Take Me to Kabul

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

Take Me to Kabul

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

Take Me to Kabul
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Oct. 15 1998 10:39 AM

Gessen and Quinn-Judge

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So, you have a stepdaughter at the British International School? Gulp. We have to talk. My younger daughter did a year there, till we sprung her. A weird place at the time, a sort of cross between Evelyn Waugh and Hunter Thompson.

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Actually the most interesting thing I read today was in Le Monde (a couple of days old by the time it reaches here) which did a two-page spread on Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Afghan guerrilla leader. The article started in Dushanbe, which gave me an excuse to claim that reading it was work. Tajikistan is, in theory at least, part of our beat. The piece was something of a throw-back: an idealized portrait of the sincere guerrilla leader, quiet but eloquent, a brilliant military mind but a man who hated war, etc. The author, Bernard-Henri Levy (who according to the piece had last been in Afghanistan18 years ago, distributing radios to deserving Panshir villagers) seemed at times to be slipping toward a love letter to Massoud, but usually recovered his footing. The article wonders at one point what Massoud feels about having to deal with the Russians as allies these days. I suspect the answer is that he gets on with them very well. The only foreigners who seem to admire Massoud more than Levi are the former Soviet military and intelligence veterans who served in Afghanistan. (Maosochism on the part of the Soviets, or clarity of vision? I'll leave you to answer that.) Carping aside, I have to say I was envious as hell, as I sat in soggy Moscow, to read about this man wandering through the Panshir Valley.

Back to Boris for a moment. It certainly looks as if someone told him to get his bod into town. He was not there for long, however. I logged his convoy heading back to his country retreat at 12:35. Slightly less than four hours in town. I liked, by the way, an AFP headline today on Yeltsin: "Lebed: Yeltsin Plans to Die in Office."

Your president has everything worked out. Sleep well.

Masha Gessen is chief of reporting at the Russian newsmagazine Itogi and author of Dead Again: The Russian Intelligentsia After Communism. Paul Quinn-Judge is Time's Moscow bureau chief.