One Picture Is Worth 90,000 "Secret Documents" Published By WikiLeaks.
Aisha is an 18-year-old Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off by a Taliban butcher for the "crime" of running away from the beatings she routinely suffered at the hands of her husband's family. Aisha's picture appears on the cover of Time magazine this week, provoking controversy.
Lost in all the self-serving and cowardly Code Pinkish yesbuttery and the handwringing about the propriety of a major magazine running a photograph so shocking - can we not at least stop for a moment to notice that Aisha, in the full flower of womanhood, is unspeakably beautiful in spite of her disfigurement? - is the fact that she wants the world to see her face. By her own account, she wants the world to see what the Taliban's resurgence means to Afghan women, and to see the obvious implications of the "negotiated" solution to the Afghan struggle that is so de rigueur in bourgeois-left circles in the rich countries of the world.
In her essay on the struggle of Afghan women, Time magazine's Aryn Baker reports the question Aisha raises: Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban frightens her. "They are the people that did this to me," she says, touching her damaged face. "How can we reconcile with them?"
What is especially striking about this event is that for once, an Afghan opinion, and that of an Afghan woman, no less, has actually appeared not only as the focus of an article about Afghanistan in a major English-language periodical, but on its cover.
Remarkably, and fortuitously, the Afghan journalist Josh Shahryar, who cut his teeth as a writer for the Kabul Weekly (whose brave editor, Fahim Dashty, is a dear friend of ours), has just now managed to find a place for this essay in the Huffington Post. He writes:
I keep yearning for a day when I can turn on the TV, switch to CNN, FOX, MSNBC or CBS and see a discussion about Afghans where they actually question an Afghan. Day after day I wait, but in vain. I run through articles published about my country in the Washington Post and the New York Times to see opinion pieces written by Afghans -- but almost never see one.
. . . At a time when your media was supposed to tell you that your blood and sacrifice has indeed helped Afghanistan and that we are thankful to you, they told you otherwise. We don't like you -- they say -- and don't want your help. We are ungrateful devoted murderers who are just dying to kill you -- they warn. Our picture has been so skewed that you won't even recognize us if we walked amongst you. I won't be surprised if you think that we have fangs and blood dripping from our mouths and are just waiting to bite your jugular. This is who we are to you.
It is comforting to know that Aisha is now in a secure location in Afghanistan, with armed guards watching over her, thanks to Women for Afghan Women. Aisha will soon visit America for reconstructive surgery at the Grossman Burn Foundation. Time magazine is pitching in to help her.
Not so fortunate, in the matter of the concurrent media hubbub arising from WikiLeaks' recent sticking-it-to-the-man document dump, are the uncounted ordinary Afghans whose exposure to reprisals and terror has been so disgracefully overlooked in all the crawthumping about the implications for "our" security interests and "our" troops in the WikiLeaks affair. Once again, a round of applause to the self-congratulating WikiLeaks archgeek Julian Assange.
The Times reports that after just two hours of combing through the WikiLeaks documents it was able to find the names of dozens of Afghans said to have provided detailed intelligence to US forces - Afghans the Taliban and Al-Qaeda should be expected to be targeting in the war zone by now.
"If I were a Taliban operative with access to a computer — and lots of them have access to computers — I’d start searching the WikiLeaks data for incident reports near my area of operation to see if I recognized anyone," writes Joshua Foust. "And then I’d kill whomever I could identify. Those deaths would be directly attributable to WikiLeaks."
In conversation with Spencer Ackerman, Foust reports that, against WikiLeaks' claims of diligence, he found several identities of Afghans disclosed by the WikiLeaks documents - unredacted, full names, where they live, and so on - and those identities are now available to Taliban butchers. "I found myself shocked that WikiLeaks would be that cavalier with Afghan lives."
I am not shocked, I regret to say. But I am as disgusted as my comrade Brian Platt is - read his post here and if you have a shred of decency in you, you will be disgusted by the WikiLeaks' operation, too. And by the way, if you think anything really "new" was revealed by the vandals at WikiLeaks, here's another article by Josh Shahryar. It appeared in the Kabul Weekly, five years ago.