Details are still unclear, but it appears that as many as six jihad/martyrdom suicide bombers descended upon the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul Tuesday night. As many as ten people have been murdered, and the Taliban is thumping its chest in victory. The death toll could end up being much higher: a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, exulted: “Our muj [mujahedin, warriors of jihad] entered the hotel, and they’ve gone through several stories of the building and they are breaking into each room and they are targeting the 300 Afghans and foreigners who are staying.”
The Taliban would kill Afghans as well as foreigners because they consider them to be complicit with the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai. With Barack Obama’s announcement of a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they see an opportunity to assert their presence and power. The American troops will go, and their murder and mayhem will increase. Many will see in this an argument to keep the troops there, so as to preserve order – but what order prevails in Afghanistan today, after eight years of an American military presence there?
The Taliban’s continued ability to commit this murder and mayhem in Afghanistan is testimony to the failure of the American adventure there, the loss of thousands of lives of noble and courageous American military personnel who deserved better from those in command, and the wanton waste of billions of dollars. It was not a failure of power: we were not outgunned or outfought. It was a failure of will, stemming from a misdiagnosis of the problem. Two American administrations have spoken about bringing democracy and freedom to Afghanistan, and yet have not been able or willing to face the fact that the foremost obstacle to those goals was Islam, which respects neither.
Speaking about the vaunted “Arab Spring” a few weeks ago, Barack Obama declared: “The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.”
But not Kabul, apparently. The Bush Administration sponsored the implementation in Afghanistan of a Constitution that enshrined Islamic law as the highest law of the land, such that no law could be made that contradicted it. The bitter fruit of that disastrously short-sighted decision began to appear early on: in 2006 the Karzai government put a convert from Islam to Christianity on trial for apostasy, a capital offense under Islamic law. When an aghast State Department protested, pointing out that Afghanistan’s shiny new Constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, Afghan officials patiently explained to them that it guaranteed freedom of religion within the bounds of Sharia.
Within the bounds of Sharia. That meant the institutionalized oppression of women and non-Muslims, the extinguishing of the freedom of speech, and – as was clear from the Abdul Rahman case and other apostasy cases that followed it — the denial of the freedom of conscience. Sanctioned by the Karzai government, not just by the Taliban.
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