Letter From Tamim Ansary
Last Updated: October 29, 2001


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 listen.

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 Ben 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 to.

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 opinion.

Tamim Ansary