Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Robert Fisk
"......That is why the Americans – and, to a lesser extent, the British – thought that they could return Zahir to create a land of peace. His welcome was supposed to be as glorious as that which was supposed to be accorded the Americans and the British in Iraq. It was a dream; it was our Orientalist view of how the Afghans should behave. We thought the natives would admire this symbol of old-world élitism because – and here's the rub – old Zahir Shah was more like "us" than "them", more European than Afghan, more secularist than Muslim. If he was trained as a soldier in Afghanistan, he was educated in France. "I wish just to do things for my country and serve it," he said pitifully when he returned to Kabul, to be proclaimed by Karzai and the Americans – but few others – as "Father of the Nation". When he ascended the throne in 1933, he was hailed as a new star in the Afghan firmament, a foreign-educated man who could modernise his country, govern during a period of rapid transition to " modern political institutions". I'm quoting from a US history book published the year before Zahir's overthrow by Daoud. The same words were pulled out of the drawer for reuse in 2002. Will we ever learn? "