Friday


Is this a new photograph of Mullah Mohammed Omar? I haven’t seen this photo in previous years, but it now seems to be widely available on the internet, and it is a much better quality photo than the previous grainy and blurry images of the reclusive Taliban leader.

For as long as I have been writing this blog, I have been offering an annual commentary on Mullah Mohammed Omar’s annual statements on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, which means that this series has had three installments so far — not counting other occasional pieces on Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban, and Afghanistan — as follows:

The Graveyard of Empires (2009)

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2010

Mullah Mohammad Omar’s Eid al-Fitr Address for 2011

It has been fascinating to see the development of Taliban thought in the pronouncements of Mullah Omar, which have gone from being a grab-bag of revolutionary and resistance-struggle tropes to being more focused and programmatic documents for both the reconstruction of Afghanistan upon a Taliban model and no less a reconstruction of the Taliban themselves upon a political model more acceptable to the international community. It seems that even the Taliban have become aware of the public relations disaster of denying education to women and similar retrograde measures.

Perhaps the Taliban have become dimly aware that they only need tweak their interpretation of Islam a little in order to make themselves a mostly acceptable governing entity and not so flagrantly contemptuous of the kind of rights that are included in the UN Charter. I’m not saying that I think the Taliban have turned over a new leaf, only that their experience of being in power followed by their violent expulsion of power has taught them a few lessons about pragmatic governance and what the consequences of the disapproval of the international community can mean — viz. no one comes to your aid when another power acts unilaterally to toss you out on your ear.

In an earlier post, The News Cycle and its Discontents, I wrote that it was nothing for the Taliban to wait a year, ten years, or twenty years for a US withdrawal, so that once this withdrawal from Afghanistan was formally announced it simply provided a light at the end of the tunnel for the Taliban. The fundamental fact about the conflict now is that the Taliban still believe that they can win, while the US no longer believes it can win anything in Afghanistan but is simply looking for a way out. That way out is “Afghanization,” to coin a term. The other pillar of withdrawal is substantive negotiations with the Taliban, which, so far, aren’t going well, because the Taliban (rightly) perceive that time is on their side. It is.

This is the background of this year’s statement from Mullah Muhammad Omar. As Eid ul-Fitr (there are several variant transliterations of this holiday name into English) approaches I have been searching the internet every day for Mullah Omar’s most recent statement, and now I find that it has appeared yesterday, Thursday 16 August 2012.

The first part of Mullah Omar’s statement, “The Jihadic Momentum,” comprising sections 1 through 6, is primarily rhetorical in recounting the triumphs of the Taliban and the defeats of Western forces in Afghanistan, but in citing several events from the past year the Taliban demonstrate that they, too, read the newspapers and surf the internet — and that they, too, read the news selectively, magnifying that which is of particular importance to them while ignoring or explaining away that which would seem to tell against their efforts. There is nothing surprising about this; the Western military forces in Afghanistan do the same thing, and spin their side just as relentlessly. But Taliban spin isn’t going to win the war any more than US spin is going to win the war, and both sides know it.

The second part of the statement, “Conspiracies of the Enemy,” comprising sections 7 to 10, is all about conspiracies, spies, espionage, and psychological operations against the people of Afghanistan, which Mullah Omar contends to have been undertaken by the enemies of Afghanistan but which have failed to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan, who are presumably still loyal to the Taliban. Although Mullah Omar has never mentioned Pakistan or the ISI in any of his statements, the ISI is well known to have assets within the Taliban and are, generally speaking, sympathetic to the Taliban (the ISI was instrumental in supplying the Taliban during the Soviet occupation), but this strong statement about intelligence networks suggests that there is more here that meets the eye. The US has little or no intelligence network on the ground in Afghanistan, so I have to wonder if this is an implicit warning for regional intelligence services who do play a role in Afghanistan not to over-reach their capacities in the country.

The third part of the statement, “The Strategic Agreement, Military Bases and Fruitless Conferences,” comprising sections 10 to 12, characterizes the Kabul administration as a corrupt puppet regime whose participation in international conferences supposedly pledged to help the people of Afghanistan are pointless because agreements, pledges, and contracts only go to enrich individuals. This portion of the statement suggests, though does not make explicit, that the Taliban will not honor any agreements entered into by the current administration.

