This amazingly beautiful country has long been the crossroads of the world. Located in Central Asia and about the size of Texas, Afghanistan has been the silk route for many adventurers, traders, conquerors and empires, and yet it has never truly been conquered. For nearly 23 years now, Afghanistan has been embroiled in war, first with the Soviet Union who finally withdrew its troops in 1989, and since then with fractious Mujahuddin armies fighting for control of the government. More recently, and as I write these words, our own US and UN Peacekeeping Forces are attempting to maintain peace and bring about stability. Only a politically stable environment will allow the future rebuilding and repatriation efforts in Afghanistan to succeed.

In the past, the world seemed to have turned its back on this country. A proud and valiant people who helped bring down the Iron Curtain were left to fend for themselves, to maneuver their way among hundreds of thousands of mines left by their Soviet invaders. The world's largest group of refugees is from Afghanistan. Numbering in the millions, they have spilled over into Pakistan, India, and Iran. They have been starving by the hundreds of thousands from drought and war conditions, and the United Nations has called the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan "one of the most devastating in the world." Billions of dollars in humanitarian aid have now been promised from 50 different countries to rebuild Afghanistan, but the rebuilding and restructuring of this beautiful country will take years and require much patience and assistance. We can never allow what has happened in Afghanistan to occur again.

The people have suffered tremendously at the hands of the Taliban, who tried hard to cripple the spirit, freedom and will of a people who are world-famous for just that - their enduring spirit, freedom and will. Music, art, and poetry were condemned by this regime, stating that these expressions held so dear by the Afghan people and their culture went "against God". There have never been such beliefs held by Afghans in the history of its culture. Only fanatic, extremist groups who do not follow the pure teachings of Islam, the very translation of which is "Peace", would propagate such a belief.

The list of injustices against Afghan women under the Taliban regime is long and notable. The UN, Amnesty International, UNESCO and various other world organizations have been protesting these brutal conditions and treatment of women by the Taliban for years, and many governments around the world have known yet done nothing. It took the sad events of September 11th to force action upon this oppressive regime, and finally bring an end to this unrelenting nightmare of nearly 23 years.

In early March 2001, world news agencies reported the Taliban-ordered destruction of priceless and historic Buddhas carved into the mountains of the Bamiyan Valley in the third and fifth centuries. Considered the tallest standing Buddhas in the world, these statues were revered by art historians, global travelers and people all over the world. The loss of these irreplaceable treasures is immeasurable to the Afghan people and their cultural history, and the wanton demolition is representative of the Taliban and extremist mindset.

New York City, 2002

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