: Well, how nice, I think: The Observer in London is doing a story on the progress of democracy, modernism, civilization, and rights in Afghanistan. The writer goes on about the public executions and bans on women in public he witnessed in the days of the Taliban. But then comes this amazing bit of apologia for the Islamic fascists who ruled that nation and played host to the terrorists who murdered my neighbors:

For all their failings, the Taliban brought security to many areas where there was none. Impositions that were shocking in the cities were not impositions at all in the vast majority of Afghanistan….

The Taliban’s security meant that when, crippled by an enormous hangover, I left a wallet containing my passport and $1,500 on a bus, it was returned intact. It meant you could hail a cab and go virtually anywhere, provided you took the precaution of first checking in with the local warlord or Taliban official (often the same person). I slept in villages, military bases, the occasional fly-blown hotel, or in chai khannas, the roadside inns where tea and food (chai and khanna) are served to travellers. In one, just outside the town of Qalat on the road between Kabul and Kandahar, I woke at dawn to find everyone, guests and staff, lined up in the dust of the road for dawn prayers. I lay wrapped in blankets and watched them. It was an insight into the depth of local piety. Imagine a Travelodge on the M4 emptying into the car park for prayers at 4am. This was not fundamentalism or extremism. It was simply an expression of a faith that articulates every part of life….

No one in the West took much notice of the Taliban until they arrived in the capital and began imposing their infamous bans – on weather forecasting, representations of living things, leather jackets and ‘Western hairstyles’, pigeon racing, kite flying and most other forms of entertainment. Yet the reasoning behind this extreme rigour deserves understanding and even, controversial though it may be to say so, a degree of sympathy….

There was a perversely logical rationale behind the bans. The Taliban imagined the life they had lost as an idealised version of rural tribal society. That life, with its supposed purity and social justice, could be enjoyed once more if everybody followed the Shariat, the corpus of Islamic law, particularly where it intersected with local traditions that were threatened by change. And if people didn’t want to, then for the greater good of all, they needed to be forced to.

Yes, how nice. And the Nazis made the trains run on time (even it was the concentration camps). And the communists supported the arts (except for the artists sent to the gulag). And the Khmer Rouge appreciated the value of country life (and death).

The nice side of the Taliban. Incredible.