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Nikki Stern

Nikki Stern
Location
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Birthday
April 10
Title
whatever sounds good
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Bio
Author of "Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority" (www.nikkistern.com) and "Hope in Small Doses" and busy blogger at nikkistern.com

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Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 3, 2010 4:28PM

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Rate: 72 Flag

a_time_cover_0809The powerful image that appeared on the cover of the recent issue of Time Magazine in one sense represents the terrible problem of global violence against women, sanctioned by a hodgepodge of tribal customs, religious misinterpretation and government-sponsored terror campaigns against citizen populations. But the image is just part of a cover story, accompanied by its own question: “What happens if we leave Afghanistan?” 

Photograph by Jodi Bieber / INSTITUTE for TIME

Anticipating a reaction, managing editor Richard Stengel wrote “Our cover image this week is powerful, shocking and disturbing. It is a portrait of Aisha, a shy 18-year-old Afghan woman who was sentenced by a Taliban commander to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws. Aisha posed for the picture and says she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years. Her picture is accompanied by a powerful story by our own Aryn Baker on how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival.” 

Stengel goes on to acknowledge the disturbing effect the image might have on children and to detail the elaborate security measures taken on behalf of Aisha, who also faces the promise of reconstructive surgery in the United States. And then he makes this statement: “I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan.”  

In the final paragraph, he makes reference to the Wikileaks report on the progress (or lack) of the war. Stengel insists the story is not a corrective to those reports; “We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground.”

He concludes, however, by noting that, “What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead.”

Emotional truth: the phrase has the same effect on me as “the real story”; it’s often a disingenuous way of skewing the story and pulling the reader/viewer to one side. Maybe that’s what all good storytelling does; certainly it’s what an opinion piece does, but then why the disclaimer?  

Most of us realize that the Taliban represents a local cultural interpretation of a religious way of life that is obscenely oppressive to women. We also know this sort of interpretation allows many cultures to subjugate its women, a fact that compels my involvement with organizations such as Women for Women.  Yes, there could be dire consequences for women and for all citizens if the Taliban were to return to power. 

But the picture, coupled with the question that is really a statement in disguise (“this WILL happen after we leave Afghanistan) is designed to shock and, I think, to manipulate. The implication is that we readers will have allowed these sorts of horrific mutilations to continue should the U.S. withdraw. I appreciate that the author at least addresses the difficulties in getting the government to speak out forcefully against these crimes committed against its own citizens. Afghanistan President Karzai seems to believe that negotiation with the Taliban is his only option, and that he finds himself in an  either/or situation, whereby he must sacrifice the rights of girls to attend school in order to save lives. His government could do both if it had the will to shake off the corruption and commit resources to building a strong army along with a strong infrastructure. But it doesn't and we've left U.S. troops to engage in simultaneous efforts of changing local hearts and minds (and customs) while maintaining a highly visible and active military presence.  

History is supposed to have taught us that trying to counter a persistant homegrown insurgency that combines tribal instincts with modern weaponry is something of a fool's errand. That doesn't mean that we don't remain fully commmitted to human rights around the world, only to recognize the limits of military intervention. 

Maybe the editors of Time were sincerely trying to present another view of the conflict in Afghanistan; maybe they were trying to shock or guilt readers into considering the consequences of a hasty peace; or maybe they were engaged in a bit of sensationalism, not to mention competition with Wikileaks’ domination of the news cycle over the past week.    

So no, there's nothing wrong with the image, which says everything about the horrific abuses women suffer every day in the name of custom or tradition or religion. But in assessing the cover as a whole, we might remember when presented with claims of emotional truth: there's never just one. 

