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The Taliban May Feign Moderation – But the Murderous Reality Is Clear
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In 2001 the Taliban blew up the giant 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan to show their defiance of the world and their contempt for all religious beliefs aside from their own fanatical version of Sunni Islam.

Another motive was to demonstrate the Taliban’s power over the Shia minority in Afghanistan, mostly members of the 4 million-strong Hazara ethnic group, in whose heartlands the statues had stood before their destruction.

Last week the Taliban blew up another statue in Bamiyan, this time of a martyred Hazara leader whom they had murdered in 1995, shortly before they captured Kabul for the first time. His name was Abdul Ali Mazari and he died when he and his senior aides were invited to a peace meeting with a Taliban leader. On their arrival, Mazari was abducted, tortured, executed and his body thrown out of a helicopter.

His mutilated remains were later handed over to his Hazara Shia followers who carried them for forty days through snow-covered mountains in Hazara territory to a funeral attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Sanctified by his life and the manner of his death in the eyes of the Hazara, he was later declared an official Martyr for the National Unity of Afghanistan by president Ashraf Ghani who fled the country last week.

The swift destruction of the statue of Mazari in Bamiyan last Wednesday is an ominous guide to the future behaviour of the Taliban once they believe that their present show of moderation is no longer necessary to impress the outside world. In May this year, the visceral hatred of the Shia as heretics by either the Taliban, or the local chapter of Isis, was horrifically displayed when 85 Shia Hazara schoolgirls were killed by a bomb as they left their school in Kabul.

The next few months will tell, once Afghanistan no longer tops the news agenda, how far the new Taliban rulers of Kabul will renew persecution of the ethnic and religious minorities outside the Pashtun community to which almost all Taliban belong.

Yet, although the Pashtun are the largest community, they are still only 42 per cent of the 38 million population of Afghanistan. A determining feature of the country’s political landscape is that all communities are minorities, creating different power centres, the relations between which will decide the country’s future.

A militarised party like the Taliban based on the Pashtun community in the south of the country may seize power through physical force for a time, but it is unlikely to hold on to it permanently or peacefully unless some authority is devolved to the Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazara – as well as to cities like Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

It was Mazari, the murdered Hazara Shia leader, who advocated a federal Afghanistan with the different regions of the country enjoying extensive autonomy. His fate at the time and the immediate blowing up of his statue a quarter of a century later indicates that the Taliban are no more interested now in his solution to Afghanistan’s permanent civil war than they were when they killed him.

“I don’t think the Taliban can unite the country,” an Afghan friend told me this week. “Afghans only come together to fight obvious enemies like the Russians or the Americans. The last time around [before the overthrow of the Taliban by the US-backed invasion of 2001], the Taliban demanded that everybody speak the Pashto language.”

My Afghan friend wondered if the incoming Taliban leaders would have the sophistication to rule a country as diverse as Afghanistan with its mosaic of cultures, languages, communal identities and political interests. She recalled Taliban leaders prior to 2001 who could not read or write and, at first, employed somebody to write their signature on official documents. “Later they had their signatures inscribed on a ring they would press down on an inkpad and then on a document,” she said.

For now, it is much in the interests of the Taliban to give the impression that they have moderated their old fanatical and murderous ways. Their victory has come faster and is more comprehensive than they had expected because the high profile American pull-out convinced Afghans that a government defeat was inevitable – and this belief became self-fulfilling.

Switching sides early to that of the likely winner has always been a feature of war in Afghanistan, as it was in medieval England during the Wars of the Roses. Indeed, Shakespeare’s history plays about that period provide a good guide to the treacheries and fast-changing allegiances of Afghan politics today.

Taliban domination is more fragile than it might appear in the long term, but for the moment they have the momentum of victory behind them. Afghans and Afghanistan’s neighbours will want to see what they do with their new-found power.

Some members of the fallen regime already speak of armed resistance, such as first vice-president Amrullah Saleh. Another is Ahmad Massoud, the son of the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated by al-Qaeda suicide bombers in 2001.

As with his father, Ahmad says he will fight from the great natural fortress of the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, which the Taliban have not yet taken. The floor of the valley used to be littered with the remains of burnt-out Soviet tanks from battles in the 1980s. But the precedent may be misleading because the Taliban are stronger than ever and opposition to them has yet to come together.

Even when it does, it will require foreign backers in the form of money and weapons – and no foreign state is likely to provide them while they are still assessing the nature of the new regime in Kabul.

ORDER IT NOW

The US and its western allies say that a crucial test for them will be how far the Taliban avoids hosting terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, as they did before 9/11. It will be much in the Taliban’s interests not to do so because they want international recognition as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. Unlike 20 years ago, they do not need anything from al-Qaeda such as money and fanatical recruits willing to die on the battlefield.

Foreign media coverage has focused on the threat to Afghan interpreters who were with foreign forces and the reduction of women to an inferior status within Afghan society.

Yet the decisive factor in deciding whether the 40-year-old Afghan civil war will continue or come to an end will be decided by the degree to which the Taliban will seek to monopolise power or to share it with the other Afghan communities.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban 
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  1. Chris Moore says: • Website

    The Marxists and Captalists may feign moderation, but the murderous reality is clear. So is their Globalist hypocrisy.

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
    • Thanks: nosquat loquat
  2. JasonT says:

    Cockburn has always been a gatekeeper for the Globalist psychopaths. The Taliban will be no more, and perhaps less, brutal than any regime controlled by the Globalists.

    • Agree: Jim Christian
  3. A great article as always Mr. Cockburn. Please ignore the raw-assed Trumpkins on this site. It’s about to get much, much, worse for those anti-civilizational scum. BLM. Wear A Mask.

  4. Andreas says:

    In 2001 the Taliban blew up the giant 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan to show their defiance of the world and their contempt for all religious beliefs aside from their own fanatical version of Sunni Islam.

    In 2020 left-wing radicals tore down statues depicting historic events in many locations in the US to flaunt both their ignorance and their power over the US establishment in spite of it.

    • Agree: George
    • LOL: Malla
    • Replies: @George
  5. anon[353] • Disclaimer says:

    Afghans were starving It was under sanction . Outsider came offering millions to do work around and on the statue but wouldn’t do anything to ease the dire situation either lift sanction or offer food . If I were Taliban, I would be pissed off .
    A nation that has endured 20 years war (1980 to 2000 ) was asked to behave like a western country .
    That country has been abused as a football for 20 years. Comeuppance for that will visit the west .Don’t worry .

    • LOL: true.enough
  6. anon[286] • Disclaimer says:
    @Supply and Demand

    However, it wasn’t the raw-assed Trumpkins who pulled American troops out of Afghanistan in the dead of night. Not that these troops have made much difference over the past 20 years.

  7. 1. More bunkum than I thought there would be in this article. Cockburn, who feigns inside knowledge of all international relations, sounds like a fool.

    2. The destruction of the Buddhist statues is perfect. For those not conversant, the very essence of Buddhism is evanescence. All things must pass. Cling not to the delusions, the false appearances of this world. Buddha would have approved of the destruction. What is particularly apt is the faint, ghost-like after-impressions of the statues still left on the walls after their destruction. Reminding us of the First Noble Truth. How Buddhist can you get.

    • Replies: @Barbarossa
    , @Malla
  8. lloyd says: • Website

    I don’t support them. But this is the revenge of the heterosexual male after fifty years of abuse.

    • Agree: Angharad
  9. It is pure insanity to think Americans have any interest in what happens in Afghanistan. We had no reason to invade, so there is no moral face saving to be done.

    It is not our concern. It was a crime implemented by the oligarchy.

  10. Wokechoke says:

    Only good Biden has ever done in his life.

    • Agree: Angharad, Chris Mallory
  11. Yee says:

    Why blowing up a statues indicates “Murderous Reality”?

    Plenty of statues were destroyed when an ideology change occur in a country. The ex-communist European states have done the same…

    • Replies: @Wokechoke
    , @Showmethereal
  12. anonymous[336] • Disclaimer says:

    Good. If Taliban had sincerely surrendered to wymon’s rights to destroy civilization and western liberal democracy and wugabooga, it would have been a massive disappointment. Hope them to actually execute all of the unfortunate remaining feces of feminist-anal juden empire puppet regime. Glory to Taliban!

    • Replies: @Buck Ransom
  13. @anonymous

    If the Neocons start bombing the place all over again, (to destroy the F-35s left behind and essential infrastructure and such things), the NGO regime-changers and assorted contractors/mercenaries stranded in Afghanistan will likely find employment as human shields. This could quickly escalate matters in ways that would tax the minds of even a Lloyd Austin and a Mark Milley.

