Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Trying to be more sensitive to the Afghan culture


SOME CHEEK! Col. Gary Cheek, in charge of US forces in eastern Afghanistan, says he has given orders for fewer prisoners to be taken, because prisoners bitch about being tortured, and just killing them is so much easier. OK, fine, he didn’t say the last part, but what on earth else is he supposed to have meant? Here’s the full quote, judge for yourself: “We are always adapting to the changes in the environment, and our commanders, our soldiers, are also trying to be more sensitive to the Afghan culture. I’ve told our commanders, for example, to minimize the number of Afghan nationals or others that they detain.” I’m not sure if killing captured Afghans is really more sensitive to their culture than torturing them.

That put me in a nostalgic mood. Here’s something I clipped from one of the British papers for November 2, 1996:
IN THE School of Islamic Thought that has shaped the ideology of the Taliban, there is an active debate on the appropriate punishment for homosexuals.

Mullah Mohammed Hassan, Governor of Kandahar, the fundamentalist movement’s home province, explained the dilemma: "There are two kinds of strong punishment. There are those who say homosexuals should be thrown to their death from a high fort, and those who favour putting them in a pit and pushing a wall on top of them.”
Back to the 1st story, in which Col. Cheek claimed that a prisoner who died in September was not beaten to death as his family claims, but died of a snake bite. Cheeky says the dead guy complained of having been bit, but no bite mark was found, no autopsy performed, and the guy certainly can’t confirm or deny that story, now can he?

Whenever Bush has talked about disaster relief, he talks about American generosity and compassion and “the good heart of the American people,” and I get a little more creeped out each time he does it, without being sure why. At first I thought it was because it’s unseemly and contrary to a generosity of spirit to be constantly harping on your own generosity, but now I think it’s because he’s making it all about us, not about the victims. A true Christian, like he claims to be, would have felt that it was a duty to relieve suffering, but nothing he’s said indicates that the suffering of others imposes any obligation on the rest of us.

Oh: when, in my last post, I referred to Bush the Elder’s “Message: I care” line, I hadn’t seen him on CNN, denying that he and Billy Bob were called in for damage control after Shrub’s lackadaisical first response: “That’s not what this is about. It’s about saving lives. It’s about caring, and the president cares.”

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