It’s my war too
CNN's Aliza i. Kassim (center, wearing a t-shirt with pink flower), shown here with some fellow classmates in 2002, was attending the private Karachi American School when the 9/11 attacks took place.
May 19th, 2011
10:18 AM ET

It’s my war too

Editor's note: Aliza I. Kassim is an editor at CNN’s International Desk in Atlanta covering the Middle East and south Asia. Aliza is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has reported for various media organizations from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

It is hard to believe that the name that became infamous and on the lips of every child and adult alike, from the depths of the East to the peaks of the West, finally met his demise on May 1, 2011.

Osama Bin Laden is dead, Osama Bin Laden is dead. I had to repeat these words in my mind and aloud to make sure I was not just blurting an incoherent sentence.

Most everyone has a 9/11 story. We hear about office workers killed at the World Trade Center, firefighters who saved lives while sacrificing their own, and soldiers sent to battle the vague enemy dubbed terrorism. The stories’ overarching theme is that America had been targeted and attacked. We don’t hear, however, about how the attack resonated far outside U.S. borders.

In the same world region as bin Laden’s supposed Afghanistan hideouts, Karachi American School is a private, western-style secondary school in a tranquil part of Pakistan’s largest city. KAS educates about 350 students, most of whom are affiliated with the U.S. by way of citizenship, diplomacy, and parents. The school’s teachers are all American by origin. KAS students study A.P. courses, play basketball, participate in the chess club, and take dates to prom.

On September 11, 2001 I was a senior at KAS.
On September 12, 2001 – The day after the attack, my classmates and I arrived at school, but our teachers did not. Overnight, all of the school’s teachers had been placed in to a kind of protective custody. Most returned to the U.S. and some fled to the Far East. Our classes were now being taught online and for some Pakistani substitute teachers were found to fill the void. We took only basic courses. Without guidance counselors, faculty recommendations, and even a cohesive curriculum, we were significantly disadvantaged.

My application for college was sent in three parts: – Karachi (where I was), Thailand (where my guidance counselor was) and the US (where my teachers had been flown too).

In one day’s attack on the U.S., bin Laden killed thousands, strengthened American resentment against the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and consequently wrecked my college admissions prospects. Despite my location in Pakistan, bin Laden was my enemy as much as he was America’s enemy.

In the nearly ten years since the attack, I attended college, dedicated my career to journalism, worked in remote locations around the world, and received a graduate degree. Along the way, I met people who ignorantly judged me based on my appearance, and faced their inaccurate, often appalling comments about my home country. Over time, their questions about bin Laden faded, and I began talking about Bhutto, Musharraf and the United States’ new ally in the war on terror.

On May 10, 2011

10 years later, I was sitting at work and when we received urgent alerts of President Obama coming on air to make a public announcement. Speculations came pouring in as the newsroom suddenly came to life, some said Gadhhafi is dead, others said we are launching a new war and then some, half mockingly, said Osama Bin Laden is dead.

I heard the announcement at 10.35p EDT, but I finally sunk in when I spoke to our correspondent in Kabul at 11:30p.
The conversation went like this:
“Hi Nick, it’s Aliza.”
“Osama is dead.”
“Osama Bin Laden is dead”
“No I am not joking he is really dead!”

It is now weeks after the world received news of Bin Laden’s capture and kill – details of the raid are still forthcoming and/or changing. I’ve heard a parade of American politicians hypothesizing that Pakistan had been unfaithful to the U.S., and that Pakistan had purposely held bin Laden. One called Pakistan unreliable and untrustworthy, and suggested that the U.S. ally with India against Pakistan.

These talking heads forget that Pakistanis in Pakistan – just like Americans in America – were severely affected by bin Laden’s attacks. They forget that countless Pakistani soldiers have died in furtherance of U.S. objectives in the region. These pundits must realize that Pakistani citizens are not to blame for the hypothetical actions of the Pakistani government. The pundits must realize that winning the war on terror does not mean causing collateral damage, but rather means defeating a force of ideas.

My heart goes out to those at my alma mater the Karachi American School – Although, nearly 10 years younger than me these students will be in a similar precarious situation as I was and I can only hope that they are not discriminated against due to the actions of the few in power.

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soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. salerno

    Even if I am not christian anymore, I supported Serbia against US aggression. In the samme way even if I am not a Wahabe like the Taliban, I support them against the US aggression.