 

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I hope--I really hope--I made myself clear.
Nikki you're so right.
These horrors:
a) went on well before this war
b) have been unaffected, in thr tribal areas, by our presence
c) occur in Pakistan, as well the closer you get to its borders and in the mountains
d) will occur after we stop fighting there
If we want to positively affect these conditions it will not be through continued war.
R.
Succinctly put. I'm afraid we have every reason to be suspicious about the motivations behind this. Looks exactly like a "disingenuous way of skewing... the reader to one side". Sadly, because the issues, as you eloquently point out, are real and as long as genuine causes are cynically co-opted for power we get further and further from addressing them. I am going straight to the Women for Women site right now!
Wow. I have to give this some more thought. I had not seen this before. _r
Thanks for this--it seems clear to me.
Niki, it will never ever stop..:(
It makes me so sad.
Rated with hugs
I'm not sure I understand. There is no hasty peace as long as the Taliban has control over womens lives. Absence of conflict does not equal peace.
Thanks for this, Nikki, and you're spot on.

I don't know what the answer to our Afghanistan dilemma is but we simply cannot make every wrong in the world right, especially when own own view of right and wrong is so skewed.

As far as I can see, the best answer to our dilemma is the one that gets our troop home asap.
Thank you for raising my awareness and prompting me to see the issue from two perspectives. Hmmm. Well done. (R)ated.
Uh-oh, I think I hit the "flag" buttom instead of the "rate" button by mistake. I'm sorry; it was unintentional!
There is no such thing as emotional truth in the first place. There is truth and untruth, nothing in between. Reality and fantasy. Fact and fiction. Fact and opinion. Reality and feelings about reality. We know the Taliban are scumbags. But by that reasoning we should also invade Iran. I would start by kicking anyone out of the UN who doesnt follow a given set of human rights. Which means China as well. Buh Bye.
I had not seen this. Very dramatic. You present a balanced report. The decision regarding Afghanistan is not easy, and I'm sure Obama agonizes over this every night. Aisha's story doesn't change my view of the war. It just reinforces the loathing I have for the Taliban. But we can't use the military to rectify the world's problems. Ultimately we must decide whether our continued presence in Afghanistan improves national security. So far, no one has convinced me that it does. Excellent post.
Nikki, I love your lucid clarity. r
(Also, I predicted the EP. Much deserved.)
and thank you for reminding me of the Women for Women organization - i believe grassroots level change is the most effective, and that organizations like this can empower that.
You did make yourself perfectly clear and exposed the double speak at work. When the picture is placed with the content, a whole other "truth" is revealed.

I used to work with pollsters and how slanted the question is (or in this case as you say,"really a statement" ) of course determines the answer or result. This is exactly why a critical mind is so important.
Thanks for this.
You've really made me think, Nikki. I hadn't even considered the photo as a whole with the cover text. The issues involved are complex - to go or stay or to stay within a certain capacity -- but it does seem a little manipulative to go editorial with the headline. It would seem more appropriate for the photo to accompany a headline regarding her PERSONAL story.
Hi Nikki. I don't disagree with your interpretation but it can be looked at another way. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Taliban excercised more power after the bulk of the troops have left. And I wouldn't be surprised if they commit atrocities. I don't see that as grounds for "staying the course" or any such thing. But as a reminder that the invasion may have precious few lasting benefits to the Afghanis, well, isn't that accurate?
There have been a lot of good columns condemning this at HuffPo. I think the most important fact is that this atrocity was committed during our presence there so to present our presence as a solution as they do on the cover is obscene in and of itself.

Also, it minimizes other atrocities around the world, some even more unspeakable than this, so by inference this asshole is saying those don't bear our time and effort. And to top it off, this is not new. The Taliban were committing these crimes long before 9/11 and where was Time then? And would they even show this now were we not there?

It's a shameless piece of shilling and whoever condoned it should be fired.
This (the plight of the oppressed, government corruption, etc.) is precisely what makes war so complicated. Would that we had never involved ourselves in this mess!

Perhaps the cover is 2 parts reality, 1 part sensationalism. I don't know the precise formulation, but it's a mix for sure. Unfortunately it is increasingly difficult to sell print media-- sensationalism sells.
I agree with what you have said here. Thank you for a well-written post. Rated.
There are two stories: the story of the atrocities committed against women in the name of tradition and the story of Taliban control will mean for the fragile gains made by the Afghan people-- men, women AND children (which, unfortunately is a return to the eighties and nineties).

