Inside the Taliban

NYT reporter David Rohde talks about his experience as a hostage of the Taliban after having been kidnapped last November and held in captivity for seven months.

Rohde’s account of his ordeal in a recent series of New York Times articles is fascinating. Here’s some observations from his experience, as summarized in the Christian Science Monitor in a piece extrapolating on what its significance might be for U.S. policy makers:

Rhode describes how his captors talked not just of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but dwelt on casualties in Iraq and among the Palestinians. Their views may have been geographically broad, but were narrowly focused thanks to education limited to religious schooling and jihadi videos of suicide bombers, beheadings, and ambushes. Debate proved pointless.

“Their hatred for the United States seemed boundless,” wrote Rhode. “Nothing I said … seemed to change their minds.”

They remained unfazed about hating Christian missionaries while they tried repeatedly to convert Rohde; they cried over the killing of civilians by militaries, but cheered their own killing of dozens of civilians in suicide car bombs.

Even American soft power made little difference: His captors sang Beatles tunes and listened to American radio news.

The bottom line seems to be that there can be no form of reconciliation with these fanatics, who are every bit as deluded, thoroughly inconsistent, and lacking in cognitive dissonance as their neo-conservative adversaries.

49 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan War

49 responses to “Inside the Taliban

  1. austin

    Do you still want to mock me when I say having compassion for these scumbags is a weakness? They will never stop, so some day we will eventually have to do what I talked about a few days ago(don’t thik I need to rehash, do I?). They may seem completely crazy, but every man fears something. Absolute, unforgiving, barbaric brutality is the only thing that will win this war. Until then bring our soldiers home.

  2. Austin — No, this latest series of revelations has somewhat changed my mind of the subject. I had thought they were just misguided religious fanatics (amongst other things… nationalistic “freedom-fighters” perhaps), but it now seems they are, as Hillier described them, degenerate “scumbags” with a remarkably conflicted set of objectives and dubious values.

    Our reasons and motivations may be the dissimilar on the subject, but I’ve never disagreed with you on the need to pull out soldiers out and let these folks sort things out for themselves.

  3. austin

    On the subject of Afghanistan yes we can let them settle thier civil war, that should never have been our concern. That does not answer the problem of Islamism though. Right now they are not much of a threat, but these people do not think in terms of year to year or even decades they plan for the long term and as long as thier ideology is aloud to grow it is a threat we need to be concerned about. Make no mistake about thier intentions, a world wide Caliphate with Islamic law.

  4. austin

    … is allowed* to grom… lol

  5. austin

    grow* wow bad day.

  6. These people are extremists… and as such are rejected by the majority of Muslims, who are, like the majority of Christians, quite reasonable people. Accordingly, I’m not worried about them. Their fanaticism will eventually be excised by the majority who recognize that their lunatic beliefs do nothing but harm to the more conventional values of peace, security and prosperity.

  7. austin

    They are a small minority right now, in the thousands but as long as countries like Saudi Arabia continue to finance Islamic schools that teach a perverted form of Islam wich are sprouting up all across the mid east like bad weeds it will not be long before they number in the millions.

  8. Ti-Guy

    They are a small minority right now, in the thousands but as long as countries like Saudi Arabia continue to finance Islamic schools that teach a perverted form of Islam wich are sprouting up all across the mid east like bad weeds it will not be long before they number in the millions.

    So we need to kill more of them, right?

    I think you (and Red) missed the irony of these Taliban enjoying the products of American militarism, such as their movies glorifying war and the computer games that provide for killing as entertainment.

    Who exactly is the barbarian? In any case, it always comes down to a simple calculus…who’s killed more people in the last 100 years? The Americans or the Muslims?

  9. Bah! I doubt it. It’s a dismal, nihilistic creed with limited popular appeal. The movers behind Al-Qaeda tried to incite popular riots against various regimes around the Middle East and North Africa in the 80s an 90s and failed utterly to draw support for their ridiculous, harebrained cause. It attracts some religious kooks, in addition to some impressionable kids and young adults that feel disenfranchised and at loose ends, but so what? It’s nothing but a fringe group of losers.

  10. I think you (and Red) missed the irony of these Taliban enjoying the products of American militarism, such as their movies glorifying war and the computer games that provide for killing as entertainment.

