What Happens If We Leave?


I’ve watched with great interest the general reactions to Time magazines cover over the last couple of days. From my tumblr feed, there was a sway of horror and shock, followed largely by gratitude for being born American. Conversely, on the Feminist Peace Network, outrage that a young girls image was being exploited for the use of war propoganda, and rather a lot of disgust about being American.

It is an image that manages to compel both a voyeuristic sense of disgust, whilst provoking compassion and sympathy.  Which is why I suspect Time magazine chose it as the cover. The image manages to re-assert what Edward Said described as being the ‘othering’ of the Orient. What happened to Aisha is despicable. But what Time magazine is doing can only be seen as propoganda on a most devious and calculated scale.

Through presenting the image of a young women who has been brutalised and maimed, the magazine is inducing within its viewers compassion for its subject, whilst confirming that she is ‘other’.

America is happily distanced as everything this image is not. If you are not familiar with the work of Said, the basic principles of his theory are that the West has constructed a particular understanding of the Orient (The Orient being what we would now call the Middle East) and through this understanding, is able to project all its collective fears and desires. For example, in the Victorian era, stories of mass harems run by lascivious men in turbans were largely generated by sexually repressed English men with overactive imaginations.

Through projecting such desires, a society is able to define itself as possessing all the qualities which the ‘other’  lacks. In this example of Aisha’s face, we are able to define our own society as being civilised, progressive, and most importantly; free of such brutal violence against women. We are able to experience disgust and outrage, but from a comfortable distance.

This understanding of the Middle East is not new. Through selecting images such as these, media outlets such as Time are able to tap into an age old understandings about the world. Coupled with the heading that ‘This is what happens when we leave Afghanistan’, Time has successfully managed to project an imperialist view over the events occurring in Afghanistan. The calculated use of such an upsetting image leaves the reader feeling emotionally swayed towards the message of the piece. Which is essentially, ‘the barbaric people of Afghan need us to be there or they will chop up their women’.

Never mind that this has absolutely nothing to do with the reasons for invading Afghan. Never mind that this event actually occured whilst American and British troops were supposedly helping the Afghan people. And nevermind as well, that in supposedly civilised countries such as Britain, The Donkey Sanctury recieves more funding than all Domestic Violence safe houses put together. Like so many cases before, the image of the woman has been conjured up as a means through which a war propoganda machine can keep on churning.

Check out this somewhat more accurate cover, as shopped by Rob Beschizza


171 thoughts on “What Happens If We Leave?

  1. Bra-fucking-vo. Living in Sweden, where many, many refugees have been allowed to live, I have had the pleasure of having my American cultural ideologies deconstructed. Also have studied Peace and conflict I must agree with all you said about the ‘other.’

    Jung called it the shadow, the unacceptable parts of the self, greed, cruelty, sadism, hostility-are made to vanish, and seen only as qualities of our enemy.

    This Time cover is disturbing. Thank you for the well written post. I hope it inspires some further discussion about how we create these images of the ‘other.’

  2. If only more Americans knew the injury, death, famine, disruption and chaos we have caused in so many lives. It makes what the Taliban may or may not have done (much of what we hear is manufactured/spun to make us think a certain way) seem like nothing.

    Why are we really there? Everyone is avoiding this question. There are vast resources there, and surely the big cheese here want a piece of that, like they have stolen and raped every other poorer, smaller country in the last 100 years. People need to wake up to the propaganda. If our information is controlled by a few media names, and the people who are in charge of those have the same attitudes, beliefs, and ideas, which are not noble but rather selfish and profit-driven, then people reading/watching/hearing that “news” will be making opinions based on lies, and thus live in a total unreality. We have that now. Germany had that a few decades back.

  3. Intriguing post and will read more of Edward Said.
    It is sad that most Americans, despite certainly having the critical thinking skills to understand the perspective of this post, they will still dismiss it because it refudiates (sic) their membership in a cult of personality that dragged our Nation into Afghanistan.

  4. So what, exactly, has the feminist crowd done on behalf of this woman? For all you know, she wanted to tell her story. How about you go live in Afghanistan for a while and protect these women from being photographed? I’m sure the people of Afghanistan could use you.

    • You misunderstand my grievences I think. I admire Aisha immensely for having her photo taken, and for her desire to show the world the outcome of such unbelievably cruel actions. No feminist in the world would take issue with what Aisha has done. It is how this photo has been used that I am questioning.

    • I’m with you, Roxie. It’s so easy to spit bitter words from a comfy couch in a safe country to promote your agenda. Anna, if you’ve never lived in Afghanistan, Venezuela, China, or North Korea, you really ought to try it. I have. You could do with a good eye opener or smack upside the head with reality.

      • Ambermom, I don’t have an agenda. Also, by your logic, it’s possible only to pass comment on things we have directly experienced ourselves. I have never been raped, does this mean I should not have an opinion on it? I have never been to war either, should I have no opinion on this also? to quote my good friend Chris “its like saying you can’t legislate on murder unless you’ve either a) killed someone or b) been killed” I don’t doubt for a second the raised awareness that comes from directly experiencing something. But to claim that someone cannot express an opinion on something they have not directly experienced is just foolishness.

    • actually, were anyone to open said time magazine issue and read the letter from the editor, you’d find that she did indeed want her story to be shared. she was warned about what the impact could be and she is in a hidden location being protected by guards. additionally, a lot of thought went into whether or not to run the cover on the part of the time staff. remember the saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover?”

      • Yeah, I’m aware that Aisha chose to be photographed, and I respect her for that because it was an immensely brave thing to do. I am glad also that she is under the protection she needs. As I have explained elsewhere, it’s not that Aisha’s photo has been put into the public domain that I take issue with, it’s the manner in which it has been presented.

  5. Of course it has to be imperialist propaganda, it couldn’t be the truth.

    Was the photo and title used to sell magazines? Yes. Does that mean it’s message is completely and utterly fabricated? Not necessarily.

    However, you’re just as guilty of manipulation as Time Magazine is. You make no references to what’s included in the argument, and instead use the photo as a launching point into cultural bias, anti-war, and more.

    He’s my thought: The current political landscape in the US is moving away from Afghanistan. Experts and analysts from all sectors suggest this is a bad idea; partially rebuilding a country and leaving is worse than having never gone in. Supporting evidence: Somalia.

    An age old understanding of a culture might not be a bad thing, if it’s true. Afghanistan and other extremist countries have a horrible track record of human rights violations. From a justice standpoint, we should be involved in stopping this. And if we leave before the job is done, then things will be worse than before they started.

    There’s nothing imperialist about our actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. We aren’t forging a new American Empire, there’s no desire to keep these countries. In fact quite the opposite: we’re training their armed and police forces, keeping polling places safe and secure, and instituting plans to draw down troop numbers. If we were truly establishing an empire, would our first order of business be to train and arm an army? hardly…

    So Time Magazine uses a shocking image to remind an insulated and distanced America what is occurring to innocent civilians in Afghanistan at the hands of their own people. If anything, this is “propaganda” designed to stir up Just action from a weak willed, fickle people.

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed though.

    • I agree Matt. At the heart of it, I’m very sad the people of our own society have gotten to a point of such cynicism that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Americans have discovered that criticism of American policy will always make you the popular person at the “world party”. Particularly any part of the world that chooses to point at American as the cause and not the effect of tragic events. The thought process seems to be that there is always a hidden (evil) agenda and everything is driven entirely by greed. Our brothers and sisters have lost faith… and while I do not blame them, I’ll be damned if I join them.

      • Completely agree.

        I find this sort of cynism very detrimental to my work within a human rights campaigning capacity too.

        People distance themselves, and in turn, make our job of raising awareness much harder.

        “This is propaganda, this is exagerration, this is not real” – perhaps is the thought process here stripped down to its bare components?

        Ironically, I find the process of reducing an image of an abused Afghan down to politics pretty contradictory to the notion that TIME are using the image in a manipulative way. The same could be said for this blog post.

