The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Bibi Aisha

The New York Times reports on a Time Magazine article about a beautiful, young Afghani woman, Bibi Aisha, whose family gave her to the family of a Taliban fighter to settle a blood debt. The NYT provides a summary of her fate:
At age 12, Aisha and her younger sister were given to the family of a Taliban fighter in Oruzgan Province under a tribal custom for settling disputes, known as “baad.” Aisha’s uncle had killed a relative of the groom to be, and according to the custom, to settle the blood debt her father gave the two girls to the victim’s family.

Once Aisha reached puberty, she was married to the Taliban fighter, but since he was in hiding most of the time, she and her sister were housed with the in-laws’ livestock and used as slaves, frequently beaten as punishment for their uncle’s crime.

Aisha fled the abuse, but her husband tracked her down in Kandahar a year ago, took her back to Oruzgan, and on a lonely mountainside cut off her nose and both ears and left her bleeding. She said she still did not remember how she managed to walk away to find help.

In Pashtun culture, a husband who has been shamed by his wife is said to have lost his nose, Ms. Naderi explained; from the husband’s point of view, he would have been punishing Aisha in kind.

It appears that this tragic story has become a hot point between those on the Left who want to the U.S to leave Afghanistan and those on the Right who want to stay. Time writes:
BagNews, a left-leaning Web site about the politics of imagery in the media, saw the matter in conspiratorial terms. “Isn’t this title applying emotional blackmail and exploiting gender politics to pitch for the status quo — a continued U.S. military involvement?” wrote Michael Shaw.

Richard Stengel, Time’s managing editor, said he thought not. “The image is a window into the reality of what is happening — and what can happen — in a war that affects and involves all of us,” he wrote in a statement on Time’s Web site.

The story of Bibi Aisha is both tragic and infuriating, and, I suspect, repeated far too frequently in Afghanistan. But Bibi Aisha’s story is less about whether we should leave or stay and more about the utter futility of trying to transform a tribal, 8th century culture that is driven by extreme Islamic laws.

President Obama, much to the approbation of the Right,” has decided that the War in Afghanistan is his “just war.” After months of “deliberation” he decided to double down by adding troops but never really indicated what good that would do. His stable of the best and brightest, exhibiting a level of extreme hubris that has become their signature, seemed incapable of recognizing that history was against them, that Afghanistan was what it was, and that a modern Western power could not change it.

We should leave Afghanistan in an orderly way, but sooner rather than later. Those who argue that our departure will result in other Bib Aisha stories fail to recognize that our presence has done little to stop them from happening anyway. We cannot and should not attempt to change a corrupt, tribal, Sharia-driven society in which more than half the populace is illiterate, the gross national product is dominated by heroin production, and Islamists own the night and are poised to take the daylight. There are times when we should be humble enough to recognize that the United States, even with the best of intentions, cannot fix every country and every culture.

Bib Aisha is leaving Afghanistan for the United States. In our country she will receive reconstructive surgery and hopefully learn to read and write. She will have a chance at a good life. But thousands of other beautiful, young Afghani woman remain hostage within an Islamist culture that subjugates them. It’s up to Afghani’s to change that, but first they have to decide to leave the 8th century. We can’t make that decision for them, and we shouldn’t try.