BY Priyan Rajapaksa

“Kabul has fallen,” reports the Western press. “Kabul has been reclaimed,” claims a Pakistani newspaper. What do you think? Your opinion will depend on whether you have a modern pro-Western view or 15th century Middle Eastern perspective.

Both ideologies are outdated and not worth dying over when there is so much to live for – and it’s time the crusades cease.

I for one am devastated that New Zealand could not evacuate the families of its interpreters. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling: ‘East is East and West is West, and the twain have yet to meet.’

Twice in my lifetime, the American Rambo chickened out. First in Vietnam; and now in Afghanistan.

Tricked by former US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, NATO went in like donkeys and left like dogs. Pedlars of capitalism under the guise of democracy, the last superpower and its lackey may not fight overseas for a long time.

The day Kabul ‘fell,’ I googled newspapers from around Afghanistan. I could find usable content only from Pakistan and quote Saleem Qamar Butt: “People at the helm of affairs in the Pentagon need to put some good faith in the global proverbial truth that ‘a wise enemy is better than a foolish friend’.”

“It took the US more than 18 years to be able to talk to wise foes (the Afghan Taliban) only because the armchair military and intelligence advisors – and think tanks thriving on hefty pays, perks and privileges – continued to churn out foolish narratives and advice that had the US armed forces embroiled in unending wars, in Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries,” he adds.

Butt elaborates: “The Taliban’s takeover of Kabul has been termed by the Western media as the ‘Fall of Kabul.’ For America and its allies, that term probably makes sense. But in reality, the fall of Kabul to foreign occupying forces took place in 2001. What happened last week was more of a retaking of Kabul or the reclaiming of Kabul by the people of Afghanistan.”

“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” was written by Kipling in the aftermath of British losses in Afghanistan in the 1800s. To me, it says let people be and don’t try to impose your views on them…

The Afghans seem to want to follow Islam. I don’t think one can follow the faith by selecting passages of scripture that suit Sharia, the relegation of women to a subordinate position and death for apostasy. But like being Catholic comes with the Pope, excommunication, and no women priests, abortion and birth control, if one joins a club voluntarily, one has to follow its constitution.

An interest in Afghanistan was first sparked when my brother drove from the UK to Colombo through the Khyber Pass. He said that the tribal people carried rifles similar to what one sees in rural America. But they did not need the Second Amendment to the US Constitution to do that. I suppose in violent countries, it’s acceptable to bear arms.

Afghanistan next came to my attention when a photographer I knew was commissioned in the late 1980s to cover the Soviet withdrawal from the country. I have followed the affairs of that nation ever since as problems around the subcontinent spilled over into Sri Lanka – at least in the form of refugees.

In 1989, the Mujahideen were the heroes of the West since they killed Russians to protect ‘democracy’ in Afghanistan – the majority of whom didn’t seem to have any idea what it meant.

My views are also influenced by New Zealand’s antinuclear stance. In 1984, then Prime Minister David Lange banned nuclear powered or armed ships from using the country’s ports or entering its waters.

Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987, its territorial sea, land and airspace became nuclear free zones. This has since remained a part of the country’s foreign policy. I was glad as the petroleum plant I’d been working in was said to be a target in the case of nuclear war!

The discussion at that time was whether the US was going to risk a war for four million Kiwis. Probably not.

Additionally, I had Vietnamese refugees living next door in the 1980s. Only part of that family had been able to leave when the Americans retreated from Vietnam. It was a sad experience.

The future of the Afghan people is being decided as I pen this column for the December edition of LMD; and whichever way things go, it will be sad for many of them. However, the Taliban will most probably be thanking Allah for the opportunity to rewind the calendar to the days of the Caliphate.

Much to my horror, a large number of Sri Lankans chose militant Buddhism to bed down on – so can we object to the Afghans choosing their mattress? Only the degree of hardness differs…