Michael Ubaldi, December 29, 2004.
Remember the bullion of ancient Afghan artifacts and works of art discovered in a Kabul storehouse? Some of those treasures have seen their Talban-inflicted damage repaired and are now on display in the new National Museum of Afghanistan:
The newly repaired National Museum of Afghanistan opened its first exhibition in 13 years this month, a display of life-size pre-Islamic idols smashed by the Taliban three years ago and now painstakingly restored by museum and international experts.
The wooden statues from Nuristan, one of Afghanistan's mountainous northeastern provinces, are an apt subject for an inaugural exhibition. Museum staff had worked hard to hide the collection from looters and Islamic fundamentalists intent on destroying all idols and artistic depictions of the human form. The figures, from what was formerly known as Kafiristan, or Land of the Heathens, are ancestor effigies and animistic and polytheistic gods, representing beliefs and traditions that were practiced there little more than 100 years ago.
"This is part of our culture and we should preserve it," said Fauzia Hamraz, director of the ethnographic collection, who helped piece the statues back together. "Our country is an Islamic country, but displaying these things will not destroy our religion."
That last statement is one from a nation unafraid of modernity, and certainly unafraid of the thugs who tried and failed to pull it back into barbarism. Read the article, yet another sign of Afghanistan's rebirth.
Michael Ubaldi, December 7, 2004.
Hamed Karzai has been sworn in as Afghanistan's president. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld were among the Americans present, two men who demonstrated how this country defeats its enemies: in war, to depose them from positions of national power; then societally, by empowering the population with the rule of law, government by consent and a public common good.
Today's a day to look back at the enemies our country defeated, the Taliban and al Qaeda, as Victor Davis Hanson would have us do. Nearly forty months ago, there were those who opposed and might have prevented the liberation of Afghanistan if they were able; we would not have known a single day of the miracle Afghans themselves have helped made possible. It is they who came out in throngs in early October to claim self-determination by ballot, the people derided as "stone age" dwellers, knocking down the bigot's refrain that liberty cannot transcend culture or history. All good people, the far greater part of mankind, yearn to be free: it is only the minority of bestial men, the authoritarians, who prevent them; and it is only the free world's self-doubt that slows this realization. Afghanistan, then, is an incredible victory, a vault over that high wall. Irony or benediction, the world's most hopeless nation has become another living witness of redemption; a model, guide and inspiration to millions still living in tyranny.
Michael Ubaldi, November 29, 2004.
Most of the left is still undeterred from trying to portray Afghanistan as an alternatively lost or forgotten cause. Reality, of course, is nowhere near:
Two years ago, Marina Gulbahari was a street urchin begging for scraps from the tables of Kabul restaurants. If she was lucky, she might get a few crumpled notes or kebab leftovers wrapped in nan. If she was unlucky, the black-turbaned Taliban police would beat her. That was before she became the biggest name in Afghan cinema.
Now, after a stunning performance in last year's critically acclaimed film Osama, Marina, aged 14, has become the face of Afghanistan's resurgent film industry at foreign film festivals, hailed as a precociously talented actress with an exciting future whose natural ability is drawn from her traumatic upbringing amid war and turmoil.
Her emergence is the most extraordinary story of Kabul's film-making renaissance.
What's remarkable is that her story is one of many. Marina's reportedly "happy" about her work in Osama because it "told the world the truth about the Taliban." Kudos for a leftist paper like the Independent to have helped expose the past, celebrate the present and herald Afghanistan's ever-brightening future.
Michael Ubaldi, November 19, 2004.
Some of us were first introduced to the Taliban an eerily even six months before September 11, 2001, when Afghanistan's former totalitarian rulers demolished a pair of magnificent Buddha statues carved into the face of a mountain nearly two millenia ago. While the world was soon to learn the true destructive potential of these terrorists, the loss of an Afghan cultural treasure was a painful reminder of the authoritarian conquerer's insurance: forcibly removing all traces of influence that could threaten a totalistic rule.