        In any case it made for interesting reading, and kudos to anyone who brings up that amazing Donkey Sanctuary fact. 🙂

      • I never said this image was not real. Please do not infer that. I said that it was being used in a certain way by Time magazine, a way I find distasteful. I’m not sure how an awareness of the way in which media uses images is detrimental to your work in human rights campaigning, but I am sorry that you feel that way. Because to question the way in which an image is used, is far different from being cynical about helping those being photographed.

    • Well said, Matt…As I saw the photo, heard about it on the news, and read Anna Clover’s post, I found myself wondering at all of the comments and points of view this photo has inspired. This photo reflects a human tragedy still upon us in the 21st century. My god, just think what would have happened to Hitler if the world had had pictures of the death camps from the very beginning! I hope and pray that this picture stirs up plenty of energy in other countries that have not participated in getting rid of the taliban and other fanatical/maniacal groups around the world.

      • Bravo Monnie, Matt, and all that support Matt! War is Hell, but the hell that these people are living is unimaginable and regardless if Time needed a monetary boot of sales, I an educated woman needed to see that to remind me of three very important points: 1: How lucky I have it in being a woman of freedom. 2: How insanely impossible it must feel to be over there tying to fight in a war where the culture is so disgraceful and a living nightmare. 3: If Vietnam and all it’s horror screwed up a huge population of troops what in the world is the outcome for the troops there now.
        Keep typing out your anti-war propaganda Anna Clover, you have no idea what you are talking about and it almost comes across not only ignorant, but arrogant and those two combinations are scary.

    • Just a question, if Time Magazine wanted to merely stir up American awareness, wouldn’t they merely present the photos by themselves void of any potentially-misleading headers, such as “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan”? Wouldn’t it be better to print the shocking photos without the journalists’ opinions? I see what you say, but I still think this cover of Time Magazine manipulates the Afghan people to promote a particular agenda. At the very least, it could be argued that way.

      • True, but Time Magazine is a money making organization with a certain set of biases and an agenda. (side note: I believe the writer of this blog said she doesn’t have an agenda, which is a lie. Everyone has an agenda.)

        I’m not saying that Time doesn’t use its resources to present their view points in a favorable light. What I took offense to was the jump from shocking image to propaganda designed to reinforce the “otherness” of the Middle East and the American Empire.

        That knee jerk reaction, completely negates the fact that a horrible crime was perpetrated against this woman by an organization based around a radically violent and oppressive interpretation of the Koran.

        As someone else has said “This is propaganda, this is exagerration, this is not real.”

  6. Bravo – more people should be putting forward their commentary!!

    I just read this article tonight and happened upon your blog. While I agree that this is quite probably yet another attempt by the US media to reinforce its position to the world, I also see the middle ground realism – there ARE people who commit these crimes – it doesn’t mean the US has any right to make it their war to fight.

    However, like any world issue, any country that has a suppressed group of people – there will always be a force that steps in under the guise of ‘the greater good’ and makes matters worse before they get any better. Surprise, surprise – the US has done it yet again. My question is – where does it stop, and when do the US people, as well as people throughout the rest of the world, get off the well fattened laurels upon which they rest and stand up for they supposedly believe in? Or are we so misguided by the media that we’ve become a slave of a different kind? Free world indeed.

  7. Sad that such an internationally renowned magazine is still taking this stance, it’s soo last year (aka. Bush years.) I’ve lost hope in the public if propaganda is still defining their viewspoints.

  8. Pingback: Recent TIME Magazine Cover « project me

  9. The media machine… anything to keep their name in the ‘news’ and drive up reader buzz. Soon, (maybe not soon enough), I’d like to think that all ‘newspapers’ and publications have an intentionally positive spin ala “Ode Magazine.” Just think of all of the goodness we’d perpetuate if ALL the news was HAPPY news. 🙂

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage

  10. Pingback: Feminist Peace Network » Blog Archive » More On Using Afghan Women To Sell The War

  11. I’m from Pakistan, and truth be heard, this is not what the locals do. Not even in Afghanistan 🙂 This might be the result of white phosphorus which is illegally used in wars, it just melts the skin away. I agree the war has displaced many citizens of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even I, being a Pakistani and my ancestry linking in Afghan, want the Americans to simply leave. But hey, this is a blog so no fighting 😀

  12. Pingback: What Happens If We Leave? | Grapes To Prunes

  13. You raise some salient points but I cannot completely get on board with this interpretation of the cover. I have not read the cover story, and perhaps doing so will serve to confirm your reading of the use of this image as Orientalist propaganda, but taken simply as a cover is it really fair to say it “others” this woman? I would say it humanizes what for many Americans is an abstraction. We are looking at a human being, and I think the paradigms through which we do so are overstated by you. In this sense, “othering” is a self-perpetuating process; the more one is aware of it, the more its sense becomes impossible to shake.

    I also have to say that clearly American/British societies ARE far ahead of Afghanistan in their treatment of women. As you astutely point out, this is not why we entered in Afghanistan, it does not necessarily follow that our presence there prevents this sort of violence (as you point out, this particular incident occurred while we were occupying the country), and one image can hardly answer the proposition TIME poses. But still, a distinction should be made and the issue should be addressed honestly (not that I really expect the likes of TIME & Newsweek to do so, simplistic and reductionist as they often are). In this sense, I think the outraged-at-TIME-for-using-this-picture reaction is a bit misdirected and overblown.

    A thought-provoking piece by you, though – thanks.

  14. I totally agree with your poignant response to the TIME piece. What right does the so called ‘West’ have to take an upper crust view on such heinous acts? – we’ve hardly got a clean slate now, have we. I remember the suburban English wife who poisoned her Husband with Anti Freeze, leaving him horribly disfigured. We’re not so ‘Civilised’ ourselves eh!

    • If you really think that, why not chuck your “civilised” upper crust life and go live in the 3rd world?

      Secondly, you cite an individual choice and then compare it to a community’s preferred method of punishment and say the two are comparable?

      Really, a random act of violence is the same as a systemically supported and reinforced method of violence?

      By that logic, a murder of passion is exactly the same as genocide.

      Excuse me while I take a civilized, upper crust view on legitimately heinous acts like oppression and genocide

  15. “What happened to Aisha is despicable. But what Time magazine is doing can only be seen as propoganda on a most devious and calculated scale..”

    I agree with you completely..

  16. As a journalist I think the choice of photo and headline do what they are supposed to do — they entice the reader to read the article within the magazine.

    On their own — apart from the article — they do NOT suggest all of the things you are projecting onto them. More than saying ‘This is what happens when we leave Afghanistan,’ this cover asks “Is this going to continue to happen or happen more frequently if we leave Afghanistan?”

    I generally shy away from political discourse in such a public arena (my blog, http://crystalspins.com, is much lighter with bits about dating and being a heavy woman — although I do delve into religion a bit, http://wp.me/pY8MO-5T, http://wp.me/pY8MO-c1 ) and although I don’t completely agree with your take on the topic, I really respect the fact that you put your ideas up on your blog for the world to see.

    Thank you.

      • There is a big difference between asking a question and making a statement, and that headline is clearly not asking a question…

      • I’m sorry I should have said “implies the question” rather than “asks.” Just as you should have said the headline implied: ‘This is what happens when we leave Afghanistan,’ as it was not what the headline said, but rather your emotional response to the words in the headline.

        I find your response to my comment to be very childish and rude, especially in light of the fact that I was being kind in my comment.

      • Re: Just Me

        I did not write that the headline asked a question. I wrote that the cover — meaning the pairing of the photo and the headline — asked a question (and, admittedly I should have said that it raised or implied the question for those of you who are ridiculously literal.)

      • CrystalSpin I apologise, in retrospect my response was unnecesserily terse. I think I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the responses to this article and am getting a bit defensive. Again, I’m sorry, your message was very polite and didn’t deserve my response.

  17. I also have to say – and this is in response to the commentary rather than the article – that the beating-up of those evil, ignorant Americans for their jingoism is rather amusing, given that the public is actually turning away from the war. The discourse is not shaped by left-pacifism v. right-jingoism, but rather a complex web of isolationism, pacficism, humanitarianism, jingoism, imperialism, pragmatism, and other values both good and bad. If it does not follow that because the Taliban is evil, we are automatically the good guys, it also does not follow that if our motivations are malign our effects cannot be good.