The fourth part of the statement, “Talks and Negotiation,” comprising sections 13 and 14, gives Taliban excuses for participating in limited talks with the US and the Kabul administration, explicitly denying that these talks compromise the independence of the Taliban. These talks as presented pragmatically, “to initiate exchange of prisoners, open political office and reach our goals.” This part of the statement repeats the previous year’s assertion that the Taliban will preside over an inclusive Islamic system once the US has pulled out of Afghanistan.

The fifth part of the statement, “The Future of Afghanistan,” comprising sections 15 to 20, pledges the Taliban to fight corruption, to provide education to all Afghans, to secure “legitimate” rights for women, and to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, the latter to include: “…development of agriculture, construction of roads, bridges, hospitals… construction of infrastructure, extraction of mines, rehabilitation of arid land, industrialization of the country and obtainment of technological know-how.” Given past Taliban ideological rigidity in regard to technology, it is remarkable that Mullah Omar should now explicitly claim to support industrialization, infrastructure projects, and technological education.

The sixth part of the statement, “Foreign Policy,” comprising sections 21 to 23, is especially interesting. Section 21 formulates the fundamental principle of autocracy (as I have recently formulated it): “The Islamic Emirate does not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of others nor allows others to interfere in its internal affairs.” At the same time, this section claims that, “The Islamic Emirate assures all the world that it will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any one…” which seems like too little, too late, in terms of having allowed al-Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan when formerly ruled by the Taliban. That the Taliban chose to address this concern, which ties in with its autocratic non-interference policy as formulated in the previous sentence, is presumably a message to other Islamic nation-states of a different ideology than the Taliban. Still, there is a tension between asserting the right of no internal interference and making the promise that the Taliban will not allow operations against other nation-states from its territory; this is a tension inherent in all autocratic regimes. Section 22 acknowledges the Arab Spring and expresses hopes for the changes in the Islamic world that have come about in its wake. Section 23 calls for the protection of Muslims in Burma (interestingly, the Taliban uses “Burma” rather than “Myanmar” — or, at least their translators do), presumably signaling Taliban concern for the global Ummah, and not merely Muslims in Afghanistan.

The seventh part of the statement, called “Mujahideen Brothers,” comprising sections 24 to 28, is a fulsome paean to the Mujahideen and a longer and more detailed caution to avoid civilian causalities as well as to avoid inter-Jihadi rivalry, which suggests that ongoing Taliban brutality remains an issue and that the movement for which Mullah Omar presumes to speak is not monumental and has had its share of internal strife. Inter-service rivalries are not exclusive to the standing armed forces of nation-states.

The eighth part of the statement, “To the Personnel of the Kabul Administration,” comprising sections 29 and 30, is a call to those cooperating with or a part of the Kabul administration to shift their loyalty to the Taliban because everyone knows that the US is leaving eventually — here the light at the end of the tunnel appears in its most explicit form — and even recounts that the Taliban have set up an institution called “Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration” in order to integrate government officials and employees (particularly, as the statement says, “the personnel of police and army”) into the Taliban’s presumptive administrative organization.

The ninth part of the statement, “To the Public of the World and the Invading Countries of Afghanistan,” comprising sections 31 to 33, states that the US is in Afghanistan as part of its global and regional strategy and cites France as the model to follow for having pulled its troops out of the coalition efforts in Afghanistan. There follows an appeal to, “…the international community, the organizations of human rights and, in general, all people of the world; the unbiased and equitable statesmen, writers and news agencies not to spare efforts in the cause of independence of the Afghan people as a part of their humanitarian responsibility.”

In the final part of the statement, “To Human Rights Advocacy Organizations,” consisting of two unnumbered paragraphs, the same theme of sections 31 to 33, above, is continued, with further calls to international organizations to impartially investigate Afghanistan as well as a call to wealthy Muslims to give to “children and families of martyrs and prisoners.”

This year’s statement is, on the whole, much more focused than past statements on the sufferings of the Afghan people and, related to this, humanitarian rhetoric. The terms “human” (as in “human rights” and “human values”) or “humanity” occur eleven (11) times in the statement. There are also several rhetorical asides blaming invading forces for atrocities and offenses that have been blamed on the Taliban. For example, Mullah Omar claims that although “some schools are torched or students poisoned” and that these events have been blamed on the Taliban, in fact they are “hidden conspiracies of the enemy.” These formulations, as well as the cautions for the Mujahideen to respect civilian life and property, suggest that the Taliban are well aware, even though they fully expect to come into power once the US fully pulls out, that not all Afghans are “on board” with the Taliban, and that the brutality of their Jihad has not won them friends. They know that they can impose a security regime on the ground, as they did prior to US involvement, but they are not sure that they can keep it because of the bad publicity and the all too frequent neglect of the ideal standards to which Mullah Omar would like to hold the Mujahideen, which violations are at one point in the statement credited to, “the perversity and ignorance of a few young men.”

