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Letter by Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American woman

Oct 01, 2001 01:01 PM
by Pendragon

This letter is by Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American woman and writer 
living in the US.

Please forward to every one you know. 


Dear Friends, 

Yesterday I heard a lot of talk about "bombing 
Afghanistan back to the Stone Age." Ronn Owens, on KGO 
Talk Radio allowed that this would mean killing 
innocent people, people who had nothing to do with 
this atrocity, but "we're at war, we have to accept 
collateral damage," and he asked, "What else can we 
do? What is your suggestion?" Minutes later I heard a 
TV pundit discussing whether we "have the belly to do 
what must be done." And I thought about these issues 
especially hard because I am from Afghanistan, and 
even though I've lived here for 35 years I've never 
lost track of what's been going on over there. So I 
want to share a few thoughts with anyone who will 

I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama Bin 
Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people 
were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I 
fervently wish to see those monsters punished. But the 
Taliban and Bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not 
even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a 
cult of ignorant psychotics who captured Afghanistan 
in 1997 and have been holding the country in bondage 
ever since. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a 
master plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When 
you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think 
"the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the 
concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan 
people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were 
the first victims of the perpetrators. They would love 
for someone to eliminate the Taliban and clear out the 
rats nest of international thugs holed up in their 
country. I guarantee it. Some say, if that's the case, 
why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the 
Taliban themselves? The answer is, they're starved, 
exhausted, damaged, and incapacitated. A few years 
ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 
500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan--a country 
with no economy, no food. 

Millions of Afghans are widows of the approximately 
two million men killed during the war with the 
Soviets. And the Taliban has been executing these 
women for being women and have buried some of their 
opponents alive in mass graves. The soil of 
Afghanistan is littered with land mines and almost all 
the farms have been destroyed. The Afghan people have 
tried to overthrow the Taliban. They haven't been able 

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan 
back to the Stone Age. Trouble with that scheme is, 
it's already been done. The Soviets took care of it . 
Make the Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. 
Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into 
piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? 
Done. Destroy their infrastructure? There is no 
infrastructure. Cut them off from medicine and health 
care? Too late. Someone already did all that. 

New bombs would only land in the rubble of earlier 
bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not 
likely. In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, 
only they have the means to move around. They'd slip 
away and hide. (They have already, I hear.) Maybe the 
bombs would get some of those disabled orphans, they 
don't move too fast, they don't even have wheelchairs. 
But flying over Kabul and dropping bombs wouldn't 
really be a strike against the criminals who did this 
horrific thing. Actually it would be making common 
cause with the Taliban--by raping once again the 
people they've been raping all this time. 

So what else can be done, then? Let me now speak with 
true fear and trembling. The only way to get Bin Laden 
is to go in there with ground troops. I think that 
when people speak of "having the belly to do what 
needs to be done" many of them are thinking in terms 
of having the belly to kill as many as needed. They 
are thinking about overcoming moral qualms about 
killing innocent people. But it's the belly to die not 
kill that's actually on the table. Americans will die 
in a land war to get Bin Laden. And not just because 
some Americans would die fighting their way through 
Afghanistan to Bin Laden's hideout. It's much bigger 
than that, folks. To get any troops to Afghanistan, 
we'd have to go through Pakistan. Would they let us? 
Not likely. The conquest of Pakistan would have to be 
first. Will other Muslim nations just stand by? You 
see where I'm going. The invasion approach is a 
flirtation with global war between Islam and the West. 

And that is Bin Laden's program. That's exactly what 
he wants and why he did this thing. Read his speeches 
and statements. It's all right there. At the moment, 
of course, "Islam" as such does not exist. There are 
Muslims and there are Muslim countries, but no such 
political entity as Islam. Bin Laden believes that if 
he can get a war started, he can constitute this 
entity and he'd be running it. He really believes 
Islam would beat the west. It might seem ridiculous, 
but he figures if he can polarize the world into Islam 
and the West, he's got a billion soldiers. If the West 
wreaks a holocaust in Muslim lands, that's a billion 
people with nothing left to lose, even better from Bin 
Laden's point of view. He's probably wrong about 
winning, in the end the west would probably 
overcome--whatever that would mean in such a war; but 
the war would last for years and millions would die, 
not just theirs but ours. Who has the belly for that? 
Bin Laden yes, but anyone else? 

I don't have a solution. But I do believe that 
suffering and poverty are the soil in which terrorism 
grows. Bin Laden and his cohorts want to bait us into 
creating more such soil, so they and their kind can 
flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble 

Tamim Ansary 

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