Starfish Taliban

A parable

One day a journalist was walking through the streets of Kandahar. Smoke billowed from burning buildings, darkening the sun. Screams and gunshots rang out in all directions. The journalist turned a corner and found an American soldier standing in the middle of the street. Before the soldier was a single Afghan man in a black turban shrieking “Allahu akbar!” and waving a blood-soaked knife. A woman in a burkha, sobbing, ran from the black turbaned man, past the journalist, and disappeared into the smoke. At the turbaned man’s feet lay another woman’s body, robes lifted and askew. She lay among three other black turbaned men, all shot dead. As the journalist watched, the American soldier put two rounds into the turbaned man’s chest and he fell, joining his brothers. All around, down the many streets, men shouted and screamed. The journalist looked closely at the American soldier. He was bloody from wounds, flesh darkened from dirt and smoke, and his eyes were tired. The soldier raised a hand to his chest and pressed his radio, “I’m at the intersection of blue and willow. Where to next?” The journalist could not hear it but the soldier got a reply and began moving deeper into the smoke. Before he disappeared the journalist asked, “Why are you still here? There are thousands of them. You can never kill them all. They will go on raping and murdering long after you are gone. Why?” The soldier paused and gestured to the men on the ground. “Those won’t.” Then he turned and disappeared into the smoke.

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