    May 22, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan from Chicago, IL

      I am Christian and if the deportation authorities deported you and put you on a plane to Waziristan, Pakistan I would not care either.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MicheleG

    If all you pro Islamics are correct about the benignity and benevolence of isalm and how tolerant and peaceful it is supposed to be....then RECLAIM it and TAKE IT BACK and make of it what legend says it should be.

    Lip service doesn't cut it, though the exercise of FREE SPEECH (granted, by the way by the BILL of RIGHTS if the American Con...sti...tu...tion) will, no doubt, aid your efforts to reclaim. An urgent message embedded here is to learn the difference between cheap "lip service" and careful, thoughtful essays and speech in effective venues.

    Until the peaceful and moderate believers take a stand, islam is a ruined theology. Unless you do that the radicals, the homicidal maniacs, and the islamofascists have "won."

    May 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MicheleG

      Thank you for reinforcing, enhancing and supporting my position.

      May 22, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      The problem is not Islam. The problem is US aggression against muslim and non-muslim countries. In the last 40 years USA attacked Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Libya, Iraq, Serbia, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan. The reason is that oil is imported from muslims countries. USA supported the radical muslims (Saudi Arabia) and fought against the moderate like Saddam and Ghaddafi. The reason is OIL.

      May 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        do your homework and research the real cause of each of these instances. America did not make any moves without cause.

        May 22, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
      • pamiri

        The main Problem is ISI Taliban Alqaeda and their slavs as you that commit very shameful action, killing bombing, smuglling, destorying, women selling etc nothing else they know, except the mentioned things, then they have to be changed their manner acccording Islam and humanity,
        from Kabul

        May 22, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        NO NEED HOMEWORK. I know what I am talking about. Every attack was caused by USA nazi- fascist policy.

        May 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. will

    However, Our weapon has been no secret since 1945. Keep pushing.

    May 22, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |

    Probably CNN's denial to allow some basic truth may hurt USA rather then protecting it from reaching the truth to American public. In my whole post only one paragraph which prove America a creator of prevailing Islam/terrorism is denied access to this page while half of the content has been allowed to display on this page. This is not fair as we are the one who have the courage to support globalization, making every one safe and self sufficient on this surface of our this beautiful earth.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan from Chicago, IL

      How can you say that Islam has made everyone self sufficient when OPEC has caused many economies to fall. And also where on earth has Islam made anyone safe? Just look at all the chaos in the Islamic nations including Afghanistan and Pakistan where most extremist are fighting their governments.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      Dan – Opec did not cause many economies to fall. On the contrary they work to mantein the price of oil stable, as there is an accord betwen Saudi Arabia UAE, Qatar and US. Saddam and Ghaddafi were hostile to the US and this is why they were attacked.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. pamiri

    You can judge how these smart boys and girls look, very nice and smart, now you imagine if they were studying in Maddrass in Pakistan, how they would look, like with some amount of explosive devices fasten around their bodies for sure,

    From Kabul

    May 22, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. MicheleG

    It becomes clearer and clearer how islamic society works. Ridicule, bigotry, lies, endemic hate of all things non islamic. If they think they are persuading non moslems to their cause and religion, they wholly misunderstand what it means to have freedom and personal autonomy, to think for one's self without fear of condemnation or coercion.

    Watch these bullies at work here and taste the kind of society (a theocratic dictatorship) they would impose on us. The wisdom of the separation of church and state has never seemed as wise as current events now show us.

    May 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • MicheleG

      Thanks for making my point. And again, you did it SO well!

      May 21, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • p3c3

      Guaranteed? That's where I stopped reading.

      May 21, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      Islam is the most tolerant religion. Separation betwen church and state was necessary inside the christianity, but it is the only example. Inside Islam it is not necessary, if the majority of people are muslims.
      Islamic radicalization was originated by western aggression and the Ottoman empire. It is a modern form of Islam born in the late 1700.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
      • pamiri

        Yes Islam is the good and the best religion which offers good things for all and respect all other religions too, has respect to humanity too, but like you Salerno/Banghash/ Yaqobi and other slave of Pakistan ISI Taliban, Alqaeda are defaming the holistic name of Islam by doing bad activities which not requires in Islam, Shame on you and on same as you,

        from Kabul

        May 22, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        if islam were the benign and tolerant belief system you describe, this blog would not need to exist as a forum where its very intolerance is discussed and debated.

