Following is an excerpt from a book by a Jewish American author, A.S. Adler, regarding his research into the Taliban and the media coverage they received. Unlike professional Zionist Islamophobes, such as Daniel Pipes, Adler deflates the media hysteria surrounding the ‘evil Taliban’ with cool, calm research. He even comes from a religiously Jewish perspective.
In my estimation, the Taliban may have been the most demonized government in recent history. There are several factors I can think of for this: Firstly, they were an impediment to the upcoming invasion of central Asia, and part of the propaganda preparation before 911 was demonising the Taliban to pit public opinion against even before the terror spectacles. Also, they didn’t have the means to defend themselves in the international media. Lastly, their very nature of being a Sharia-enforcing government helped the propagandists, as attacking them would be part of the ongoing demonization of Islam that started earnestly in the 90s after the red peril flustered, to be replaced by the rising green peril the Zionists saw as their enemy number 1.
Needless to say, the propaganda was so good that even many (if not most) Muslims fell for much of the propaganda. Adler looked into the media reports regarding the Taliban pre-911, and uses human rights, UN, and news sources to show how the Taliban were maligned in relation to many of the accusations leveled against them:
TORAH AND THE TALIBAN (Chapter from ‘As Thou Goest By The Way’)
By A.S. Adler
Our concepts of free speech, concern for our fellow human beings and even just weights and measures are particularly challenged when we are dealing with people who speak a very different language, live a very different life and are so far away by almost any measure that it is difficult to communicate with them at all. The challenge becomes that much greater when these people are accused of heinous crimes by others who are usually looked upon as our social leaders. When these leaders actually launch an attack on these supposed criminals and begin to kill them by the thousands, the challenge for most of us could easily become too great to bear. This has been the situation with our relationship to the Taliban for the last several years — and particularly since the kamikaze attacks of 9/11.
Here too, the Torah requires us to act according to its precepts. All people are enjoined to set up courts of justice. In what court were the Taliban, individually or collectively, accused? In what court was the evidence presented? In what court did they make their defense? Where were the usual voices who call out for human rights — including the right to a fair trial — in the case of the accused Taliban? In Torah Law, the court of public opinion — the only court that has been operating here — is not sufficient to allow the systematic annihilation of thousands of people and the destruction of a way of life. But shouldn’t this be obvious – like the other Torah precepts discussed thus far?
Shortly after the events of 9/11/01, the author noticed several things about the Taliban that did not appear to be consistent with the generally negative view of them given in the US media . It looked as though the Taliban might be just what they claimed to be: genuine religious Moslems of very high integrity.
1. An article that appeared in the secular media about the last two Jews of Kabul.
The article was published before the attacks and was primarily a human-interest story. The last two Jews were living in an old but sturdy synagogue and were not talking to each other as a result of some personal disagreements. They reportedly went to the local Taliban officials with their complaints about each other. The Taliban reportedly did not bother them and the local children addressed the older of the two Jews — a man in his 60’s with a white beard — as Mullah Issak. The problem with this story was that the Taliban were being portrayed in the media as “extremists” and similar to the attackers in their orientation toward Jews. In this story, however, there was no apparent negative feeling between the Taliban and the Jews.
This was even more compelling because it was well known that the people in general in Kabul were in great difficulties, with tens of thousands desperate to have a roof over their head.
It would have been an easy matter for the Taliban to, God forbid, throw the Jews out on the street (or worse), and use the sturdy synagogue building and courtyard for their own purposes — to house Moslems, for example. That they did not do such a thing suggested that they might not only be lawful, traditional Moslems, who would recognize that the synagogue belonged to the Jews, but that they also did not look for a loophole in Moslem law that might still allow them to take the Jews’ property under an assumption of some special circumstances. This suggested that they were trying to be genuinely and visibly just and kind and that they recognized that traditional Jews are not a threat to traditional Moslems.
2. There were stories in the media that the Taliban had been successful in eradicating opium growing in the parts of Afghanistan that they controlled.
If this were true, it indicated that the Taliban might be qualitatively different from the political leadership in almost every other country — that they had an exceptionally high level of integrity and were far more resistant to the usual temptations that prevail in the opium business. This was also consistent with the view that the Taliban were traditional Moslems — who are well known to be against the use of intoxicating drinks. It was easy to imagine that Moslem law extended the ban on such drinks to a ban on the use of opium as an intoxicant.
3. There was an intense campaign in the media against the “madrasses” where the Taliban studied — to the effect that nothing but antisocial brainwashing (God forbid) could come from such educational settings.
