Ignatieff has seen the jihad up close, and he believes hearts-and-minds development projects will fix it — once again showing that observation alone, when not properly grounded in study of the values and principles of the culture at hand, can sometimes lead one astray. How will development projects address the Taliban’s insistence that what they are doing is carrying out the law of the one true God?
“When Iggy met the Taliban,” by Colin Freeze in the Globe and Mail (thanks to all who sent this in):
It’s a pithy paragraph, capturing as it does the Taliban’s contempt for international conventions and their predilection for medieval punishments.
The central image is very well crafted, too. One can almost imagine the blood-spattered rope circle, the vacant swinging space, which once held the neck of the fallen ruler who was lynched for being a superpower’s stooge.
“Three nights before I arrived, the Taliban had dragged him out of the [United Nations] guesthouse, castrated him and beaten him to death and hanged his pulpy body from the stanchion of a traffic warden’s observation tower. As I drove into the city, only the noose, flecked with blood, remained swinging from the tower.”
So wrote Michael Ignatieff in 1997 in an essay for The New Yorker. At the time, he was a celebrated writer — one who happened to arrive in Kabul just as the Taliban was taking over and the world’s security situation was about to under go some seismic shifts. It was at this point that the writer became acquainted with what he called the “pitiless logic of jihad.”
The noose had been used to hang a Soviet-backed former Afghan president, Muhammed Najibullah. His final indignities were a major coup for the Taliban, who by then had captured three-quarters of the country, and were well en route to implementing what they regarded as God’s law.
Mr. Ignatieff actually met Taliban fighters face to face during his visit, experiences reflected in the 1997 essay that puts what he did and saw into the context of a big-picture rumination: How should the international community deal with the rise of remorseless irregular warriors, who care nothing about human rights nor the conventions of war?
Fast forward a decade later, and the question still hangs.
Mr. Ignatieff was back in Afghanistan this past weekend. This time, as a top Western politician, representing the Official Opposition of a country that has sent over 2,500 soldiers to help fight the Taliban.
Mr. Ignatieff, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, was travelling with his former political rival, Leader Stephane Dion. Their shared message was that Canada is going to want the soldiers back, sooner rather than later.
While the U.S. military and NATO allies, including Canada, have beaten back the Taliban over the past six years, the jihadists stubbornly linger. Now, the Liberals are pushing an agenda to ratchet down dangerous Canadian combat missions in the Taliban’s heartland, and crank up the less dangerous work, like development projects. (The position is fully articulated in an eight-page document released last week — www.liberal.ca/story_13465_e.aspx .)
Because Mr. Ignatieff has hit hawkish notes in the past, he was asked within minutes of landing at Kandahar about whether he supported his party”s calls to start beating swords into ploughshares. “I wouldn’t be on this airfield if I didn’t,” he told reporters who asked whether he supported his party”s position.
While working with Mr. Dion in Kabul, the Liberal second-in-command said they both made sure that President Karzai got the message from a potential Canadian government-in-waiting “The key thing that the president understands, and the ministers understand, is that sooner or later this country is going to stand on its feet,” Mr. Ignatieff said.
For his part, President Karzai was gracious, but seemed unconvinced of the wisdom of the Liberal position. In a statement following the meeting, Mr. Karzai expressed thanks for Canada’s sacrifices, but pointedly added that “the events of September 11 serves us well in reminding ourselves that not fighting terrorism head-on can have disastrous consequences for Afghanistan, the region and the world at large.”
Not long after President Karzai’s statement, the Taliban issued a statement of their own.
It was called “Martyrdom attack preformed in Capital Kabul city.”
On Monday. gunmen killed eight inside a Kabul hotel. The Islamists claimed the attack was a noteworthy blow against “Western-backed puppet government, as well as foreign embassies and businesses.”
Read it all.