    I didn’t miss it. Just thought it was too starkly obvious to comment on…

  11. austin

    “Who exactly is the barbarian? In any case, it always comes down to a simple calculus…who’s killed more people in the last 100 years? The Americans or the Muslims?”

    A better way would be, what percent of those killing were unjustified?

  12. Ti-Guy

    A better way would be, what percent of those killing were unjustified?

    Go for it. Do the math. Show your work.

  13. austin

    Yeah I’ll get right on that.

  14. foottothefire

    A marriage made in heaven…were it not for the innocent that pay the price where ever America goes.

  15. austin

    Yeah, America is the devil. If we are to measure countries on thier humanity we, and the rest of the world, are a far cry from them. When ever a disaster strike in this world they are the first ones there with massive amounts of aid and the Americans themselves donate more than any other people per capita than any other country. America is a country filled with caring people. Do they make mistakes? Who doesn’t?

  16. Taliban’s Pakistan
    As the state machinery took its time before launching the operation in Waziristan, the Taliban outflanked it by launching an offensive of their own, bringing the war to the heartland of the country.

    The brazen attack on GHQ, which was quickly followed by three synchronised raids on security establishments in Lahore, is a change in the tactics of the Taliban. After taking on GHQ, the proverbial nerve centre, they have shown a change in the tactics of terror: the militants’ attacks have now metamorphosed into a full-blown urban war.Until recently they would attack military convoys with improvised devices or their frenzied cadres would blow themselves up near a target or in a crowd. Now they have descended from the hills of Waziristan (as the common understanding goes) to extend the theatre of war. It will divide the focus of the armed forces and put many people’s lives at risk.

    http://ahraza.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/taliban-ka-pakistan/

  17. MoS

    Sure they’re despicable extremists, something shared by radical fundamentalists of so many faiths. If you want to stop them, isolate them from their support base, the “Arab Street.”

    We prop up anti-democratic dictatorships throughout the Middle East. Those who yearn for reform sometimes turn to the only outfit standing up to their persecutors – the Salafists.

    Maybe, just maybe, if we stopped treating Arab peoples like serfs, if we stopped backing monsters like Mubarak and the House of Saud, we would stop radicalizing rank and file Muslims.

    If we really want to fight Islamist extremism we need to begin in Riyadh and Cairo and Tel Aviv. When you spend generations pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire, don’t act indignant and self-righteous when you get singed.

    Break the link between the Arab Street and the Wahabists and you’ll have accomplished vastly more than all the bombs we’ve dropped and will continue to drop on the Muslim world.

  18. When ever a disaster strike[sic] in this world they are the first ones there with massive amounts of aid…

    Yeah, except when the disaster happened to black folks in New Orleans, where an RCMP task-force from Vancouver arrived before FEMA agents. Oh, and I don’t believe Hugo Chavez was ever thanked for the free oil he offered the victims who had been abandoned by their government…

    As for the differences between American neocon apparatchiks and their Taliban antagonists, I would number among them these two–first, the fact that few of the former have had their hatred at least partly mobilised by the sight of friends, family and entire villages getting vaporised by NATO air-strikes, and, second, the fact that none of them has been blessed with the advanced “Judeo-Christian” education that makes shiningly clear the depravity of inflicting massive civilian casualties while pursuing cynical geo-strategic objectives.

  19. austin

    Yep America hates black folk. lmao

  20. Yep America hates black folk. lmao

    Astonishing.

    Hey kids! Scribbling puerile, sneering dismissals of centuries-long oppression in asinine faux-clever quips is fun! And easy!

    All you need is a total lack of intellectual integrity and a colossal over-estimation of the rhetorical value of passive-aggressive banalities . Here—I’ll start us off:

    “Yep. Europe hates Jewish folk. lmao”

    “Yep. Romania hates Gypsies. lmao”

    See? Now, you do some!

  21. austin

    You want to talk about a “total lack of intellectual integrity”? Insinuating the American government is racists because one disgraced leader of FEMA(who’s name is not even important enough to google) was completely inept shows you have no intellect nor integrity. You and Kanye are 2 of a kind.

