What’s wrong with this picture? Ronald Reagan and the Taliban


Here’s another version of the same:


Well, a number of things.

  1. This isn’t the Taliban.
  2. Reagan was never reported to have said those words about the Afghan resistance groups.
  3. This meeting (picture above) took place in 1983 (February 2nd, to be precise), not 1985.
  4. Someone misspelled “Ronald”.

Numbers 2-4 are embarrassing, but not super-important.

Number 1 is more of a big deal.

I hope that the folks who prepared this photo didn’t label these Afghans ‘Taliban’ just because they looked Afghan.

There are a few obvious clues that this isn’t the Taliban. First, there is a woman in the foreground, sitting with the men, with her hair visible, her face is not veiled, and she is speaking and the men are listening. So, not the Taliban.

Also, this photo is from 1983. The Taliban was formed in 1994.

Mullah Mohammed Omar started the Taliban along with 50 armed madrassa students from Kandahar. None of them were at the meeting pictured above. Several smaller right-wing militias joined with the Taliban. None of the eventual leaders of those other pro-Taliban militias were at this meeting.*

Strangely sexist: The tough part here is that the folks passing these photos around tend to label themselves as ‘Progressives’ (I am a liberal Democrat, but I am wary of calling myself ‘progressive’). Progressives are supposed to be extra concerned about women’s rights. Yet, Progressives are increasingly vulnerable to the charge that they are willing to ignore right-wing repression of women’s rights if that repression comes from groups that are critical of the West in general and American foreign policy in particular.

This is especially true for Progressives and Islamists. Islamists are pathologically oppressive of women. Progressives tend to downplay these elements of Islamism, and instead focus on the anti-Western views of Islamists which Progressives find attractive. It is as if, when it comes to Islamist oppression of women, Progressives just don’t see it.

So, it’s bad for Progressives to miss the obvious fact that this can’t be the Taliban because there is a woman participating in the discussion. That’s an incriminating mistake.

*There is no denying that the CIA helped start and fund training camps where many Taliban, including Mullah Omar, learned how to fight. The U.S. had a better record with the Afghan leaders who were directly backed. U.S. supported guys like Massoud and Abdul Haq emerged as the primary anti-Taliban leaders (and both were assassinated for it). Hekmatyar, who received a lot of American arms via Pakistani intelligence services during the 1980s, was a destructive force in Afghanistan but was anti-Taliban and had to flee when the Taliban took over.
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