SOLDIERS OF GOD: With the Mujahidin In Afghanistan by Robert D. Kaplan

SOLDIERS OF GOD: With the Mujahidin In Afghanistan

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In this firsthand account of the Islam-inspired Afghani resistance, Kaplan (Surrender or Starve: The Wars Behind the Famine, 1988--not reviewed) practically boasts his lack of objectivity and seems quite unaware of his curious knack for contradicting himself. These faults are surpassed only by his incessant griping about his working conditions and about the lack of major media coverage of the Soviet entanglement in Afghanistan. Kaplan's almost fawning admiration for the ""muj"" is implicit in every sentence; his antipathy for the Communists colors his reportage to the extent that he doesn't bother to provide a historical perspective with any kind of clarity. He glosses over centuries of history and assumes the reader's sympathy for the mujahidin cause. Though he quotes Kipling at every turn, he denies that Afghanistan has ever been influenced by the West or invaded by a foreign power. (No need to look as far back as the Persian annexation of 516 B.C.; the Russians and the British have wrangled over Afghanistan for 150 years.) Kaplan even fails to delineate clearly the various factions of mujahidin: they are either ""moderates"" or ""fundamentalists""; and, as they are, according to Kaplan, apolitical, none of the rebels are ""extremists."" Kaplan then proceeds to describe--rather accurately--the fundamentalist Party of Islam of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as ""radical, anti-western. . .extremist."" Once he begins to discuss the day-to-day life of the tribes and looks at the culture; once he introduces a few of the more colorful characters, such as the stylish mujahadin leader known as ""The Gucci Muj,"" or the British photographer John Wellesley Gunston, or Savik Shuster, a meddlesome former Soviet citizen and Lithuanian refugee, Kaplan is on firmer ground and his book the better for it. But one must look elsewhere for sound history and pertinent reportage.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin