Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, July 23, 2010

Miniskirts in Kabul

From this piece by David Edgar about "The Great Game", a season of plays on Afghanistan at the Tricycle Theatre:

Writing about the Soviet period now exposes a particular irony. Like British troops today, Soviet soldiers were assured they were there to help a legitimate domestic government modernise a backward country – liberating women, planting gardens, constructing hospitals and schools. (The front page headline in last Friday's Times was "The mission was to build a school, but we ended up under fire in Helmand".) In fact, the Soviets became caught up in a tragedy of Aeschylean scale, whose unintended consequences have reshaped the world. It's now clear that the Carter White House set out to provoke the 1979 Soviet invasion by aiding Afghan rebels against the weak but domestic communist regime, tipping the balance in favour of an invasion that would ultimately bring it down. As everyone knows, that invasion created an insurgency which, armed by the Americans, turned into what we now call the Taliban. But behind a story that didn't have to happen is a story that could have. Amid The Great Game lurk glimpses of the modernised Afghanistan which might have flowered had it been left alone. As David Greig puts it in his play: back in the early 1990s there were miniskirts on the streets of Kabul.

A year on from the season's premiere, such a reality is even harder to imagine. When we opened in April last year, 153 British troops had been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion; since then, the British death toll has more than doubled. Last August, President Karzai "won" an election so clearly corrupt that his opponent refused to participate in the runoff; in September, he passed a law banning women from leaving home without their husband's permission.

Nearly nine years on, the invaders face a stark and familiar choice between the Mastermind principle ("I've started so I'll finish") and the Denis Healey injunction ("If you're in a hole, stop digging"). As a result of 200 years of outside intervention, the people of Afghanistan now face an even darker prospect.

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