  14. Wokechoke says:
    @Supply and Demand

    It’s a garbage article. Twenty years after Bamiyan the blacks Jews and race traitor whites in the US just ripped down every statue. Get a gun and parachute into Bagram if you think Afghanistan is worth fighting for. No one can stop you.

    • Agree: Gordo, fnn
    • Replies: @mike99588
  15. @Supply and Demand

    Going to get much worse? For us? BLM and masks are your armor? Really! Your wishes work in your little blue world, Dummy, but before you get out to OUR world, first thing is, your BLM brethren will beat all the dumbass whites. But BLM knows not to come to us as is. They don’t like us, we don’t like them, we are at a Mexican standoff, we will self segregate, already are, we understand each other. They also know they’re seriously outgunned everywhere ouside their cities. Game over. They will not fight us for you. It is you weak white pussies that will have no homeland when your game runs out. Believe me, blacks hate you virtue loving whites far more than they hate us out in the real world. Blacks know if you will betray your own White fellows at the behest of jews, blacks will mean nothing to you and your jewish masters when weaponizing blacks is useless. Already in black/blue cities, the bloodthirsty ‘teens’ beat you black and blue (heh) or kill you liberal whites, your ugly women and pussy men alike. Think you’re allies? Blacks kick the shit out of you as you beg for mercy without penalty. That’s what you mean to your jewish masters, nothing. The press doesn’t even report on your deaths at the hands of blacks. But there will be no race war, only that of the entertaining deaths of liberal BLM and tranny homo whites at the hands of the blacks you worship. Like I said, no matter your horseshit, they hate you worse, far worse, than us. And believe with all your heart, we hate your filthy, traitorous sort far more than any blacks. When the jews realize there is no further use for you, they’ll throw you to your noble black lion to feast on. And feast they do, every single day. Bye bye dickhead.

    • Replies: @Supply and Demand
  16. The Taliban May Feign Moderation – But the Murderous Reality Is Clear

    The Israel Lobby Neo-cons May Feign Moderation – But the Murderous Reality Is Clear.

    FIFY, Cockburn.

    • Agree: Curmudgeon
  17. Western hypocritical nonsense. The Taliban can never do the damage to Afghanistan that the US has already done. The Taliban may only make up 42% of the Afghan population but that is 42% more than the US and their vassals did.

    • Agree: GomezAdddams
  18. Wokechoke says:
    @Yee

    How the Bamiyan meme can survive Iconsmashing 2020, no one knows. America has a long way to fall. Or topple.

  19. In 2001 the Taliban blew up the giant 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan to show their defiance of the world and their contempt for all religious beliefs aside from their own fanatical version of Sunni Islam.

    Terrible, but the Jewish-run West aided ‘moderate rebels’ and ISIS that destroyed many more cultural treasures in Iraq and Syria.

    And look how Jews are gleeful over the destruction/removal of white monuments in the West.

    Also, ‘whiteness’ itself is attacked.

    And whites have been indocted to choose suicide over survive.

    • Agree: Gordo
    • Replies: @Rev. Spooner
  20. Angharad says:

    Ooohhh the Taliban are horrid? Clutch the pearls. Go tell ’em, Patrick. You go over to Afghanistan and tell the Taliban Meanies just how MEAN they are! I’m certain they will listen with complete, captivated breathlessness to EVERY pearl of wisdom you utter, Paddy. Lead a Pundit’s Crusade. And then get back to us. Mmmmkay?

  21. @Jim Christian

    It is you weak white pussies that will have no homeland when your game runs out.

    I’ve thrown in my lot with the Chinese genetically, because they reflect the white values that Trump voters make a mockery of with their obesity, small arms, and peasant attitude.

    The technocracy ahead won’t care that you are in the exurbs, because Bill Gates and the CPC owns all the farmland.

  22. TG says:

    Amateurs talk strategy and professionals talk logistics.

    When the US invaded, the population of Afghanistan was about 20 million. It has now roughly doubled to about 40 million.

    More people is not a problem if more resources are being developed and more infrastructure built, but the US did not do that. The US fed the growing Afghani population but apparently had not the slightest concern that the Afghanis had no way to support their numbers without foreign aid.

    Now the population of Afghanistan is set to double again in the next 20 years, to about 80 million, and they can’t even feed their current population, and US aid has been suddenly cut off.

    What the Taliban do or do not do has no relevance. It’s going to be very bad to be an Afghani. They are all of them going to want to go to the United States. And the rich will oblige them – the very few that actually sided with the Americans, along with the overwhelming majority that hated the Americans and worked against them (remember how Afghani soldiers had to disarm before entering US bases, because they so often would kill Americans? These are our allies that we ‘owe’, really?)

