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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/12/09

In Search of "Moderate Talibaners"

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Now, don't get me wrong. I think Obama has been right about Afghanistan all along. We should have finished the job there and not let bin Laden and gang escape while we were occupied occupying Iraq.

But now I'm scratching my head. Word out of the administration is that Obama wants to open a dialog with “moderate elements of the Taliban.”

Members of the new administration claim that up to 75% of those in the Taliban are “moderates,” and therefore worth trying to sweet talk into behaving themselves.

They want to do this because they figure doing just that got them out of a jam in Anbar provenance, Iraq.

But insurgent Iraqi Sunnis are down right Jeffersonian democrats compared with the Taliban. The Taliban are (with apologies to the Pope) the outer limits of religious nuts. So, just how does one go about identifying a “moderate” Talibaner?
Is a Taliban moderate a guy who, only beats his wife when she breaks one of the 20 million rules Islam imposes on women, and not just when he feels like beating the crap out of her?

Or a Talibaner who refuses to allow his own daughters to attend school, but draws the line at blowing her school up and massacring the staff and students?

Or is he a Talibaner who still believes any woman accused of adultery deserves the death penalty, but should not be stoned to death but rather executed in a more swift, certain and humane manner?

Or is a moderate Talibaner a guy who still insists women cover themselves like houses being fumigated for termites, but lets them show a little wrist or ankle action. (But only one or the other – not both at the same time. I mean the guy's supposed to be a moderate, not crazy.)

Or is a moderate Talibaner a guy who gives up beheadings for Lent?
I just don't know. My best guess is the way to tell the radical from the moderate Talibaner is that  the moderate is the one with the missing head. But then, that's just me. I really don't know, and don't think anyone else knows either.

Maybe there are other ways to identify a moderate member of the Taliban –  though I'm pretty sure that, after thirty plus years, we are still searching for those rumored, but ever illusive, “Iranian moderates.”

I know the conventional wisdom is that engaging Sunni moderates in Iraq succeeded in crushing the nascent al Qaida in Iraq. But I'm unconvinced. I figure, if the truth be known, those al Qaida thugs had already worn out their welcome in Sunni-land by killing locals for no apparent reason and messing with their women.

That's when the US came along bearing gifts and a proposal;

“Hey, how would you like trading in those rusty old guns for some nice shinny new ones? But wait, there's more. If you act now, we'll not only arm you to the teeth, but we'll pay you real money too boot.  In return all we want is for you to stop shooting at us and start shooting at them instead.”

Even these battle hardened Sunni Muslims must have looked at each other and said, “Damn. There must be a Santa Claus after all.”

Okay, fine. No matter why it worked, it worked. So, the reasoning goes, we should give the same thing a try in Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan ain't Iraq. Hell, Iraq looks like a western democracy next to Afghanistan. If goats could immigrate, they'd flee Afghanistan in favor of Iraq.

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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