But my post is meant to be about the reporting--or rather the magazine's presentation of the story, which was designed to evoke a visceral, emotional reaction (deliberate) and then steer that reaction to a conclusion. To claim editorial neutrality in this instance is disingenuous--unless the editors of TIME honestly believe people will take their story (gut-wrenching)and the Wikipedia leaks (long and boring) and carefully weigh consequences and outcomes. Unfortunately, I don't.
Time is a source of government propaganda. The very notion of dangling "women's rights" as an excuse to prolong our occupation of Afghanistan is disgraceful.
You made yourself clear.
So far, Afghanistan has fended off Alexander the Great, the British, the Russians, and probably more. They are an old society. The Taliban are bad, but unfortunatly not new. Sharia law is rampant in other countries. It will not change via U.S. Military invasion. We will leave, or we as a nation will crumble under the waste of international military expenditures.
A less costly alternative might be to stop the wars, and instead make it U.S. immigration policy that any woman who has been mutilated (clitoral or otherwise); or who must cover her face in public - punishable by law -; or who is denied equal education to boys through the 12th grade; or can be stoned for being a sexual victim; -- any of these women is eligible for refugee status and priority as an immigrant to the United States.
I could go on about other policy change ideas. Your concern about women goes to the heart of what's wrong in many parts of the world.
Excellent points Nikki.

I don't believe in either/or diplomacy - that way of thinking really lacks the nuance necessary to wade into those waters. If Karzai wanted to clean up, he would have to start from the inside out.

I think it is very important to be involved with human rights, but from a foundation of a military presence, that seems highly contradictory to me. It's unfortunate that Time's disclaimer conflates those two issues.
Should we stay, or should we go? I don't think we will ever agree on the answer. Even on a left leaning, antiwar website like this one you have disagreements on what to do.

You did do a great job in pointing out nothing happens in a vacuum. Like my mother always said, "Damned if you do. Damned if you don't". So who is going to step up and have the cojones to make a decision and stand by the results, both good (no dead soldiers) and bad (disfigured woman)?
If this happened it will happen again, such things used to happen in Europe, on occasion they have happened although thankfully always without the approval of law in this country.
Yes, it is horrendous, but we simply don't have the power to rule the world even if it does seem to need it.
The best thing that we can do is lead by example, and getting out of foreign entanglements and retreating to the high ground of moral authority forted up in objectivity is still the best thing that we can do about everything.
(R)ated for roof-top shouting!
Treating to women this way is really horrible, but this is not a new phenomena of human history.This kind of incidents are happening in all age, in all culture.all over the world.How white people burned to women as a witch's in middle age is recorded in history. Hindu up to 18Th century burned women as a SATI [On corpse of her husband is recorded ] in pictures in history.As Afghan will be educated just like you and me they will abandon this cruel tradition.
One universal truth I must mention to think over to readers, weak has to always suffer from mighty power no one can change this tragic fate of human life
the taliban are bandits, loosely organized by the twin banners of nationalism and religion. in afghanistan, they are the good guys. allah, be more merciful to afghanistan.

america's foreign policy history in afghanistan is shameful, if american government knows what shame is, unlikely. let's just say that america has supported the saudi regime for about 70 years, and have not felt compelled to publicize their horror at the exercise of sharia law. i conclude that the horror they express at this particular crime against women is merely a matter of political convenience. there was a progressive parliamentary republic in iran, until the cia decided to boost appropriations by demonstrating they were a cheap alternative to overt war, there was no rush to publicize the horrors that happened in savak prisons, allah, include iran in your mercy. egypt ofcourse, is the torture contractor for the cia, graduates of their prisons often look like this girl, allah, mercy on egypt and the people the usa sends to their prisons.

in short, american governments are not well placed to condemn others, when it comes to barbarism. if those governments are acting on behalf of the american people, the people be ashamed. if they are not, the american people should rebel.
Nikki,
You know that I am a constant advocate for the rights of women. But we need to stop thinking of our mission as one of "rescue." Rather, we need to partner with women so that they can claim their own power.

And yes. Time is being disingenuous. This has never been about women's rights. If that was the case, we would have intervened against the Taliban years ago, when women begged and pleaded for someone to pay attention to what was happening to Afghani women. (Much as I have begged and pleaded for people to pay attention to what's happening in the DRC.)
There have been so many good points made in the comments, but this piece is outstanding. If Salon doesn't pick it up, send it to CommonDreams. org. This deserves a wide audience.
It may be somewhat idealistic but I've held the same thought for what appears to be going on 10 years now in regards to Afghanistan. Get as far away as possible & then bomb the bejeesis out of it.
♪That's what bombs are for... ♪
What Jonathan is saying here is right on. Wish we could adopt some strategy to get more women out of those countries so backward as to expect them to tolerate the abuses shown.
rated
Nikki,

I wanted to comment on that cover, but then I worried about just giving it more attention.

you're right about more than one truth...

the Taliban are primarily made up of the Pashtun tribe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pashtun_people

they comprise 42% of Afghanistan's population, and they are the second largest ethnicity in Pakistan.

I don't know how peace can ever happen in afghanistan without the cooperation of the Pashtun.

Our allies in Afghanistan are warlords who have also, according to Human Rights Watch committed their own atrocities against women:

http://www.hrw.org/en/node/11668/section/9

I've come to the cynical position that the US has some mysterious an interest in funding both sides of the conflict and little interest in achieving peace. To really work out peace you would have to set up a truth and justice commission for war crimes....and those wouldn't begin or end with the taliban...

as for women, maybe Time Magazine should have interviewed some Afghan women instead of merely flashing some emotional photos.

Malalai Joya is someone they could have asked about the rights of women in Afghanistan (where eight years after we started the war there, the average life span of a woman there is barely 40, very few are educated, and a growingly popular form of suicide is self immolation....)

anyway. It's truly disturbing. Malalai Joya calls women Afghanistan's WMD's and that cover really indicated that she has a point....
and I appreciate how well written your article is. thank you.
What Jonathan and Steve said. Well done, Nikki.
As George Carlin said, never trust what the government or the mainstream media tell you. Of course Time is trying to manipulate and shock you. Still, I wouldn't call such images sensationalism - I think Americans need to see more of them. I would also quibble with one term Nikki used, and that is "religious misinterpretation," because such as term suggests that there is a "right" interpretation of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, that if the religions were only understood correctly we would have less oppression, ignorance, etc. The problem is not with the interpretation, it's with the underlying theologies and accompanying world views.
Unfortunately the US created the Frankenstein, that is called Taliban. We gave them weapons to fight the Russians, now they are fighting us.
Like you, I have mixed feelings about Afghanistan. We, like the Russians will never win. The thing is, if we totally leave. The Taliban will once again gain control. We must reach the hearts and minds of these people somehow. If not, it will be a terrible place for anyone.
The implication is that we readers will have allowed these sorts of horrific mutilations to continue should the U.S. withdraw.

Implication or not it IS the truth and it WILL continue/escalate if we pull out of Afghanistan.

I believe that if we are REALLY the country we say we are then we have a responsibility to protect these and every other woman in the world from repressive animals like the Taliban and the brutal rapists in Kenya.

Fuck tribal customs and religious "differences". Basic human rights aren't negotiable nor are they something that any caring human being can walk away from by just saying "there's never just one truth".
Thought-provoking. Disturbing.
Of course Time is manipulating public opinion, but I don't believe it's a distortion of what will happen if the Taliban returns to power - which they will when we're gone. But our millitary can't stop it from happening. Only the Afghans can stop the Taliban. If the will is there, they will. What's sapping their will is an authoritarian religion that's deluding them, and what the hell can we or anybody else do about that? We have our own problems with authoritarian religions.
Thank you Nikki for such an interesting piece. I for one don't believe we can ever solve the problems of the enitre world, and I think its about time we stopped trying.
I have to agree with Al Loomis on this one. It's horrible that things like this can happen under the Taliban. However they occur in other countries, that we give our full support to. It's strictly politically motivated, when a magazine such as time puts a picture like this on it's cover. As a "Democratizing Nation" we have a very poor track record. After all it was who created the Frankenstein that is the Taliban. If we hadn't helped them during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, perhaps they would never be where they are today! When it served us politically to support them, we did and called them "Freedom Fighters". Now we call them "Terrorists", because this time they are fighting us!
Well done, and nicely balanced.
Nikki - very clear. Didn't this happen to her after we went into Afghanistan? It's horrible, but our presence is not stopping this type of atrocity. If we think it is, we are deluded.
You made yourself crystal clear in this cogent, intelligent dissection of the story and its intent. I couldn't agree more.

