UNTIL SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 a very small fraction of Americans had ever known much about Afghanistan and less were aware of the Taliban. We were a nation consumed with life’s pleasures; events outside our own self-absorption were irrelevant.
No one cared that the U.S. news media paid little heed to a boatload of refugees sinking in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia. The boat was full of Afghan refugees trying to land on Christmas Island, Australia fleeing the oppressive Taliban regime. A Norwegian freighter rescued the refugees from their sinking boat, but Australia denied them safe harbor. Reading that story in late August brought to mind another ship with similar cargo.
In 1939 the treatment of Jews in Germany by the Nazis was becoming more intolerable by the day. Many German Jews, who believed they were Germans first and Jews second, failed to comprehend Hitler’s solution to "The Jewish question," but others sought to escape.
That May some 907 Jews, in a desperate effort to flee Hitler clutched their German passports and, wearing only the clothes on their backs, boarded the ocean liner, St. Louis, bound for the Western Hemisphere. When the ship arrived in Cuba, all 907 were denied entry. They, like the Afghan refugees, threatened suicide, rather than be repatriated to Germany.
After trying to enter other South American countries, only to be denied, the St. Louis steamed north to the country whose Statute of Liberty proclaims, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free." President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the United States Coast Guard to "keep the St. Louis far from shore." After unsuccessfully trying to land in Canada, the St. Louis steamed back to Germany dooming all passengers to the Nazi gas chambers.
Refugees are an embarrassment to the world. In 1939 those German Jews reminded the world of a cancerous German government that everyone appeased, resulting in 907 innocent people being sentenced to death.
Fortunately those Afghan refugees have found safe haven in camps on Naruu and New Zealand despite the denial from the Australian government of Prime Minister John Howard.
Until September 11 no one cared that these people were trying to escape the Taliban in the same way the Jews tried to escape Nazi Germany. No one knew or was troubled that the Taliban are staging their own version of a holocaust in an effort to develop a "pure Islamic" state, and people are escaping by any method possible.
The Taliban are thugs operating like countless governments that have been responsible for genocide by the millions. Unlike the Communists and the Nazis of the twentieth century they are hiding behind a religious veil.
Where have all those liberals who proclaim their dedication to equal rights been during the last five years of Taliban atrocities? Where were the liberal women’s groups as religious zealots barbarically treated women in Afghanistan? If you believe a story by Julia Malone in the October 3, 2001 issue of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) Eleanor Smeal, former head of the National Organization for Women (NOW), has been trying desperately to elicit support for Afghani women. That argument sounds bogus, as women’s advocacy groups for decades have never had trouble being heard by the major liberal media outlets.
Since September 11 we have learned the tragic story of the Afghani people: 25 percent of Afghan children die by age five, while Afghan women are not allowed to work or to go outside the house without a male escort. CNN’s "Behind the Veil" showed pictures of religious Afghans cheering the execution of women in the soccer stadium.
Taking a page from Hitler’s playbook the Taliban now require the Hindu minority to wear yellow badges to "protect" them from the religious police. Humanitarian aid workers who went to Afghanistan to try and help have been charged with "spreading Christianity" and are now facing the death penalty. Yet, until now, groups that espouse freedom, religious or otherwise, have been very silent.
The world has a horrible track record of helping victims of brutal regimes. We looked the other way when Hitler took over Germany and went after not only the Jews, but the Gypsies, the Masons, and the mentally and physically disabled. We did nothing when Pol Pot murdered two million Cambodians. Everyone was remarkably silent when 600,000 Ethiopians died during forced relocation.
Now the Afghani nightmare has been brought to our shores, by disciples of that fanatic religious cult. As the world shrinks, we have discovered that ignoring governments that foster inhumane policies does not protect us from those policies. We must not only eradicate the Taliban, but must also make it clear that any government that promotes genocide is not with us, but with the Taliban.