Wednesday, July 25, 2012

the last book I ever read (Man Hunt, excerpt three)

from Man Hunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--From 9/11 to Abbottabad by Peter L. Bergen:

Mullah Omar's delusional fanaticism was entirely predictable. When he came to power, he anointed himself the "Commander of the Faithful," a rarely invoked religious title from the seventh century, suggesting that he was the leader not only of the Taliban but of Muslims everywhere. To cement his status as a world-historic Muslim leader, in 1996 Mullah Omar had wrapped himself literally and metaphorically in the "Cloak of the Prophet," a religious relic purportedly worn by the Prophet Mohammed that had been kept in Kandahar for centuries and had almost never been displayed in public. Taking the garment out of storage, Omar ascended the roof of a building and draped the cloak on himself before a crowd of hundreds of cheering Taliban.

The Taliban leader was barely educated and determinedly provincial; in the five years that he controlled Afghanistan, he rarely visited Kabul, his own capital, considering it to be a Sodom and Gomorrah. Other than the Taliban's Radio Sharia, there was no Afghan press to speak of, and so Mullah Omar's understanding of the outside world was nonexistent, a stance he cultivated by assiduously avoiding meeting with non-Muslims. On a rare occasion when he met with a group of Chinese diplomats, they presented him with a small figurine of an animal as a gift. The Taliban leader reacted as if they handed him "a piece of red-hot coal," so strong was his ultrafundamentalist aversion to images of living beings. In short, Mullah Omar was a dim-witted fanatic with significant delusions of grandeur who believed he was on a mission from Allah. The history of negotiations with such men is not encouraging.

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