm no fan of the Taliban and their stifling policies, and it's possible that they, just like *anyone* else (e.g. N. Americans...), would be punished in this world for their sins.
America and England's 'Northern Alliance' are a pretty sick bunch of thugs with a long history of raping women, amongst other atrocities. Repression of women is intolerable and deplorable in its own right, rape is in a category all its own.

EurasiaNet Human Rights

The beard shaving thing isn't such a big deal - it's obvious that if you're *forced* to do something you resent it. The nature of human beings is to live freely - stifle that, and you're stifling human nature - it's bound to fail sooner or later.
Don't discount the fact that some people are simply trying to fit in and get rid of their beards to avoid being persecuted for being Taliban or pro-Taliban.
posted by omar at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2001

the most obvious problem, of course, is that there aren't really any "good guys" in afghanistan. with whom do you ally, if you're the US and interested in utilizing a native fighting force? the united nations will have to be the active force in forming a government for the nation, as the eurasianet article suggests; there is too much anti-US sentiment in islamic nations for such a government to be respected.
posted by moz at 2:07 PM on November 13, 2001

...And the Northern Alliance shows their own tendencies. (NY Times)
posted by Tubes at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2001

There were good reasons to try to win this war using local troops, reasons unrelated to trying to minimize US casualties.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2001

The "good guys" in Aghanistan ... live in the West, sorry to say. The ones who are left have been killing each other right and left like this for two decades. (I'm reading Artyom Borovik's The Hidden War, about the Soviet occupation; you may remember the late Russian journalist from his 60 Minutes appearances.) Basically, even when they were supposed to be working together to attack the Russians, they might start internecine battles. If the guy's from over the next hill, he's probably a fifth cousin, or you've had a drink with him; he's OK. Farther than that? He's a foreigner, and subject to summary execution.

(And that would probably apply to any US troops captured by the Taliban, if history is any indicator. They're lackadaisical with each other, but foreigners are shown no mercy.)

Unfortunately, the only solution I see is not a wholescale prosecution a la Rwanda -- they estimate it will take 20 years to have trials for all the killers -- but a Truth and Reconciliation committee a la South Africa or Argentina.
posted by dhartung at 2:40 PM on November 13, 2001

Not saying that the Northern Alliance are a bunch of liberals but to the people that have been living under the Taliban they might seem that way.

Unfortunately, that all depends on who you are. The Northern Alliance doesn't see this conflict the way that the American lead coalition does (i.e. as a war against terrorism); rather, they see it as an opportunity to take control of Afghanistan.

The bad news is that the divide between the United Front and the Taleban also falls along racial lines (this is one of the reasons that it has been argued that the UF will not make a good replacement government). Thus, depending on your ethnicity, you are either celebrating or fleeing in terror.

Despite the joy that some in Afghanistan are feeling over these victories (and the joy that we feel for their liberation), this whole situation is begining to spin out of our careful control (as new atrocities on behalf of both the UF and the Taleban would indicate).
posted by iceberg273 at 3:02 PM on November 13, 2001

there have been some notes on CNN that the UF wants to set up a government including people from all parts of the nation (but excluding the taliban); that's all talk right now, but it's nice to hear. like i said, the UN would have to enforce that kind of thing i think. (maybe that's why the UF is offering the olive branch right now -- to avoid major UN oversight.)
posted by moz at 3:10 PM on November 13, 2001

Robert Fisk is an ass who deserves nothing more than a derisory chuckle. The U.S. could announce a free cure for cancer, a free, limitless energy source, and the deployment of free teleportation devices worldwide, all in the same day, to be rolled out in a week, and he'd be jumping up and down bitching about the rollout schedule
posted by prodigal at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2001

reading around, gulbuddin hekmatyar seems like the poster child for internecine rivalry. i'd hate to see people like him come back to power.

pakistan and turkey seem to be stepping up.
posted by kliuless at 3:27 PM on November 13, 2001

Good luck with the whole 'war on terrorism' thing - as far as I'm concerned, both the Taliban and the 'Alliance' have elements of terrorism. The 'Alliance' have a *far* bloodier record than the Taliban do, though. Just like Saddam was America's bastard (FDR said of Batista "However much of a bastard he may be, he's our bastard.") these alliance guys are the latest 'bastards' to become 'friends' of America and the West.
I don't know who can look at the 'Alliance victories' and say with a straight face that the Afghani N. Alliance won this war.
The N. Alliance is a joke and was held completely at bay by the Taliban for many years. Has anyone else not seen the Americans bomb the Taliban relentlessly for over 2 months!? The Alliance sat around until a few days ago, waiting for the Americans to clear them a nice easy path. Anyone can take Kabul if the Americans bomb everything for them.
The article from the USS Clueless (good name) says at one point: "Afghans will say "We did it ourselves."
Really?! And no Pashtun Afghans (the vast majority of Afghanis are Pashtun, the Talibans were mainly Pashtun) are *ever* going to think or say to the 'Alliance': "You did squat. You had the Americans bomb us and kill us and you walked in after we were defeated and butchered us. You are not warriors, but execrable cowards."
posted by omar at 3:31 PM on November 13, 2001

Oh yeah, our good friend Turkey. Let's not talk about the American weaponry being used by the Turkish army against Kurds, ok? Let's just pretend that *only* Saddam is killing Kurds, and continue our over-a-decade long bombing/starvation campaign that has irradiated the populace and killed over half a million children. Sssssh - mum's the word.

Yeah, having the Turks come into Afghanistan would be great - too bad there aren't any Kurds for them to kill over there.

Pakistan going in makes sense - the UN should have been involved from the get-go with a coalition of forces from 'Islamic' and Western nations.
posted by omar at 3:38 PM on November 13, 2001

prodigal: So would some people in this thread.
posted by raysmj at 6:07 PM on November 13, 2001

The Alliance sat around until a few days ago, waiting for the Americans to clear them a nice easy path. Anyone can take Kabul if the Americans bomb everything for them.

I don't see your point Omar. I don't remember anybody ranting about how great the NA are militarily and how they did it all on their own. Of course the bombing helped. I think the issue is more what they're going to do now they're in rather than how they got there. But just to put the record straight, they weren't sitting around on their arses, they were fighting on the northern front. I think if any sitting around had been going on, they'd have been shelled out of the country.
posted by Summer at 2:17 AM on November 14, 2001

Actually, if you want to know who really liberated Kabul, it was the BBC.
posted by Summer at 3:50 AM on November 14, 2001

Summer: There was a BBC reporter on BBCWorld last night who provided a gushing report from Afghanistan, describing how the mighty 'Alliance' carved their way through the Taliban like butter.
He went on to say that the Taliban were disordered, had no confidence, and were a pathetic fighting force. Now I don't know too much about the first two, but I'd say the 'Alliance' is the pathetic 'force'- as I pointed out earlier, they were completley contained by the Taliban in a small portion of Northern Afghanistan.
Summer: thanks - the guy you linked to was the one I saw on TV - what a gasbag. I don't recall his statement about the BBC liberating Kabul, but if he can say things like that, I guess I shouldn't be concerned about people taking him seriously.
And yes you're right, Summer, the point about the 'Alliance' doing it all on their own isn't here directly, but it was in an article that was linked in this thread... I was responding to that sentiment.
posted by omar at 5:27 AM on November 14, 2001

Oh OK omar, I suppose people were commentating on the NA militarily. I love the way the BBC and ITN are fighting over who got into Kabul first. Idiots.
posted by Summer at 7:08 AM on November 14, 2001

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