        And by the way, note to you and your (troll) friends: a "reply" that is only an insult or ridicule is NOT a legitimate rebut or riposte in an intelligent thoughtful discussion. When you indulge in such unbecoming devalue and debase your own position. And you give our wide and anonymous readership an unwitting window on the level of logic, insight and intelligence that exists in the islamic world. YOU, and how you write and express your viewpoints, are the examples this readership sees as "typical" islamic thinking with regard to current events in that part of the world.

        Your posts imply a xenophobic, poorly educated, benighted mindset. If this is not true, show us your higher, tolerant side, as islam would have us believe you should do.

        A reply that address the subject of the prior post with respect or at least courtesy and stays on subject is what is so badly lacking on this Afghan blog.

        May 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        "Western aggression" as such does not exist. The west defends itself against dictator states who would rule the world. Or nuke it.

        The Ottoman Empire came into existence July 1299 and was dissolved in the fall of 1923. How that relates to the Afghan blog, here, is a mystery.

        May 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • salerno

        There is a long list of western aggression and 9/11 was a reaction. Radical Islam was born in the late 1700 when Saudi Arabia took over the Ottoman empire. Study history and we can talk.

        May 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        The Ottoman Empire came to an end, as a regime under an imperial monarchy, on November 1, 1922. It formally ended, as a de jure state, on July 24, 1923, under the Treaty of Lausanne. It was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923.

        At the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire continued to control or have suzerainty (albeit nominal) over most of the peninsula. Subject to this suzerainty, Arabia was ruled by a patchwork of tribal rulers (including the House of Saud who had returned from exile in 1902) with the Sharif of Mecca having pre-eminence and ruling the Hejaz. In 1916, with the encouragement and support of Britain (which was fighting the Ottomans in World War I), the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, led a pan-Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire to create a united Arab state. Although the Arab Revolt of 1916 to 1918 failed in its objective, Arabia was freed from Ottoman suzerainty and control by the latter's defeat in World War I.

        May 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        Regarding the origins of Radical Islamism:
        Some Islamic revivalist movements and leaders pre-dating Islamism include

        Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (~1564–1624) was part of "a reassertion of orthodoxy within Sufism" and was known to his followers as the 'renovator of the second millennium'. It has been said of Sirhindi that he 'gave to Indian Islam the rigid and conservative stamp it bears today.'

        Ibn Taymiyyah, a Syrian Islamic jurist during the 13th and 14th centuries who is often quoted by contemporary Islamists. Ibn Taymiyya argued against the shirking of Sharia law, and against practices such as the celebration of Muhammad's birthday or the construction of mosques around the tombs of Sufi sheikhs, believing that these were unacceptable borrowings from Christianity: Many Muslims 'do not even know of the Christian origins of these practices.'

        Shah Waliullah of India and Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab of Arabia were contemporaries who met each other while studying in Mecca. Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab advocated doing away with the later accretions like grave worship and getting back to the letter and the spirit of Islam as preached and practiced by Muhammad. He went on to found Wahhabism. Shah Waliullah was a forerunner of reformists like Muhammad Abduh in his belief that there was "a constant need for new ijtihad as the Muslim community progressed and expanded and new generations had to cope with new problems" and in his interest in the social and economic problems of the poor.

        Sayyid Ahmad Barelvi was a disciple and successor of Shah Waliullah's son and emphasized the 'purification' of Islam from un-Islamic beliefs and practices. He anticipated modern Islamists by leading a jihad movement and attempted to create an Islamic state with strict enforcement of Islamic law. While he waged jihad against Sikhs in North-Western India, his followers fought the British after his death and allied itself with the Indian Mutiny.

        After the failure of the Indian Mutiny some of Shah Waliullah's followers turned to more peaceful methods of preserving the Islamic heritage and founded the Dar al-Ulum seminary in 1867 in the town of Deoband. From the school developed the Deobandi movement which became the largest philosophical movement of traditional Islamic thought in the subcontinent and led to the establishment of thousands of madrasahs throughout modern-dayIndia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Today, Deobandism is represented in Pakistan by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam organization/political party and its splinter groups.

        Early history
        The end of the 19th century saw the dismemberment of most of the Muslim Ottoman Empire by non-Muslim European colonial powers. The empire spent massive sums on Western civilian and military technology to try to modernize and compete with the encroaching European powers, and in the process went deep into debt to these powers.