    The more people can step away from black/white paradigms and explore the issue in its complexity, the better off we’ll all be.

  18. Hm… a complex issue. It may be “propaganda”, but would you rather people go uninformed? For some, that is the only way they will be made aware of that image and the issue by extension. Some people need to be shocked.

      • There’s no such thing as unbiased. Even in science a bias exists, your blog presents a “bias.” My comments present a “bias.”

        Anytime a person is involved, a bias is present.

  19. Though I agree in your point of view as far as the propaganda, the issue in it self is the same. There are women who are being abused because they are trying to deffend themselves. We need to address the fact that we are there and nothing is changing. When I saw this article, I became angry at the fact that it is happening in the first place.
    Growing up with half of my family from Afghanistan, politics conserning the Middle East is a frequent occurence. Why are they people out there abusing women to such an extreme? Why are we pouring millions of dollars into something that isn’t changing? We need to take more action in educating and protecting instead of just showing our weapontry and hoping it will stop them. Becasue of this approch, nothing is changing. Sure, they might be holding back a bit, but they are getting away with way too much.
    The point in this article was to show that the thing that we believe only really happened in the distant past is happing now. I don’t feel that we are ellivating ourselves from these problems because of the simple fact that domestic abuse occures here as well ( here as in America). The diffence is that our government isn’t willing to negotiate with these people.
    Thank you for stating your veiw though. I enjoyed reading your post.


  20. Well said. I was rather upset with the cover of this edition. Now I feel as if TIME is exploiting this woman in order to get their magazines off the shelf and to put forward their own agendas on why the US forces should remain in Afghanistan. Unfortunately the public responds to sensationalism and I must say that I highly doubt that TIME is using this to empathize with the Afghan people but to rather use this as a marketing tool.

  21. I agree with movieman. The commentary to this post is quite amusing. The generalization of American’s is even more amusing. Simply because America’s army is occupying different countries doesnt meant that 1. all americans are ignorant and/or evil and any other adjective you can think of and 2. it doesnt mean that all American agree with the occupation, it simply means they have no power and their voice is ignored. Beat-up their governement, not their people.

    but the post is well writen thought inspiring, congrats. will read more.


    • This is my thought process as well Kvgb. What the Taliban represents, and the actions they have taken, are inherently wrong. This does not mean by default however, that the Western world has some how then becomes the ‘goodies’ in this situation. This is the real world, and things are more complex than that.

  22. what happens if you leave my country?
    we well be free
    enough of this propaganda
    a criminal does something and its shown to the outside world that this is what afghans are
    but in reality this is not what we are .
    why americans are not shown the villages that they have bombed
    the women that they have raped
    the children that they have killed?
    i just do not understand how how they can just fool you in to believing that you are there for peace
    there is no difference between communism who invaded our land and tried to force the communism system on us
    and the west who invaded our land and trying their best to force their way of democracy on us
    the communists thought it was the best way of life
    the west thinks its the best way of life
    you are all the same the invaders the killers the baby killers

    • Your country? Are you in Afghanistan right now? You left out the fact that there are basic human rights that are denied to the powerless in Afghanistan.
      Do you think it was ok for this woman to get her nose cut off? Just curious, maybe you have the belief that it is ok, because she did something wrong?

      Is it wrong to help the helpless even if it means accidentally hurting the innocent? If the answer is yes, then do good people sit back and let monsters do what they do because if we get involved, an innocent person will get hurt?
      Any thoughts you would like to share regarding this?

      • I think it’s pretty obvious by what Afghani said that our soldiers being in Afghanistan are getting the civilians brutalized. She also seems to state that the removal of this girl’s nose was a criminal act. I would guess that it is not as common as we Americans are led to believe.

        You are asking if hurting the innocent is justified in helping the innocent and I think the answer is another question: if we are hurting the innocent then are we helping them?

      • A lot of short-sighted folks on this blog buying into the emotional propaganda that the article wants you to buy into.

        When actual people from this area of the world mention that they do not want us there, why do you not even listen to them? This incident is relatively rare and happens in all other countries. Just think about how the US has among the highest murder rates in the world. Should other countries invade our land, force us to live subservient to them, under armed watch and unfair policies?

        The military there is not doing a noble thing. They are going after objectives set for them by their higher-ups. At the highest levels, this is not for peace or any noble cause. This is for practical reasons, and it is needed to keep the American people as well as those in the other developed countries on their side. As soon as people find out the truth of the situation, they would want this thing to be over. So they prevent that as much as they can.

      • Roger, as previously stated, this is not a random crime but rather a punishment perpetrated by a Taliban official in keeping with the movement’s ideology. It is a fair question to ask whether or not our exit (or indeed, our staying under the present strategy) will increase their power, and hence the occurence of events like these. We can have reasonable disagreements, but the situation is not as simple as you are making it out to be (nor as simple as TIME suggests with its cover).

        Also, a BBC/ABC poll showed a majority of Afghans wanted the U.S. to remain in some capacity. I’ve no idea if this poll is correct; you’d think a respected polling organization would proceed with scientific data, but Afghanistan is notoriously difficult to navigate and I’d love to know more about their pool of respondents. But it does not automatically go without saying, as you seem to assume it does, that most citizens of Afghanistan want us out of the country.

      • From FuzzyPuddles:
        “I think it’s pretty obvious by what Afghani said that our soldiers being in Afghanistan are getting the civilians brutalized.”

        That’s the same argument rapists use to defend themselves “she was asking for it, she shouldn’t have worn that, she shouldn’t have walked down that alley.”

        Women being maimed and disfigured as punishments for “crimes” has occurred under the Taliban since they came to power.

        This is one more incident in a long line of human rights violations.

      • The thing is that you have been distracted, as has most of Americans and now Europe through the media. So now instead of really looking at why such a large military force is there, controlling all access to roads and businesses, bombing villages, businesses, and destroying families, people here are arguing about this Taliban tribe and a few things like this. Much of what is presented in the media about this as well as “al-Qaida” is made up.

        9/11, terror plots, “homeland security”, the “patriot act”, all of these things are not noble causes but instead stem from a larger plan to have more control in that area of the world. First Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Iran is trying to be pushed through as well. When will it get to a point people question the mainstream media enough (motivated by $$ and greed, and in bed with the leaders of many of the developed countries) to look at evidence for blatant lying and one-sidedness in their presentation on things?

        When Julian Assange, who has been trying to get this type of info about for a few years now, is interviewed on major news outlets like NBC and other big names, the interviewer asks questions that are really unfair to him. They are more like attacks. If that were a military general or some “unnamed officla” that have been increasingly the source of “news”, the interviewer would act friendly, never ask tough questions, and accept what is being told wholeheartedly.

        When people seriously question the powers that be, like Julian has been doing, they are seriously gone after with the intent to discredit, harm, and generally gag altogether by whatever means.

      • Roger,

        why is it that when someone disagrees with conspiracy theories they’re immediately labeled as “blind to the truth?”

        We’ve both looked at the same information and have come to different conclusions, but I’m blind? Really?

        And most mainstream media outlets are liberal, and side against the war, which is a rather large hole in your argument.

        Furthermore, you are guilty of the same thing you accuse others of:

        “When will it get to a point people question the mainstream media enough (motivated by $$ and greed, and in bed with the leaders of many of the developed countries) to look at evidence for blatant lying and one-sidedness in their presentation on things?”

        The article that sparked this debate is entirely one-sided, as are your views on 9/11 and afghanistan.

        While you ask others to look for that evidence, you might want to start in the mirror…

      • @: HandsomeMatt: Wait… what? How is what I said related to rapists? American soldiers are hurting local people and families. it’s as simple as that. It may be via crossfire or accidental barrages, straight barbarism, or angry Taliban taking it out on their women, but the cause-and-effect still stands.

        Also, yes the Taliban are committing human rights violations, but those violations are acknowledged as illegal and as I said are likely not as common as we are led to believe via propoganda.

