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A dangerous hint
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-03-09 10:04:15
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There is a hint in the air that Barack Obama might suggest talks with elements of the Taleban and with elements I suppose they mean Taleban far away from the hardcore Taleban. But somehow I have the feeling that this takes us from a very real situation in Afghanistan and puts us in a theoretical argument on who is the hardcore and who are the ones who can talk. Apart from that there is the question if Barack Obama tries to use the old motto of the British Empire, divide and rule!

The Taleban represent exactly what is called extremism and they are extremists using religion as their excuse. Of course in their case it just happens to be the Muslim religion without that meaning that there are not Christian extremists, America has a few examples. KKK is proud to be Christian and Taleban proud to be Muslims. Both prove and exhibit their beliefs and faith through racism and hate. Would Obama talk with KKK?

I suppose you find my comparison a bit …extreme but aren’t the Taleban who consider every infidel as the enemy? Even the world infidel doesn’t hint hate and prejudice? Haven’t they loudly asked for the distraction of the west and haven’t they tried to do it? Aren’t they the ones who have butchered even their own compatriots because they don’t agree with them? Journalists, athletes, workers, women who want to go to school and that after the UN gone to Afghanistan. How many attacks in Pakistan and how many problems they have caused to neighbor countries mainly enriched with murders and blood will it take to realize that they are the bad guys?

History has this habit of repeating itself and lessons obviously never learned especially in recent history. Between the excuses, the reasoning and the facts otherwise between what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq there are a lot of similarities. In the beginning Taleban and Saddam were …not so bad guys and for the simple excuse that the enemy of my enemy could be friend or at least used. So both, Saddam and the Taleban were criminally armed and trained in weapons occasionally forbidden even to the allies. Never forget that Bin Laden was trained by CIA. In both cases there was the common enemy, Iran and Ayatollah for Saddam and the communist Russia for the Taleban or better Mujahidin as they were referred then.

The story continues with Saddam’s invasion to Kuwait and the international reaction. The same time things change in Afghanistan following the dramatic changes and the end of USSR and the rebirth of Russia with all that brought for the next decade. The international community unites on time and strikes Saddam but here is the first mistake, they strike and they stop to a point instead of continuing and finish with the dictator who a few years after started a genocide against the Kurds. The same time Afghanistan becomes a problem for Russia’s backyard and the Americans with their NATO allies enjoy seen their foes living their very own Vietnam! That gives the chance to the Taleban and the fanatics to take over any aspect of the Afghani life and the same time Saddam continues to play his games.

When George W. Bush becomes president decides to finish his father’s job with Saddam and the same time make some money on the side for him and his friends, so it starts the spinning. The hit to the Twin Towers and Bin Laden’s involvement gives the chance to the international community to deal with the Taleban problem ones and for good and give to the afghan people freedom and choice. However Iraq’s agenda is obviously stronger for the white house and ignoring the international community US and their usual suspects allies invade Iraq opening Pandora’s’ Box in the area with all the sequences we see the last years. A nation destroyed and often in the edges of a civil war, the Iranian dictators trash every hope for peace with their involvement under the cover of religion, the Kurds trying to survive another genocide that starts this time from neighbor Turkey and the vultures eating the last bits of the country in the shape of American companies that ‘reconstruct’ the country!

The same time any success the international community might had in the war against Bin Laden and the Taleban falls into pieces with the constant lack of active deployment in Afghanistan and with a little help from their Pakistani allies Taleban nowadays the Taleban are nearly controlling Afghanistan living only the main ruling areas to poor president Karzai. President Karzai probably was not the ideal choice but he was the best choice at the time. He was the only one and actually still is the only one who’s willing to put aside his personal ideas, principals and feelings for the common good of the Afghani people. The only thing he missed was the support and I don’t mean the financial support he got in the beginning with all the UN gatherings around Europe but real support and action. The enemy for any improvement in Afghanistan was and is the Taleban. The enemy was and is Bin Laden. The only openly ally of Bin Laden is the Taleban. So why repeating mistakes? Why trying to heal one wound deepen another? And then why doomed the people of Afghanistan in the hands of the Taleban?

