Help me better understand the Taliban, etc.
October 6, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

What are good (non-Alex Jonesy, please) documentaries, websites, and other resources that explore and explain al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all related matters?

Before I get flagged as a terrorist wannabe, let me assure you that I despise the Taliban to my very core. (I also hate that I even feel like I have to say that.) I just want to understand better what drives these movements and how they operate. I've watched PBS's Frontline episodes on the subject, and they are great, but I'm looking for more.
posted by Camofrog to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why do you despise them if you don't understand them? As honourable as your desire to better understand them is, I think a major conclusion of that understanding will ultimately be that hating things unconditionally without a *very* firm understanding of what exactly they stand for and represent is generally bad news.
posted by cmyr at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2008




There is great stuff at the PBS Frontline website. Slightly left-of-center perspective, but incredibly informative and well produced.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2008


Woops! I should have seen that you already linked Frontline in your question! Sorry.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2008


Why do you despise them if you don't understand them?

Are you seriously suggesting that a culture that completely represses women and tries, convicts, and condemns to death criminals without the slightest due process--just to name two examples--might have some hidden goodness inside I am missing? The Frontline docs alone make it quite clear that these guys are extremely ungood. You don't have to be a right-wing hawk, which I certainly am not, to get that in about ten seconds.
posted by Camofrog at 11:31 AM on October 6, 2008


Run, don't walk, to Adam Curtis's power of Nightmares.
posted by history is a weapon at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


p.s. It's online.
posted by history is a weapon at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2008


This book was published prior to 9/11. I read it the previous summer, and it was very helpful. It was very helpful then and I still recommend it now.
posted by Pants! at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2008


Camofrog, this is quite unhelpful phrasing of the question (who do you think is going to 'flag' you as a wannabe terrorist for researching the Taliban?) and if you are looking for things to confirm/deepen your existing perceptions of Afghan warlords and their various factions, then fine, but cmyr is simply pointing out that there are multiple narratives to any story. An AskMe thread is not the place to have a shouting match about whether the Taliban are evil or not.

Anyway, the Dangerous Places guides have detailed and irreverent breakdowns of the various factions involved in the Afghan conflict, and the War Nerd has a lot to say about Afghanistan (sorry that's a Google search, his archive doesn't appear to be loading) in a similarly irreverent and direct way).

Also, a little judicious clicking of links from the main Wikipedia article will quickly give you a reasonable grounding in the Taliban's history and background.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2008


The Power of Nightmares
Why We Fight

Please, please, please don't fall into the trap of thinking (as was stated by a VP candidate) that they "hate us because of our freedoms". They hate us because we've been killing their children and manipulating their governments for generations. That doesn't mean they're right or justified, but it makes it a bit more complex than just "bad" vs "good".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2008


Anti-fascist researcher Dave Emory has a weekly radio show on WFMU. Summaries of each show are here. And here are the audio archives at WFMU.
posted by monospace at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2008


Beetle posted the two I came to recommend, so consider this a second for The Power of Nightmares and Why We Fight.
posted by rokusan at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2008


How much are you willing to put in? There are a few books which will give you a pretty strong background into the Taliban: I can highly recommend Ahmed Rashid: "Taliban" (2000); also "Descent into Chaos" (2007). He gives a nuanced picture of the development of the Taliban, and where they come from, and why. Dorronsoro's "Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present" (2005) is also excellent.
posted by YouRebelScum at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2008


Beneath the Veil documents the brutally oppressive treatment of women under the Taliban. Whatever grievances they may have against the rest of the world, nothing justifies this sort of violence against women.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:05 PM on October 6, 2008


An AskMe thread is not the place to have a shouting match about whether the Taliban are evil or not.

I know! I'm not looking for that. I just thought cmyr's comment made me sound like some doof, and I don't want to end up on some government suspected-terrorist list for asking about this. Paranoid? Kinda, yeah.

Please, please, please don't fall into the trap of thinking (as was stated by a VP candidate) that they "hate us because of our freedoms".

Again, please, I'm not an idiot. I know these people are not reducible to soundbites. I know the situation is very complex. That's exactly why I am asking for more information.

I probably could have phrased the question better. I'm sorry. Thanks for the info so far, this is all great stuff.
posted by Camofrog at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2008


The Looming Tower
posted by Falconetti at 1:34 PM on October 6, 2008


I remember The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright as being rather interesting.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2008


same situation as mentioned by rokusan: also seconding blue beetle's suggestions
posted by meijusa at 3:56 PM on October 6, 2008


Understanding Al-Qaeda by Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern by John Gray

also, seconding Pants!'s suggestion of Taliban by Ahmed Rashid - in general, Rashid is one of the better authors you're going to find on much of this material, especially as concerns Afghanistan & Pakistan (I don't always agree with him, but as an information resource he's unparalleled) - his recent Descent Into Chaos is quite good (though dense & deeply depressing)
posted by jammy at 5:39 AM on October 7, 2008


oops, guess I should have said, "seconding Pants! & YouRebelScum"
posted by jammy at 5:41 AM on October 7, 2008


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