Whereas previous Eid ul-Fitr statements from Mullah Omar showed a growing confidence, we now see that the Taliban are in the planning stages for the endgame in Afghanistan, and are already considering the knock-on effects of their brutal campaign and how to deal with those who will be hesitant to submit themselves once again to Taliban rule. This statement of 2012 is what we would call “post-conflict planning” on the part of the Taliban.

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Below is the complete text of Mullah Muhammad ‘Umar’s ‘Eid al-Fitr Message for 2012, as I found in on the Views from the Occident website. I have altered some of the worst grammatical blunders, but I have not gone so far as to alter the sentence structure.

Message of Felicitation of the Esteemed Amir-ul-Momineen on the Occasion of Eid-ul-fitre
Thursday, 16 August 2012 16:50 –

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

Those who turn (for friendship) to Allah, His Apostle and the believers (must know) that Allah’s followers are sure to triumph. (S.5 v:56)

We praise Allah and seek His help and refuge from the evils of our inner-self and wickedness of our own deeds. Whomever is guided by Allah, none can lead (him/her) astray; whoever goes astray, can find none except Allah (for guidance). We bear witness that there is no god but Allah. Alone is He and no partner He has. We also bear witness that Mohammad (peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.

Having said that, I would like to proceed further:
I seek refuge in Allah, from Satan, the rejected one.

I extend my (heartfelt) felicitation on this occasion of Eid-ul-fitre to the Mujahid nation of Afghanistan and to all the Islamic Ummah, on their worship of fasting (during Ramadan) and the Jihadic achievements. May Allah (swt) accept in His Sight, your (worship of) fasting, the offering of charities and unprecedented services and sacrifices in the cause of Truth. I hope, that the Almighty Allah, may have enabled you to observe all acts of rituals of this season of blessing and worship. May Allah, the Almighty give success, in this world and in the world to come, to all Mujahideen who are sacrificing their lives, those who continued to remain at their strongholds engaged despite the hunger and thirst in the month of Ramadan.

May Allah, the Almighty procure a conducive situation for the release of those brothers of ours who are now in captivity of the enemies. May Allah (swt) bestow on the holy and sacred martyrs of the path of Truth, high ranks in the paradise of Firdaus, a swift recovery to the injured and somber patience, reward, joy and prosperity to those valiants who have lost members of their families. In these holy days of Eid-ul-fitre, I would like to share with you my views about some vital matters, in addition to the felicitation on this occasion:

The Jihadic Momentum:

1. The Jihadic activities robustly forge a head, with array at its best order and by utilizing the latest tactics. This great achievement has been possible only thanks to the help of Allah, the Almighty, the assistance of the Muslim people; unity and the comprehensive cooperation and sacrifices of the heroic Mujahid nation of Afghanistan.

2. The unique distinction of this year’s operations Al-Farouq, is that, that it has reached all areas, whether being situated near or far-flung. The losses of Mujahideen have decreased while the losses and frustrations of the enemy have increased in parallel. The enemy is not able to take a breath of relief in the main cities, rural areas and even in their barricaded garrisons. Mujahideen have taken initiatives of the war in their own hands. The enemy has been forced to adopt a defensive position in every area, even they have retreated from many military centers. This is what the enemy have admitted itself from time to time.

3. Mujahideen have cleverly infiltrated in the ranks of the enemy according to the plan given to them last year. Many conscious Afghans in the rank and files of the enemy have shown willingness to help the Mujahideen in a shrewd and astute manner after having come around to know the reality. As a result, the foreign invaders and their allies in their military centers and bases do come under crushing blows of these heroic soldiers. We appreciate these brave and historical heroes and the entire nation pays them great tributes. We expect others to display the same boldness and spirit. Thanks to the infiltration of the Mujahideen, they are able to (safely) enter bases, offices and intelligence centers of the enemy. Then, they easily carry out decisive and coordinated attacks, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy both in life and equipment. Furthermore, a great number of soldiers join the ranks of Mujahideen, carrying their heavy and light weapons and ammunition, after leaving the ranks of the enemy. The Mujahideen honor them and provide them protection. In the recent days, you and we were witness of such frequent incidents.

4. The colonialists are facing a wide-spread economic crisis and popular opposition because of the Afghanistan war. Even their own soldiers express resentments against their wrong policies. A case in point is the demonstration in front of the premises of the Chicago conference, which had been staged by those soldiers who had served in Afghanistan. Similarly, resentments and opposition (to the war) have spiraled up at world’s level. The trend is still on the rise. As a result, (some of) the colonialists have been forced to pull their troops out of Afghanistan one after another. This is but an (obvious) achievement and triumph of our sacred Jihad.

5. The invaders not only have faced defeat in political, economical and military fronts but, at the moral front too, the public of the world have come around that the invaders do not know any human values. They have no warfare ethics; violate human rights and honor; they commit blasphemy against holy things; desecrate the corpses of the martyrs; perpetrate morally offensive acts against children and adolescents; raid houses at night and brutally kill women, old men and children similar to the gruesome incidents of Zangawat and Sajawand. They bombard villages, houses, cities, mosques, religious seminaries, schools, processions of funeral services and ceremonies of felicities. This is in a time that the invaders brazenly speak of human rights and humanity.

6. It is a matter of pleasure for all Muslims, particularly, for the Mujahideen that they wage Jihad like brothers in a single array and under a single flag and command in all areas, extending from Badakhshan to Helmand, and from Nangarhar to Herat. In this lies the great secret of triumph. This is a cause of shock and jittery for the enemy.

Conspiracies of the Enemy

7. During the past eleven years, the enemy tried its best to mobilize the Afghans in its favor by dint of its media. Praise be to Allah, they have failed (in their goal). This is because of the realities existing on the ground that the people and all the world can see. Thereby, their wicked conspiracies were foiled and the so-called independent media outfits which are, in fact, affiliated with their espionage agencies, have been exposed. Their exaggerated hype and propaganda ultimately harmed their own reputation. Now they have no credibility in the eyes of the people. The public of the world look at their every report to be no more than a mere rumor, propaganda or a conspiracy against the Mujahideen. The people know that these media outlets hide the losses of those who provide them funds and portray the losses of Mujahideen several times more than what they are and are tight-lipped about the Mujahideen’s victories.

8. The enemy tried to flare up chaos among the people through their cunning intelligence networks by capitalizing on the perversity and ignorance of a few young men. They wanted to face people with the same chaotic situation that gripped them in the 90s, following the ouster of the communist government. Praise be to Allah, this wicked conspiracy has failed while being at its earlier stages. Seeing their abhorrent activities, the people became more closer to the Mujahideen and more watchful about the covert conspiracies of the enemy.

9. The so-called process of transition of authority to the Kabul powerless Administration is another deceiving drama launched by the invaders. By doing so, they want to hide their defeat and mislead the (Afghan) people and the public of the world, ostensibly, claiming that they trust the Afghans and want to devolve to the Afghans the future of their country, both civilian and militarily. Our stance about this cunning process is that, that it is a mere a failed effort like other deviating processes of the invaders, aimed at misleading and confounding the public. All those areas where the process has taken place, are de facto, in the hands of the enemy both from an angle of security, military and administration. They hold the authority to launch night raids and carry out all other brutal attacks despite their commitments in the contrary.

The Strategic Agreement, Military Bases and Fruitless Conferences

10. The game which has been launched under the name of strategic agreement to sell Afghanistan or is still continuing is not acceptable to the heroic people of Afghanistan. The inking of such documents with a powerless regime installed by them has no legal standing.

11. The independence of Afghanistan and establishment of Sharia system are values that the Islamic Emirate is not going to deal on it. The Afghan people will wage Jihad against the foreign invasion until complete independence of the country, though the invasion may ensconce itself in the garb of peace-keeping forces or strategic cooperation.

12. Commitments of billions of dollars are made with the Kabul corrupt Administration in conference being held under the name of assistance. All these commitments are made by the bidding of the foreign invaders in order to keep the sagging and ill regime of Kabul alive, though moribund. The funding countries and nations must know that this assistance does not reach the Afghan people to mitigate their pains but ultimately find way to the private pockets and bank accounts of the rulers of the Kabul corrupt, collapsing and ill regime which only panders to the interests of the foreigners—rulers who are involved in moral and administrative corruption.

Talks and Negotiation:

13. As an independent and committed Islamic and national force, we have constantly made decision about the issue of Afghanistan and other related global issues and made it clear that we wage struggle for the establishment of Islamic system, maintenance of territorial integrity and independence of the country. for Afghanistan to become a joint home for all the Afghans and all avail the opportunity to lead life in unity and harmony, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will make efforts to reach an understanding with the Afghan factions in due time following pull-out of the invaders in order to establish an Islamic, all afghans inclusive system, being acceptable to all people and which would pander to the aspirations of the Mujahideen, the martyrs, orphans and widows.

