At least the Afghani people in Marc Manson's story have the guts to be honest with themselves about their justice system.
What's worse: cutting off someone's hand for a petty theft, or locking someone up for decades for a crime they did not commit, or for something that no rational person would consider a crime? In our enlightened country we have tens of thousands of people in jail with sentences of 10 years or more for drug crimes they didn't commit, or for things like possession of pot, which clearly does not deserve jail time whether it's a crime or not.
For details on this one great source is Frontline's web site 'Snitch': http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/snitch/ They do a great job of explaining how our drug laws put people in jail for the drug crimes of others, while letting off the people who actually committed the crime.
Our justice system is just as public and inhumane as the one described in Carl's post. If we are more enlightened than those Afghanis, what good does it do if it doesn't cause us to even try to stop our own barbaric human rights abuses?
Another angle on this would be to look at the Gulf War as a form of justice. We punished the Iraqi people for the invasion of Kuwait. We bombed the land where "an eye for an eye" was invented, but we took that principal much further. For invading a country of 250,000 people (extremely rich people, most of whom were on vacation) we killed 500,000 Iraqis--mostly soldiers during the war.
Then, we continued to punish the people, and by established estimates a million or so people, mostly children, have died as a result of the sanctions which for a while didn't even let medicine, like penicillin, into the devastated country.
Isn't that justice more barbaric than anything the Taliban have done? A million and a half lives for the crime of invading a country of 50,000. --Especially considering that we committed the same crime by invading Panama only a couple years earlier.
Well, this may seem all a bit out of line. But perhaps people will think it is something worthy of discussing. The left these days is very obsessed with the crimes of other countries like China, and Afghanistan. And it just seems a shame that there is so little energy in comparison, these days, going into stopping the worst human rights abuser: ourselves (i.e. America).
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
> [mailto:owner-lbo-talk at lists.panix.com]On Behalf Of Carl Remick
> Sent: Thursday, January 20, 2000 12:06 PM
> To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com
> Subject: Re: G. Bush: US in Holy War Against Iraq?
> >Bush salutes US air strikes on Iraq as "Lord's work"
> [The Lord words in mysterious ways His chores to accomplish.
> Here are yet
> more folks doing Gods work. This is from Orato, which can be found at
> Bloody Justice in Kabal
> --Mark Mason takes in the weekly headline event at a Kabul stadium, where
> thousands gather to watch the public amputation of criminals.--
> As a young boy I used to spin a globe handed down to me from my older
> sisters. I would place my finger on it and let it slow to a stop.
> More often
> than not, the globe came to rest on the country of Afghanistan. I
> my local library for books on it, but what little I could find
> was sketchy
> and incomplete. Afghanistan was a mystery that always beckoned me.
> In 1998 I flew to Afghanistan on photographic assignment for several
> humanitarian aid organizations. After a month of hard work I
> decided to take
> in one of the few "cultural events" still allowed by the Taliban
> On Fridays after the noon prayers, authorities in the capital,
> Kabul, stage
> the public stoning of adulterers and hand-chopping of thieves. These
> punishments take place at the city's soccer stadium, recently
> restored with
> United Nations funds.
> An hour before show time a crowd had already queued up at the entrance.
> There were fathers bringing their sons to view their first public hand
> chopping, religious leaders arriving to see the word of the Koran
> carried out and hundreds of vendors who had a grand opportunity to hawk
> their goods amid the burgeoning crowd.
> I tried sitting inconspicuously on a wall across from the stadium
> Shouts of "Hello, Mister!" and "Baksheesh!" (Afghan slang for
> begging money)
> rang out as groping hands probed my pockets. Soon I was surrounded. The
> crowd grew larger. Then I drew the attention of a Taliban guard
> who had been
> keeping the spectators from entering the stadium before the event.
> He was typical of many of the Taliban soldiers I had seen. Youngabout
> 18-years oldand wild looking, with a long, flowing black turban
> and fiery,
> charcoal-lined eyes.
> With an AK-47 slung over his shoulder and a small tree branch for
> general lawbreakers in his hand, this "student of God" approached
> the melee.
> Swinging the switch with wild abandon, my savior drove the unruly bunch,
> holding their behinds, into the crowd. He then approached me. I quickly
> stuck out my hand and gave him the customary salutation heard
> throughout the
> Middle East, "Salaam walakum." Roughly translated, it means
> "Peace be with
> you." With a slight smile he responded with "Walakum salaam."
