William Vollman

British journalist Robert Fisk of The Independent on his experiences in Afghanistan in 1980.

…I was a witness to the Russian invasion and occupation. How they fought for us, those Afghans, how they believed our word. How they trusted President Carter when he promised the West’s support. I even met the CIA spook in Peshawar, brandishing the identity papers of a Soviet pilot, shot down with one of our missiles Ò which had been scooped from the wreckage of his Mig. “Poor guy,” the CIA man said, before showing us a movie about GIs zapping the Vietcong in his private cinema. And yes, I remember what the Soviet officers told me after arresting me at Salang. They were performing their international duty in Afghanistan, they told me. They were “punishing the terrorists” who wished to overthrow the (communist) Afghan government and destroy its people. Sound familiar?

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I have to get a subscription to The Atlantic because what I’ve found so far on the Taliban and bin Laden and the Middle East is as good as or better than The New Yorker.
Sept. ’90 – Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage”
Aug. ’00 – Interview with Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani Journalist and author of In Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
Sept. ’00 – Robert Kaplan, “The Lawless Frontier”
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Salon is always one step ahead of me. After reading the amazing Vollman piece in the New Yorker (linked below) one naturally wants to interview Vollman.

“…the majority of Afghan women have always been uneducated and illiterate, and the fact that education for them has been curtailed is not such a terrible thing for them as we more educated people might think. That’s not to be patronizing or condescending, you just have to look at it in pespective. From the Soviet invasion until the Taliban took over, women could be murdered, abducted and raped, and often were. Now the average woman is safe from being murdered and raped. People’s possessions are safe. One reason that the Taliban is quite popular is they took everyone’s weapons away. They said from now on we’re not going to follow my law or your law, we’re going to follow the law as laid down in the Quran.
“Their interpretation of the Quran is very harsh. They are very, very strict. Maybe they are fanatics, but they are doing the best that they can. You have to remember that most of these people got their education in the religious schools, the madrasahs. That was the only education available. They would study in the schools in the winter and in the summer they would go and fight the jihad against the Russians, and a lot of them were killed. When you’re a soldier, things have to be black and white. When basically all you’ve learned is how to fight and how to die, and all your legal, moral, religious and social education comes from one book and maybe you can’t even read that well, then you’re going to end up being the equivalent of a Talib. You’re going to tend to see things in black-and-white terms. But the Taliban are very popular.