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Block's Terror Journals
There’s nothing wrong with liberals congratulating themselves on having gotten a thing or two right these days. Lord and Lady know, the Bushites do it all the time, even when they’re obviously, disastrously wrong. Thus, I cheered when, in a recent column, Robert Scheer gave himself a well-deserved pat on the back for having “blasted the Bush administration for rewarding the Taliban for ‘controlling’ the opium crop…five months before 9/11.” I remember Scheer’s May 15, 2001 piece, mainly because it got me so steamed up that I made the Bush-Taliban drug deal the focus of my next show’s opening monologue. Digging into my archives for May 26, 2001, I discovered that I also deserve a small back-pat, having presciently awarded the “Boobie Prize” (a bronze Heilman-C stick figurine with gigantic breasts) to both the Taliban and the Bushites. Here’s the transcript:
“The first Boobie Prize of the Week goes to the Taliban of Afghanistan, this time for forcing Hindus to wear ID labels, kind of like the Nazis made the Jews wear Yellow Stars. This, in addition to enslaving their women, harboring anti-US terrorists like Osama bin Laden, blowing up priceless historic art like the Bamian Buddhas, chopping off the clitorises of their little girls & chopping off the heads of their prostitutes.
Hey Taliban! Get your head out of the Sand! Be a Man, Taliban! The Pussycat is out of the Bag. You can’t cover it up with a veil. You can’t chop off its clit, you can’t even chop off its head. It is many-headed & many-clitted, the force of female sexuality. Accept it. Practice the Bonobo Way. You’ll get laid more often...
“And the second Boobie Prize of the Week goes to the Bush Administration for giving a gift to the Taliban of $43 million for joining the War on Drugs. In a pretty shrewd PR move, the Taliban have declared that opium-growing is against the will of God. So, even though they’re cutting off girls’ clits & hookers’ heads, even though they’re beating the women for showing an ankle & beating the men for not growing a beard, even though they’re making the Hindus wear little Hindu patches so when it’s time to round up all the Hindus & do Allah knows what, they’ll know who they are, even though they’re verging on Nazism here, hey, they’ve signed up to fight the WAR on DRUGS…
“So President Bush just wipes the coke from his nose & hands ‘em 43 mil. Are we nuts? We’re like religious fanatics. When it comes to the Drug War, American zealotry knows no bounds. Hey Saddam, ya listening? All you have to do is declare War on Drugs, execute some poppy farmers, & America will give you money. Drug money. Hey, take away their opium, put ‘em on Prozac. What a world.”
Of course, I didn’t have a scoop on any of this back then, on the cusp of what we now call the “Summer of Threat.” I found out about Dubya’s little smack deal from Scheer’s column and learned about the Hindu patches from a news piece in the LA Times. It was common knowledge that the Taliban were hyper-religious thugs enslaving other Afghans and constructing terrorist training camps like some countries build resorts.
The Taliban happened to interest me because the summer after my freshman year at Yale (nah, I wasn’t a Skull & Boner, though I did bone a few members), I’d spent a magical month in Afghanistan, backpacking my way through the rocks and caves, riding horseback around the crystal lakes and giant Buddhas, touring the mosques, shops and Buszchazi matches.
It was the summer of ‘75, after the revered and tolerant King Mohammed Zahir Shah left, but before the Russians barged in. Those were the days when things practically-medieval brushed up against things almost-modern, and that brush seemed like an exciting tickle, not a lethal threat. Those were the days when Kabul career women showed off their legs in western-style skirts and high heels, while the Bamian peasant women wore gypsyish peasant-wear, and only the ultra-religious ladies of Kandahar cowered under burqas whenever they went out.
Once, a cute Pashtun shop owner persuaded me to try on a burqa. I didn’t know whether to wear my glasses over the fishnet eye-panel or under it, so I kept bumping into things, and got myself a nice embroidered vest instead. Burqas seemed a quaint old custom; little did I know they’d be de rigueur Afghan fashion in 20 years. Certainly, we tourists could wear pretty much what we wanted. I have a photo of myself ontop of one of the Bamian Buddhas gazing at the gorgeous view, wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt, with no hassle from the easygoing Hazara locals. This was “my” Afghanistan.
Of course, it all changed dramatically within a few short years. Now we know the history: the Russians rolled in, then got bogged down in the quagmire of Afghan resistance. Then, gangs of Islamist muhajedeen, groomed by Americans to fight the Soviets, turned “my” Afghanistan into a rocky den of violent, Koran-thumping misogynism. The Taliban, being the strongest of the bunch, proclaimed themselves rulers of a war-traumatized, poverty-stricken country.
Then, in March of 2001, they blew up "my" Buddhas, the biggest in the world--the giant, stately 1700-year-old, 175-foot and 120-foot high Buddhas of Bamian—with help from Osama bin Laden’s explosive experts. In hindsight, I see the eerie warning those wily “uneducated” Taliban were sending us: first our two biggest Buddhas, then your two biggest buildings—boom! Castrated. Gone.
When the Buddhas came down, the West was shocked, the art world moaned, and I cried like I’d lost an old friend. You could say that my loathing for the Taliban and their woman-hiding, antiquity-exploding, one-eyed Mullah was personal. And this bin Laden guy, also trained as a “resistance fighter” by our own CIA, was like some disgruntled ex-employee gone off his turban. Despite my usual pacifist leanings and trepidation about just whom those bombs might be pulverizing, I thought Clinton had a pretty good reason for firing that missile into al-Queda’s Afghan training camp, and I don’t mean “wagging the dog.”
