My time since the fall of Kabul. – December 2021-January 2022
In mid-December, I received a message from a judge who, like everyone else, was in grave danger and looking for help fleeing the country. Then, in early January, I received a message that would change everything. It was from the judge, though from a new phone number. Upon reading the contents of the message, however, I knew that the judge was in all likelihood dead and that the message was being sent by a member of the Taliban.
Not known for their intelligence, however, the Taliban fail to account for patterns in speech when impersonating others. This particular genius blew it in three ways; first, at no point did the judge ever refer to me as “bro”, second, he also never misspelled the word “lawyer”, and third, at no point in time had I ever mentioned sending my personal information. That’s just not something that is done.
Grab a brain Mullah Meathead!
Hitting the wall.
I had to shut everything down, not only for the safety of the people I was trying to help but also for the sake of my own sanity. I had been going balls to the wall for the better part of seven months, foregoing sleep and food while spending hour upon hour formulating strategies, writing tens of thousands of words, smoking hundreds of cigarettes, and drinking gallons of coffee. I was emotionally drained and near physical exhaustion.
I finally just crawled into bed, and went into shutdown mode, sleeping and mindlessly watching videos on YouTube for the next few weeks.
Fighting an uphill battle against politicians.
I fought hard with my friend Stuart McCarthy as we waged a campaign to grab the attention of our respective governments and the public at large, trying to urge someone into action. We called out the likes of Australia’s Scott Morrison and his Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Justin Trudeau, Jens Stoltenberg from NATO, and “Sleepy” Joe Biden, who really shit the bed on this one in a spectacular manner.
Not only did he flee Afghanistan in the middle of the night when nobody would notice, he decided to leave billions of dollars worth of military hardware behind for the Taliban to use. Out of the complete disappointments and failures that this group is made up of, Joe Biden is by far the biggest one here. So thanks a whole hell of a lot you losers.
A message for Sonny Achakzai.
I don’t know where he is or if he’s even alive, but if he is, it is my fervent hope that Sonny Achakzai suffers for what he and others like him have done. It wasn’t enough for him that his fellow countrymen were exploited when the world came to Afghanistan, he had to get in on the action and exploit them too, leaving thousands for dead at the hands of the Taliban. So, Sonny Achakzai, fuck you too!!
Words and images that stay with you.
This is just a sample of the things that would get sent to me, desperate messages or images depicting the tragedy and suffering of a humanitarian crisis, or the last photos taken of people before they are killed.
There would also be plenty of videos sent my way, much of them graphic and horrific in nature, depicting the various ways the Taliban murdered their victims. Shooting, beheading, beatings, and all manner of brutality were sent to me to demonstrate just how very evil the Taliban were. I really didn’t need the reminders to be aware of this fact.
These are the things that haunt you in the night from time to time, hearing screams of terror and the words “please sir, help us” repeatedly. I have heard the question “why they did this to us?” so very many times and replied with “because they are assholes who used you and your country like toilet paper.”
Hearing the same thing repeatedly, day after day proves to be simply overwhelming. Eventually, it all comes to mean absolutely nothing to you and you feel as though you have started to lose your sense of humanity along the way.
They can’t all be saved.
Dr. Maya Hess was someone whom I could turn to for wise counsel throughout this months-long ordeal. She’s perhaps THE leading advocate for interpreters and translators in the world, but she’s also a very good listener, and I knew that I could rely on her to call me out whenever I started to get a little bit “rough around the edges”.
I messaged her one day, feeling a bit overwhelmed and frustrated, and told her that I felt as though these people were looking at me like I’m Oskar Fucking Schindler, when in fact I was more like Oscar the Grouch. She reminded me that I wasn’t going to be able to save them all if, in fact, we would be able to save any of them. I needed to shift my focus to trying to save just one because the efforts would be much more productive. We are, after all, human, and only capable of so much.
To those who have been trying to contact me, I’m sorry I suddenly disappeared.
I simply felt that there was likely a substantial risk to my network following the Taliban contact in early January, so I didn’t have time to explain. I have not forgotten you or my pledge to one day tell your stories to the world, and I hope that you will forgive me.
Hopefully, I’ll also be able to forgive myself.