There’s More Work Ahead After the Taliban Collapse

The blustering holy murderers of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have

had a bad two weeks. After the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, they began fleeing their

positions pell-mell. Some of their remnants holed up in two towns, Kunduz and Kandahar,

hoping perhaps to use the wretched civilians as human shields against American

bombs. Escaping turncoats report that the foreign gunmen of Al Qaeda were

shooting their Afghan Taliban allies who planned to defect. So the damned in

Dante berate, attack and even eat each other. Other Taliban and Al Qaeda units

were reportedly hoping to escape to Pakistan

or into the mountainous interior of Afghanistan,

there to wage guerrilla warfare. Truly, their courage is matched only by their


In their wake, their former

subjects enjoyed formerly forbidden pleasures. It is a measure of Taliban

rigidity and Al Qaeda ruthlessness how simple these pleasures were. Women

sunned their faces in public. Men traded cards of Indian movie stars. People

listened to music, or dug out old TV’s and VCR’s. Barbershops worked overtime.

My favorite comment came from the man interviewed by The New York Times who

said he had nothing against beards; he’d even kept his mustache. But he didn’t

like being told what he had to wear. Another dream of purity and power goes

down in a heap of trimmings.

We were terrorists, remember? We were arrogant, remember that

one, too? The world hated us for our terrorism and our arrogance-you know the

spiel, it’s on a loop, all set to play the next time we think of doing anything

in the world. Remember this: We just wanted to kill our enemies and avenge our

dead. As a result, women in Kabul

can walk outside.

What next? We must hunt down the Al Qaeda operation with the

thoroughness of

exterminators. “Mr. bin Laden,” as The

Times , faithful to its style book,

calls him, must be found and shot, or vice versa. His agents must be rolled up

worldwide, from the Philippines

to Spain to the

United States.

The complaints over the possibility of using military tribunals to try

suspected soldiers of terror here are unwarranted. Combatants have always

gotten special treatment. What was Nuremberg-night


We also need to defeat or

disarm Al Qaeda’s sponsors. Iraq, with its evident grudge and its chemical, germ

and atomic-research programs, is the obvious suspect. If the source of the

anthrax letters turns out to be domestic, Iraq may still be involved: It would be clever

intelligence work to join forces with America’s McVeighites, in the common purpose of bringing

down ZOG. Beyond Iraq, with its military know-how, stands Saudi Arabia, with its irresponsible reserves of cash. The

Saudis, who have built enough palaces and paid off enough gambling debts even

for the 7,000 princes of their royal family, have sent their surplus money into

the world to subsidize crude anti-American educational systems that produce the

potential recruits for “Mr. bin Laden,” Saudi Arabia’s favorite son. Colin

Powell must let them know that this must stop; if it doesn’t, we have the

address of the Hashemite family, the previous guardians of Mecca and Medina.

Will President Bush see his war through to its end? During the

2000 election cycle, each candidate was asked what his favorite book was. Al

Gore, as I recall, picked The Red and the

Black , Stendhal’s study of the bright young man who must lead an inauthentic

life-an interesting choice. Mr. Bush picked an even more interesting book -The Raven , by Marquis James, a 1929

biography of Sam Houston. I had never known anything about Sam Houston; what I

learned from The Raven was that he

went through a period of his life when, after being a successful Tennessee

politician, the bottom fell out. The woman he loved wouldn’t marry him; he took

to drink and moved to Indian territory, becoming an

honorary Cherokee. Then something caused him to move to Texas,

where he found his mission and his identity. The story of Houston’s

struggle with drink must have obvious resonance to President Bush, who’s had

the same struggle; Houston, unlike

Mr. Bush’s spotless father, could be a flawed but triumphant paternal figure.

After Sept. 11, one read that Mr. Bush believes the terror war has given him

his mission in life; perhaps it is his Texas.

The images of the celebrating Afghans raise even deeper

questions: Is there a human nature? If so, what is it worth? Extreme

relativists posit a multiplicity of solitudes-cultural others that cannot

understand or judge anything beyond their own borders. A strain in most major

religions acknowledges a common humanity, but asserts that it is radically

corrupt. Jonathan Edwards told his parishioners that they were as disgusting in

God’s eyes as spiders, and deserved hell flames.

It is always a temptation, when fighting foreign enemies, to

imagine them sunk in the toils of their systems. Culture colors much, and

politics can color a lot more. But all things being equal, people would rather

not be brutalized. When we think of the Islamist other, we must remember the

women who looked at the sun.

It is equally natural, though,

to lash out at repeated frustrations. To the anti-American frog chorus which

says we have brought this all on ourselves, we can truthfully

answer that we have, in one respect: We have paid too much deference to

dictators and traditional despots in the Middle East. It was convenient for us, of course, and we

assumed that was all their people were good for. Our own convenience should be

consulted; it is not our business to run, or to instruct, the world. The world

will not sit still for it in any case. But when our interests cause us to

intervene, then we must accept the responsibilities that come with

intervention. We fought a war to liberate Kuwait, then let Saddam Hussein remain in power, to

threaten us and to terrorize his own citizens. We subsidized the Afghan

resistance to the Soviet

Union, then left them to

the mischievous and bungling hands of Pakistani intelligence, and to the

struggles of their own warlords. A decade and thousands of dead Americans

later, we must leave the neighborhood in better shape than we found it.