    It’s about cheap labor and high rents. The rich see a great opportunity in Afghani misery and violence to open a second front in importing the surplus population of the third world. The hordes of desperate Afghanis being shoveled into the United States is not a failure, but by design.

    • Replies: @schnellandine
  23. Cockburn’s fear-machine analysis fails (like all western jewish-derived materialist pov’s) in not recognising that —

    (a) Taliban have recovered their country. After 20 years of dogged and courageous fighting in the face of Drones MOABs and other high-techery.
    They have driven out the Great Satan (meaning Enemy).

    (b) Talibans believe in Allah. They are individually and collectively subject to Allah (meaning of Islam) and believe their victory is a direct, tangible and obvious result of the will of Allah for them. Unlike USA, they do not talk of themselves as “awesome” or similar foolishly inaccurate terms, but ascribe their victory to Allah.

    (c) This being so, they must be 100% confident that whatever challenges are presented ref food etc, their needs will be met; if they are not met, there are further lessons they must learn. There is no place for the gross materialist atheism that is the talmudist bequest to the west. They do not believe that whoever dies with the most toys, wins.

    In Afghanistan, one may see a victory of spirituality over crass materialism, whether one is or not a Muslim. This is the real bad news for the moneychangers.

    Because the liklihood is that its impact will spread further.
    And it will destroy them.
    And not before time, either.

    • Agree: PJ London
  24. Gordo says:

    he was later declared an official Martyr for the National Unity of Afghanistan by president Ashraf Ghani who fled the country last week.

    Better to praise a martyr than become one.

    A determining feature of the country’s political landscape is that all communities are minorities,

    That’s the plan for our countries too, instability ahead big style.

    My Afghan friend wondered if the incoming Taliban leaders would have the sophistication to rule a country as diverse as Afghanistan with its mosaic of cultures, languages, communal identities and political interests.

    The Taliban have an answer: Islam. Time will tell if it works, over to them!

  25. @Supply and Demand

    The technocracy ahead won’t care that you are in the exurbs, because Bill Gates and the CPC owns all the farmland.

    Were you born this stupid or have you had to work at it.

    Bill Gates and all foreign owners of US farmland own less than 3% of total privately owned US farmland.

    At least try to get your facts right when you troll.

    • Replies: @Supply and Demand
  26. WJ says:

    Taliban bad and murderous. Don’t give a dung. Raise your own army and liberate that dung hole if you feel so strongly.

  27. @Chris Mallory

    if you think it’s actually 3%, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

    • Replies: @Quartermaster
  28. Anonymous[127] • Disclaimer says:

    Lee Kuan Yew put it bluntly: “Afghanistan is not a country. It’s a mosaic of warring tribes. How are you going to put all those pieces together?”

    In the rest of the world, people will try to pin the blame for the debacle on their least favorite politician for some two weeks. Then everybody will move on while Pashtuns will keep on pashtuning in the other side of the world. Frankly it’s better that way.

    But the most depressing part is that pashtunwali is even harsher than sharia. Afghan women prefer the latter by a wide margin.

  29. @obwandiyag

    Yeah, I was thinking there would be some actual evidence of the Taliban doing hard-core murderous victory laps.
    Despite my efforts all I can find is some incidents which appear relatively isolated…so far.

    However, there are lots of bloviating articles all over the interwebs about fears and maybes and what if’s, but little evidence that the Taliban is not making a semi-serious attempt to do as they claim.

    It should at least be notable that there hasn’t been much more chaos than there has been given the circumstances and the fact that this is Afghanistan we are talking about.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  30. mike99588 says:
    @Wokechoke

    Parachuting a few daisy cutters first into Bagram is more likely.
    Perforate our ex-equipment and a few jihadis, especially if they are killing hostages.

    • Replies: @Wokechoke
  31. …the decisive factor in deciding whether the 40-year-old Afghan civil war will continue or come to an end will be decided by the degree to which the Taliban will seek to monopolise power or to share it with the other Afghan communities.

    Patrick is correct. A decent piece with an apt title. This wasn’t click bait.

    The ignorant replies on this thread are hilarious! Keyboard kommandos praising a group of maniacs who would shoot a person if the beard wasn’t the proper length or if a verse from their koran wasn’t sung properly.