These madrasses, however, looked like traditional Moslem schools. They also resembled the traditional Jewish Bes Midrash — House of Searching Study — where religious Jews learn our classic religious texts and commentaries, much as we have studied and learned for thousands of years.
It is very common for people who are not familiar with the culture of the Bes Midrash to ridicule it. Those who know the culture of the Bes Midrash from the inside have a very different impression. They see that it is a source of active kindness, of clear and precise thinking — a wellspring of God’s Peace in the World. It was not difficult for a religious Jew to imagine that the much maligned madrasses of the Taliban might also be wellsprings of Godliness in a world that often looks like it is running in the opposite direction.
A quick way to check on the Taliban — to see if they were just traditional Moslems — would be to see what they had to say for themselves on their websites. However, the Taliban websites listed in a current bibliography obtained from the reference desk of Yeshiva University were all down. .. Perhaps the work of overzealous hackers upset over the attacks? No! According to Harun Amin, then first secretary of the “Northern Alliance” mission to the United Nations, the US State Department took down the Taliban websites in April of 2001 — almost half a year before the attacks. (This is around the time the US started threatening war against Afghanistan – MZ)
Though confirmed by two other sources, no mention of this has yet been found in any publication or on the internet. The State Department would not answer questions about this when asked.
There are two major Jewish organizations that are famous for monitoring the world for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Wiesenthal Center. Their websites at the time showed nothing from the Taliban against Jews or against Israel. When contacted by phone, their research departments confirmed what had been found from their websites — that they had nothing at all on the Taliban against Jews or against Israel — though both had large files on the activities of Osama Ben Laden (OBL).
OBL had put out a “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” in February of ’98. Though it was cosigned by several people, and Bin Laden was in Afghanistan at the time, none of the known leaders of the Taliban had signed it. This , again, strongly suggested that the Taliban were traditional Afghan Moslems — long on good terms with traditional Afghan Jews — and not the puppets of OBL.
The opium question was checked using both US and UN official websites. With independent study teams and two different methodologies — aerial reconnaissance and on the ground surveys — both confirmed that the Taliban had almost completely eradicated opium growing in the areas that they controlled. At the same time, opium growing in the home province of President Rabbani of the “Northern Alliance” — the group with the seat in the UN — tripled.
The Amnesty International (AI) website was then checked — to see if there was any mention of large numbers of executions or other severe punishments associated with the opium eradication program. The AI publications for the last full year for which such data were available — the year 2000 (by the common reckoning — the corresponding Jewish Year is 5760) — did not mention any severe punishments associated with eradicating opium. The actual number of judicial executions for that year — given by AI as 15+, was only about 1/3 of the rate of judicial executions per capita in Texas under then Governor, George W. Bush and about 1/10 of the rate in Saudi Arabia.
This is particularly remarkable considering the situations in these three areas: In Afghanistan there had been nearly two decades of social turmoil, two years of terrible drought, widespread hunger, war on several fronts and the condemnation of the community of nations. In Texas and Saudi Arabia the people were relatively well off — at least as far as money is concerned. The Texas Governor became President of the United States and the majority of the attackers came from Saudi Arabia — none of them were Taliban.
The US had sent a small team to Afghanistan in the early months of ’01 — when it was already known by both aerial reconnaissance and a preliminary on the ground survey that the Taliban had achieved a tremendous success in eradicating opium growing. The team was to determine how the Taliban had accomplished this remarkable — almost miraculous — transformation. One of them, Mr. James Callahan, reported back that they did it by consensus of the elders connected with the mosques in almost every town and village. It was a sign visible from Heaven.– and the Taliban knew it.
So why didn’t the Taliban turn over Ben Laden — either in connection with the embassy bombings in ’98 or the attacks of ’01?
If much of their strength — in reality and in the eyes of the people — came from their careful adherence to Moslem traditional law, they could not turn over popular (and well armed) people like OBL and his close associates without a public judicial proceeding that satisfied both the letter and spirit of the law that they lived by. The situation was even more difficult: OBL and his associates had been a real help to the people of Afghanistan in their years of struggle against the Russians and their associates.
