Monday, November 9, 2009

Understanding is hard.

Here is a good interview with Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan. I don't know anything about the situation there or have any opinion on Karzai or what the West should do in Afghanistan but I like this exchange between him and the interviewer. As background they are talking about how Karzai pardoned some young drug traffickers at the same time that he pardoned a young man who had been convicted of posting material on the internet that was deemed offensive to Islam. The drug traffickers were connected to Karzai, while the international community was pushing for the release of the internet boy.

MARGARET WARNER: It’s just hard for a Western audience to understand, when you have the Afghan government, with the help of the international community, established this special drug court, with very strict rules of evidence, very strict procedures, they actually make an arrest, they make a prosecution, they sentence these drug traffickers to prison and they’re freed. And they’re connected to somebody close to you.

HAMID KARZAI: You put it very well. It is very hard for the Western audience to understand what I’ve done. It is equally hard for the Afghan audience to understand what some members of the international community are asking us to do against our judicial procedures, against our laws. So I guess that finds the answer to it. Therefore in that context of the West not understanding what we do and we not understanding what the West asks of us is the problem. That’s why we must sit down and settle some of the issues between us.

I like how unapologetically and symmetrically Karzai answers Ms. Warner. Of course I personally do not support drug trafficking or locking up people for expressing their views on the internet. But how willfully naive do we Westerners have to be to not realize by now that most Afghans think that saying bad things about Islam is a graver offense then selling poppies?

And what unmitigated arrogance must we appear to have to the Afghans when we cry indignantly anytime that Karzai doesn't hop when we tell him to, in exactly the way that we want him to.

The point is not who is right and who is wrong, but how stupid we are to believe that we can change Afghan culture through guns and money.

People think differently, really differently, and that ain't gonna change.


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