14. Since initial talks have already taken place with the Americans on specific matters and then suspended, I would like to say that our talks and negotiation had not meant submission or abandoning our goals. Rather the step had been taken to initiate exchange of prisoners, open political office and reach our goals.

The Future of Afghanistan:

15. The Islamic Emirate does not think of monopolizing power. Afghanistan is the homeland of All Afghans. Since all its citizens have the responsibility for its protection, so they have right to take part in the government if they have the capacity. The Islamic Emirate will do its best to dispense (government) positions and slots to those who deserve and have the capacity and wipe out corruption in the government departments.

16. The Islamic Emirate considers educations as a main factor for advancement of its beloved people in this world and a cause of their prosperity in the world to come. You may be aware that the Islamic Emirate used to allocate a great portion of its budget for education in its past reign. Currently, a separate commission of education exists in the organizational charter of the Islamic Emirate in order to provide educational facilities for its people. We observe that time and again, some schools are torched or students poisoned, accusing Mujahideen of having done this. But in fact, all these are series of the hidden conspiracies of the enemy — an enemy which is now facing defeat — in order to malign the Mujahideen.

17. We are committed to give all legitimate rights to women in the light of the Islamic principles, national interests and our noble culture. It is a matter of sorrow to say that the common people, particularly women, are grappling with various hardships following the invasion of the invaders. Even many women have immolated themselves or have been martyred miserably or their honor has been violated. Still this brutal trend continues. It is in a time that women were completely secure from such sufferings during the past reign of the Islamic Emirate.

18. The Islamic Emirate will pave way for all compatriots whether they are inside or outside the country to use their professional and academic knowledge in the service and well-being of their country and people.

19. The Islamic Emirate will focus on reconstruction of the country, development of agriculture, construction of roads, bridges, hospitals. In brief, it will concentrate on the construction of infrastructure, extraction of mines, rehabilitation of arid land, industrialization of the country and obtainment of technological know-how.

20. Those who harbor plans for the disintegration of the country, should know that, with the support of the people, the Islamic Emirate will not permit any one to succeed in this wicked plan and divide our country in the name of ethnicity or geographical location.

Foreign Policy

21. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants good relations and mutual interactions with the world, particularly, with the Islamic world and the neighbors in the light of Islamic rules, national interests, mutual respect and joint cooperation. The Islamic Emirate does not intend to interfere in the internal affairs of others nor allows others to interfere in its internal affairs. The Islamic Emirate assures all the world that it will not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against any one and makes it clear that it respects all international laws and principles in the light of its Islamic rules and national interests.

22. We congratulate the governments and nations that have emerged following the recent revolutions in the Arabic world on the (beginning) of their new phase of life. I ask Allah, the Almighty, to enable them to have great advancements in all fronts and a brilliant future while observing the Islamic rules. It is a matter of pleasure that the oppressed Muslims who had migrated from their families and countries for long years due to suffocating conditions, have re-united with their families in their countries.

23. As a Muslim and on the basis of humanitarian sympathy, it is a matter of great concern and sorrow for all the Afghan people, that (flagrant) brutality has been unleashed against Muslims in Burma under the tutelage of the state authorities. We call on the Islamic conference and human rights protectors in the world to take urgent steps to forestall the brutalities as per their humanitarian responsibility.

Mujahideen Brothers:

24. My Respected and beloved Mujahideen Brothers!
It is a matter of pleasure that the Almighty Allah has selected us for the service of the religion and privileged us to be engaged in the grand worship of Jihad. Your determination in the cause of defense of your religion, the people and the country and your willingness to render any sacrifice at any time, speak of your strong belief, lofty spirit, unwavering determination, love of honor and free conscious. In fact, you are a cause of pride for all the world, particularly, for the Islamic Ummah and your honor-loving people. You are the pioneers of freedom and liberation in the 21st century and eminent heroes of valor and courage.

Dear brothers:

Our Jihad and sacrifice will bear fruitful results if we wage jihad in the manner the holy prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) have waged it.

25. Pay close attention to the protection of life, property and honor of your miserable people. Behave with them with a behavior, being full of sympathy, love, respect and compassion in the footstep of the lofty characteristics and morals of the holy prophet (peace be upon him). Obtain the hearts of the people by the power of noble morals; strictly desist from the harassment of people and inform your chiefs about those who harass common people.

26. During Jihadic operations, employ tactics that do not cause harm to life and property of the common countrymen. The instructions given to you for the protection of civilian losses are, on you, a religious obligation to observe. Any violation readily incurs loss in this world and in the world to come. Therefore, I urge you emphatically to be careful about the civilian losses and take this on yourselves as an explicit responsibility, disregard of what the enemy may be doing to flare up civilian casualties during battles.

27. Organize your Jihadic activities in the framework of the rules of the general bye-law of the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate. Strictly desist from interfering in the affairs of each other in order to ensure effective progress of work; to bring about order and to obtain goals smoothly. All should focus on their own responsibilities, and should perform the task devolved on them.

28. Obey your chiefs, and make it part of your daily routine to recite the holy Quran, keep to the remembrance of Allah, study the life history of the Holy prophet (peace be upon him) and recite his prayers and read books for the uplift of your knowledge.

To the Personnel of the Kabul Administration:

29. I invite all personnel of the Kabul Administration, particularly, the personnel of police and army, their officers and the employees of the intelligence department to abandon support of the invaders against your religion and country; join the ranks of Mujahideen like your heroic colleagues– those who deal crushing blows at the invaders from time to time. Join the current struggle aimed at liberating your country and ousting the foreign usurpers– a struggle which is on the verge of victory, if God willing. This will give you a successful and proud life here and in the Hereafter, you will be among the pious men of the Creator and the Master (of all Beings).

30. It is more proper for you to take advantage of this opportunity because the day is not far away that the invading enemy will flee Afghanistan. The Islamic Emirate has added in its organizational charter a department by the name of Call and Guidance, Luring and Integration. Its branches are now operational all over the country so that, in addition to other services, they may provide you facilities to leave the ranks of the enemy and join the Mujahideen.

To the Public of the World and the Invading Countries of Afghanistan:

31. America has invaded Afghanistan for the achievement of her long-term political and economic objectives and for quashing her enemies and rivals both at world’s and regional level. It is a pity that some countries have become a scapegoat for the interests of America and, side by side with the American troops, commit crimes of humanity. Your troops mercilessly martyr women and children in our country; destroy villages and houses; desecrate our religious sanctities; vilify our national honors and culture, set fire to our houses and green orchards or bulldoze them until they become leveled with the ground. It is your responsibility to prevent your governments from doing this, as the people of France pioneered to do it. Let not, your children and interests become a sacrifice for the interests and whims of America.

32. You have to know that a great number of your troops are killed in our country or become handicapped, or face various psychological diseases because of the stress of the war but your governments hide all these from you and the media.

33. The Islamic Emirate urges the Islamic conference, the Islamic world, the Islamic nations and government, to come forward in all-sided support of the Afghan miserable people in their struggle of liberation and salvation from atrocities. Similarly, we urge the international community, the organizations of human rights and, in general, all people of the world; the unbiased and equitable statesmen, writers and news agencies not to spare efforts in the cause of independence of the Afghan people as a part of their humanitarian responsibility.

To Human Rights Advocacy Organizations:

We urge all universal organizations working for the protection of human rights not to rely only on reports of the foreign forces and western media outlets; Carry out your own impartial and on site investigation about the ground realities in the area, by fulfilling your responsibility in this regard. The civilian casualties that occur as a result of the American blind bombardment, unsanctioned raids on (residential) houses, letting loose dogs on children and women to bite them; urination on dead bodies, torture of prisoners in prisons, rape of women at the hands of soldiers, police and Arbakis; violation against the honor and property of people are no more something hidden from the eyes of people.

To end, I extend my felicitation once more on the occasion of Eid-ul-fitre to all pious country men and Muslims of world and ask the Almighty Allah to give them happiness in both worlds and triumph over their enemy. In these days of happiness of Eid, I call on the well-to-do Muslims to give the same attention and care to the children and families of martyrs and prisoners as you usually give it to your own children and families. They lack the cool shadow of compassion of their parents. Cherish them with your material and spiritual aids.

Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid
The Servant of Islam
2012/8/16
1433/9/28

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Grand Strategy Annex

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Monday


Last Valentine’s Day Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping made some remarks at the US State Department that were widely reported at the time as “defending China’s human rights record. There is a transcript of the Vice President’s remarks on the website of the US Embassy in Beijing, and from those remarks I will quote a couple of the crucial paragraphs in which Vice President Xi Jinping explicitly discussed human rights:

“…China has made tremendous and well-recognized achievements in the field of human rights over the past 30 plus years since reform and opening up. Of course, there is always room for improvement when it comes to human rights. Given China’s huge population, considerable regional diversity, and uneven development, we’re still faced with many challenges in improving people’s livelihood and advancing human rights.”

“The Chinese Government will always put people’s interests first and take seriously people’s aspirations and demands. We will, in the light of China’s national conditions, continue to take concrete and effective policies and measures to promote social fairness, justice and harmony, and push forward China’s course of human rights.”

Chinese leaders usually avoid explicit remarks on human rights, but there are a few times when I have read accounts of remarks made in Western countries by visiting Chinese officials who do their best to make a strong case for human rights with Chinese characteristics. After all, when Chinese officials come to Western nation-states they cannot avoid the protesters who would not be able to protest in China. But the official Chinese government line on human rights, though not often explicitly formulated, when it is articulated is unapologetic on those issues that most provoke international outcry.

I wrote above that the Chinese “do their best to make a strong case” for the Chinese conception of human right, and I realize that this could sound condescending or patronizing, but it is not intended as such. I think it would be fair to say that the Chinese have a very different conception of human rights than that which informs the thought and policy of Western peoples, and that many of the disagreements over human rights issues are individuals talking at cross purposes because they do not understand each other.

Moreover, and no less importantly, what I am here calling the Chinese conception of human rights is in no sense confined to China, and can often be found given forceful and eloquent expression by Western thinkers. …

What, then, is the Chinese conception of human rights? And if there is any such thing as a Chinese conception of human rights, how does it differ from Western conceptions of human rights? Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping formulated the Chinese conception of human rights in terms of “improving people’s livelihood” and promoting, “social fairness, justice and harmony.” This is a good summary. When I began to write this post I looked for a different speech with even more forceful formulations, but I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for, since my memory preserved too little the that example to find it again.

In other speeches by PRC officials I have come across explicit contrasts between the Chinese effort to improve standards of living across the board for 1.3 billion people — which is, admittedly, a daunting task — with Western ideas of individual liberties and ensuring the rights of minorities. This is the crux of the issue: the individual vs. the social whole. The Chinese tendency is to prioritize the social whole over the individual; the Western tradition has been to ensure the inviolability of the individual, although this is a tradition that has been honored more in the breech than the observance.

Since the individual is a minority of one, the tradition of safeguarding minority rights can be folded into individual rights, though I know that many would disagree with me here. And I am sure that some will see what I have called the Chinese conception of human rights not as an alternative to the Western conception of human rights, but as a smokescreen behind which to hide their actual contempt for human rights. This is where Western formulations of the Chinese conception of human rights become important — important, at least, for Westerners to understand a point of view different than their own, because Western thinkers will argue for a non-individualistic conception of human rights according to Western norms of political and moral thought.

I recently found a good example of this in Robert Kaplan, who has lately been contributing to Strategic Forecasting. In a piece titled Defining Humanitarianism, Kaplan wrote:

“The very amoral and abstract reasoning behind the preservation of the balance of power in maritime Asia, through the deployment of warships and fighter jets, actually is as humanitarian as intervening in Bosnia or Libya was.”

And…

“Nixon’s diplomacy gave China implicit security guarantees regarding the Soviet Union, Japan and Taiwan. Thus, when Deng Xiaoping came to power a few short years later, he had the option — because China was now externally secure for the first time in more than a century — to concentrate on internal capitalist-style development. China’s economic growth would dramatically lift the living standards and expand the personal freedoms of more than a billion people throughout East Asia. That’s humanitarianism!”

And…

“…realism in the service of the American national interest is the most humanitarian approach possible.”

And…

“…the issue is not idealism versus realism, for realism can sometimes save lives more than idealism.”

Kaplan isn’t explicitly stating the contrast between two conceptions of humanitarianism, but the distinction informs his essay throughout, and he argues strongly that foreign policy “realism” is more humanitarian because it saves a greater number of lives and improves standards of living to a greater degree for a greater number of people. This is a straight-forwardly utilitarian conception of humanitarianism: the greatest good for the greatest number — and this utilitarian conception of humanitarianism corresponds to a utilitarian conception of human rights: human rights under this conception is best defended by way of utilitarian humanitarianism.