  22. michael st.paul's

    “… who’s killed more people in the last 100 years? The Americans or the Muslims?”

    The Communists!!! Hands down.

  23. Guzzeuntite

    “Scribbling puerile, sneering dismissals of centuries-long oppression in asinine faux-clever quips is fun! And easy!”

    You can’t be saying the United States is guilty of “centuries long” oppression of blacks. Right, Frank?

    ‘Cause that would make you a historical (not to mention hysterical) retard. And I am sure you are not.

  24. burpster

    http://bit.ly/1uJkIB

    “One of the most remarkable cases is that of Craig Murray, a 20-year veteran of the British Foreign Service whose career was destroyed after he was posted to Uzbekistan in August 2002 and began to…”

    read the story at the link above. if it doesn’t make your blood run cold, you’re most likely not human. how the people running these wars can sleep at night I don’t know.

    Then tell me again that these wars are honourable.

    Some brutal regimes are good while others are bad?

  25. Austin & Guzzeuntite:

    Insinuating the American government is racists[sic] because one disgraced leader of FEMA…

    Yes, that’s precisely what I said–that Louisiana’s blacks (just like most of America’s blacks) form a poor, neglected and despised underclass because of Michael Brown. You clever, clever boy…

    You can’t be saying the United States is guilty of “centuries long” oppression of blacks. Right, Frank?

    This is obviously a parody of neocon idiocy. It does sound uncomfortably authentic, though.

    Anyways, it’s been nice hosting you two at the adults’ table. Now, go back to the kids’ table, and clean your plates. Afterwards, if you’re good, I shall read you a book–undoubtedly your first.

  26. Some brutal regimes are good while others are bad?

    It’s not a question of “good” or any sort of noble moral imperative, but rather I’d suggest, one of convenience, expediency and self-serving commercial interest; in other words, Realpolitik (something that has guided American foreign policy through much of the last 40 years).

  27. Guzzeuntite

    “It does sound uncomfortably authentic, though.” — Frank

    Be careful, Frank. You either believe it or you don’t. Make up your mind. Parody or reality?

    “Anyways [sic], it’s been nice hosting you two at the adults’ table. Now, go back to the kids’ table, and clean your plates. Afterwards, if you’re good, I shall read you a book–undoubtedly your first.”

    Good golly, but aren’t you clever! That’s what I love about supercilious twits: no matter how trite and overused your insults are, you knuckleheads always think that you are the first to come up with them.

    Frankly, Frank, only kids say “anyways” anyway.

  28. Guzzeuntite

    “Yeah, except when the disaster happened to black folks in New Orleans, where an RCMP task-force from Vancouver arrived before FEMA agents.” – Frank

    Check your facts Frank.

  29. austin

    If you had a clue Franky boy it would die of loneliness.

  30. You either believe it or you don’t. Make up your mind.

    My God, it wasn’t a parody. I really must stop giving the benefit of the doubt so freely.

    Frank, only kids say “anyways” anyway…

    Heh. Notes on style from a master.

    “Anyways” has been in the OED for decades, you illiterate buffoon.

    Look, treating risible tripe like yours with the contempt it merits is not “supercilious”; it is simply what even the humblest members of the sane community feel is necessary to redeem the bandwidth your rubbish unjustly consumes.

    Now, I notice you haven’t even attempted to explain why the black experience in America from the 17th to the 20th centuries cannot be seen as one of brutal oppression. That’s odd, since I find it hard to believe that someone of your obvious cognitive incapacity is actually aware of your argument’s futility. Perhaps you’re not quite as dim as you seem.

    If you had a clue Franky boy it would die of loneliness.

    Speaking of trite and overused.

    Well, I guess we’ve just learned that Grade Ten math teachers really have to start cracking down hard on student texting during their calculus lessons.

  31. SF — “Risible tripe” … Heh.

    BTW, what’s up with people calling you “Frank”? That’s so rudely impertinent.

    Come on, folks — surely, you can do better than that. Get your game up a bit and don’t stoop to conquer. Save that for YouTube comments… (Good grief, those things are just appalling sometimes!)

  32. Navvy

    The youtube comments section is where English goes to die. I say that as someone with admittedly horrible grammar.

  33. Guzzeuntite

    “My God, it wasn’t a parody. ” — Frank, above.