It may be that the US had no evidence against OBL that would stand up in a court — Moslem or American. (Indeed this was the case, and the Taliban wouldn’t hunt down someone without evidence of that person’s wrongdoing. This is why their demands for evidence were ignored – MZ) Witnesses might be afraid to testify, etc. This is a situation that sometimes occurs in the US in the case of organized criminals where it is well known that certain leading criminals are responsible for ordering murders but nobody is available to testify against them. In these cases, the government looks for some other type of crime — such as tax evasion — where the case can be proven with a less stringent standard of evidence. Many leading organized criminals have been jailed on such relatively light charges where the heavier charges — such as murder — could not be proven in court.
Perhaps, if the US leadership had been more patient in this case — and more respectful of traditional Moslem Law and the special situation of the Taliban — they could have come up with an effective way of dealing with OBL.(That wasn’t the plan though. The invasion was already planned and coordinated with the UK, Pakistan, and India, months before 911 – MZ)
What about the oppression of women under the Taliban? — Isn’t it true that they deprived women and girls of education and health care, that they deprived women of the opportunity to work and that they forced women to wear a burka in the street?
If you ask almost anyone in the USA what they think the first woman executed in Kabul after the Taliban came to power was executed for, they would probably answer “blasphemy or adultery”.
If you ask how long the judicial procedure was — from the time of the apprehension for the crime to the time of the execution, they would probably answer “a few hours to a few weeks”.
If you asked how long after the Taliban came to power in Kabul was the woman executed, they would probably answer “a few days to a few months”.
And what is the reality – as reported by the wire services — ?
The woman was executed for “beating her husband to death with a hammer as he slept.”
The woman was executed after a judicial procedure that took about two years– from the time of the murder to the time of the execution.
The execution took place more than three years after the Taliban came to power in Kabul.
The discrepancy between the reality and the media generated expectation in this case is suggestive of what one might actually find if one were in a position to investigate the other points in detail.
Would anyone imagine from what they “knew” about the Taliban that they opened several centers to train women to be doctors? They did!!
As for the burkas, it appears to be the case that outside of areas like Kabul, where a substantial percentage of women had gotten used to dressing in western fashions, women went on dressing the way they had dressed for decades, if not centuries — with their bodies, hair and faces more or less covered depending on where they were. In and around the home in the countryside, they wore a simple headscarf. In towns, they were more covered up.
The English speaking, college educated women in Kabul — who were often not only anti-Taliban but anti-religious — were the people who were most adversely affected by the Taliban and were the most able to communicate their troubles to the Western Media. These women and their Russian speaking counterparts were not, in so many cases, innocent beleaguered secularists caught in a web of religious oppression. They were, quite often, the very people who had been doing their best for over a decade to undermine the cultural foundations of Islam in Afghanistan. It would have been remarkable, in this light, if the Taliban had just left them all alone.
While the educated women â€“ including so many who had been Russian collaborators — were very adept at manipulating the media, the very traditional women — who constitute the overwhelming majority of the women of Afghanistan — were almost completely ignored.
Thus far, based on a LexisNexis wire service and NYT search: No reported executions for adultery in Kabul or Herat during the Taliban Period; No reported executions for adultery in Kandahar after 1996; No executions for adultery by Taliban in Afghanistan after 10/02/00, A total of 4-6 executions for adultery 1/01/97-9/11/01 by Taliban in all of Afghanistan â€“equally divided between men and women. The most attention getting case â€“ partly responsible for the reporter, Robert F. Burns of the NYT getting a Pulitzer Prize, actually involved the execution in Kandahar of a 40 year old woman with her 38 year old married stepson in late August of â€˜96. This story, which included notices of several other executions for adultery in Kandahar and elsewhere in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, was published just after Kabul came under Taliban control. It was followed 6 weeks later (12/14/â€™96) by an AFP story that cited 3 males stoned to death in Kandahar and 4 males stoned to death in other Taliban controlled areas â€“ all for adultery — in the prior six weeks. No other wire services report any of these executions in the stated 6-week time frame. It is likely that this AFP story is a garbled version of the Burns report, where people became men, men became â€œmalesâ€ and 6 months became 6 weeks. Another garbled story, by veteran AP Afghanistan reporter Kathy Ganon, dated 3/07/01, mentions two women hanged for adultery in Kandahar two weeks before. Other wire service stories covering the same event â€“ such as a UPI report by Amir Shah, on 2/24/01– say that the two women were executed for prostitution and â€œcorrupting the societyâ€. The combination of attention getting and garbled reports may account for the widespread belief that the Taliban executed many people for adultery in Kabul. The importance of this is that it suggests that the Taliban were careful to observe the rules of evidence in capital cases under Moslem law â€“ four reliable male witnesses to the act of intimacy.