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Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:17:51
What remains confused in my mind after reading the above, otherwise thought provoking article is the rationale for the equating of terrorism to religious fanaticism. There is no doubt that the Taliban gave shelter and comfort to Bin Laden, that they are definitely not Jeffersonian democrats, but are all Talibans terrorists for the mere fact that they are religious fanatics? For if indeed each and every Taliban is ipso facto a hard-core terrorist, then the case can logically be made that Obama is now contemplating fraternization with terrorists, the same charge, by the way, made by Ms. Sarah Pelin during the presidential campaign and which she is sure to bring back if that is the case. I suspect however that Obama wishes to distinguish the hard-core terrorists from the mere religious fanatics as it has been done successfully with many Sunys of Iraq who have been de-couplet from the terrorists and no longer work for them, thus improving substantially the overall social and military situation there. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:18:21
Given that this is a NATO operation, the allies ought to decide which are their priorities and then keep their eyes on the ball and not let the US be the world’s policeman, a role nobody has appointed it to. The NATO allies ought to step up to the plate and together answer this question: is the priority the eradication of terrorism wherever it exists or the eradication of religious extremism in the name of liberalism and modernity? In other words, are they necessarily one and the same? Are we exporting “modernity” or democracy or are the two one and the same at all times? And if they decide that such is not the case, then what are the criteria for determining who are the Taliban who embrace terrorism and who are the ones who remain open to participate in the country’s political process? Which is to say: are the criteria modernity devoid of religion or the democratic process imbued with religious freedom? For after all most democratic countries in the West do not consider their religious citizens undesirable and second class citizens until they violate the democratic principles on which the country is built and not for merely attending church or synagogue or mosque. That is an acknowledgement that in practice within a democratic country one can be modern and religious at the same time. The two are not necessarily antithetical. They only become so within a social construct that has decides a priori that to be at the cutting edge of modernity is to be anti-religious. But nobody considers all those who attend church, synagogue and mosque fanatics and second class citizens and if they do, then a strong case can be made that it is the secular liberal mind-set that is intolerant just as much as the religious extremist is. Much food for thought here.

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:27:51
P.S. A good place to begin untangling those issues is the question posed by Jurgen Habermas and already explored in another article; namely this:

"Are religious issues simply to be regarded as relics of a pre-modern era, or is it the duty of the more secular citizens to overcome his or her narrowly secularist consciousness in order to engage with religion in terms of reasonably expected disagreement?"

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:35:10
P.S. This form another thread is relevant here, to better illustrate what was mentioned above about pseudo-toleration on the part of the secular liberals of Europe consider the case of the Rushdie controversy. When Rushdie embraced Islam (see the Guardian of January 17, 1991) and apologized to his co-religionists for any problem that his “Satanic Verses” might have caused them, the secular liberals of Europe could hardly be contained in their indignation. The rather distorted logic seems to be this: Muslims ought to be tolerant of offensive books, but liberals do not have to tolerate a writer that expresses some affinity with Islam. Which is to say, tolerance is conceived as a mere selective social construct, to be applied in some cases but not in others. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:36:50
(continued from above)
This is especially evident in the Netherlands where there is in place an evident tension between the dominant liberal ultra modern lifestyle and the illiberal policies that are in place to protect it. Anybody else who holds more traditional views are not tolerated, they may be even excluded. So the crucial logical question that begs to be answered is this: to what extent is it possible to protect the values associated with liberalism and modernity by being illiberal? Are the illiberal means justified by the liberal end? Another way of putting it is this: is the intolerant tyranny of the secular, liberal modernist majority justifiable in principle? Is it a mere issue of majority democratic rule or rather the secularist teleological assumption built into theories of modernization that one set of norms is reactionary, fundamentalist, and antimodern, while the other set is progressive, liberal and modern? It appears that simply by being there religious minorities of any religion bring to the attention of Europeans a series of unresolved issues which for centuries have been placed in the realm of the private. To their consternation, the presence of religious minorities brings them back in the public sphere.

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 14:41:31
(continued from above)
Here this quote by Pola Manzila Uddin, the first and only Muslim in England to be elected to Parliament, bears repeating also: “The almost total denial for decades of our identity based on our faith has been devastating psychologically, socially and culturally and its economic impact has been well demonstrated. For years Britain’s 2 million or so Muslims…have been totally by passed even by the best-intentioned community and race relation initiatives because they have failed to take on board the fact that a major component of their identity is their faith.”

Emanuel Paparella2009-03-09 15:04:18

The above link will take the interested reader to a book review in this very magazine which explores the dark places where Bin Laden got some of his distorted terroristic notions. You'd be surprised. The book, by the way, was Occidentalism: the West in the Eyes of its Enemies, by Margalit and Buruma.

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