    Give it time; see what China has inherited, see what Russia has inherited, see how many ‘fugees move across borders, see how the zionists move military assets across the chess board. Watch civilizations transform.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  32. @TG

    Amateurs talk strategy and professionals talk logistics.

    Okay. Find a new pet phrase to shovel. You’re getting almost as bad as the sig faggs polluting this joint.

    Regardless an axiom’s source/truth, eventually repetition dissolves its weight.

  33. About 20 years ago, I heard a radio lecture Everyone Loves a Good Drought which is a book by Palagummi Sainath. While the lecture and book were about corruption in India surrounding international aid, I found one aspect interesting. India was portrayed as a non-violent society, but Sainath challenged that concept by asking what constitutes violence? He considered crushing poverty where the elites had too much to be violence. Keeping people, truly wanting to be educated, in ignorance was violence. In that context, how “violent” are the Taliban? Were they violent, in their last form, for keeping un-escorted women inside to prevent them from being kidnapped by the criminal warlord gangs? Were they violent for taking the elite down a few notches? Were they violent for chopping off hands of thieves or executing other criminal elements? Aren’t the constant wars for Israel, with or without its pitbull NATO violent? How about inflicting the native inhabitants of (((Western liberal democracies))) with mass immigration from 3rd world cultures who have no interest in assimilating, while creating unemployment and a lower living standard?
    People like Cockburn who lecture us on what those 3rd world countries do, should do, and what “our” response should be, are dangerous. Leave them to their own devices.

  34. @Supply and Demand

    Why should anyone be a bigger fool and buy the bridge from you?

  35. The civil war is not 40 years old. It dates back centuries. If the Afghans have not had an invader to fight, they fight among themselves. Lee was quite correct.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  36. Mathew says:

    Really? Will the Taliban any more “murderous” than U.S./NATO forces who indiscriminately slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Afghan men, women and children over the past twenty years using everything from carpet bombs, drone strikes and even MOAB? The reality is that the Afghan people chose the Taliban over the violently psychopath imperial invaders. The Taliban (often without food and shoes) could not have accomplished what they did without the overwhelming support of the majority of the Afghan people.

    Mathew

    • Troll: Twodees Partain
  37. @Yee

    Yes – The US media was gleeful when Saddam Hussein’s statute was destroyed.

  38. @true.enough

    I dont see anyone praising the Taliban. I just think ppl are rightly pointing out that it is a brutal area and a brutal world. Is the Taliban better or worse than the warlords in the region??

    As to China and Russia – see that is the point – they aren’t inheriting anything. They know that region and all its idosyncracies because they live there. They dont suffer American style delusion.

    • Replies: @true.enough
  39. Taliban may be murderous, but this is like a Marx Brothers movie, esp DUCK SOUP.



    Video Link

  40. Malla says:
    @obwandiyag

    The destruction of the Buddhist statues is perfect. For those not conversant, the very essence of Buddhism is evanescence. All things must pass. Cling not to the delusions, the false appearances of this world.

    LOL. Good point.

  41. @Showmethereal

    I dont see anyone praising the Taliban.

    I guess you’re correct. I saw the comments about globo-homo-schlomo’s withdrawal as praise for the Sunni freak show. My mistake.

    As to China and Russia – see that is the point – they aren’t inheriting anything. They know that region and all its idosyncracies because they live there. They dont suffer American style delusion.

    I believe that those countries have inherited a mess, PLUS a treasure trove of opportunity if they can work with the Taliban and related groups in the region (how many Afghans have fled to the neighbouring ‘Stans’?)

    They don’t currently have the same delusions, that’s for sure. We’ll see Taliban hypocrisy as soon as the money rolls in from China despite the Chinese treatment of Muslims. Similar to Pakistani hypocrisy!

    Iran? Perhaps the largest winner. Iran will look downright moderate and progressive.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  42. You can’t fix Afghan.

    • Agree: Sick of Orcs
    • Replies: @Sick of Orcs
  43. Yee says:

    true.enough,

    “We’ll see Taliban hypocrisy as soon as the money rolls in from China despite the Chinese treatment of Muslims.”

    No Muslim nation critise China’s treatment of Muslims, with or without money rolling… Only the US leaded Christian nations jumping up and down spreading lies.

    As a matter of fact, what the Muslim world critise is India’s treatment of Muslims, but of course you won’t hear about it on Western MSM.

