An Epilogue. Of Devils and Demons
By way of an update, I never did receive a response from Ann Jones to the questions in my open letter to her last month. That's when I sought some clarifications around Jones' dismissal of the Time magazine cover of 18-year-old Bibi Aisha, who had been mutilated by Taliban order. Jones had suggested Aisha was lying because she was "traumatized". She claimed she knew Ayesha, and criticized those who "demonize" the Taliban.
However, today I received some answers from Women for Afghan Women, the US and Afghanistan-based organization which housed and cared for Aisha for nine months, and arranged for her medical treatment in the United States. Esther Hyneman, a board member and full-time volunteer with WAW, writes in the Huffington Post:
Ann Jones' claim in the Nation that she "know[s]" Bibi Ayesha (after conducting a single interview with her) is a somewhat disingenuous attempt to cast doubt on the veracity of statements by Time magazine and Women for Afghan Women (WAW) that Taliban were responsible for the monstrous crime perpetrated against this young woman.
Hyneman was also critical of the Taliban apologism that underlies Jones' arguments:
...Jones fails to draw distinctions between the Taliban and other misogynous forces, lumping all demons as coming from the same hell; she stops short of describing what will happen if the Taliban take over; and she trivializes the progress that has been made in Afghanistan since 2002.
I applaud WAW for setting the record straight, for their honest analysis of the challenges ahead in Afghanistan, and for their call for staying the course despite these challenges. Their integrity, and their dedication to the people of Afghanistan is an all-too rare characteristic during these days in which a declared US troop withdrawal looms ahead in a matter of only months, regardless of any benchmarks for success.
The story of the Time cover of Aisha is but a single case study, or a microcosm of the anti-war community in countries like the US and Canada. It's an example, repeated again and again, of people who identify as peace-loving being presented with the evidence of Taliban brutality, and then rather than responding directly to that experience of brutality, they proceed to break into a tantrum over the Taliban being made to look bad. Suffocating in accommodationism-at-all-costs, they erect strawman arguments about how they are being manipulated with imagery, or offended by ugly images they'd rather not see. And they rarely pause to consider how the pieces are likely to fall into place should the actions they are demanding actually occur. As George Orwell once said, pacifism is objectively pro-fascist.
Lauryn Oates is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist