Editor’s Note: This corrects an earlier version that incorrectly identified the antagonist in “Gaslight.” Hat tip to Doug Dykstra.
The new, enlightened Taliban — I’m calling them Taliban 2.0 from now on — announced a new cabinet this week that will govern the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Everybody was waiting for this, especially the U.S. State Department, which has drawn a line in the sand.
“We . . . have heard a range of statements from the Taliban,” said State spokesman Nick Price a couple of weeks ago. “Some of them have been positive, some of them have been constructive, but ultimately what we will be looking for, what our international partners will be looking for, are deeds, not words.”
Naming a cabinet qualifies as a pretty big deed so I’m sure the State Department was waiting with bated breath for the announcement, especially since Taliban 2.0 had hinted at an “inclusive” government that would engage with the international community.
Well, they didn’t exactly deliver. There are no ethnic minorities in the cabinet, no women, and no members that are not Taliban. This didn’t sneak by those sharp eyes over at the State Department.
“We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates, and no women. We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals,” a State spokesperson said. “We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words.”
This is textbook gaslighting. (Gaslighting is a colloquialism that is loosely defined as making someone question their reality. The term comes from the 1944 film, “Gaslight,” in which Charles Boyer devises a bunch of tricks to convince his wife, Ingrid Bergman, that she’s insane so he can steal her money.)
What reality is the State Department occupying? At what moment did anybody have an expectation that Taliban 2.0 would appoint a woman to the cabinet? Or a Tajik or Uzbek? Or anybody who wasn’t Taliban?
Let’s repeat the second sentence of State’s statement: “We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals” in the cabinet.
Uh, would that be Sirajuddin Haqqani, a designated terrorist who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head, is believed to be actively holding an American hostage at the moment, and heads the brutal Haqqani Network, which is responsible for hundreds of of deadly attacks and kidnappings? Some “track record.” No wonder State is “concerned” with Haqqani’s appointment as Interior Minister, responsible for domestic security.
But not to worry. State says it will continue to judge the Taliban by “its actions, not words.” Wait, didn’t the Taliban just take a major action by forming a government that will rule the lives of 38 million Afghans? But apparently, State is not judging, it is “noting” what the Taliban has done and is “concerned” about some of those actions.
Am I going crazy? We could see this coming like a slow-moving hurricane rumbling across the Atlantic, and yet the State Department seems surprised. I’m outraged that a jihadist like Haqqani, a man with American blood on his hands, is now part of an “inclusive” Afghan government, but State is merely “concerned” with his “track record.”
OK, I should just fall in line and trust the pros at State. After all, they did draw a line for the Taliban in their statement this week.
“The world is watching closely,” said State.
Right. Just like the world watched Bashar Al-Assad’s extermination of its own people, the Myanmar generals’ ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, the Saudi-led assault on Yemeni civilians and the Chinese incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighers. The world watched all of those deeds closely.
You know what, maybe I’m just too pessimistic. I should put on some happy music (maybe “Dancing Queen” by Abba), fix a cup of green tea and join the club of dispassionate optimists over at State.
Or maybe I’m just going insane.