        In this context, the publications of Jamal ad-din al-Afghani (1837–97), Muhammad Abduh (1849–1905) and Rashid Rida (1865–1935) preached Islamic alternatives to the political, economic, and cultural decline of the empire. Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida formed the beginning of the Salafist movement, as well as the Islamic modernist/secularist movement.

        Their ideas included the creation of a truly Islamic society under sharia law, and the rejection of taqlid, the blind imitation of earlier authorities, which they believed deviated from the true messages of Islam. Unlike some later Islamists, Salafists strongly emphasized the restoration of the Caliphate.

        May 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |

      MICHELEG CNN do not allow me to reply you with historic facts therefore I select this one paragraph to show how a Muslim should be.

      “MICHELEG if you have a human heart then you must think and speak like a human being and you will find no religion on earth preaching against humanity and every religion offer best of the best for the welfare of humanity. This is a new millennium and it has a clear message that a world is a village for all human beings wherein religions, nations and states have lost meaning. Today more then 60% human energy is spent in self destructions (investment in wars and weapons) which could be diverted to fight against disease, social disparities, rising global temperature, natural calamities to save the universe (our joint home) from complete destruction. So find courage, speak the truth, be a good human being and join the March to globalization, leave living in a hole, see and find as this beautiful universe is blessed with all what we need for our comforts and happiness in our limited life on this earth.
      MICHELEG see the difference and also see what we used to leave for our grand children and now after making the world a village what we will leave for them.”

      May 22, 2011 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
    • pamiri

      Yaqobi, its has been very nice event that due to Osama killed by brave soldiers of the united states of america becasue Osama and his allies like Taliban and their slaves in Afghanistan are defaming the name of Islam, they are not Muslims they just do every things for their ignorance and for the money too, they are wild animals and all people who think rasionally are happy on the killing of Osama, and those who are ignorant have no sense for the good of their country and the welfare of the people, then they are not happy on the killing of Osama,

      God is always with good people not with delivs, have trust on this what is said you .

      From Kabul

      May 22, 2011 at 4:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. MicheleG

    why are my posts with my correct ID being denied? CNN moderators?

    May 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • p3c3

      Also it seems to me as if there is a lack of moderators, or something like that. No matter what, my messages which are blocked NEVER get unblocked later on.

      May 21, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • MicheleG

      thanks! I've begun copying my posts so I don't have to totally recreate them when they go poof. I also assume the WP thing kills posts when you use a pseudonym, or too many, too often. It is odd that or troll's posts, as cruel and abusive as they are seem to agree with WP. Maybe it's the ( ).......

      May 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • will

      Because that's the way of the liberal press. Censorship is alive and well here. CNN used to be refered to as the Clinton News Network.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. 360

    Notice how the trolls deliberately ignore the substance of this young woman's essay. I know the news bureau is trying to present various aspects and sides to the Afghanistan story, but posting her story here just gives the uglies a chance, which they quickly took, to hijack yet another thread. Why don't they attend to the present subject which is this young woman's reactions showing the internal (and actual) journey she has had to take to survive? She deserves praise and encouragement for her courage and resilience rather than the intellectual desecration by these monsters.

    May 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. salerno

    Amazing how USA is acting the same policy of OBL in the middle east trying ti overcome many regimes (not those fromm wich they get most of oil).

    May 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan from Chicago, IL

      your a jerk!

      May 20, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan from Chicago, IL


      May 20, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • salerno

      Americans Imposed a con-$ti-tution to Iraq and Afghanistan through violence in order to control those countries, but Taliban did not accept it.

      May 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • MicheleG

        WordPress will not allow a rebuttal to these foolish lies.

        May 20, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. 360

    A well written essay. SO many have been wounded, hurt and negatively affected by the last ten years. We ALL should try to pull together more and overcome this massive mess.

    Here is a young woman who has persevered and set a sterling example. Kudos to her!

    May 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dan from Detroit, MI

    If this doesn't make all the NATO troops in Afghanistan glassy-eyed,I don't know what will unless these troops are gay by some chance! But that I doubt.

    May 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew Lubin

      If not Dan,those broads in the U.S. military will. I've seen pictures of them already. Either way,those bozoes are bound to get satisfaction.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary Johndro


      May 19, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |