“Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
- Thomas Jefferson
Today is the second parliamentary election in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Well, as we all know, the Taliban may be down – but they’re not out. And as news from AP and others confirms, the Taliban are working overtime at every turn to undermine the process of a free election.
There’s no lack of candidates – about 2500 nominees are vying for about 249 seats. And reports indicate that more than 90% of polling stations opened.
But what about the people who make a democratic engine work? What level of turnout makes sense in this war-torn country?
Making every vote count is hard enough in a nation fragmented by tribal factions and primitive communications. But would you risk traveling to your local polling place, if you heard what Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, told reporters earlier in September?
“Everyone affiliated with the election is our target – candidates, security forces, campaigners, election workers, voters are all our targets.”
In other words, every Afghan citizen is fair game – a bold admission! But this ruthless mentality is no surprise. We felt it directly on 9/11, when the Taliban’s partners in crime, Al Qaeda, reached across the world and killed almost 3000 innocent Americans.
Now, sadly, as this pre-election report from Human Rights Watch indicates, the Taliban are making good on their promise to terrorize Afghans with acts of violence and murder.
The article explains that international laws of war (applicable in Afghanistan) prohibit deliberate attacks on civilians – including government officials not involved in hostilities. Specifically, those who order or conduct these attacks are committing war crimes.
Afghanistan analyst Rachel Reid observes, “It is sadly telling that the Taliban are willing to kill those who engage in this simple act of personal freedom.” Rachel – I couldn’t have said it better myself. But that’s not the whole story.
NATO countries are working in Afghanistan to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the Taliban. To accomplish that more efficiently and effectively shouldn’t we understand what drives their twisted behavior? Isn’t war about keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer?
So I suggest we dig deeper into this skewed mindset…
For example, consider the term “Taliban.” Ironically, in their native language, this word literally means “student.” But based on their flagrantly criminal actions, “Taliban” has become synonymous with “thug.”
Essentially, the Taliban see themselves as defenders of their Islamic faith. They use this excuse to justify their brutality toward fellow Muslims who seek an independent government. But how can Taliban truly defend their faith, when these cowards believe that their tyrannical end justifies inhumane means?
At its core, the Taliban strategy centers on terrorizing and murdering people without weapons – without any capacity to defend themselves. No one is immune from their threat. Women. Children. The sick. The elderly. Do these innocent civilians attack the Taliban? Of course not.
So the Taliban aren’t civilized enough to restrict their attacks to combat troops or security forces. Instead, they persist in barbaric attacks on innocent Muslim brothers and sisters – all in the name of Islam. It’s actually an evil insult to the religion they pretend to defend.
No Warriors Here
And yet they call themselves “warriors” and “soldiers” in the service of their ideology. The Taliban do not deserve either name. Soldiers and warriors understand the meaning of honor. They strive to uphold its place in our world. There is never honor in terrorizing and killing innocent people – no matter who they are, where they’re located, or what they believe.
Often we see the Taliban speak of themselves in heroic terms. When a Taliban insurgent is killed while perpetrating violence, he is called a “martyr.” In reality, there are no Taliban heroes – only criminals.
Who’s a Hero?
The true heroes are Afghans who are willing to risk violence and death in order to vote and have their say in their own government. This is about more than politics. It’s about standing up in the face of crimes against humanity.
Therefore, on this election day, I applaud the real heroes of Afghanistan – the Afghan voters who are willing to defy the risks, so they can exercise their right to help determine their country’s destiny.
The election process is not without its flaws. And the fledgling Karzai government is not without its weaknesses. But we Americans must admit – what government or election process is perfect?
Let’s support and protect the people of Afghanistan as they struggle to become a self-determining people. Let’s help them learn that lasting progress can come from open dialog and democratic elections – rather than oppressive regimes who rule with violence and death.
To every Afghan with the courage to cast a ballot today – I hope you’re rewarded with a brighter future. As our country decided more than 200 years ago, it starts with a single vote.
P.S. I invite you to discuss issues like faith and freedom with me and others on Facebook. Join the “Afghan Journal” Forum: http://Facebook.com/AfghanJournal.
P.P.S. Interested in what I learned about Muslims when I trained security forces in a remote region of Afghanistan? Check out my book at Amazon.com: “Afghan Journal: A Soldier’s Year in Afghanistan.”