      • To Fuzzy Puddles:

        The arguments are exactly the same.

        If US soldiers weren’t in Afghanistan, the punishments that Aisha suffered wouldn’t have occurred.

        If a woman wasn’t wearing provocative clothing, she wouldn’t have been raped.

        It’s the same argument, albeit the second is more shocking, but both are nonsensical.

        And yes, this type of punishment was commonplace. In fact communities in Afghanistan were forced to watch these punishments take place. According to the group Physicians for Human Rights, it was the Friday night activity.

        http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/documents/reports/talibans-war-on-women.pdf Search for page 41 (the contents and actual PDF pages don’t match up)

        This is akin to the man who murders his parents and then seeks leniency because he’s an orphan. The Taliban, the warlords, the Soviets, and others were committing these kinds of human rights violations on a regular basis, long before any US soldier set foot into Afghanistan.

      • @: Handsome Matt:
        What happened to Aisha had nothing to do with American soldiers, though. I think we’ve become sidetracked. I was talking about a more generalized view of the war beyond single incidences.

      • To Fuzzy Puddles:

        “I think it’s pretty obvious by what Afghani said that our soldiers being in Afghanistan are getting the civilians brutalized.”

        Given the larger context of this post, I believed you were connecting the two, Aisha’s punishment and US presence.

        Secondly, when we take a generalized view of war, there is collateral damage. But in the same way you believe that instances similar to Aisha happen less frequently then we’re led to believe, I believe that civilians being hurt also occur less often then we are led to believe.

        To address your earlier question ” if we are hurting the innocent then are we helping them?” We have to take a long term look. A surgery to remove cancer is painful in the short term, but in the long run is better for the whole person.

        Rebuilding a country isn’t easy, and mistakes are made; look at the US history. However, Afghanis now have a level of freedom and government involvement never before seen. The hurdles and obstacles are there, but if they push through, is freedom not better than tyranny?

      • @ Handsome Matt:

        To continue your metaphor I would have to say that surgery can become lethal, especially when your surgeon makes mistakes.

        Still, I am forced to admit that freedom is, indeed, better than the various forms of tyranny, and yes Iraqis do seem to at least be voting now (despite bombings and accusations that the candidates have been positioned strategically by the United States).

    • And I am forced to admit that mistakes can and have been made. As a US citizen I abhor that, and it is my duty to hold those who committed them accountable.

      And accusations like that would occur whether we were directly involved or not. Hell, we’re accused of foul play when we act (Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia) and when we don’t act (Burma, Darfur, Sudan, Somalia now, Chechnya). I think the “US is in a damned if we do, damned if we don’t” situation.

      Good debate. Best of luck with life.

      • Just read the article (it was not bad, but also not at all a conclusive analysis of the conundrum it poses – for example, it does not explain how a further U.S. presence will avoid a Taliban-Karzai rapprochement; to be fair it doesn’t claim to be this, but it’s a bit of a dropped ball nonetheless). It seems that Aisha will be travelling to California to get reconstructive surgery in the near future (the cost is being underwritten by a human-rights group, I think). Obviously – I assume along with everyone else here – I wish her the best and commend her for her bravery, whatever I/we think of TIME’s use of her image.

  23. “Times” have the point.
    So the other people who are making this contrast:

    Personally I’m trying to understand if I feel anything when I see Aisha or when I listen to Sunitha…I don’t want to believe that I’m a horrible person if this does not touch me much…among lot’s of thoughts and emotions on this subject I think that the chasm between the cultures is enormous. TIME just wanted the article to be read that’s why they posted this controversial image on the cover…what is the purpose of the article is dubious as everything in this world…
    I’m trying to make myself feel what other people are experiencing because it’s not just about them but even about our the neighbors that live next door. Walls are getting thinner, people are getting farther from each other.

    Maybe a little off-topic…just decided to share.


  24. Wow…this was an intense post to read Monday (somewhat) morning. I enjoyed reading your point of view and thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments left behind by other readers.

    I have not read the article by TIME so I cannot argue one way or another for the magazine, but if I had seen the cover before reading your blog, I would not have jumped to the conclusions you did.

    Every media outlet still in existence has its own right to choose a stance on any subject ~ just as you have and give its own interpretation.

    The picture of the girl, while painful to look at, is reality and this reality exists not only in Afghanistan, but in places like Africa where hacking is so normal that the NY Times writes about it casually.

    We don’t live in a peaceful time and these are not peaceful images.

    I am tired of people saying that one media source is bad for showing ugly or discomforting images, while sexual images run rampant over everything. Images sell and because our nation is numb and unaffected by what occurs outside our nation’s lines ~ TIME chose to jolt America with this picture. Do you think yet another picture of a soldier or bombed city would have caused so much discussion? Why does it have to be negative? See how many ideas and emotions this has brought out? In my opinion, that is good.

    If it affected you, be thankful ~ you can still feel. And if it made you think, be thankful ~ you still have an opinion.

    • I would hope this image made most people feel, if not think. Also, I agree that such images should be seen. But this photo is not delivered to us free of a particular opinion, it is used to prop up an argument about the occupation of Afghanistan. It is this I take issue with, not to the photo.

  25. This magazine cover begged for Edward Said 🙂 Great read! I don’t think her post was in any way evading/denying that atrocities are happening. On the same token, keep in mind that the atrocities happened why U.S. forces were in Iraq. I am not really inclined to say that our presence in Afghanistan is for humanitarian purposes…

  26. What I dislike most strongly about the cover is that it is racist. It suggests that the people of Afghanistan are so barbaric that without American soldiers overlooking their country they will constantly maim their women.

    The fact is, we will have to leave eventually. We’re slowly going bankrupt as it is, and war is expensive. Eventually we’re going to have to stop helping other countries and start focusing on our own.

    • Fuzzy, you’ve made some cogent points above. But this is a very poor argument. It is not “racist” to suggest that Afghanistan under Taliban rule, even partial, WILL condone the maiming of women, as it has done before and is doing now in the regions where the Taliban has control. Nor is it “racist” to note that a possible, indeed probable, outcome of U.S. evacuation will be a resurgance in the Taliban. If a man is a rational being, and Socrates is a man, then Socrates is a rational being. If the Taliban actively support the maiming of women, and if the U.S. withdrawal will result in more power for the Taliban, then it follows that U.S. withdrawal will result in renewed support for maiming women. Now, whether the second point is true is certainly up for debate (one could argue that the Taliban resurgence will happen regardless of whether or not the U.S. stays). But it’s not a racial issue, it’s a conditional one. It’s not about genetic makeup based on ethnicity, but cultural/historical context.

      Also, I’m not sure if you were trying to make a separate point with your second paragraph, but it does not actually contradict the thesis you attack.

      • A logical argument, but at the same time I’d have to ask why you think the Taliban are ruling Afghanistan. All I’ve ever heard is that the Taliban are a terrorist cell living and hiding in caves, and are known global criminals. That hardly sounds like a ruling party. Besides, if America is restructuring countries instead of conquering them, and assuming we don’t leave until the job is complete, wouldn’t that mean that Afghanistan would be ruled by Afghanis? Therefore this article suggests that Afghanis, who would rule the country after we leave, would support the maiming of women.

      • fuzzy, sorry for the very late reply. Not sure if you’ll even be aware of it at this point, but I’ll respond briefly anyway.

        The Taliban are not a terrorist cell hiding in caves, and are not represented as such in the U.S. media. Rather they are a rebel group within the country which, due to the weakness of the regime and the isolation of regions from when another, effectively rules certain areas of the country. The TIME cover means to suggest that by leaving (the unspoken word is “now”, or rather in 1 year, but yes by leaving that out they invite criticism like yours) the Taliban will expand their reach.

        As I see it, and I tried to observe below, the caption is the worst part of the whole story/cover. Hardly anything in the article suggests that if we stay, there will be no reconciliation with the Taliban. Indeed, as many have pointed out, Taliban reconstitution and the beginnings of reconciliation have occured while we were in the country. This does not mean we should stay, nor that we should go, just that the equation “U.S. presence = lower Taliban presence” does not seem very sound, even on the basis of the article which this headline leads to.

  27. Anna – couldn’t find a ‘reply’ button on your response to my comment so am posting this here.

    “I never said this image was not real. Please do not infer that. I said that it was being used in a certain way by Time magazine, a way I find distasteful. I’m not sure how an awareness of the way in which media uses images is detrimental to your work in human rights campaigning, but I am sorry that you feel that way. Because to question the way in which an image is used, is far different from being cynical about helping those being photographed.”

    I appreciate you are not claiming the image is not real. All I feel (and it is a very simplistic analysis) is that why does this cover have to have a hidden agenda? In my eyes it’s wonderful to see Middle Eastern human rights issues garner more attention. Of course if it were for all the wrong reasons I would take issue, but in this case I thought it was clear cut. I suppose you don’t agree that it is so clear cut.

  28. Sorry, but you fell for mainstream media propaganda. Of course, that women’s fate is horrible and unacceptable, but this happens all over the world and in many islamic countries. It has nothing to do with the Taliban. By the way, the Taliban were built up by the Pakistani ISI which is funded by British MI6 and US CIA and they work closely. Taliban extremism has its roots in the Wahabist Sunni extremism of Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the USA. The only reason for the Afghan war was 9/11 and that seems to have been an inside job. Research for yourself. Read the research of Berkeley Professor David Ray Griffin.

    The so called “War on Terror” is done to benefit the Military Industrial Complex and to destroy civil liberties at home. We are constantly being lied to by the mainstream media and the current administration, no matter which party is in power. Do not believe me in particular, do your own research. And do yourself a favor and throw publications like Time Magazine in the trash.

    All the best,

    • Jeff, I appreciate you trying to spread the message, I really do, but there’s a time and a place. The problem with the enlightened is they can start to sound like fundimental christian evangelists, and that drives people away from the information.

    • Jeff, without getting into the Truth debate, you have mischaracterized this particular incident. It is something that happens in many Islamic countries but it also DOES have to with the Taliban in this particular case. Aisha was sentenced by a Taliban official as punishment for running away from her husband. Her ears and nose were cut off, and she was left for dead. Saying that this has nothing to do with the Taliban is like saying the Iraq War has nothing to do with the neocons, since countries all over the world invade one another. True enough, but individual circumstances always pertain.

      • MovieMan0283,

        that’s exactly the point. you are buying the story they want you to buy into hook, line and sinker. so you think that we are there for a noble purpose like to free afghan women from their conditions. it’s all a distraction. if u look at what the US soldiers and others are really doing there, it is not a noble purpose. it is much more selfish. the department of defense works closely with major media outlets to promote stories like these, so they can keep american people feeling okay or even good about what’s going on, when really the reality is always kept from them

      • Roger, not a single thing in your paragraph responds to anything I actually said. In the above comment I am not describing the U.S. purpose in Afghanistan, nor defining its action. I am correcting Jeff’s assertion that this incident has nothing to do with the Taliban. All your assertions about the Defense Department and the U.S. actions have zip to do with whether or not the Taliban perpetrated this crime. They did.

      • @MovieMan0283:

        There have been many crimes and brutality by the US prison guard system. Maybe we should take our military and invade the prisons according to your logic. You keep going back to this little naive belief that the US military is there to help the people. If anything, that is just a cover story, and they are not very successful at helping the locals.

      • Roger, you are still changing the subject. If you want to respond to other points I’ve made under this post, where you feel I have stated the things you say I have (I don’t think this is true, but I’ll respond there) you can do so under those comments. In this particular thread, my point is very simple.

        Jeff stated “Of course, that women’s fate is horrible and unacceptable, but this happens all over the world and in many islamic countries. It has nothing to do with the Taliban.”

        This is not true. The woman’s fate had everything to do with the Taliban, as it was a Taliban official who ordered her maiming.

        I noted this, but you keep coming back with the purpose of the U.S. presence. That’s a separate issue and has nothing to do with the point I made, which is to hold the Taliban accountable for this action, as is only fair.

  29. Ms Clover, you are so right about animals being treated better than human beings. It has never made sense to me that unsheltered, abused, and neglected children receive less attention and funding than abused animals. In too many countries, unwanted or orphaned children call streets, abandoned buildings, and landfills their homes. I am so saddened and disheartened by the plethora of atrocities that are being allowed to continue upon millions of innocents. God could not but be ashamed of us all.

  30. I find it interesting that different readers feel the need to: attack, defend, support, reject and argue with each other, in a very childish fashion.

    Thanks you to all of you who took the time to calmly back up your thoughts with information and evidence -personal or otherwise- to lend a greater scope to the discussion.
    As for the others, how will we ever be able to do anything productive for anyone if at the first moment of seeming difference we are on the defensive or attacking?

    • Amanda, I appreciate your thoughts here but I think looking at this conversation in a wider context, it’s actually pretty impressive for its general respectful tone and reasonable disagreement – over a very, very contentious issue. I’ve seen much worse over much less so as blogs and online dialogue go, I’d say this one gets a gold star!

  31. Stunning comments, all of them.

    Do we even know HOW this young woman received the injuries? That seems to be up for grabs… there are plenty of women in the US (and other countries as well) with similar and worse injuries and without access to proper healthcare for refurbishing body parts.

    I agree with you Anna, and many other who have replied here… it is shocking, it sells magazines (isn’t that their goal?), it is racist (maybe), it happened in spite of our presence, and no one wants (and certainly doesn’t appreciate) an invader no matter how bad their own circumstance. If you turn to one the other will get you in the middle of the night, regardless.


    btw…. that is a mighty fine header.

    • Sarah, at the beginning of the TIME article they discuss how the maiming occurred – Aisha had run away from her husband and was punished by a Taliban official who ordered her ears and nose cut off, and ordered that she be left for dead. It appears she will be receiving reconstructive surgery in California, underwritten by a humanitarian organization. I agree that anyone with such injuries should have that right, but nonetheless I am very happy that Aisha has this opportunity.

      I think a better and more ambiguous title for TIME’s cover story would be “What Will Happen if the Taliban Takes Power”. The story does not draw enough of a compelling connection between the U.S. presence and prevention of the Taliban’s ascendence to justify the title it uses. The real issue is the Taliban’s resurgence, which is only ambiguously related to the U.S. presence (a rapprochement might happen regardless, it’s really a question not of whether we stay or go but rather if we do stay – or maybe if we leave as well – what our strategy is towards the Taliban).

  32. The cover is a testament to how stagnant the efforts of the USA, UK, as well as other countries in Afghanistan have become. If nine years of effort still leads up to this, then we’re exactly where we started.

    • To play devil’s advocate for a moment, and I’m not sure I disagree with your point here (going forward is a separate matter, also problematic, but it’s unquestionably true that the past 9 years have been deeply troublesome as far as the results for Afghanistan):

      The argument could be made, and I believe it’s the one TIME wants to make though they don’t really follow through on it, that the question is not whether or not things like this happen but how prevalent and sanctioned they are. Will there be Aishas in every corner of Afghanistan rather than just the areas they are in now? In the future will Aisha – surviving what was supposed to be a leaving-for-dead – be able to escape to a refuge within the country, before making her way out? Will her story even be heard? So as disheartening as it is that this happened, it could be even worse, and our leaving could facilitate that.

  33. I saw this in the papers today. And I felt anger but also sadden by it all..
    Reminded me and I’m sure many others of the cruelty that still exist in the world today. I admit that I am against war, because of the the mass killings and deaths. Till this day I am still quite reserved about the UK and USA and other countries going into Afghanistan however I can see that their presence is to try and help the people there. It’s hard to say what will happen if we leave, there are so many factors and elements that are so unpredictable. So just pray for those solders who are still fighting right now, pray for those who are still suffering in Afghanistan, pray for families and friends who have lost relatives in the war, pray for this blood bath to end soon.