The grotesque reality is that no one, not the US military, not our government, certainly not Time Magazine can stop the centuries old practices of a repressive culture. These customs and attitudes are based on deeply held religious interpretation, which in the zealot's world is virtually impossible to change.

Those in power here whose minds Time purportedly wants to change are impervious to those photos, they've seen worse. Show the photos in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the response will be, horribly, "She got what she deserved."

Time is selling magazines under the guise of reporting "the truth." Cynical beyond belief.
Excellent analysis of a disingenuous Time cover. You and the commenters have hit the major points as I see it. An interesting and timely post. Thanks.
Very well written, Nikki. You were objective and I thought fair. And I think your piece reflects my own dilemma.

I would have hoped that we began operations in Afghanistan to find, capture and/or kill Osama Bin Ladin. However, that has not happened.

Yet, the Taliban was a regime that, as the picture attests, that was brutal, cruel and extremely heartless.

So, what do we do?

Yes, the cover was done to make an impact. It has. In an interview on Charlie Rose, the editor of Time stated that the point was to both raise the conversation to a different level, and, underscore what is still happening to civilians.

As I understood him, the piece was written to provide a more complete picture of what is going on and to make sure that this fact entered into the discussion about withdrawing.

That has seemed to have happened.
Personally, I dont know why we feel the "need" to change the world and make it better through armed force and economic imperialism. Making the world better and helping the "less fortunate" has always been part of the Western rhetoric of "white man's burden." This serves more as a home-grown rationale for oppression than anything else.


It sucks that this lady has no ears or nose, yes. But, even more, it sucks that so many of us have no health insurance, that education is so expensive, that inner-city crime is so violent, and so -on. I am actually sick of the centralized media trying to play my emotions like a fiddle, in order to get me to support some foreign policy scheme.

I am no isolationist, but I am also not an imperialist and think we could do without most of our foreign committments and the propaganda from the media moguls, designed to further public support for such foreign, imperial entanglements.
Actually, most experts, even those who hate the US, dont think the Taliban will be able to run afghanistan when we are gone, as Pashtuns are too small in number. They will win power in the border regions, in Helmand Province, in Waziristan, but not throughout Afghanistan, which was an historical fluke, due to our actions to oust the soviets.

If anything, Afghanistan, when we leave, will be divided according to tribe and ethnicity with much bloodshed (like Bosnia), but without any single party strong or numerous enough to achieve political hegemony.
America has this strange impulse to make the world "Good". We could very well spend trillions of dollars a year making the world "Good". I'd rather spend a thousand dollars making my neighborhood good.
We are no longer the super power in the world. We are around number 22 among the industrialized nations. If we don't help ourselves and try to save our own country, we will no longer be able to reach out and help others. Too many Americans are losing their lives or limbs in a war that can't be won. The front cover is sensationalism during war time and could almost be considered propaganda. That same cover would be looked at differently during peace time.
What a beautiful young woman. No human being deserves that kind treatment.
Women's plight was used to engage the war as if it was a feminist mission, but no plan was put in place to protect them. (Most of the women live in the rural areas where NATO paid tribal warlords--read "same guys"--to rule those areas.)
It was an opportunity which was missed.
A really excellent post. I think you're right about the cover being manipulative, but I'm pretty sure that most reporting is. I do believe that women in Afghanistan need to be protected. I'm not sure that's what we're trying to do. I guess my question is, why this cover, this article now?
A really excellent post. I think you're right about the cover being manipulative, but I'm pretty sure that most reporting is. I do believe that women in Afghanistan need to be protected. I'm not sure that's what we're trying to do. I guess my question is, why this cover, this article now?
Really well done, Nikki. The photo truly disturbed me (which is good). This is the excruciating dilemma of war, and it's one we face over and over again without ever learning the lesson. We cannot rescue everyone even in the most horrific situations, and what is happening there (and many other places) is horrific. In our hearts I think we want to save victims as the allies did in the WWII concentration camps. We want a victory like that, and it will never come no matter how much we sacrifice.
Nikki,

