Archive for October, 2004

“The Fall of Baghdad” by Jon Lee Anderson

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

“The Fall of Baghdad” by Jon Lee Anderson

The New Yorker correspondent witnessed the fall of Saddam and the beginning of the uprising. But he fails to explore the destruction Saddam did to the souls of his people.


You’d guess it less and less from the news, but it’s easy to become infatuated with Iraq. As a measure of my own fascination, my heart leapt when I saw “Baghdad” on the departures board at Dubai Airport two weeks ago, although I was on my way to my first love among war zones, Afghanistan. Iraq felt like a might-have-been great romance. And I was not alone: One of my embedded reporter friends was nearly on the verge of tears when he left in May 2003 after two months of sand, heat and shooting. Baghdad is ugly and polluted and the situation continues to deteriorate. Yet journalists I know have returned again and again.

What grabbed us is the people, their warmth and paradoxical openness. They can give of themselves fully. My driver in Baghdad — everyone I knew there, and Jon Lee Anderson, too, bonded with their driver — spoke to me about his life. It felt no different from listening to a good friend. I am sure there are thoughts he did not want to share with an American, a non-Muslim and a woman, but he shared his feelings. This is a trait I’ve noticed in Afghans, too, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the one positive effect of living under oppressive or corrupt governments.

Interview With a Warlord

Thursday, October 14th, 2004

A deposed legend tells his side of the story
By Ann Rachel Marlowe

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, AFGHANISTAN — I’m sitting in the office of the head of Herat University when Farhad, the slight, nervous man who’d met me at the airport an hour before, comes in to the office to tell me that his friend will take me to see Ismail Khan, the controversial and recently deposed warlord-governor of Herat Province, for an interview that had been arranged for me.

“Now?” I’m shaken. I’d just come off the plane from Kabul an hour ago, and I’d thought the interview would be tomorrow, or — as happens in Afghanistan — even a day or two later. I hadn’t had time to speak with anyone “in the street” to see what they thought of the recent turmoil, which had ended in Prime Minister Hamid Karzai’s removal of Khan, known in the U.S. media as “an ethnic Tajik strongman,” from the governorship of Herat Province. Karzai’s people had said that Khan had been removed for the “peace and security” of the region after several violent clashes between Khan’s forces and those of a rival warlord, Amanullah Khan, a Pashtun, and that Ismail Khan had been offered another government job as minister of mines and industries, which he’d turned down. I’d planned to ask Ismail Khan for his side of the story, since no one seemed to have told it, but I had hoped to get some sense of the atmosphere first. (more…)

Archeology on the way to Mazar

Friday, October 8th, 2004

For the women, progress

My first good night’s sleep in Afghanistan and a good thing, since today Dr. Ahmed and I go to Mazar. Just as I’m getting out of bed around 9, I feel the earth move. It is the Kabul effect of the massive Pakistan earthquake. Maybe because I’ve felt the aftershocks of a quake before (Thessalonika, 1978) but I make nothing of it, and it’s not until I talk to friends in Kabul later in the day that I learn what it was.

We pass through the Salang tunnel uneventfully. When I took the same route in November 2002 it was freezing cold, the mountains were covered with snow, and a massive traffic jam kept us in the tunnel for an hour. This time there are hardly any cars. The descent in altitude from Kabul’s mile high height is ear-popping. The countryside is pretty here and I’m looking forward to two stops we’re going to make to see archeological sites.