It appears that neither a five-year Taliban reign nor Afghanistan's decades of strife preceding it could wipe out the country's rich cultural heritage:
More than 22,000 ancient cultural treasures from Afghanistan, feared lost or destroyed after decades of war and Taliban rule, have been taken out of dusty crates and safes in Kabul and inventoried for safekeeping, an archaeologist says.
The objects, including 2,500 years’ worth of gold and silver coins and ancient sculptures, represent a "Silk Road" of goods once traded from China, India, Egypt, Greece, Rome and ancient Afghanistan.
"By the end of the Taliban’s reign, most of us thought there was nothing left, just destruction and despair," National Geographic fellow and archaeologist Fred Hiebert, who led an inventory project of the items, said during a conference call announcing the find Wednesday.
Terrorist-sympathizing propagandist Michael Moore tried to convince Americans and others that the liberation of 25 million Afghans was nothing more than a fringe benefit to a natural gas pipeline. Unfortunately for fact-shredding dissembler Moore, the proposal to pipe natural gas into Afghanistan dates long before 2001, its relevance to the Taliban a Clinton-administration exercise in realpolitik. Now, a pipeline from Turkmenistan is a reality, with talks soon expected to begin in Islamabad, Pakistan. The difference? It's energy that will strengthen a democratic, capitalist country.
They're not out, but certainly down: the Taliban's quagmire continues, the terrorist group poleaxed by Hamed Karzai's successful confirmation of power by an Afghan popular vote. As with any continuum of thugs, the group is more factious than shattered glass, beset on one side by Pakistani forces and by unsympathetic-to-hostile Afghans on the other. Now the deposed theocrat rulers of Afghanistan flail:
Some are suggesting that these refugee artifacts tour the world before returning to their rightful place in a Kabul museum. National Geographic is hosting a gallery of photographs; I look forward to an issue in print on the same topic. Keep in mind that Afghanistan offers auditory delights, as well.
Afghan military commanders and government officials, as well as foreigners with knowledge of the Taliban, said they believed such attacks might be more a sign of weakness than strength.
Eliminating every last terrorist is difficult but when the societies in which such killers must operate are increasingly liberalizing, depriving authoritarian causes of recruits or lackeys, their numbers remain finite.
Michael Ubaldi, November 4, 2004.
Afghanistan's democratic sovereignty has officially begun:
Incumbent leader Hamid Karzai is the winner of Afghanistan`s first presidential election, the spokesman for the election commission told AFP.
"Karzai is the winner," said Sultan Baheen of the Joint Electoral Management Body, three and a half weeks after the landmark October 9 ballot.
This is as good news as the success of the country's October polling, and the little caveats elite press agencies are sprinkling over their reports like caltrops — the linked AFP story was one of the few truly objective filings — hardly matter. Some of Karzai's political opponents aren't happy about losing, yes, but it's difficult to make more of these sour grapes than the natural spirit of competition. Besides, even the finest examples of free elections result in degenerative, second-place lunacy.
Michael Ubaldi, November 4, 2004.
As I said, there's a war on. And as it goes, we see the fruit of the first victory against tyranny:
Afghanistan is set to reestablish its role as a "land bridge" linking much of Asia and drive growth in the four trillion dollar broader regional market, a top US official said.
Afghanistan's transformation to a democracy will "reestablish the country's role as a land bridge connecting Central Asia, South Asia and Southwest Asia," US ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad said.
...Khalilzad said the United States and other donors were restoring the Afghan ring road and regional spurs that would create two north-south axes terminating at the Pakistan port of Gwadar and Iranian port of Chabahar facing the Arabian Sea. Planning is underway for rail and pipe lines connecting Central Asia to South Asia and world markets through the Arabian Sea, he said. The connections will have both economic and geopolitical effects, said Khalilzad, who is seen by many as holding real power in the country. Afghanistan's transformation to a democracy would help promote regional stability, he added.