You certainly made some excellent points, but they all beg the question, "What to do?" Do we give every woman who's suffered under the Taliban a free exit visa to the US? Do we allow her family to come with her? This would keep her safe. After reconstruction surgery or whatever help they need, should we send them to learn English, then move on to get a GED, say if they haven't finished high school, them get them set up in community college and find them a job, a house, and a better life. Then, we cans send them back to reboot their nation. This is the picture perfect scenario, but with the hysteria around immigration and Muslims, it's a little impossible.

Staying in Afghanistan and fighting a seemingly endless war doesn't seem like the best solution. Especially, when careless drone attacks kill women and children too. And what about them, they might deserve a free ride to the states more than anyone else.

But we know that none of that will happen. Remeber Ali Abassi, the poster child of everything that went wrong with the Iraq war? He lost his entire family and both his arms were amputated. The took him and paraded him around saying that they would help him. Last time I checked he was in England, now not using his uncomfortable prosthetic arms, he's learn to write, eat, and drink with his feet. So, with that skill, the British now he's become a British citzen, so are we willing to do that for the women of Afghanistan or Iraq, they too have suffered.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/6458145.stm

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/01/18/ali-s-brit-passport-115875-21975908/
So disturbing, in so many ways. Outraged? How could anyone not be? But by now it should be obvious to everyone looking at this image that using "the plight of women" to justify military adventure X, Y or Z is the oldest trick in the propagandist's playbook. The Taliban was doing this sort of thing for years before the US intervention, and where was TIME magazine then? And where will TIME be the next time it happens in an area under our jurisdiction? They might as well slap a picture of a drone-bombed, dismembered civilian on the cover under the caption "What Happens if We Stay in Afghanistan." Same idea, same manipulation of the "emotional truth."
R.
Nikki: this is an excellent article you have written. Time is trying to sell magazines...period. They saw Newsweek fold and this is their answer. I wrote a whole post on our loss of passion for peace. One of the comments mentioned that OS was "a left-leaning anti-war site." Like there is something wrong with being against war. Afghanistan is still stuck in the 8th-9th century and our presence and our technology will not change that. I would suggest that everyone read The Kite Runner. I could go on and on, but I will stop. R-
I'm sorry I don't have time to read all of the comments, so someone may have already said this—this poor woman wasn't carved up before we invaded. This happened to her within the last couple of years long after we had begun this war. If we couldn't stop the Taliban from enforcing their form of law after years of war, why do we think it will be worse if we leave?

Thank you for writing this.
I'm really pleased this made sense to so many of you--Stellaa and Lorraine, thank you!--because I am getting pissed about the ways in which the news media tries (and often succeeds) in manipulating and/or sensationalizing stories. I often and loudly proclaim that we Americans in particular are unwilling or unfamiliar with the concept of asking whether something makes sense, be it an image, a context, an idea, or a news story before we jump in and embrace it. But if we need to ask more of ourselves in terms of carefully parsing the intention and presentation of whatever news we do receive, we also need to let the media know when it's jerking us around...
What chance do women have if we don't fight? Should we just leave and take hope with us? War or no war, if change is to be made, it has to be done from within, but sometimes, people need help from outside sources. Can we make a difference? I don't know. But certainly nothing will change if we don't try.
R
Stunning work, Nikki. And I agree.
A concise post. From all the White House's and media's responses to Wikileaks and Julian Assange to this TIME magazine cover to more war funding, it''s clear the limits of military intervention are ignored. They are covered up, pushed aside, and we are made to believe we can achieve specific humanitarian goals through military adventures.

Rated.
Excellent analysis. I do not wish this kind of mutilation and murder on anyone. However, if it happens when we leave, it is not America's fault. It is the fault of evil and medieval men (and I suspect women, too) The very fact that this picture exists implies it is happening now even with America's involvement there.

