Come from the Shadows

Come from the Shadows: part 3

From Terry Glavin’s book Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan, pages 28 and 29:

Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but if [Afghan-Canadian journalist] Abdulrahim [Parwani] and I ended up taking the delirium about Afghanistan a bit personally, we did so because the implications involved not just some unreal place that was a mere function of various and conflicting narratives. There is also a real country called Afghanistan, with real, living, breathing human beings, for whom the debates in Western countries could mean the difference between freedom and slavery, life and death. For me, it was also because the “misjudgment of historic proportions” involved the clamour for troop withdrawal.

What Irish historian Fred Halliday had to say about that aspect of things is especially unsettling to people who think of themselves as of “the Left,” which is how I’ve always situated myself. Halliday’s insight happens to have an overwhelming body of evidence in its favour, which is why it’s all the more disturbing.

A keen observer of Afghan history, Halliday, who died on April 26, 2010, was a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics. He was competent in a dozen languages and the author of more than twenty books, most of them concerning political history in Muslim countries. Halliday paid close attention to the broad arcs of history, and he insisted that the so-called war in Afghanistan is properly situated in a direct line that originates in the anti-fascist struggles of the 1930s: “To my mind, Afghanistan is central
to the history of the Left and to the history of the world since the 1980s. It is to the early 2Ist century, to the years we’re now living through, what the Spanish Civil War was to Europe in the mid and late 20th century.” One thing I hope to show in this book is that Halliday was, if anything, more right than he knew. If I’ve done my job properly, the evidence will speak for itself.

Another thing I hope to show is that the way we in the West talk about Afghanistan has meant more to the course of events in that country than all the soldiers and guns and money we’ve sent there since September 11. What we say matters. It will continue to matter for some long while. It determines what Afghans hear from us, how much they allow themselves to hope for a peaceful and democratic future and how far they’re prepared to come from the shadows, out into the light.

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