While we are considering media distortions, it is interesting that the full text of the post 9/11 interview between the veteran VOA Pashtun language journalist, Spozhmai Maiwandi, and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, is still not in the public domain.
EXECUTIONS FOR SODOMY
Up to this point the authorâ€™s efforts here had been very informal â€“ just following up on some of the more notable apparent contradictions in the media without any effort to do a thorough research job. Still, the results were brought to the attention of one of the leaders of a local Ethical Culture Group. This had been suggested by two active members of the group who were sure that their Leader would be very interested in these unusual findings.
As soon as this Leader heard â€œTalibanâ€, however, he didnâ€™t want to hear anymore. He said that they had executed people for sodomy — something that the authorâ€™s informal research â€“ not going back in detail to much before the mid 2000 opium ban â€“ had missed.
The author then checked the Amnesty International Reports — their annual books covering the human rights situations in nearly every country in the world — going back to the Report covering 1996. A.I. reported that 5 men had been executed by the Taliban for sodomy in 1998. No executions for sodomy were mentioned by AI for other years.
When these five cases were examined in detail, it revealed that the A.I. Report had omitted a very important fact in describing the first three to be executed: A.I.â€™s own detailed case report stated that they had been accused of sodomy â€œwith young boysâ€.
A more careful investigation using the LexisNexis data base for wire service reports showed that, beginning with these first three, a total of ten people were executed after having been convicted by the Taliban of sodomy.
What was particularly disconcerting about these reports was the way three of the four wire service reports on the execution of the first trio treated the story. UPI, AFP and AP all left out any mention of â€œyoung boysâ€. Only the Australian Associated Press, citing Reuters, mentioned this detail.
With the exception of a single source AFP story for an execution in remote Jauzjan province in June â€™99, the only story of a Taliban punishment for sodomy that clearly involved relations between consenting adults, reported that the convicts had been beaten and embarrassed in public, with no reported maiming or execution.
This is consistent with an earlier report on how the Taliban would deal with sodomy. In a â€™97 interview with veteran foreign correspondent Jonathan Steele, the Governor of Kandahar stated that there were three types of punishment for sodomy under Sharia law and the Taliban preferred the most lenient which involved blackening the convicts face with no execution or maiming. It is also consistent with the situation in Saudi Arabia, where a LexisNexis search failed to turn up any executions for sodomy between consenting adults in a period from 1995 to 2004. Of 33 cases of execution for sodomy found during this period, all involved sodomy with boys or predatory sodomy of some kind.
A possible explanation of the 17-month period of executions is that it centered upon a story of Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban, trying to rid the Taliban army of young boys being used for sodomy.
THE 9/11 COMMISSION
On Tuesday AM 3/23/04, the staff of the 9/11 Commission presented a paper for the world to hear that included a statement that Mullah Omar of the Taliban is “an illiterate leader who was unconcerned about commerce with the outside world.” (This is one of the mildest of the Commission’s many inaccuracies and flat-out lies – MZ)
The author checked by phone with a leading US government expert on the languages and cultures of Afghanistan — the same Spozhmai Maiwandi mentioned above— who has been on the job for over two decades and who has had more than one interview with Mullah Omar . She made it clear that, as far as she understood, the Taliban leader was certainly not illiterate in his native language and that he had a very clear, brief and direct writing style.
The same sentence of that above mentioned 9/11 Commission staff document also states that Mullah Omar was “unconcerned about commerce with the outside world.” Are we to suppose then that the well known efforts of the Taliban to get Unocal and Bridas to build a pipeline were done without the approval of Mullah Omar? Are we also to suppose that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was mistaken when she stated in her presentation “the only thing the Taliban desperately wanted [was] international recognition”. They wanted the international recognition so that, among other things, the pipeline contractor could more easily get insurance. Without such insurance, the contractor — whoever it was — would not build.
At this writing, August 4. â€™04, the 9/11 Commissionâ€™s Final Report,does not appear to contain any suggestion that Mullah Omar is an illiterate. He is described as being â€œreclusiveâ€ â€“ though the only evidence of this is that he refused to meet with some non-Moslems. There were apparently no Moslems in the US diplomatic service who could meet with him. On page 251 of the Report, he and the Taliban leadership are described as being opposed to attacking the US. Despite 288 mentions of the Taliban in the report, there is also apparently no mention of their success in eradicating opium growing, let alone how they did it. This might have made it clear that Afghanistan under their governance was certainly not a â€œfailed stateâ€.