What happens if we stay? Not a Jean Jacques Rousseau land of simple moral nobility, that's for certain.
Not only made yourself clear, but filled the writer's mystic task: opened the door for others to find new clarity; to make new dust prints in fields of understanding. Thank you for opening up the opening, moving the stone, marking the path clearly, and inviting all to take the journey . . . of looking in, trusting the light, encouraging others to see.
The bigger picture is this kind of crap goes on all over the middle east. Some countries like Saudi Arabia are so rich we ignore it entirely. It seems we only focus on countries where there is an ulterior motive for being there. Building new pipelines. Controlling the opium trade. A nice place to put air bases. The first casualty is war, as Churchill said, and we have never entered one honestly. They either made something up, let something happened or made something happen.
I meant to say "Truth is the first casualty of war."
Jim - I knew what you meant but I couldn't help thinking: if only the first casualty WAS war...
No one has ever won in Afghanistan. Not Alexander, not the Soviet Union. no one. We went into Afghanistan to counter Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. We turned our attention to Iraq because, as Donald Rumsfeld said, "Afghanistan doesn't have any good targets." We switched focus in Iraq from finding Al Qaeda to overthrowing its dictator because he had WMDs. There were no WMDs and no Osama Bin Laden, but there were apparently good targets. Now we are back in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. As evil as the Taliban is it is not our duty to change the culture in Afghanistan or Pakistan. We won't. We can't. When we pull out - and we will sooner or later - things will get much worse as the repressive culture punishes those who supported the U.S. Only when enlightened Afghans decide that they have seen enough will the Taliban lose power. That will not happen for decades, if at all.
Excellent writing, Nikki. R
Your dedication to clarity and rationality rings like Revere's silver bell.

We must see this, but it is, more than anything else, an example of human cruelty, not a political justification.
the only thing worse than the horror of it as revealed by the images is the selective dissemination of the images in service of a particular political or retail agenda...
You make the case well -- news always has a point-0f-view. And we must consider many points of view before making up our own minds.
One of the things right about the picture is that a burn center in Southern California will be treating this poor young woman and trying to reconstruct her face. How wonderful to know that these doctors are ready and willing to help this woman.

The tragedy is that it was her own family that did this to her. with one learns, the support of the Taliban.

Afghanistan is a tough problem, but I surely hope we don't leave these people to the Taliban and salute Time for telling us about this mutilation and letting people know a little more about these monsters who do this to people like this girl.
We've never entered a war honestly? Really?

Well, there are a few of us that would argue we entered World War II honestly.
This isn’t just limited to Afghanistan there are similar problems in many other countries including many of the countries that are being supported by the USA. In fact The USA once supported the Mujahedeen which later became the Taliban and Al Qaida. The USA hasn’t had a good track record for actually standing up for human rights although there has been an enormous amount of propaganda indicating that is what they do. There are similar problems in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as many other countries that aren’t receiving attention. One of the poster indicated that Time is a propaganda outlet for the government and at times this has proven true but this is still a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed. The problem is that the USA government can’t be trusted to do it unless they are reformed and they move issues like this to the top of the agenda instead of the best interests of the corporations. Backlash against USA support of tyrants is part of what has caused the problem with terrorism which is only acknowledge in a high profile manner when it is directed at us; not when the USA supports terrorism against enemies perceived like Nicaragua or legitimate like the former USSR.

One of the replies said that this will never change; without election reform I agree but if the election and media systems are reformed then there could be many improvements on this and many other issues.
You made yourself crystal clear, in fact. I'm convinced one of the best ways to fight the religious savages that perpetrate these unthinkable acts against innocent ones such as Aisha is to rally civilized people around a global effort to condemn and eleminate violence against women.
You made yourself crystal clear, in fact. I'm convinced one of the best ways to fight the religious savages that perpetrate these unthinkable acts against innocent ones such as Aisha is to rally civilized people around a global effort to condemn and eleminate violence against women.
what a cogent, clear-eyed piece. i wish at times that i could settle down and look--this hard, this long, this seriously--at a complicated issue. beautifully done.