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Time Editor Rick Stengel on Controversial Afghanistan Cover

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In an interview with Katie Couric today for @katiecouric, Time Magazine editor Rick Stengel addressed his magazine's controversial cover showing a mutilated woman and the headline "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan." The accompanying story discusses the Taliban's repressive treatment of women. (See the cover image below.)

Asked by Couric why there wasn't a question mark at the end of that tagline, Stengel replied, "I think we answer questions. I don't think we ask them." (Watch at left.)

"The story has a strong point of view saying, in fact, the role of women has been enhanced," he said. "It has been modernized. You know girls are going to school. Women are in parliament. Women are on television. Their lives have changed in different parts of Afghanistan."

"And so I wanted people to be confronted with the idea that there are consequences of us leaving," he said. "Consequences on humanitarian grounds, consequences that people will understand and relate to, particularly women can relate to. So I wanted this to be a factor in the conversation going forward."

Some have criticized Stengel's magazine for taking what they see as a position on whether the United States should stay in Afghanistan.

Liberal pundit Matthew Yglesias wrote that "it's extremely disingenuous to act as if continued American military engagement in Afghanistan is the key to preventing further cases of girls like Aisha from being maimed for violations of retrograde notions of gender norms."

And FAIR said that "It is difficult to imagine the magazine proposing the opposite: a headline like 'What Happens If We Stay in Afghanistan,' accompanied by a photo of the corpse of an Afghan child killed in an airstrike or a house raid."

Stengel also addressed his decision to run the photo on Time's website.

"...bad things do happen to people, and it is part of our job to confront and explain them," he wrote. "In the end, I felt that the image is a window into the reality of what is happening -- and what can happen -- in a war that affects and involves all of us. I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan."

Jodi Bieber / INSTITUTE for TIME
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