> This young soldier, Najib, stood by me the next few minutes,
> protecting me
> from a gathering mob of curious children, interested old men and
> hawkers who
> smelled American dollars.
> Later, two more Talibs approached and asked me to follow them
> away from the
> waiting spectators, through the gate and towards the empty stadium. As I
> trailed behind my escort I wondered if I was the main event.
> A seat in a shady section near one of the entrances to the field
> awaited me.
> Soon tea and cookies arrived. I sat in awkward silence with my
> new friends.
> Najib escorted an older gentleman wearing a white turban to me. He was a
> mullah, a respected religious leader known for his expertise on the Koran.
> "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammandun rasul Allah (There is no God but Allah,
> Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)," he said, beckoning me to a
> verse from
> the Muslim holy book. I did my best to imitate him. Judging from the
> discouraged look on the mullah's face and the hoots of the Talibs
> from a distance, I fell short of the mark. My lesson continued until I
> finally recited the line to the mullah's satisfaction.
> The main event
> My Talib escorts motioned me to stand up and follow them into the
> Moments later a flood of spectators poured into the arena like a
> human wave,
> scrambling for the best seats. Within 20 minutes it was a
> capacity crowd of
> 35,000 ecstatic Afghans.
> The infield began to fill up with what looked liked Taliban VIPs.
> I spotted
> several more white-turbaned mullahs along with my teacher. They sat on
> blankets, chatting nonchalantly and drinking tea.
> Suddenly, from one of the main tunnels leading into the stadium,
> the Taliban
> rank-and-file entered in a fleet of red Toyota pickup trucks. Men
> jammed the
> cabs and beds of the trucks as they paraded around the track. The
> black turbans flowed like flags of glory and the spectators
> cheered and rose
> to their feet.
> A small white car with tinted windows crept in from a tunnel and made its
> way to the VIP section directly in front of me. The crowd fell
> silent, the
> hush sending a strange chill down my spine. "The criminal has
> arrived," the
> gentleman beside me whispered.
> One of the dignitaries, acting as a master of ceremonies, walked to a
> microphone and read from the Koran for half an hour. The MC then
> a Taliban leader who recited yet more passages from the Koran. Another
> dignitary was introduced and then another. The spectators sat
> quietly. The
> speechmaking went on for nearly two hours.
> Finally, a handful of soldiers opened the car door and a young
> man about 20
> years old stepped out. He stood still for a moment and then
> slowly turned in
> a complete circle as if to take in the scene. He appeared resigned to the
> The armed men escorted him to a spot about 20 yards in front of
> me. Two men
> wearing white hoods appeared and motioned for the man to lie on
> the ground.
> Then one of the hooded men took the convict's left arm, pulled it
> perpendicular to his body and knelt on it. The other hooded man tied a
> tourniquet on his right arm and then knelt on it similarly. One of the
> soldiers put what appeared to be a blanket over the criminal's
> face. The MC
> brought a knife that resembled a large scalpel and passed it to the man
> holding the right arm. The crowd fell silent. Slowly, the hooded
> man hacked
> through the prisoner's arm where his hand met the wrist. The
> criminal's legs
> tensed up, but after a few moments straightened out and then fell back
> limply to the ground.
> As the hooded man continued to cut through the wrist, I heard the most
> chilling sound. After a moment I realized it was the sound of
> 35,000 tongues
> "tsking" the criminal.
> The carving took several minutes. Time seemed to stop. I surveyed
> the crowd.
> Some men sat with their children and pointed to the scene on the
> arena floor
> as a warning of the consequences of thievery. Others had tears
> welling up in
> their eyes. A few sat with arms folded across their chests, faces glowing
> with morose looks of satisfaction.
> It seemed surreal. The thought passed through my mind that the
> whole thing
> was a farce. Thirty-five thousand people had conspired to fool me into
> believing that in Afghanistan thieves still have their hands
> chopped off. I
> wanted that to be true.
> The hand came off and fell to the ground. The MC picked it up. He
> held the
> dismembered appendage up by the right index finger and, as blood dripped
> from its wrist, he spoke into the microphone. The crowd came
> alive, cheering
> and jeering.
> The pale, unconscious criminal was thrown into the back of a
> truck. As the
> vehicle paraded around the stadium, the stands emptied onto the
> field. The
> crowd chased the makeshift ambulance, shouting and screaming one
> last taunt
> at the public enemy who had gotten his just reward. His crime: stealing a
> pack of cigarettes.
> (Mark Mason is a Seattle, US-based freelance photographer.)
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