    • Agree: Showmethereal
  44. Anonymous[323] • Disclaimer says:
    @Barbarossa

    In many cases both the Taliban fighters and the government troops belong to the same tribe. When the writing appeared on the wall, much of the Afghan army simply went home.

    • Agree: Barbarossa
    • Thanks: Showmethereal
  45. @Reg Cæsar

    You can’t fix Afghan.

    You can only remove kebab.

  46. One of the most idiotic comments I have ever read is from your essay, Mr. Cockburn. Here you state ” Unlike 20 years ago, they do not need anything from al-Qaeda such as money and fanatical recruits willing to die on the battlefield.”
    Fanatical and suicidal recruits are produced by most states’ intelligence agencies.
    I’m no fan of either of the Taliban or ISIS/al-Qaeda but your omission of the fact that the Taliban are no longer being funded by the Saudis and the UAE.
    THIS IS THE REASON THAT THEY ARE INCLUSIVE as of now.

  47. @true.enough

    Well remember Taliban and Iran were enemies. But in recent months Taliban leaders went to Iran to make peace. The region is changing. As you mentioned Chinese money and the Taliban. What most Muslims know is there are tens of millions of Muslims in China who never faced any crackdown. They are called “Hui”. They live where right now there is the 5th annual China-Arab expo going on. The Uighurs are a smaller and separate group who unlike the Hui had separatist elements. Those elements trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. China has told the Taliban if you want our recognition and help you have to cut that group off. No Muslim nations government except Turkey has supoorted them and for a simple reason. Muslim governments dont like having separatist governments in their own regions either.
    So the fact that the Taliban has reached out to Iran and China and Russia (3 countries where the Taliban trained with militant insurgents in their respective countries) shows that it is not business as usual with them. We will just have to see how it plays out.

  48. @Quartermaster

    “If the Afghans have not had an invader to fight, they fight among themselves. Lee was quite correct.”

    Churchill, who fought on the Afghan borders in 1895.

    Campaigning on the Indian frontier is an experience by itself. Neither the landscape nor the people find their counterparts in any other portion of the globe. Valley walls rise steeply five or six thousand feet on every side. The columns crawl through a maze of giant corridors down which fierce snow-fed torrents foam under skies of brass.

    Amid these scenes of savage brilliancy there dwells a race whose qualities seem to harmonise with their environment. Except at harvest-time, when self-preservation enjoins a temporary truce, the Pathan tribes are always engaged in private or public war. Every man is a warrior, a politician and a theologian. Every large house is a real feudal fortress made, it is true, only of sunbaked clay, but with battlements, turrets, loopholes, flanking towers, drawbridges, etc., complete. Every village has its defence. Every family cultivates its vendetta; every clan, its feud. The numerous tribes and combinations of tribes all have their accounts to settle with one another. Nothing is ever forgotten, and very few debts are left unpaid.

    For the purposes of social life, in addition to the convention about harvest-time, a most elaborate code of honour has been established and is on the whole faithfully observed. A man who knew it and observed it faultlessly might pass unarmed from one end of the frontier to another. The slightest technical slip would, however, be fatal. The life of the Pathan is thus full of interest; and his valleys, nourished alike by endless sunshine and abundant water, are fertile enough to yield with little labour the modest material requirements of a sparse population.

    Taliban existed in 1895 – see last paragraph.

    [MORE]

    Every influence, every motive, that provokes the spirit of murder among men, impels these mountaineers to deeds of treachery and violence. The strong aboriginal propensity to kill, inherit in all human beings, has in these valleys been preserved in unexampled strength and vigour. That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword–the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men–stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism. The love of plunder, always a characteristic of hill tribes, is fostered by the spectacle of opulence and luxury which, to their eyes, the cities and plains of the south display. A code of honour not less punctilious than that of old Spain, is supported by vendettas as implacable as those of Corsica.

    In such a state of society, all property is held directly by main force. Every man is a soldier. Either he is the retainer of some khan–the man- at-arms of some feudal baron as it were–or he is a unit in the armed force of his village–the burgher of mediaeval history. In such surroundings we may without difficulty trace the rise and fall of an ambitious Pathan. At first he toils with zeal and thrift as an agriculturist on that plot of ground which his family have held since they expelled some former owner. He accumulates in secret a sum of money. With this he buys a rifle from some daring thief, who has risked his life to snatch it from a frontier guard-house. He becomes a man to be feared. Then he builds a tower to his house and overawes those around him in the village. Gradually they submit to his authority. He might now rule the village; but he aspires still higher. He persuades or compels his neighbors to join him in an attack on the castle of a local khan. The attack succeeds. The khan flies or is killed; the castle captured. The retainers make terms with the conqueror. The land tenure is feudal. In return for their acres they follow their new chief to war. Were he to treat them worse than the other khans treated their servants, they would sell their strong arms elsewhere. He treats them well. Others resort to him. He buys more rifles. He conquers two or three neighboring khans. He has now become a power.

