Saturday's Washington Post had an interesting account of a book written by one Waheed Mojda, a foreign affairs officer of the Taliban, about that regime's rise and misrule. The article describes the work as offering hilarious and painful accounts of a government that left few written records and made little effort to explain its actions to the world at large. There's a good deal of pathetic detail in the article that seems to describe not so much the regime as the kind of society it tried to impose...
In another passage of Mojda's account, a Kabul man desperately tries to secure a religious order from the Supreme Court to have his teeth pulled because he had his cavities filled by a dentist but was told by a Taliban cleric that having filled teeth "would make my prayers and ablutions invalid."
There are details about the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas, which suggest the totalitarian nature of the regime,
He described the crisis that erupted when Omar ordered the demolition of two majestic Buddhas carved into the cliffs of central Afghanistan.
According to Mojda, many officials were unhappy about the order. Some tried to warn foreign conservationists, while others ducked responsibility.
Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil was "depressed" over the demolition but had to defend it to the foreign media.
"A great tragedy occurred," Mojda wrote. Military explosives were transferred to Bamian, where the Buddhas had been carved 13 centuries before, and the statues were rendered faceless. Not even senior Taliban officials had dared defy [Mullah] Omar, whose spirit, Mojda wrote, "always hung over meetings like a shadow."
That's a nice phrase -- hung over meetings like a shadow -- one can imagine nervous apparatchiks in the Soviet ministry of incompetent bureaucracy nervously twiddling their thumbs as they try to decide by how many tons of iron ore or pairs of shoes they have to exaggerate to avoid Stalin's displeasure. It might be worth taking Mojda's description of the displeasure of his fellow Talibani at the Bamian desecration with a grain of salt, although he is happy to point out that not everyone regarded the event with disdain:
While much of the outside world recoiled, Mojda noted, the symbolic smashing of the Buddhas attracted secret donations from foreign Muslim sympathizers and a fresh flow of Arab fighters eager to join the struggle against the oppressive West.
I also found it interesting that, like al Qaeda (as Exit Zero pointed out), the Taliban were employing the Jihadi equivalent of the Underpants Gnome Strategy:
"The Taliban leadership had no plan but war," wrote Mojda, and yet its battle plans often went awry. Even seasoned commanders had to wait to make field decisions until they obtained permission from Omar, who was usually incommunicado in his southern headquarters. Planning was so haphazard that large numbers of troops were sent into battles in which massive casualties were inevitable.
Actually, the underpants gnomes seem relatively sane compared to this...Posted by Ideofact at March 1, 2004 11:30 PM