When I began this category of insightful, often uplifting news from Afghanistan in February of 2003, I did it partly in response to the left's moan that Afghanistan had been "forgotten" as attention turned to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Of course, it hadn't; suppression of or inattention to reconstruction news was endemic in the mainstream media, the marginalization of Afghanistan the press' own doing. From my own little corner, I took it upon myself to give important news the prominence it deserved. I called it "Afghan Watch," since at the time Afghanistan was the first major, American-led democratization effort since the end of the Second World War and public faith in transforming a near-feudal society into a modern democracy was lacking. With the undeniable success of Afghanistan's first direct and free presidential election, I see no need to consider the country in the same tentative terms as nearly two years ago. "Afghan Liberty" it is.
Who would have thought one of the world's most hideous dictatorships, the very home of al Qaeda, would today be one of the world's most constitutionally free nations? At least one man, a man who won a contest yesterday.
Michael Ubaldi, October 12, 2004.
Afghanistan's first direct presidential election in history has come and gone, and the worst that happened was a minor mixup with magic marker. "The media's disappointment," says Kabul-based Scott Norvell, "was palpable." Read the rest about the best public relations cooperative America's enemies and detractors could ever hope for. (Via IP.)
Mort Kondracke made the observation on Special Report with Brit Hume that the United Nations — surprise, surprise — would have been ultimately responsible for the accidental substitution of washable ink for permanent ink in a few polling locations. Finally, opposition protest notwithstanding, Afghanistan's judiciary seems to have behaved much better than the courts in St. Louis, Missouri.
Michael Ubaldi, October 8, 2004.
The Taliban, mortally wounded: Afghans are voting. (Hat tip, LGF.)
Michael Ubaldi, October 8, 2004.
Two men on a Herat street chat, election posters on the wall behind them. Tomorrow's direct presidential election is the first of its kind in 5,000 years.
Once the silent, assumed accomplices to the Taliban and al Qaeda, the people of Afghanistan wake each morning to live as free, peaceful men, models to the region and the rest of the world. All that was needed was their 2001 liberation — and now authoritarians have no place in their land.
By car, by foot, by donkey, representative democracy will visit every corner of Afghanistan. Say a prayer for a victory of self-determination; you will be joining millions of others, including President Bush and his administration. Scott Norvell has more.
SOMETHING ABOUT 'TAKEN FOR GRANTED,' MAYBE?: From Reuters:
Despite the scattered violence and the ever-present threat of a major attack, there appeared to be growing optimism that Saturday's landmark poll, which President Hamid Karzai is favourite to win, would go off fairly smoothly.
"Yes, security is a concern," said an elderly man with a trim salt-and-pepper beard as he shopped in a Kabul bazaar. "But this will be a great day. I will vote. I'm optimistic that an elected government can improve people's lives."
If only those for whom self-government is an unremarkable thing would show half as much faith.
Michael Ubaldi, October 6, 2004.
Last night Vice President Cheney spoke up for Afghanistan to exercise and defend their liberty with an anecdote from El Salvador, saying "The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote, was unbelievable. And the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places; as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied the right to vote." As yet, no major attacks have been accomplished by Islamist terrorists, and according to this Washington Post report on a rally for presidential candidate Yonus Qanooni, relativist doubts of Afghans' comprehension of modernity are very unfounded indeed.
The weavers and tradesmen in this Pakistani report may not be casting ballots for interim Afghan President and electoral favorite Hamed Karzai but they're democrats and proud countrymen all the same. Says one, "Security is better than it used to be. And if there is security, business is good." Says another, committed to voting for former Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum, "Anyone who can bring peace, stability and freedom. Anyone who comes to office, I will support."
Feckless as Islamofascists may have been over the last three years, Afghan, American and Allied troops are taking every measure to mitigate attempted violence and intimidation as Afghanistan's October 9th presidential election approaches.