Beyond the Blast

MotherJones.com's guide to undercovered news, commentary and resources to help put the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftershocks into context. Updated throughout the day.

Fri Nov. 23, 2001 4:00 AM EST

November 23, 2001

Straighten those turbans -- The Daily Telegraph
As Taliban troops continue to be hammered from the air by American warplanes and on the ground by Northern Alliance soldiers, their leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has an idea to save the day: he has ordered his men to straighten up their turbans, reports Alex Spillius. Omar is apparently concerned that "some Afghan men are wearing their turbans to the side or too far back," which he described as "vulgar and un-Islamic." His order was issued in an edict which also outlaws leather jackets, white paper bags, music, and kite-flying.

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Taking terrorism with them -- Stratfor.com
With Afghanistan no longer providing a safe base from which to operate a terrorist organization, many foreign born Al Qaeda members will head home, bringing terrorism and militancy with them, reports Stratfor.com, a Texas-based research agency. "One side effect of this dispersal may be the foundation of a second network of Islamic extremists," Stratfor.com says -- one which probably won't take direct orders from bin Laden or have much communication with the Taliban.

November 21, 2001

Vacation or visa? -- The Cairo Times
Many foreign students getting educations in the US are choosing to stay put for the winter holidays out of concern that they might not be allowed back into the country if they go home, Annick M. Lussier reports. American officials have assured visa holders that "nothing has changed" for them, but not everyone is convinced. "I thought it would be better to stay here for a while until things get calmer," one student says. "With all of this happening, I thought it would be very risky to go back and risk messing up my whole career if I couldn't get back into the US."

Bangladesh, the next Afghanistan? -- Pacific News Service (via Alternet)
Muslim attacks on Hindus in predominantly Islamic Bangladesh may be the beginning of a "Talibanization" of the country, reports Sandip Roy. Islamic fundamentalism has been growing since the 1970s, encouraged by Saudi-funded religious schools, and two parties in the current coalition government are explicitly Islamic. Some fear they may be pushing Bangladesh toward becoming a theocratic state, writes Roy, while others doubt that the parties have that much power. "Their support is rather limited," says Tinku Ali Ishtiaq, a Bangladeshi-born activist. "But many of their cadres are well-trained, so they can make a lot of noise."

Kabul's war-torn zoo -- The Seattle Times
Life under the Taliban wasn't just hard for the Afghan people -- it was rough on zoo animals too, reports Mort Rosenblum. Kabul's battered zoo is home to a lion who lost an eye after a soldier tossed a grenade in his cage, and a "nervous wreck" of a bear with an open sore on his nose from being whacked with sticks by visitors. But zookeeper Sheragha Omar is determined to keep the place going, though his meager wages barely support his children and his eleven employees. And things have actually been looking up since the Taliban have been chased out of town. "We used to get maybe 100 people a day, and now there are 200," Omar says. "People are no longer afraid to come out. We even have women now who open their burqa masks for a better look."

Kabul readies for rabies -- BBC
But while Afghans may be feeling more kindly to their zoo creatures, other animals could pose a threat to humans. The World Health Organization is stockpiling hospitals with rabies vaccines, out of fears that growing packs of stray dogs roaming the streets might spark an outbreak, the BBC reports.

November 20, 2001

Turkish diplomacy key in a new Afghanistan -- Slate
With the Taliban knocked out of power, Turkey could play a crucial role in building a new Afghanistan, writes Anne Applebaum. In addition to sharing close ties with the United States and Israel, Turkey also has warm relations with much of the Islamic world, especially with Afghanistan. Most importantly, the Turks have signalled a willingness to get involved, something most Western governments would rather avoid.

A Balkan perspective -- The Daily Telegraph Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, argues that there are many similiarities between the bombing of Afghanistan and the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Rugova says that for Kosovo Albanians, "the Nato air strikes held the promise of our future freedom from oppression and danger," and argues that the current US-led bombing campaign could do the same for Afghans. "The uncomfortable reality is that military force is sometimes necessary to protect human rights and enforce the rule of law," Rugova writes.

November 19, 2001

The War on Information -- Los Angeles Times
If you want to find out where the local hazardous waste dumps are, or what security precautions are in place at a nearby nuclear energy plant, you might now be out of luck. Government agencies and public libraries are curtailing access to information deemed potentially useful to terrorists and, going so far in some cases as to actually destroy the documents, reports Eric Lichtblau. Attorney General John Ashcroft says national security concerns trump the public's right to know, but many academics, journalists and free-speech advocates are appalled. "Do you pull all the Rand McNally atlases from the libraries? I mean, how far do you go?" asks University of Minnesota librarian Julia Wallace.

America's responsibility for Northern Alliance massacres -- The Independent
Great Britain and the US share the blame for the Northern Alliance's slaughter of Taliban soldiers at Mazar-i-Sharif, argues veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. "The West wanted to use the Northern Alliance as its foot-soldiers in Afghanistan," says Fisk. "We cannot adopt someone's army as our own and then deny responsibility for its behaviour. We didn't allow the Germans to do that after the Second World War. And when our Northern Alliance boys go on a killing spree, we have to take responsibility for the bloodshed that results."

Jockeying for Position in Kabul -- Asia Times
Even as the various factions within Afghanistan begin to jockey for position in a post-Taliban government, foreign powers -- particularly Iran, Russia and India -- are working to be certain that their interests are represented, Syed Saleem Shahzad reports, potentially eroding Pakistan's influence. Both Iran and Russia supported factions within the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, while Pakistan was the Taliban's staunchest ally, Saleem Shahzad reports.

Compiled by MotherJones.com staff.

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