News Flash: Taliban Violate Human Rights by Christopher Hitchens
The human rights community finally notices the Taliban's war crimes.
Even in a week that concentrated all eyes on the magnificent courage and maturity of the people of Cairo, a report from Kabul began with what must surely be the most jaw-dropping opening paragraph of the year. Under the byline of the excellent Rod Nordland, the New York Times reported:
International and local human rights groups working in Afghanistan have shifted their focus toward condemning abuses committed by the Taliban insurgents, rather than those attributed to the American military and its allies.
The story went on to point out that the Taliban was culpable for "more than three-fourths of all civilian casualties" and informed us that some human-rights groups are now so concerned that they are thinking of indicting the Taliban for war crimes. "The activists' concern," Nordland went on, "would have been unheard-of a year ago," when all the outcry was directed at casualties inflicted by NATO contingents.
The story became more mind-boggling as it unfolded. One had to ask oneself what had taken the human-rights "community" so long. After all, there are war crimes and there is the crime (established at Nuremburg) of planning to wage aggressive war. The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in the first place by indiscriminate violence, played host to al-Qaida forces that murdered several thousand civilians in one day on American soil, and for almost a decade has been employing systematic cruelty against civilians and fighting an undeclared war, without uniforms or formal command structure, against a force that is upholding a U.N. mandate for the rebuilding of the country. Moreover, during its period in power, it ran the country as a vast concentration camp, enslaving the female population and conducting a campaign of extermination against the Hazara minority. How is it possible to mention this enormity in the same breath as the forces that are opposed to it?
The turning point, in the mind of the human rights "activists," appears to have occurred in late January, when a Taliban suicide-murderer killed at least 14 civilians in the Finest Supermarket in Kabul. Among the slain was a well-known local campaigner named Hamida Barmaki, whose husband and four small children were also killed. One wonders in what sense this was the Taliban going too far—women are killed and mutilated by them every single day in Afghanistan. Yet let the terror reach one of the upscale markets or hotels that cater to the NGO constituency in Kabul, and suddenly there is an abrupt change from moral neutrality.