About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Killing humanitarian workers
No, I’m not talking about the 9/11 attacks, but about a much smaller and more recent assault on our sense of human decency. On August 13, three women and one man working for the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian organization, were killed on the road near Kabul, Afghanistan, by a group of Taliban supporters. The word “taliban” means student, something that hardly squares with vicious murderous actions. Ironically, the three women, Shirley Case, 30, Nicole Dial, 30, and Jacqueline Kirk, 40, where involved in education programs for children (the man, Mohammad Aimal, 25, was their driver). Apparently, the Taliban consider the education of children a crime against their backward religion, and do not hesitate to kill in order to avenge such an affront.
The Taliban in question, should they ever be caught, should be wiped off the face of the earth. People like that simply do not deserve to share the planet with the rest of us. Readers of this blog should know that I am certainly no “hawk,” and that I tend to question the use of violence because it is much more often than not a way to suppress dissent or further repress minorities and the weak. But I am no pacifist (in the sense of someone who is against war at all costs) either, and I truly think that even open societies have to draw the line when they are faced with people who reject democratic institutions and resort to violence simply in the name of their crazy ideas of how the world should be run. And no, I’m no postmodernist either, so I think I can make a darn good case that in this instance we are right and the Taliban are dead wrong.
I feel strongly about the people who work at the IRC in part because it hits close to home: my wife is the Director of Emergency Response at the organization, and she knew one of the women. While I am here safely blogging away in Brooklyn, she is in Georgia, where the Russians keep advancing with their tanks and hope to squelch another democratic country with their bombs (not that the Georgians are completely blameless in this either, but that’s another story). George W. once famously said of Vladimir Putin: “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” What a load of crap, can our moronic President tell us where the hell is Putin’s soul now?
Of course, part of the fault here rests with the Bush administration, which has diverted resources and personnel to Iraq rather than where the real 9/11 problem was: Afghanistan (well, there is Saudi Arabia too, but that’s yet another story). The area where the IRC staff members were ambushed should long ago have been secured by the allied forces and by a well established Afghan government, and the Taliban should have been pursued well into Pakistan, and could have been completely eliminated in a matter of weeks. Instead, years later, things are going slightly less badly in Iraq -- a place where we created the security problem to begin with -- and are steadily worsening in Afghanistan. Innocent women trying to help children lost their lives because a group of religious zealots keeps acting with impunity while the most powerful man on earth spends his time patting the back of the US women’s beach volleyball team for “good luck.” A more sad and infuriating contrast could not have come across the news wire this week.