Packer reviews the memoir of Abdul Salam Zaeef, who served as Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan during Taliban rule. Zaeef was detained for three years at Gitmo and released without charge. Packer calls his memoir, My Life with the Taliban "perhaps the best, and maybe even the only, way for readers here to begin to grasp the world view of this xenophobic and opaque movement."
Keep in mind that Zaeef is sometimes referred to as a moderate:
The Americans have won the hatred of all Afghans, he concludes, and will lose the war as the Soviets lost theirs: the whole world is turning away from the U.S. and coming to see the justice of the Islamic cause. Like any religious revolutionary, Zaeef is certain that history and faith will soon rhyme. His entire story is saturated in righteousness; all the hardships he endures are redeemed by the solidarity of the faithful, whose superiority to non-Muslims is taken for granted. Zaeef doesn’t even pay lip service to the notion of equal rights for all: the only outrage is what’s done to Muslims, because they are Muslims and better than the rest of humanity. This world view is founded on such chauvinism that Americans, with our automatic assumptions about equality, might fail to notice it. “My Life with the Taliban” shows that, while all wars are foolish, some wars are not a matter of mere misunderstandingthat beneath the superficial differences of clothing and facial hair lie more profound differences that can’t be reconciled.