So, in Spring of 2001, when Dubya did the dirtiest dope deal of his life in the Land of the Taliban Caliban Man, I had to ask why. Why? Not that I (or Scheer) got any answers. But now that we know that this dollars-for-drug-control transaction was made with the future mid-wives of 9/11, I think we ought to ask why again. Was it some kind of continuation of America’s support of fundamentalism in the region, a vestige of the Cold War? Did Bush forget that the Taliban were blatantly “coddling” Osama, the black sheep of that nice bin Laden family that did so much business with his own family? Or maybe this $43 mil was a little down payment on the proposed CentGas pipeline some of Bush & Co.'s friends in UNOCAL, Chevron and Halliburton were (and are) so anxious to run through Afghanistan.
The 9/11 Commission has asked some important, difficult questions, most of them centering on why nobody nabbed Mohammed Atta and his not-so-secret society of boxcutter-armed suicide-pilots before they boarded their airplane-missiles. Maybe there’s a clear answer to that, but probably not.
In any case, the kinds of draconian, souped-up Patriot Act tactics they’re suggesting lead inexorably to reduction of our civil liberties and expansion of our police and military. This falls right into Osama’s plan for us. Shortly after the attacks, he boasted in an Al-Jazeera interview: “Freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The US government will lead the American people, and the West in general, into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”
Fellow liberals and libertines, we must ask ourselves: Do we really want to go down the route of constant surveillance, round-ups of terror suspects, ubiquitous security checks, more censorship, more pre-emptive striking in all directions, more racist, trigger-happy paranoia? Do we really want to fulfill Osama's dreams for us? The commission’s findings may condemn the Bushites, as well as the Clintonites, for not fighting harder to get the culprits before the Twin Towers came a-tumbling down. But they are playing right into Ayatollah Asscraft’s--and his boss’--plans for über-control of every citizen and non-citizen in America. I smell a Patriot Act III on the heels of this commission’s dreadful findings.
Of course, it is satisfying (especially during an election year), to let the commission show how George II can’t even read his own PDB’s, and that he’s been obsessed with invading Iraq at least since he invaded the White House. But we already knew that, and we can congratulate ourselves about having known it, if it makes us feel better. But let’s not slap our own backs too hard, because apparently, lots of Americans don’t much care.
So, why not try a slightly different line of questioning? After all, it’s hard to ask someone why he or she didn’t do something, like prevent the 9/11 attacks. It’s pretty easy to ask why someone did do something, like donating millions to an illegitimate government of zealot thugs in bed with a guy who had vowed to murder Americans at home, and had already started doing so abroad.
Why isn’t the 9/11 commission asking why Bush gave terrorists (anti)drug money, some of which could have even been used to help orchestrate 9/11? Then again, why don’t they call in Jimmy Carter, that old Bible-toting US Commander-in-Chief on the Democratic side, to ask him an easy question: Did your administration spend billions of American dollars to back Islamist militants who soon morphed into the Taliban and al-Queda? After all, Boy George didn’t create that particular mess, even though his all-thumbs, ultra-deadly, born-again extremism has quickly made him Poster Boy for Why They Hate Us.
It’s easy to avoid giving straight answers to hard questions like, “What could you have done to prevent the attacks?” You can turn them into a blame game (the Asscraft approach), an exercise in obfuscation (Condi’s way), a disdainful battle of wits (Rummy) or call upon God as your witness (our Prez). But an easy question like, “Did you or did you not give $43 million to the Taliban while they were hosting bin Laden?” is impossible to bloviate around, and the simple answer is very telling.
The next question is why, or more appropriately, how could you? What would the Bushites say? That the War on Drugs trumped the War on Terror? They do have a lot in common. Both are fake wars that kill real people. In both the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, the enemy is often the same folks one is purporting to help. Both are wildly idealistic, grossly expensive, catastrophically misguided government crusades against natural human tendencies that could, perhaps, be controlled in more compassionate, less destructive ways than “wars.” But wars they are, where “you’re either with us or against us.”
Though that can change on a drug-money dime. Whereas the Taliban were “against us” in the War on Terror, they were “with us” in the War on Drugs.
Of course, in the Bizarro world of the Bushites where warnings are “histories,” Osama is Saddam, Iraq is al-Queda, liberation is occupation, and a cakewalk turns into a quagmire, anything is possible, and no one is responsible, as long as we “stay the course,” which has gaily careened from defending America against WMD attacks to “changing the world,” one bloody battle at a time. Excuse me for asking, but what kind of drugs are these guys on?
As for transforming Afghanistan into a nice, democratic, opium-free Prozac Nation (as if Afghan kids don’t have enough problems without Prozac-suicides), well, obviously, that didn’t happen. Even though the mess we’ve made over there is enough to deeply depress anyone, the Afghans won’t be taking our Prozac anytime soon. With most US troops mired in Mesopotamia, the Taliban are back in Kandahar, more women are cowering under burqas than before, Osama is releasing new tapes—Live from Afghanistan!—and this season’s opium crop is one of the biggest ever.
Well, hey, how many fake wars can one fake warrior fight?
Dr. Susan Block
Send all hate mail, love letters, commentary, questions and confessions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.