The Last Night at the Last Bar in Fharaweystan

Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott

Psychology keeps trying to vindicate human nature.  History keeps undermining the effort. – Mason Cooley

I wrote a play several years ago set in a faraway place like Afghanistan – The Last Night At The Last Bar In Fharaweystan.  It centered on four primary characters in an Islamic nation coming to grips with a sudden coup.  The setting:  a local bazaar which surreptitiously functions as a den of illegal activity.  The characters:  a grizzled mercenary of dubious origins who has run out of sides to fight for, a young African American journalist searching for adventure…and truth, a local prostitute who uses her wits, beauty, and charm to ply her trade, and the proprietor of the establishment.  Each character must adjust to a rapidly changing situation foisted upon them by the takeover of the country by an even stricter regime than they have ever encountered. The old ways of doing "business" are no longer viable.  There is no one to bribe, there is no one to extort, no one to make an entreaty.   The situation is so dire, that each character must also contemplate their own mortality.

While what I have just mentioned is a work of fiction, the gist of the play is playing out in real time as the current situation in Afghanistan unfolds.  It is a debacle with what is happening on the ground as the Taliban take control of the entire country.  As a child, the television image of the helicopter evacuations during the fall of Saigon in 1975 left an indelible memory.  And many television pundits have tried to establish a corollary between what had happened then and what currently transpires before us.  But the fall of Saigon took almost two years after the U.S. had withdrawn military forces from Vietnam after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.  The fall of Kabul took only a matter of days.  The Wall Street Journal summed it up best, "After 20 years of war, much of what the U.S. sought to accomplish in Afghanistan crumbled in just one week".  It can be said that we never defeated the Taliban, we simply scattered them.  They adhered to the Maoist strategy of "retreating in space but advancing in time".  Now they have reassembled with a new generation of disenfranchised, disturbed, disillusioned, distraught, devotees of an Islamofascist regime.  The 2021 version of the Taliban will not be a kinder, gentler one.  They are poised to be even more inhumane and cruel than they have been in the past.  And the past…well, consider some of the Talibanic Laws when they were last in power from 1996-2001:

    Bans on kite flying, keeping of pigeons, movies, television, videos, and the internet.

    Executions for those carrying objectionable literature, and for those converting to any other religion beside Islam.

Execution, notwithstanding, the harshest and most petty restrictions are reserved for women:

    Women must not perfume themselves.  If a perfumed woman passes by a crowd of men, she is considered to be an adulteress.

    Women's clothes must not resemble men's clothes.

    Women must not go out of their houses without their husband's permission.

    Women must not talk to strange men.

    All ground and first floor residential windows should be painted over or screened to prevent women being visible from the street.

    Women and girls are banned from studying in schools or universities.

    Women are subject to being publicly stoned if accused of having sexual relations outside of marriage.

And let us not forget their destruction of the two great Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001.  The sculptures were cut into a rock cliff dating back to the sixth century.  Also, statues in the museums of Kabul as well as those in the rest of the country were destroyed.  Pleas to stop the destruction from UNESCO, Western as well as moderate Islamic nations proved to be futile. 

We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 because they were harboring Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda terrorists who perpetrated the attacks in New York and the Pentagon.  We ended up staying there in a valiant effort to nation build and, in my opinion, to provide the women of Afghanistan the opportunity to gain new freedoms that were deprived under the Taliban regime.  But the problem was that there never was a sense of nationalism, just a fractious tribalism.  Just like in South Vietnam, the country could not rally behind corrupt leaders who had only their own best interests in mind. There was no national security force that ever stepped up despite sophisticated training and weaponry to counter the onslaught of the Taliban. So much for winning the hearts and minds of the Afghani people.  But unlike the aftermath of Vietnam, the Taliban will continue to cultivate and befriend non-state actors who wish to kill us abroad and at home.  

And now the region itself is a powder keg.  Iran continues to gain more and more influence in Iraq, where the search for weapons of mass destruction turned into mass distraction…and again another effort at nation building.  Pakistan is only a slightly better version of Afghanistan, but with nuclear weapons. 

It is the last night at the last bar in Fharaweystan.  There's a new sheriff in town.  He's a lot like the old sheriff, but he's more onery, more prone to violence, less likely to negotiate.  Please get your ticket on that last flight out of the country.  And the music in the background is Warren Zevon singing Mohammed's Radio.  

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Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.  For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2021 Les Marcott
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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