    • The bloodbath is part of human self preservation and natural population control. Yes, it is ghastly, ghastly, but we have no way out. It is part of the human condition, the way nature works.
      We have a stupid tendency to feel we are above the natural laws and can make and insist on our own, and don’t need to breath oxygen or drink water, like most other living entities. And thinking so, we entrap our selves in our own hells.
      And so we make grand plans and cause grand restrictions, feeling we can impose grand changes. But we are like frogs, croaking in ponds, our voices lost among the reeds, and still, the herons fly in and eat us, showing us how futile we are, and how pathetic.
      Better we leave what is in every country, however horrifying it may seem to us,… be what is, and just look out for ourselves,…. and for those who call us friends.

  34. Nice piece. I appreciate your rekindling my knowledge of Said from 30 years ago, since my first reaction to the piece was probably more along the lines of what TIME intended, disgust at the maiming. But that reaction was immediately coupled with the knowledge that this precise sort of brutality against women is copiously described in the Old Testament, so I did not read it as Other, but rather part and parcel of our shameful shared heritage. I think your rewriting of the TIME cover is helpful, and exposes their purpose (and timing).

  35. What will happen is that the nation will be plunged further into chaos. The Taliban will take-over the country and support themselves on billions in revenue from opium cultivation. All-the-while, the Taliban will impress their hardcore interpretation of Islam on the unfortunate ‘others’ stuck in the country. Al Qaida and other terrorist organizations will move back in, and start to use Afghanistan as a staging area to destabilize Pakistan (who has nuclear weapons).
    The real tragedy isn’t the others, but the billions of dollars wasted in vain. Thousands of American an NATO lives taken in vain, and lost for nothing. All of this because national leaders in Washington and London chose to ignore history…

  36. You can, as the saying goes, see further through a brick wall than most. Nicely written, and your viewpoint is well-defended. There are always undercurrents invisible to the naked eye – what’s TIME’s agenda? Are they using this image to shore up support for continuing the war in Afghanistan, knowing the public is increasingly tired of foreign entanglements and grinding, expensive war? If so, who benefits? Who are TIME’s backers and principal investors? Are they arguing women’s rights are over in Afghanistan unless America stays? If so, your point that it happened while the protection should theoretically never have been better is well-delivered. Are they just aimlessly going for the visceral reaction? Who knows? It was the editor’s decision to go with that cover.

    In any case, a very well-written article.

  37. Pretty ridiculous. After all, I’m sure this wouldn’t have happened to her if we (meaning US troops) were not occupying space and making a presence over there. But there is oil to be had! And drugs to bring over! Yay America!!!

    • Oil? In Afghanistan?

      Since these types of things were occurring in the 80s and 90s under the Taliban… Then yes, it would have happened to her regardless of whether we were there or not.

      • Two issues I see with this:

        1) Afghanistan doesn’t directly link to the Caspian Sea. In fact, Afghanistan has no link to any sea! Where would the pipeline go? Through Iran or Pakistan? Hardly viable options.

        So the US: by moving into Afghanistan, is going to build a pipeline through several other countries of varying levels of stability and political friendliness and run it where? They can’t fly the oil out in large enough quantities to be price effective, they can’t drive it out for security reasons, and there’s no port, because Afghanistan ISN’T ON A COAST!!!

        2) For such an official sounding website, that article mentions oil two times, and has no supporting evidence. Why don’t you go and find a real article, from a real news source, with real research involved.

        Now Afghanistan does have estimates of $1 trillion worth of mineral resources, however those were found within the last year. How could the US have known, nine years ago about reserves of minerals and resources that weren’t known to exist at that point? That was when everyone thought WMDs were in Iraq, and Saddam was telling everyone he had WMDs.

        So we started a war to get oil in a country that had no large deposits of anything, nine years before we knew of the existence of any mineral deposits, in a country that has no effective means of exporting those resources.


  38. There are – and have always been – some issues in Afghanistan. However, the onus to deal with any such undesirable situations shall be on the Afghans. They don’t like US interference; and no country is perfect anyway. Besides, the US presence in Afghanistan has in no way helped to improve the conditions of the underprivileged (read: women, poor and minorities) or the weak there.

  39. i totally agree that this stinks of american imperialist propaganda. take it from me; i am an “other”.

  40. This might interest you: another blog (not mine) that’s discussed this article.


    I personally am not educated enough on the topic to discuss any opinions, but I have always had an interest in how, throughout history, the view on a different group of people is influenced by media or government and accepted into public opinion. No matter how much we try, none of us can escape bias.

  41. if only power was more of a use than abuse – things which are happening in this day and age wouldn’t be happening!

    i am from Pakistan but dont see these things happening around me, but when the news and media try to commercialize it and make money out of such deals – it frustrates me – i sometimes feel i dont belong here ! at all!

    a commendable article u have here!

  42. Hopefully Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan could pay for a nose job for this young woman. If I had the money I would. It would also do wonders for their P.R.
    Poor thing. The ugly side of humanity, how cruel.

  43. As Korean living in South Korea, I actually feel secure with U.S. forces in my country. But couple of days ago, America brought 20 huge ships(include the George Washington-I didn’t even know that there is a nuclear-powered ship) and SUBMARINES(ha…), 100 aircrafts, 8000 men and women armed services, convincing us that they are sending a warning to North Korea. Just before I saw the news on NY time, I had felt secure. But as soon as I finished reading it, I started feel insecure. What an irony? They were saying that they were protecting us from the world-public-enemy living in North of our peninsula(People say so, I don’t know it’s true. I’ve never learned about North Korea except they are pool and their people don’t have any rights), but it seemed they were provoking them. I would be happy with U.S. forces in South Korea as long as they work their role: PROTECTING not PROVOKING.

  44. I read this article and bought this issue precisely because of the cover. Great job by TIME and this is why I say it – Its not about the title alone… The cover picture minus the title itself would have been enough to move a normal person to pick it and read as to what it was all about. If you were to stop trying to read between lines and just take it on face value, then I would be surprised if you yourself Anna would not be moved by the whole subject, being a woman for I’ve known women who don’t need an excuse to start feminist rants. I have a sister and am sure many people blogging here too have a sister, partner, mother, or a close friend – now imagine the plight of the women in Afghanistan. I agree with Afghani that even the Americans are killing – no doubt about that… casualties of war and I bet I’d probably be dead too if I were there right now but everything in human life comes at a cost.

    Leave the article alone. It reads less of a propaganda (if you’ve read it and understood it) and more of a human rights issue for the Afghani women who are scared about what would happen to their new found freedom (whatever little) should the government shake hands with the Taliban and that Anna, is a legitimate thing to worry about from a human rights standpoint.

  45. i am currently a soldier who is working in afghanistan and wanders through the most remote areas of the country on a daily basis. I have not read the article that goes with this photo but i can make a well educated guess on what it is about. Afghanistan is not a unique country by any means, people(specifically women) are prosecuted and abused all over the world, and as far as this country is concerned this is most likely an isolated incident, i can garantee that this article does not show any of the larger cities and even some outlying smaller towns who are making HUGE bounds towards womans rights and peoples rights in general… yes there is a long way to go for Afghanistan, but in the time we’ve been here they have taken it upon themselves to advance as well.

    • dle, from your perspective, if the U.S. begin to drawdown in 2011 (a prospect I think has been overblown), is ground more or less likely to be ceded to the Taliban in government? (The thrust of the TIME article, which did not really justify the title, was a) that Taliban rapprochement is happening now, while we’re still there and b) that the result of this rapprochement will be the ceding of the rights and advances you rightly note.)

      Thanks for your service – I have a cousin and several friends & acquaintances headed over there next year, so it won’t feel like much of a drawdown to me, or them, obviously…

      • well i dont really think that the U.S. will draw down soon, but with some countries already pulled out and us canadians planning on doing so in 2011, the afghan government has some choices to make, and one of those is that they are planning on sitting down after 2011 and negociating a territory agreement with the taliban if it comes down to it.
        the truth is the taliban are everywhere in this country, they always have been, we cant track them ’cause they look like the locals, so they merge themselves into the communities and influence from within as much as they want, even though i personnally think we’re beating them on this front, there are many local villages that actively fight the taliban in support of us, it’s a very good feeling.