    “This is obviously a parody of neocon idiocy.” — Frank, further above

    Pardon my confusion.

    “Anyways” has been in the OED for decades, you illiterate buffoon.”

    Decades? Decades, you say? You mean, like, more than ten years ago? Who are you calling illiterate, buffoon? Anyways is informal and nonstandard, you ninny, and to use it in a sentence where you are accusing others of being children is … kind of funny. No? “Anyways” sounds juvenile, and I know that wasn’t your intent.

    See: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=96471&dict=CALD

    and also: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anyways

    Then the ever superciliouser RT had to back up this ignorant kid-speak with, “heh.” All well, Red, at least you’re the first one to use “heh.” Right?

    “I notice you haven’t even attempted to explain why the black experience in America from the 17th to the 20th centuries cannot be seen as one of brutal oppression.”

    I’ll entertain you with a brief answer, but first: I assume by your smear against “America” you mean to distinguish it from Canada, “objectively the best place in the world to live, despite its proximity to the United States.” “Objectively.” Your words. To distinguish America from Canada, therefore, we must only consider the sovereign nation called the United States of America. Before there was a USA, there was only British North America (not counting the territory owned the Spanish).

    Thus, I will ignore the fact that some of the British colonies that would later become states in the USA actually ended the enslavement of blacks before others did who were in British-owned North American territory that would later become Canada. Is that OK with you? Next, I assume we can all agree that 1776 was not in 16th century, despite the confusing “17” in the date. Finally, I will grant you, without complaint, a broad definition of “brutal oppression,” but I will insist that to qualify as brutal oppression, the government must be the oppressor, not Joe Schmoe. Despite this broad grant, I have a feeling, like most leftists, you have a very subjective definition of “brutal oppression.”

    But here goes:
    1. The USA declares itself independent in 1776. The 18th century. Prior to that, the British enslaved Africans in North America. In establishing its Constitution the northern states and southern state squabbled over representation in Congress. The south, to increase its relatively weak power, wanted slaves to count persons for purposes determining congressional representation of the states. The north thought it stupid, since the south treated the slaves as inhuman – that is, as property. So, the north and compromised: slaves were 2/3 human.
    2. For the next 84 or so years the US struggled mightily with the slavery issue. The increasingly industrial north was against it; the south, not so much. Then most of the south, seeing the growing might and population of the north (22 million people in the north vs. 9 million in the south), finally seceded from the union, beginning in 1860 with South Carolina. The Civil War began in 1861, during which a Republican named Lincoln emancipated all the slaves (except for those in those few southern (“border”) states than didn’t secede). During that war 620,000 troops died, but the slave-free north won. A lot a white blood was spilled to end slavery. Was the American north oppressive to blacks?
    3. In 1865 the 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the US. In 1868, the 14th Amendment gave equal rights to all in the US without regard to race. In 1870, the 15th Amendment made explicit that the right to vote could not be denied on account of race. This era was known as “Reconstruction.” As of 1870, was the principal document of the United States brutally oppressive and atavistic? Or was it enlightened and modern?
    So, my math shows not even 100 years of “brutal” oppression by the US – atoned for in blood and treasure. For the first hundred or so years of brutal oppression, blame the British and their colonial subjects, not the United States. (Oh, and let’s not forget the Africans.)

  34. Guzzeuntite

    “BTW, what’s up with people calling you “Frank”? That’s so rudely impertinent.” — RT

    If you want to sound like a supercilious twit, RT, don’t be so damn redundant.

    What is it with the Red Tory thing, anyway, with it’s faux upper class twittitude?

  35. Wow. That was a whole lot of nonsensical blather to make the point you think I’m a supercilious twit…

    And yes, I can be at times, but you could just cut to the chase on that matter rather than nattering on with an annoying pile of links and angry rhetoric…

  36. Guzzeuntite

    Re above.

    First one to mention the French gets a baguette shoved up their nez.

  37. Guzzeuntite

    “And yes, I can be at times, but you could just cut to the chase on that matter rather than nattering on with an annoying pile of links and angry rhetoric…”

    Two ain’t a pile. Three is a pile.