    Many, perhaps all, states have been founded in a similar way, and it is by such steps that civilisation painfully stumbles through her earlier stages. But in these valleys the warlike nature of the people and their hatred of control, arrest the further progress of development. We have watched a man, able, thrifty, brave, fighting his way to power, absorbing, amalgamating, laying the foundations of a more complex and interdependent state of society. He has so far succeeded. But his success is now his ruin. A combination is formed against him. The surrounding chiefs and their adherents are assisted by the village populations. The ambitious Pathan, oppressed by numbers, is destroyed. The victors quarrel over the spoil, and the story closes, as it began, in bloodshed and strife.

    The conditions of existence, that have been thus indicated, have naturally led to the dwelling-places of these tribes being fortified. If they are in the valley, they are protected by towers and walls loopholed for musketry. If in the hollows of the hills, they are strong by their natural position. In either case they are guarded by a hardy and martial people, well armed, brave, and trained by constant war.

    This state of continual tumult has produced a habit of mind which recks little of injuries, holds life cheap and embarks on war with careless levity, and the tribesmen of the Afghan border afford the spectacle of a people, who fight without passion, and kill one another without loss of temper. Such a disposition, combined with an absolute lack of reverence for all forms of law and authority, and a complete assurance of equality, is the cause of their frequent quarrels with the British power. A trifle rouses their animosity. They make a sudden attack on some frontier post. They are repulsed. From their point of view the incident is closed. There has been a fair fight in which they have had the worst fortune. What puzzles them is that “the Sirkar” should regard so small an affair in a serious light. Thus the Mohmands cross the frontier and the action of Shabkadr is fought. They are surprised and aggrieved that the Government are not content with the victory, but must needs invade their territories, and impose punishment. Or again, the Mamunds, because a village has been burnt, assail the camp of the Second Brigade by night. It is a drawn game. They are astounded that the troops do not take it in good part.

    They, when they fight among themselves, bear little malice, and the combatants not infrequently make friends over the corpses of their comrades or suspend operations for a festival or a horse race. At the end of the contest cordial relations are at once re-established. And yet so full of contradictions is their character, that all this is without prejudice to what has been written of their family vendettas and private blood feuds. Their system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices, has produced a code of honour so strange and inconsistent, that it is incomprehensible to a logical mind. I have been told that if a white man could grasp it fully, and were to understand their mental impulses–if he knew, when it was their honour to stand by him, and when it was their honour to betray him; when they were bound to protect and when to kill him–he might, by judging his times and opportunities, pass safely from one end of the mountains to the other. But a civilised European is as little able to accomplish this, as to appreciate the feelings of those strange creatures, which, when a drop of water is examined under a microscope, are revealed amiably gobbling each other up, and being themselves complacently devoured.

    I remark with pleasure, as an agreeable trait in the character of the Pathans, the immunity, dictated by a rude spirit of chivalry, which in their ceaseless brawling, their women enjoy. Many forts are built at some distance from any pool or spring. When these are besieged, the women are allowed by the assailants to carry water to the foot of the walls by night. In the morning the defenders come out and fetch it–of course under fire–and are enabled to continue their resistance. But passing from the military to the social aspect of their lives, the picture assumes an even darker shade, and is unrelieved by any redeeming virtue. We see them in their squalid, loopholed hovels, amid dirt and ignorance, as degraded a race as any on the fringe of humanity: fierce as the tiger, but less cleanly; as dangerous, not so graceful. Those simple family virtues, which idealists usually ascribe to primitive peoples, are conspicuously absent. Their wives and their womenkind generally, have no position but that of animals. They are freely bought and sold, and are not infrequently bartered for rifles. Truth is unknown among them. A single typical incident displays the standpoint from which they regard an oath. In any dispute about a field boundary, it is customary for both claimants to walk round the boundary he claims, with a Koran in his hand, swearing that all the time he is walking on his own land. To meet the difficulty of a false oath, while he is walking over his neighbor’s land, he puts a little dust from his own field into his shoes. As both sides are acquainted with the trick, the dismal farce of swearing is usually soon abandoned, in favor of an appeal to force.

