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I can't remember a recent time Time used their cover this way—to enter an ongoing debate (our involvement in Afghanistan) in such a forceful way (an image that totally and instantly recalibrates your attitude toward something). A glance at a couple recent covers confirms this: The images Time usually runs on its cover are bland, descriptive, and palatable to the point of being slightly cute; they aren't moving any real conversation forward; they aren't surprising. People come across Time magazine everywhere—when they're wasting time at an airport, when they're in line at the grocery store with their kids—which is why an arresting Time cover, like this one, is powerful.

Stupidly, Time hasn't made the whole article available online (as Sullivan notes), and the abridged version of the article (which you should read) begins and ends with Time encouraging you to read Time on your iPad. That's a little silly this week, considering, again, the power of seeing this printed image when you're not expecting it. An image on a screen has nothing on an image you encounter out in the world, an image you didn't ask to see and now suddenly can't get out of your head.

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Time's managing editor wrote about his decision to run this image on the cover. He deserves credit for thinking it through and making the decision he did, which in a sense presents the counter-argument to the subtext of the Rolling Stone article on McChrystal, which basically painted the war in Afghanistan as futile and possibly worthless. As for what's happened to this woman in particular:

The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose.

This didn't happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year. Now hidden in a secret women's shelter in Kabul, Aisha listens obsessively to the news. Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban frightens her. "They are the people that did this to me," she says, touching her damaged face...

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