So the Chinese conception of human rights is simply a utilitarian conception of human rights, and it can be contrasted to any number of non-utilitarian theories, such as consequentialism, deontology, or the Kantian kingdom of ends.

As I stated above, there are any number of Western defenders of utilitarian conceptions of humanitarianism and human rights. There are passionate defenders of communitarianism who essentially privilege the community over the individual, and while I don’t think many conscientious communitarians would want to explicitly defend China’s human rights record, on the level of principle they are advocating essentially the same thing as the leaders of China say when they claim to have improved the lives of more than a billion people.

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Friday


Kenneth Clark, in his Civilisation: A Personal View, concludes his multi-hour documentary with a reflection on moral psychology, although he does not call it that. He particularly mentions the rise of humanitarianism. This sort of thing would not go over well today, some forty years later, as it would be seen as rather too credulous, and smacking of progressivism (which, we are given to understand, is a terrible thing). But listening to Clark it is obvious that it is already in his time becoming dangerous to say such things — dangerous, because one is liable to be thought a simpleton. Clark himself calls himself a “stick-in-the-mud.”

I do not disagree with Clark, and I am not so dismissive of progress as has become common today, but this is a point I will not argue here. I simply tell you my prejudices so you know that I agree with Clark on this point. This is significant because, even if we recognize the emergence of a humanitarian consciousness in the nineteenth century, we must recognize at the same time the earlier wisdom of Hamlet, viz. that we often discover that we must be cruel to be kind.

One might consider it a kindness that the First World War was ended by agreement with an armistice, and that this spared lives and property by not necessitating an invasion of Germany itself, but the very fact that the defeat of Germany was not made absolutely manifest on the home front in an age of popular sovereignty meant that the armistice did not settle the war. As Foch said, and was proved right, “it is not peace, but an armistice for twenty years.”

Would it have been a “kindness” to push on an defeat the Germans on German soil, taking the lives of more soldiers and destroying the infrastructure of Germany in the teens? This would possibly have changed subsequent history, and it might not have been necessary to level Germany twenty years later with a strategic bombing campaign. And it would have been primarily soldiers who were put at risk of life and limb. During the First World War, more soldiers died than civilians. During the Second World War, more civilians died than soldiers. This is a portent that says something truly horrific about our time.

Such horrific choices have faced us repeatedly throughout our history, and still face us today. Because these choices are hideous, the way that each of us comes down on one side of the question or the other is often used against us, when the most unflattering construction is placed on our preference. This is disingenuous, because either side can smear the other side with the unsavory and unavoidable corollaries of a forced choice. And history forces us to make such forced choices — or forces us to avoid making a choice and, as we say today, kicking the can further down the road — time and again. We should not conceal this from ourselves.

Here is a semi-contemporary example. I have read interviews with one of the scientists who was involved in the design of the neutron bomb. He had served as a solder in Korea, and he had seen the devastation wrought in Korea by conventional weapons. Many cities were annihilated, not unlike the German cities subject to strategic bombing during the Second World War. This vision of destruction on an apocalyptic scale was an inspiration to this scientist, and was part of his experience that contributed to the design of the neutron bomb. For this man, the neutron bomb was a more humanitarian weapon — not unlike the guillotine, which when first invented by a doctor, was conceived as a humane form of execution.

After it become possible to build a neutron bomb, and some nation-states considered adding it to their arsenals, the very idea of the neutron bomb was held up as something ghastly and ghoulish, as though it had been designed with the intent to killing people while “saving” their property, which latter might be expropriated by others who would simply move in to a depopulated urban area. Anti-neutron bomb activists put the worst possible construction on the intention of the neutron bomb. For them, it was apparently more “humanitarian” to keep war so horrible that it would remain unthinkable. From this point of view, mutually assured destruction is a good thing. And I certainly understand this argument, but at the same time as I understand the argument, I know that, for some people, mutually assured destruction is one of the great moral obscenities of our time, and our civilization should be ashamed of itself for having made such a conception possible, not to mention the very foundation of the international order during the Cold War.

What is more “humanitarian”: the threat of a nuclear genocide of a significant proportion of our species, or the threat of a lesser degree of destruction that might settle a war at a lower cost? I think that if you are honest with yourself, you will acknowledge that each alternative is a moral horror. That does not mean that I regard the argument between the two as indifferent. On the contrary, I believe that rational arguments can be made on both sides of the question. All I am saying here is that the irrational thing is to believe that moral horror is exclusively on one side or the other.

This is certainly not the only paradox of humanitarianism, but it is certainly one of them.

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