    All are held in the grip of miserable superstition. The power of the ziarat, or sacred tomb, is wonderful. Sick children are carried on the backs of buffaloes, sometimes sixty or seventy miles, to be deposited in front of such a shrine, after which they are carried back–if they survive the journey–in the same way. It is painful even to think of what the wretched child suffers in being thus jolted over the cattle tracks. But the tribesmen consider the treatment much more efficacious than any infidel prescription. To go to a ziarat and put a stick in the ground is sufficient to ensure the fulfillment of a wish. To sit swinging a stone or coloured glass ball, suspended by a string from a tree, and tied there by some fakir, is a sure method of securing a fine male heir. To make a cow give good milk, a little should be plastered on some favorite stone near the tomb of a holy man. These are but a few instances; but they may suffice to reveal a state of mental development at which civilisation hardly knows whether to laugh or weep.

    Their superstition exposes them to the rapacity and tyranny of a numerous priesthood–“Mullahs,” “Sahibzadas,” “Akhundzadas,” “Fakirs,” —and a host of wandering Talib-ul-ilms, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey, and live free at the expense of the people. More than this, they enjoy a sort of “droit du seigneur,” and no man’s wife or daughter is safe from them.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20051219021956/http://arthursclassicnovels.com/arthurs/churchill/mkdff10.html

    • Replies: @Rev. Spooner
  49. How about the “murderous reality” of Western, and specifically US/UK, foreign policy of the past 20 years, Mr Cockburn? Is that preferable? It’s certainly more efficient, but is that better? More murder?

  50. @YetAnotherAnon

    They are not the same. The modern Talibans are or were students from the madrassas. The attraction of the madrassa is that the poor can enroll their male kids where they get 2 meals a day and rote learning of the Koran. What Churchill mentions are Talib-ul-ilms, which can be roughly translated as scholars of Islamic theology and the koran.

  51. @Priss Factor

    Patrick Cockburn is a journalist who makes sure his slice of bread always falls buttered side up. There are certain things that are verbotten and Patrick loves his bread and butter.
    Any thoughts about Julian Assange?

  52. Malla says:

    The Taliban are killing Afghan Army commanders. Biden the scumbag has left many pro American Afghans behind at the mercy of the Taliban. Biden has also left other gifts for this friend, Xi. Loads of weapons left behind along with a lot of Black hawk helicopters. Obviously the medieval Mullahs wont be flying around those choppers, they don’t know how to handle that. That is meant for China. This would give a big advantage to the Chinese in getting technology for helicopters in mountainous terrain.
    So the Indians in the USA because of their traditional hate-Whitey, hate -West and hate- Christianity brain disease have voted for Biden in droves and now the same Biden strengthens India’s enemy in the Himalayas. Of course being just 1% of the population they did not matter much , but due to their own hatreds, have ironically screwed their own motherland. No wonder some Indian nationalists are calling them NRIs in the USA dogs and pigs and whores of the left.

    • Replies: @Showmethereal
  53. ‘The Taliban May Feign Moderation – But the Murderous Reality Is Clear’

    ? Are you suggesting Afghans are violent?

  54. @Malla

    Not really. China already had access to those types of helicopters such as the one that crashed during the raid to kill Bin Laden that fell in Pakistan. Your assumption is ten years behind the curve… So now China’s helicopters are already pretty much a match. There is nothing there from the US military in Afghanistan that China needs to learn from. Kind of like with the stealth plane that crashed in Serbia. Its not that much of a secret the Serbs gave China access because China was helping them with intel against NATO operations. There was nothing left to learn after that really. So dont be so hard on Biden. You can blame him for other things – but not that.

    • Agree: Commentator Mike
  55. George says:
    @Andreas

    Rhetoric from 2001 sounds ridiculous in 2021. Maybe the US+UK can negotiate a moratorium on vandalizing statues with the Taliban.

  56. GeneralRipper [AKA "The Griffins"] says:
    @Supply and Demand

    I’ve thrown in my lot with the Chinese genetically, because they reflect the white values that Trump voters make a mockery of with their obesity, small arms, and peasant attitude.

    I sincerely hope someone is saving this.

    It’s truly gold, concerning the typical attitude of the Left.

    Too bad you and Patty Cockbreath aren’t stranded in Goatfuckistan…lol

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