things I felt like writing

the book

Now It's Time to Help
November 29, 2023

In the last two weeks, I've seen three news items that have done more to depress me than anything in my previous thirty-nine years. If you're at all squeamish, skip the next two paragraphs and go on to the fourth one. Seriously.
      I was watching a documentary on CNN about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban. There was a clip showing the execution of a women in the soccer stadium in Kabul, which I managed to avoid seeing because I could tell what was coming up, but then the documentary shifted to a small village where, without any warning whatsoever, I was looking at video of men who'd had their heads smashed so their brains were pouring out on the ground. Before I could change the channel, there was a shot of something I've seen all my life, an icon used by heavy metal bands and motorcycle clubs to indicate what badasses they are: a grinning, fleshless human skull with the staring eyes still in the sockets. But this was real. It was a person who'd had his or her head skinned. "Denuded" is a better word; all the tissue was gone except for part of the gums around the roots of the teeth. It was a gleaming white skull with green eyes in the sockets, attached to a clothed body. I didn't turn the channel because I froze. I literally couldn't move. Now the image is a permanent part of my consciousness.
      A villager said that the Taliban had come and killed several people, including an eleven-year-old boy whose head they skinned with bayonets while he was still alive. This is inconceivable to me. I can't accept that there are animals in human form who would actually carry out such an action from its beginning to its end, despite the accompanying sights and sounds. It's beyond an obscenity, it goes into a realm of soulless evil I'd only read about in accounts of what the Nazis and Japanese did sixty years ago. Now I understand that the written word doesn't tell the story at all. Video doesn't either, but it hints at the indescribable suffering some of us endure on this planet.
      Though I wish I hadn't seen what the Taliban had done to that person, it erased my last, lingering doubt about the righteousness of the American-led war in Afghanistan. As an American, I fully accept responsibility for all civilian deaths caused by the bombing. I know that a superhuman effort is being made to avoid those deaths, unprecedented in our military's history; in fact several opportunities to hit important targets have been missed out of fear of possible civilian casualties. So I accept responsibility for the deaths and injuries that have been caused because I believe that there was no other way to destroy the Taliban. And I believe that the Taliban had to be destroyed, not only for our sake but for the sake of Afghanistan.
      What horrified me almost as much as the atrocity I described above was when an MSNBC reporter visited an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan. A crowd of very dirty, very ragged people asked him where he was from.
      "America," he said.
      "Where's America?" they asked.
      The reporter drew a picture of the globe and showed them where the United States was in reference to Afghanistan.
      "America's on the other side of the world," he explained.
      The refugees looked at him blankly.
      "Don't you know that the world is round?" he asked.
      "No, we had no idea," they said.
      The third thing that upset me was when this same reporter spoke to a group of Northern Alliance soldiers about the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. None of the soldiers really knew what had happened, except that it had been bad. They didn't know where or even what New York was, or that four thousand people had died. The reporter pulled out a Newsweek and showed them photos of the airliners hitting the Twin Towers, the orange fireballs, the office workers jumping to their deaths, the collapse of the buildings, the rushing tsunamis of dust, the terrified crowds. And do you know what? Those battle-hardened, brutal-looking men were appalled. That was the last reaction I'd expected from them. They were aghast.
      "Tell America we'll get the people who did this," one man said.
      It would've been much easier for me if those soldiers had laughed or shrugged or just walked away because then I could've told myself that they'd lost their humanity with their endless warfare. I could've written them off as mindless killers. But they haven't lost their humanity. They've still got the capacity to be shocked; they've still got empathy despite what they've been through, so that means they're suffering too. But it also means there's hope for them. They need our help. They need a rebuilding effort like the world hasn't seen since we bombed Germany flat and then helped the Germans start over.
      There are lots of agencies you can donate to, but if you wouldn't mind, please take a look at the Web site of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) at They're the ones who ran underground schools for girls during the five years that the Taliban held most of Afghanistan in its depraved grip. Their courage, strength, and heroism is truly breathtaking. I think if anybody's going to rebuild the country, it'll be the women. They've already started, but they've got a long way to go.
      If you can't get on RAWA's site right now, you can send them donations at

The Afghan Women's Mission
260 S. Lake Avenue
PMB 165
Pasadena, CA 91101

     Make the checks or money orders payable to SEE/Afghan Women's Mission. This is a concrete way for you to pitch in. I hope you'll consider it.
      You might also go to
      Instead of feeling helpless, do something.

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