Christopher Silvester

Diary - 21 September 2002

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I shall call him the Unknown Afghan Hero. The BBC footage of the assassination attempt on Hamid Karzai showed a civilian greeting the Afghan president through the window of his limousine. Suddenly, several shots rung out and this civilian, reacting instantaneously, swung round and hurled himself upon the would-be assassin, as did another man, before all three were killed in a hail of American friendly fire. It was a dramatic moment recorded on videotape and beamed into our sitting-rooms, yet so much of the press got it wrong. Reuters reports mentioned that 'both Karzai's attacker and an Afghan bodyguard died in the shootout', though not the civilian hero. The Sunday Times published a photograph of the civilian's bloodied corpse with the caption 'Ominous: one of the men shot after the attempt to kill Karzai', implying his complicity in the assassination attempt. The Guardian Unlimited website reported that Karzai's US bodyguards 'killed the gunman and two other men, both carrying weapons'. It was bad enough for him to have been killed, but the unfortunate fellow has since either been denigrated or forgotten. I noticed the name of the assassin in one of the papers, but not the name of this plucky little man who stood in the line of fire. Keith Harris, reporting for BBC2's From Our Own Correspondent, noted that the US bodyguards changed their appearance after the shootout. 'Stripped to the waist and wearing turbans, they looked pumped-up, bizarre and dangerous,' he said. Indeed, they resembled Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo movies, the salient difference being that Rambo never killed good guys.

Behind the rhetoric of those arguing that Saddam Hussein should not be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb lies the misconstruction that he is crazy enough to use such a weapon. Saddam may wish to develop a nuclear bomb as his way of strutting his stuff - after all, India and Pakistan did much the same - but his conventional military capability remains hobbled. His Ba'athist regime has not been an exporter of terrorism, unlike the mullahs of Iran, and it has displayed less sympathy than Saudi Arabia for the Wahabist ideology that underlies al-Qa'eda. Saddam is certainly a monster, but he is surely not seeking some G