  38. No, three or more is “several” and somewhat beyond that is “a pile” — but I take your correction with due notation.

  39. Anyways[sic] is informal and nonstandard…

    “Informal” is not the same as “non-standard”, you poltroon. Ask someone to crow-bar you away from the Internet and open an Oxford English Dictionary or some other authoritative reference resource. While you’re at it, learn to use quotation marks where appropriate.

    I’ll entertain you…

    You can hardly do otherwise.

    I assume by your smear against “America” you mean to distinguish it from Canada…

    …which is virtually certain, given that “America” conventionally refers to the United States, while continental entities are conventionally expressed more specifically (e.g. “North America”, “Latin America”, etc.).

    …some of the British colonies that would later become states in the USA actually ended the enslavement of blacks before others did who were in British-owned North American territory that would later become Canada.

    The Dred Scott case made American blacks vulnerable everywhere, even in so-called “free states”. This is why the Underground Railroad had to flow into Canada.

    Next, I assume we can all agree that 1776 was not in 16th century, despite the confusing “17” in the date.

    American colonists began using slave labour in the mid 1600’s, you twit.

    Finally, I will grant you, without complaint, a broad definition of “brutal oppression”

    …one that includes resort to statutory subordination and the routine infliction of mob violence, naturally.

    … but I will insist that to qualify as brutal oppression, the government must be the oppressor

    You do so arbitrarily. My reference is to those who have inhabited, not merely governed, the United States.

    I have a feeling, like most leftists, you have a very subjective definition of “brutal oppression.”

    Syntactically, you’ve just described yourself as a leftist–which is more accurate than what you tried to say.

    As to my definition of “brutal oppression”, the systemic and violent dehumanisation of an entire demographic class by another would satisfy its criteria.

    Now, to your delusional “history”:

    1. Your point eludes me. You’re merely admitting the painfully obvious: American colonists enslaved, and thus oppressed, black people abducted from Africa. Was that squib supposed to contest something I’ve said?

    2. You are making “slavery” exclusively co-extensive with “oppression”, as if one were not oppressed as long as one is not enslaved. This is arrant nonsense. The “slave-free North” continued to be deeply hostile to their black populations for generations after the Civil War, with segregation being the rule.

    3. Your belief that Reconstruction actually brought dignity and security to Southern blacks is morbidly amusing. Thousands of Southern and Northern lynchings, many of them arranged with the consent of local and state authorities, occurred between the end of Reconstruction and the mid-20th Century, with hardly a single conviction ever brought against the perpetrators.

    Really, your approach to American history is just a grotesque caricature. That you’re advocating it in apparent earnest is saddening.

  40. Ti-Guy

    Excuse me, but why are people talking to the malign American psychotic Guzzeuntite (gevalt!) who obviously has stopped taking the Thorazine again?

  41. burpster

    I wish I had a tenth of SF’s way with words. Impressive.

  42. Guzzeuntite

    Really, Frank, you try too hard.

    As I had expected, you allow yourself the broadest definition of “brutally oppressive.” Good for you. It was just as I expected.

    However, the funniest aspect of your comment is your obsession with “anyways.” To make up for your juvenile and embarrassing use of silly word, you flay about twitfully:

    * Scorning any dictionary but the “OED” as not authoritative (nice try). What you seem to have great difficulty in understanding is that “anyways” sounds mildly retarded. This is because, frankly, Frank, it IS mildly retarded. Why is this so difficult for you?

    * Telling me nothing I don’t know (‘“Informal” is not the same as “non-standard”’ — No shit? “Anyways” is BOTH informal and non-standard, Twitster). Oh … and did I tell you that it’s also kind of retarded?

    * Picking the ONE time I forgot to use quotation marks (look at the very next sentence, you pud, and there they are, in all their glory). AnywayS, nice catch, genius. Sort of makes up for actually using “anyways” in a sentence. Right?

    * Advising me that my syntax caused me to describe myself as a leftist, when I “meant to say” something else. Well let’s see … nope … wrong again, knucklehead. I just checked. My syntax is fine. Care to give it another look?

    Really, Frank, you screwed up. You speak like a typical Canadian: That is, you sound like an idiot. Sorry but that’s just the way it is. You cannot help it. Stop trying to justify the unjustifiable. “Anyways” is flat out stupid.
    As to the substance of the rest of your rant:
    “American colonists began using slave labour in the mid 1600’s, you twit.”

    Indeed. Clearly, from the context of what I wrote I meant the “17th century,” not the 16th. But, anyways, thanks again, genius, for the most obvious of catches.

    That’s it: no more substance.

    Now for the parting shot:

    “Now, to your delusional “history” …”

    What did I write that was non-factual, Herr Doktor Professor Freud? I find it “morbidly amusing” that anyone would consider Canada to be “objectively, the best place in the world to live.” Jeebus! YOU are calling ME delusional? As I told Ti-Guy awhile back, Leftists always — but ALWAYS — project.

    Oops! Speak of the Devil! There goes Tiggy again: “[W]hy are people talking to the malign American psychotic Guzzeuntite (gevalt!) who obviously has stopped taking the Thorazine again?”

  43. austin

    I assume by your smear against “America” you mean to distinguish it from Canada…

    …which is virtually certain, given that “America” conventionally refers to the United States, while continental entities are conventionally expressed more specifically (e.g. “North America”, “Latin America”, etc.).

    You really are trying to insinuate that Canada stands on higher moral ground than America. I guess I refused at first to believe that someone who uses such big words could be so ignorant to his own country’s history. Well Franky boy(RT- I call him Franky cause I sure am not going to call him Sir anything), I hate to inform you that we share in a lot of America’s atrocitys, we even take them in worst atrocity committed(unless they did it too but I do not think so). Residential Schools were nothing short of cultural genocide.

  44. Excuse me, but why are people talking to the malign American psychotic Guzzeuntite…

    Noblesse oblige, Ti. Noblesse oblige.

    Besides, the historical and cultural aporia that pock-mark the febrile minds of the neo-con herd staggering listlessly upon the wastelands beyond our southern border are fascinating objects of inquiry. It’s like gazing upon the uncomprehending faces of a band of previously undiscovered Amazonian tribesmen.

  45. Ti-Guy

    The malign psychotic reminds me of this guy.

    Another innovation in personality disorders brought to us by America Inc. And another drug to control it will be along shortly.

  46. austin

    Look at that, I forgot quotations.

  47. Ti-Guy

    Besides, the historical and cultural aporia that pock-mark the febrile minds of the neo-con herd staggering listlessly upon the wastelands beyond our southern border are fascinating objects of inquiry. It’s like gazing upon the uncomprehending faces of a band of previously undiscovered Amazonian tribesmen.

    A trip to Tucson, Arizona in 1995 ended that fascination for me forever. These people are…nuts. Bizarre nuts…like the mother from Sybil. Remember her?

    Amazonian tribesmen are dull and conventional in comparison. And I say that in all seriousness.

  48. …the funniest aspect of your comment is your obsession with “anyways”…

    …which you brought up.

    …”anyways” sounds mildly retarded.

    It does if “retarded” functions as a meaningful qualifier in your own private lexicography. In the adult world, it doesn’t.

    Scorning any dictionary but the “OED” as not authoritative…

    That’s because the OED is authoritative. The Internet is not. They learn that in school.

    Advising me that my syntax caused me to describe myself as a leftist…Well let’s see … nope … wrong again…

    I’ll do this slowly for you, jackass. You said, “I have a feeling, like most leftists…”. The phrase “like most leftists” modifies “I”–that’s you. Learn to write; then, learn to think.

    As I had expected, you allow yourself the broadest definition of “brutally oppressive.”

    Oh indeed. The legal normalisation of lynching–the act of hanging or burning a man after inflicting sustained torture–is only barely brutally oppressive.

    What did I write that was non-factual?

    Pretty much everything–as I pointed out.

    It’s a shame, really. I think the State Department would be very disappointed to see the image of Americans you’re displaying to the world.

  49. Ti-Guy

    I think the State Department would be very disappointed to see the image of Americans you’re displaying to the world.

    I’m not sure that isn’t the State Department’s intention. I’m pretty sure it’s in America’s interests to have the rest of World think the place is populated by irrational lunatics. Besides, they can pull that off a lot easier than convincing the rest of us that they’re all geniuses like the Soviets attempted, n’est-ce pas?

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