Here in the First World, we acquiesce to lives in which it is virtually impossible to get away from ourselves: enchained by birth certificates, social-security numbers, driver’s licenses, tax records, credit histories, martial and marital documents, bank accounts, fingerprints, thumbprints, blood-typing, DNA samples, retina scans—the list is endless. I personally am not happy with much of this: like the doomed cowboy in Lonely Are The Brave, “I don’t need a card to figure out who I am. I already know.”
So one of my reactions to the following story is pleasure in knowing that there are still places on this earth where people exist independently of paper and pixels and purloined pieces of their bodies.
Another reaction is that I probably really shouldn’t have become locked into referring to members of our nation’s intelligence community as “Clouseaus.” Because, now, every day, in every way, they are living up to this name, better and better.
Today, for instance, we learn, via Mean People at the New York Times, that for months and months Afghan notables and American poohbahs have been jawing with senior Taliban official Mullah Akhtar Muhammed Mansour, believed to be #2 to the fabled Mullah Omar hisself. This Mansour has been gifted with great wads of American money in “traveling expenses,” and has raised high the roofbeams that Peace Is At Hand, because his demands have been so modest—”that the Taliban leadership be allowed to safely return to Afghanistan, that Taliban soldiers be offered jobs, and that prisoners be released.” He did not, for instance, “demand, as the Taliban have in the past, a withdrawal of foreign forces or a Taliban share of the government.”
Alas, all good things must come to an end. This, then, too. For now it has been determined that this Mullah Mansour, is not Mullah Mansour at all.
“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.
Yet, like jilted lovers who cannot grasp what has happened to them, some of the duped and deluded are hoping the non-Mansour will keep on a-comin’.
Neither American nor Afghan leaders confronted the fake Mullah Mansour with their doubts. Indeed, some Afghan leaders are still holding out hopes that the man really is or at least represents Mr. Mansour—and that he will come back soon.
“Questions have been raised about him, but it’s still possible that it’s him,” said the Afghan leader who declined to be identified.
A more cynical Afghan believes the non-Mansour was probably a knee-slapper sent by the Taliban, who “are playing games.”
“The Taliban are cleverer than the Americans and our own intelligence service,” said a senior Afghan official who is familiar with the case.