Not only do the Taliban seem completely uninterested in becoming the partners in peace that President Obama has portrayed them as, they’re willing to deploy chemical weapons against those who challenge their will. They’ll soon be in charge of Afghanistan again, and here’s a taste of what it will be like, along with a little lesson in the dark art of political labeling. From Reuters:
More than 120 schoolgirls and three teachers have been poisoned in the second attack in as many months blamed on conservative radicals in the country's north, Afghan police and education officials said on Wednesday.
The attack occurred in Takhar province where police said that radicals opposed to education of women and girls had used an unidentified toxic powder to contaminate the air in classrooms. Scores of students were left unconscious.
Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), says the Taliban appear intent on closing schools ahead of a 2014 withdrawal by foreign combat troops.
"A part of their Al Farooq spring offensive operation is ... to close schools. By poisoning girls they want to create fear. They try to make families not send their children to school," NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said.
(Emphasis mine.) “Conservative radicals?” Not only is the clumsy euphemism Reuters worked into its report a bit of an oxymoron, it’s totally unnecessary. There’s no doubt who the perpetrators were, as subsequent paragraphs make clear. The reader is not well-served by waiting until paragraph 3 to reveal that these mysterious “conservative radicals” are, in fact, the Taliban – a group that everyone in the Reuters audience is well acquainted with.
This is an old labeling game, played by nearly everyone in the media when reporting on international affairs. Ugly, brutal regimes are always referred to as “conservative” or “right-wing,” while leftist dictators are rarely identified as “left-wing,” and never as “liberal.” The more unsavory the regime in question, the less likely the reader will spot a “left-wing” fluttering through press accounts.
It’s a deliberately disingenuous game, because the writers know perfectly well that the “right” and “left” of various Western nations bear little resemblance to each other, let alone the political systems of Third World hell-holes. That’s especially clear in this case, where identifying the Taliban as “conservative radicals” is as risible as calling them “activists” or “reformers.”
And there’s the oxymoron factor: the Taliban are, in this context, agents of change. They’re not “conserving” anything – they’re violent radicals looking to overthrow the decade-old government of Afghanistan. Their previous reign was not some hallowed tradition of evil they seek to “conserve.” The Taliban appeared in the early Nineties, and didn’t take over the country until 1996. The American invasion has accomplished some important objectives, but from a historical standpoint, it was only an intermission in the Taliban process of change.
Of course, the media would never dream of associating the word “change” with the Taliban, because that word – like “progress” – has specific political connections to an agenda of centralized socialist power, which is most decidedly not “liberal” in the classical sense of the word, but enjoys that label because it professes to “liberate” its clients from the demands of survival and competition.
At any rate, the Taliban has already managed to shut down 550 schools, as part of a “spring offensive” that makes it painfully clear they have no intention of renouncing violence and becoming part of a peaceful Afghan future. These attacks, Reuters tells us, have been concentrated “in the more conservative south and east of the country, from where the Taliban insurgency draws most of its support.” In other words, the Afghan version of North Carolina, right?