Flat White

There’s ‘literally a war’ – but in Kabul, not Sydney

17 August 2021

4:00 AM

17 August 2021

4:00 AM

At her daily press briefing on Saturday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: ‘This is literally a war, and we’ve known we’ve been in a war for some time but never to this extent’. While she was interacting with the media, the Taliban were making lightning advances across Afghanistan in a real war. Less than 48 hours later, President Ashraf Ghani had fled abroad and the Taliban had entered the presidential palace and taken control of the capital. Their triumph is complete.  

Greg Sheridan’s comment is not hyperbole (or, as Joe Biden might say, he’s not joking): ‘The almost instant collapse of the Afghan government as Americans are withdrawing reflects the most comprehensive and colossal failure of Western power in decades’. All of us of a certain age who follow world affairs will have vivid flashbacks to South Vietnamese civilians desperately trying to clamber aboard helicopters on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975 as the North Vietnamese secured victory in the Vietnam War. An article in The Wall Street Journal describes the debacle in Kabul as ‘Saigon on Steroids’. At least the South Vietnamese lasted for two years after the US withdrawal. The Najibullah Government too ruled Afghanistan for three years after the Soviet withdrawal. 


Now, it is not my intention here to discuss either the strategic reasons for the West’s defeat in the historical graveyard of empires, or the larger geopolitical ramifications of the Taliban reconquest. Rather, I write to register my failure to find confirmation that the Taliban have been following WHO-recommended medical best practice during the worst pandemic ever in human history. I’ve searched in vain for the percentage of Afghans who are fully vaccinated and have received at least one dose, and which vaccine the Taliban favour. Disappointingly, nor do the Taliban fighters appear to be mostly masked and practising social distancing.  

Don’t they know there is a global pandemic raging that poses an existential threat to humanity and is literally a war without end? 

They are focussed solely on fighting a real war with the goal of winning it, you say, doing whatever it takes? What’s that got to do with anything? My focus is solely on Social Justice. Have the Taliban fighters undergone their mandatory two months of diversity and inclusiveness training? If not, shame on them. 

However, fear not. There may be hope yet. When they resume the ritual stoning of women for sins of the flesh, perhaps the Taliban will mandate taking the knee. 

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