      • thank you for the blog. i like having the opportunities to boast about all the good things we do here as opposed to all the bad things that happen all the time

  46. This cover was not designed as propaganda. It was designed as shock material to sell magazines. These actions by the Taliban will increase if we leave Afghanistan, but (clearly) they already happen.

  47. Hey, nice posts, good to read hear, good job
    oh, it hurts seeing poor people around the world involving in unwelcomed wars 😦

  48. Should Muslims put pictures in our magazines of ChritianAmerican girls that have been savegely beaten and raped by Christian Americans and in many cases raped by their own relatives. or of the boys who have been sodomised by Christian/catholic priests and show the need for invasion of America to save those poor kids in USA and Rome

  49. I am just waiting for a Time cover that illustrates the impact of the American invasion on the people of Afghanistan. How about some coffins enclosing civilian victims of inaccurate or misinformed American airstrikes? Or what about torture victims? Or child amputees? Last night I happened to catch an interview with a congressman on television and, in opposition to the war, he cited a list of reasons why American forces should not be there. Not once did he mention civilian casualties or the effect the war has had upon the social stability of Afghanistan. Instead, he claimed that the war was too expensive, a drain on military resources and a source of agony for the Americans who have lost relatives there. It is this selfishness and indifference towards other cultures that attracts the hatred of the world to America.

    This is a good post with the potential to open eyes.

    • The selfishness and indifference to other cultures are worldwide traits, not just American. Take Europe: are we to believe France and the UK are particularly sensitive to the plight of ethnic minorities? We’re all living in a glass house here; careful with the stones. The issue is that the U.S. has power (as France and UK once had, and see what they did with it…) and thus its own blind spots appear rather egregious. This is a fair point, but it’s not so fair to act as if Americans are somehow less tolerant or self-centered than other peoples. They just happen to be in the driver’s seat, for better or worse.

    • P.S. though the characterization of Americans did irk me, I do agree with the thrust of your post – that civilian casualties should be highlighted more often in the U.S. press, in specific not statistical terms, alongside victims of the Taliban (not to say the process is equivalent, but to show all aspects of the war, and keep the civilians from being as sheltered as they are). I am inclined to believe our presence there is necessary in some capacity (mostly for our own security but, to a certain extent, for the security of the country) and am doubtful than an immediate withdrawal would be beneficial for human rights. But I am open to all arguments, especially because the country and the war and particularly our strategy are such messes right now.

      Regardless of whether or not the war is, overall, a worthy cause, we need to be exposed to all aspects of it – I’m not proud of the way the population has buried its heads in the sand, ostrich-style, since 9/11 nor at all proud of the way leaders have facilitated this blindness. On this, we agree.

  50. After reading some of the comments here, I have one question: How many of you have lived in a 3rd world country run by corrupt local warlords bent on subjugating their own people while murdering the members of the neighboring tribe, religion, etc? Zero. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  51. It is impossible not to consider – when viewing such shocking images – that they are exploited to generate strong emotions and consequently persuade readers/users of the reasons beyond the article.
    In that case I can just, sadly, verify, that 10 years of invasion and brutality, death and violence have not succeeded in teaching anything. Self-criticism? N/A.

  52. I though this was a joke to tell you the truth, I couldn’t believe that this would actually be a header for a TIME magazine, but I guess it is. I understand why people do a sort of shock effect with photos to use it toward their advantage, but it is certainly wrong. I was thinking as I read the caption for it that this wasn’t the reason why we invaded them, but it is a twisted way of getting your attention.

    • “I though this was a joke to tell you the truth, I couldn’t believe that this would actually be a header for a TIME magazine, but I guess it is.”

      I had the same reaction.. I didn’t even really process it for a day or two.

  53. Interesting article.
    However, I guess it would have been more effective and coherent if you had resisted the temptation to show (twice) the photo of Aisha in your post.
    By doing so you are, actually, making yourself subject to the very same criticism: using her image to bring attention to your argument, too.

  54. After reading this post, and then reading the TIME article, and thinking it over for a little while, here’s my conclusion. Both the article and the use of the photo were appropriate and mostly well-handled. The caption on the cover was the wrong one however, and it should have read, “What Happens if the Taliban Return to Power” This would have drawn controversy too – many would have said “where have they gone?” – but it could have been justified by noting that they still do not rule the entire country or control its national laws. It certainly would have been a more accurate title than the one chosen, because as many have noted, the women in the article do not actually talk much about the U.S. leaving, but rather about the Taliban-Karzai rapprochement (which, incidentally, is happening while the U.S. still has a strong presence in the country). The U.S. withdrawal should have played a part on this discussion, but not have been posed as the central question, which is misleading both to the content of the article and the truth of the matter.

    Using that different title would also have shifted the question away from, Should we stay or go? to Should our policies reinforce the Taliban? a question that has pertinence whether we’re inside or outside the country and reminds us that the calculus of us vs. the oppressors of women is no longer so clear as it once seemed.

    That’s my take on it at this point. I commend TIME for raising the issue but think they mishandled the delivery and invited much of this criticism.

  55. That is tragic. She’s so beautiful but she has no nose- – it makes me think twice about all the complaining I do about my own life. Plus using this photograph to persuade the American people that going to war with Afghanistan is a good idea is so wrong, but this is what politics has come to know and with our government officials will do anything they feel is right and legally justified, they don’t give a crap about morals. This is a shame this war is pointless they’re so not there to protect the women in that country.

  56. HANDSOME MATT – start your own blog so I can subscribe. I should be able to visit your site and comment, which I cannot do here. Yours is a voice of reason. Thanks for shedding candid light on this topic and blog.

  57. Some one said that the Taliban did this. . It is impossible that they would do this as its unislamic to do that for such a crime.

    Either they have had exeternal people pretending to be taliban doing this to malign the taliban or it was just some guys who join in the fight against the invaders saying they are taliban without actually being talibs (ie students of Islamic knowledge).

    Sometimes when a nation is attacked all sorts of people start joining the Tailban to fight against invaders. They may not be trained in islamic values so they might end doing stuff such as this.

    A video was shown of taliban beating a woman. Even some Muslims believed it was the taliban. Yet when a Muslim speaker was delivering a lectures, a non muslim woman said to him. “Thats not the Taliban.”
    He asked “how do you know that”
    She said she lived and worked in Afghanistan for several years. The way the guys in the video tied their turban on is not how the taliban wear their turbans.

    Just look at who the USA put in power in Afghanistan people like General dostam who went round afghan villages, breaking peoples doors and giving them chilling threats that his soldiers will rape every female,young and old, in the village if they find just one supsected taliban in their village.

    In the USA women are accustomed to sex and sex isnt a big issue. Even when thsoe women are raped their lives are a living hell. They contempalte on suiocide daily, their are no longer able to allow their loved ones to touch them. So imagine how many times it would be worse for a woman or girl to be raped who would never let a man other than her dear husband to even touch her.

    What would happen if NATO left?

    Well rapist like General Dostam would be hunted down and killed.

    Unlike say in nato countries were rapists get a slap on the wrist and few years in prison with TV and maybe play staions and then are sent back into the community and many rape again.

    The drugs would be again wiped out.

    This time the American drug mafia may not be able to send in Stealth bombers to punish Taliban for making the people stop drug cultivation.

  58. Mat . do you know about whats facts actually are? Can you please look up in the dictionary what the meaning of fact is. Thanks.

    After you have looked it up. Then do get your facts right.

    Your saying this was happeing in 80’s and 90’s under the Taliban.

    On which planet have you been living. Planet America?

    We on Planet earth know that Afghanistan was under Russians in 80’s and till 9o’s under Afghans (mixure of northern aliance and rapist, child molesting warlords (many of whom are back in power after 2001)

    Afghanistan was only udner Taliban for aroudn 4-5 years 1996-2001

    If you come down to planet Earth you will find thse facts.
    If you wish to stay in Planet America then thats your choice.

    • You really want to play this game? Do you really want this?


      “So imagine how many times it would be worse for a woman or girl to be raped who would never let a man other than her dear husband to even touch her.”

      Then why are many rape victims charged as criminals guilty of an extra-marital affair? Many judges in Afghanistan don’t separate rape from adultery, meaning rape victims, who you agree go through awful mental anguish, are then punished for the crime.

      “It is impossible that they would do this as its unislamic to do that for such a crime.”


      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Talibanbeating.jpg The Taliban religious police beating a woman for removing her burqa. An oppressive piece of clothing if ever there was one.

      http://www.wluml.org/node/5903 – Woman beaten 101 times after becoming pregnant due to rape: The order was a “fatwa” from the village elders who then pardoned the rapist. Flying directly in the face of your statement “Unlike say in nato countries were rapists get a slap on the wrist and few years in prison with TV and maybe play staions and then are sent back into the community and many rape again.”

      http://infidelsarecool.com/2009/03/23/uk-imam-raped-daughter-from-age-5-15-as-punishment-for-disobedience/ – Note the woman was raped by her father for being “disobedient.” And when she fled and converted, her father lead the mob that attempted to kill her.

      Yes completely impossible for these types of things to occur under a religious government that is oppressive and violent. And these stories span the Islamic world from the Philippines to Africa meaning it is not an isolated event, or a radical group, but rather something much broader.

      Secondly, the Taliban grew out of the Mujahideen and various groups, in the power vacuum in the late 80s. This was after they rebelled against the already established government in Kabul for being to liberal and Western (read: evil). So prior to the Khandahari Student movement (which specifically developed into the Taliban), we had muslim warlords committing human rights violations against their own people. The event that sparked Mullah Omar’s active rebellion was the abduction and rape of boys and girls by neighboring warlords.

      http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/documents/reports/talibans-war-on-women.pdf Note that until the country fell apart at the hands of militant islamic fighters, women had equal rights guaranteed under the law and constitution of the DRA. And then it all fell apart, and proceeded to get worse under the Taliban. Also note the sources cited, fairly respected the world over.

      Of course what can be expected under a legal system with no due process, justice, or fairness. Instead relying on the arbitrary whims of a select few individuals. There’s a political term for that it’s called “tyranny.” Why don’t you look up that word in the dictionary, and then come back to me.

      So the Taliban toppled these heinous offenders, and then proceeded to behave in the same manner? Oh yes, a truly noble group of innocent victims indeed.

      Why don’t you look at the facts as they’re presented, distance yourself from your middle eastern brainwashing, and then try to debate against me.

      I’ve checked my facts and even presented some to you. Google turns up over 2.5 million websites dealing with Taliban human rights violations.

      I’ll give you that the US legal system is flawed. But which is better? A system that despite its flaws I have rights that cannot be violated by anyone, even the court itself or one where I can be abducted, tortured, raped, maimed or executed with no real proof of criminal activity.

      Here’s what you’re going to say back: You’ll probably talk about how the Koran is a peaceful document and Mohammed wouldn’t condone such things. I’ll agree to that, it looks great on paper. Just like communism and socialism.

      But the issue is in its real life execution. When rule by the Koran or Sharia law are put into place: human rights violations soon follow. In spades.

      So I’ll go back to Planet Real World and Planet America, where men and women are equal and free and enjoy the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While you can go back to trying to justify an oppressive, tyrannical form of law. I hope you never become a victim of it yourself.

  59. Really? Do you really want to start this? On your head then.

    Fine: Under the Taliban things of this nature have occurred from 1996 to 2001. Prior to that Muslim warlords engaged in similar behavior, as did the Mujahideen and the Soviets.

    So I have corrected my timeline and yet these types of human rights violations still have occurred in Afghanistan, committed mostly by Afghanis, against Afghanis at the behest of extremist Islamic law. Interesting.

    Of course if we take a larger view of Sharia law, we see that Afghanistan is not an isolated country or incident. Men and women are oppressed and brutalized (even to the point of maiming or gang rape) often times publicly as punishment for crimes. And worse, the punishment is often times arbitrary and follows no course of “due process.” This occurs throughout the entire Islamic world!

    To make matter worse, women are especially vulnerable. After being raped, many women are charged with Zina, which is infidelity. The victim of the crime is now being punished for the crime. And often times the man goes free, having only to claim that she seduced him and he was powerless to resist her evil, feminine wiles. And to make it worse, to counter his claim, a woman must produce four eyewitnesses. No DNA evidence nor circumstantial evidence, but four eyewitnesses.

    Not to make too light the situation: but most rapists wouldn’t do anything with four people standing around. Of course, if its a group of religious police doling out punishment for crimes, a thousand people could see it, and none would step forward (that will be addressed below).

    So across the Islamic world, Sharia law encourages oppression, violence, and brutal retribution. In Afghanistan the punishment of criminals became a sort of community event.


    “Every Friday, the Taliban terrorizes the city of Kabul by publicly punishing
    alleged wrongdoers in the Kabul sports stadium and requiring public attendance
    at the floggings, shootings, hangings, beheadings, and amputations.” page 32 in the article, page 41 in the file.

    “Physicians for Human Rights obtained first-hand information about two cases of gang rape of boys by Taliban police. One was thirteen, the other eighteen years old. The thirteen-year-old child had been abducted following a fight he had with the son of a Taliban supporter. In prison he was reportedly beaten and raped by Taliban security forces. ”

    But supposedly, according to you, rapists in Afghanistan are hunted down and killed.

    Of course the eyewitness accounts of members of a respected humanitarian group must be wrong because “[i]t is impossible that they[the Taliban] would do this as its unislamic to do that for such a crime. [sic]” As “unislamic” as it might be, repeated reports of it occurring at the hands of Taliban religious police, and even now in Taliban controlled areas (including the hinterlands of Pakistan) continue to come out.

    On paper Sharia law probably looks great, with it’s support of modesty and chastity. Of course communism and socialism look great on paper as well. But in the real world (which is where I exist and operate) Sharia law leads to nothing but violence, oppression and extremism. If you consider looking at the actual facts and issues presented before me and making a reasonable assumption as living on “Planet America;” then so be it.

    Here are my supporting sources:
    The 2.5 million websites regarding Taliban Human Rights Abuses


  60. Taliban is US’s government product. There is no war against terror in Afghanista, but war gain control in Central Asia. Taliban created to justify US’s agretion

    I wanna say how poor your Americans, you’ve been fooled by your own government. Your tax was robbed by Israel, and you suffrered for economic crisis

  61. while I agree with annaclover general point, and i felt the same after seeing the cover, but, i think it is a misrepresentation of the article. I read it , and it is quite clear, that it is did NOT happen before, it started happening after western presence in Afghanistan. Its the presence that has made things worse for women.

    read it judge for yourselves

  62. I would like to point out, to the first commenter, that Sweden has done a horrible job resettling refugees. They can boast about the quantity they bring in, but the high percentage of returns is evidence of a low-quality resettlement system. In addition, the quantity has greatly diminished since 2007.

  63. i read almost all of the article in the magazine amd it was HORROR!!!!!! i am soooo glad she is under protection they need 2 respect girls more!!!!

  64. So if you want to institute human rights in a country, do you send a whole army of soldiers?

    Or do you send soldiers when you want to wipe out humanity from that region?

    Every first world country has a track record of institutionalised violation of human rights. Think: Lynching of blacks in the US as late as 1950 for the sin of merely looking at a white woman. But, did the US need an invading force to teach them human rights?

    You should know that third world countries are slow to catch up what with all the imperialism we had to live through. But, we’d rather learn and change on our own at our own pace than have the US teaching us a lesson.

    Afghanistan has been through a lot of hell. The Taliban came into power during a tumultuous phase, when warlords were blowing up innocents. Had the US not invaded, then the people themselves would have ousted the Taliban. That’d be better for them, to build their own government.

    Besides, if it’s all about human rights, then why don’t you send in human rights advocates? It’s not like the soldiers are helping alleviate gross violation of human rights.

    And if it’s really about human rights, then why aren’t the US troops moving into other third world countries, like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh…?

    Well written, anna!

  65. Pingback: 2010 in review | Anna Clover

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