Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Get those women out of there!

This blog post was originally published on August 19, 2010, but the story, published in the New York Times on January 10, 2015  about the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram using a girl perhaps no older than ten as a suicide bomber, caused me to freshly bemoan the fact that we seem to be able to no nothing for the girls and women victimized by these barbarians.  As always, when no redress seems possible, I resort to my old standby: revenge fantasies. So, once again, how I, in my perfect world, propose to deal with these assholes.

There are a whole lot of reasons we need to get out of Afghanistan, but I can’t help but be terribly concerned about the plight of Afghani women left to the Taliban’s devices.  Last week Time Magazine’s cover picture was of an eighteen year old girl whose nose had been cut off not to spite her face, but for running away from abusive in-laws.   How bad women’s lives have been under the Taliban, indeed, how bad they are in any of the places where harsh Sharia law applies, is hardly hot news. On the other hand, I’ve never seen someone whose nose has been cut off. It’s sobering.

I used to rail a good deal against religion because of the many bad things that are done in its name.  Then I read Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World and realized that it’s people who do bad things and, if they don’t justify it by religion, they will justify it by some other means. Or not.  Maybe St. Augustine was right.  Maybe we’re just bad.

Or maybe it’s the men who are bad.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have two wonderful brothers, an incredible father and a fantastic husband.  I have a lovely son, great male friends and colleagues. . . .  They are not bad.  But in the case of Aisha, the girl whose nose was cut off by her husband while her brother-in-law held her and the Taliban judge looked on. . . .  I’m sorry. Those guys are BAD.

Or maybe they’re just Biblical.

Let’s not forget that Muslims consider the Bible one of Islam’s holy books: according to Muslims, the Bible was God’s unfolding revelation, only (again, according to Muslims) the Jews didn’t get it quite right, which meant that God had to make another stab at getting his people, whichever people that actually was, back on track:  ergo, “Chosen People?  Take Two.” Moreover, both Hebrews and Arabs are considered Semitic peoples, who share the same subgroup of Afroasiatic languages. In other words, they’re kissing cousins. Which is why we shouldn’t be overly surprised the same horrendous punishments proscribed in Sharia law, can also be found in the Bible.

Here’s the difference: some of us have moved on.

Sure, stoning was the punishment for eighteen different crimes under Jewish law. However, in the early years of the Common Era, the Sanhedrin – essentially, the Jewish lawmaking body – effectively put the kibosh on capital punishment.  After 30 AD (CE), no more stoning.  Or, at least, no more legally sanctioned stoning.

Fast forward two thousand years and they’re still stoning and mutilating people in IranSaudi ArabiaSomalia, and those portions of Afghanistan under Taliban.  Hello!  Time Warp!  Get with the program, fellows!  You’re loathsome barbarians! Aren’t you embarrassed?

Apparently not.

Americans believe in freedom of religion, but you don’t notice Scott Roeder, the nut job who shot abortion provider George Teller, getting a pass because he thought murdering somebody was God’s will.  Isn’t there some way we can protect these women from their ridiculous men? Because, trust me.  No woman, no matter how pious and fundamentalist her upbringing,  believes that she deserves her frigging nose and ears cut off for running away from an unhappy domestic situation, and, if she does, she should be rescued because she has been brow-beaten to the point of being delusional.

“Off with his . . . everything!” Monty Python’s The Holy Grail

As this long war winds down, the accepted wisdom is that no outside power, no matter how Super, has proven capable of conquering Afghanistan.  I have a plan. Let’s poll the men and see who thinks Sharia law is a good idea.  Then let’s airlift any of the men who think otherwise, along with every last woman and child the Hell out of that Hell hole; let’s take them with us when we go.  We owe them that much, surely.  Then we can sit by and watch as the men left behind destroy one another one appendage at a time, rather reminiscent of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.

It shouldn’t take long.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Through the Looking Glass and into the Fire: Afghanistan and America’s longest war

What a difference nine (and counting) years make. Sort of like stepping through the proverbial looking glass: it turns out that nothing is as it seems. Good wars turn out to be bad ones; a righteous cause is revealed to be baseless; we sacrifice on the altar of our presumption the very people whom we say we are trying to save, whose hearts and minds we say we aspire to win. Oh, we swear up and down that they matter, but they don’t.  Not really.  Otherwise we would have probably made a greater effort to stop killing what the now disgraced General McChrystal characterized as an “amazing” number of them.

Sure, they all look alike – raggedy and dusty and like they live in a country that’s been bombed into the Stone Age. . . . Oh, right.  It has been bombed into the Stone Age.  Or it’s dark and they have guns.  Oh, and what about that unfortunate habit of theirs of shooting off guns to celebrate a wedding or driving rapidly towards checkpoints while gesticulating wildly – never advisable given our understandably jumpy troops. And what’s with the bad guys not wearing uniforms? That way you’d at least know who’s side somebody’s on before he. . . say . . . blows himself up  so as to take out you and a few of your buddies.

The crux of the problem is that we’re out of sync: we’re waging a war and they’re . . . well . . . they’re messin’ with us.  Let’s face it. The Afghanis are wedged in between a rock and a hard place with nary an iota of wiggle room.  If they co-operate with NATO forces, the Taliban does bad things to them; if they co-operate with the Taliban, NATO troops do bad things to them.  It’s what you might call a lose/lose situation. The only way to chose between two, very painful evils is proximity – the guys who are within striking distance. . . . That’s who you side with.  For the time they are within striking distance. The hearts and minds of the Afghanis aren’t for sale; they’re for rent. By the hour.  And, frankly, under those circumstances, mine would be too.

The United Nations recently published the results of a study to determine the prevalence of drug use in Afghanistan. It reveals that 800,000 Afghans, 7% of the adult population of 14 million, are drug users – a disturbingly high percentage when compared to other countries and one that is steadily rising.

Under the circumstances, who can blame them?

Obama established an end time to our involvement in Afghanistan back in December 2009.  It can’t come soon enough. It’s time we picked up our toys and went home.

Tagged ,

A Warrior Falls on His Sword . . . or Shoots Himself in the Foot. Which is it, McChrystal?

When asked by PBS Newshour what General Stanley McChrystal could have been thinking when he mouthed off to Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, retired generals Dan McNeill and Merrill McPeak appeared genuinely baffled. They alluded to McChrystal’s no-nonsense, gruff and blunt manner and pointed out that he had evidently spent insufficient time in situations requiring tact and diplomacy. However, it was pretty clear that they were not convinced that this was the whole story.   McPeak, who appeared stunned throughout, referred to McChrystal twice as a “Warrior,” hesitating a moment before he uttered the word as though he wasn’t sure how that word, so loaded,  would play in the modern world outside gaming circles.

I have no doubt that McChrystal is a Warrior . . . one with a capital W.  Joe Klein describes him as an extraordinary soldier, but one who is pathologically incapable of not speaking his mind.  However, I’m not sure McChrystal . . . or it . . . is that simple.

Let’s review the history of our engagement in Afghanistan.  Bush plunged us into this war in retaliation for 9/11 and to get Osama Bin Laden dead or alive.   I’m actually not going to fault him for that.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Probably we should have looked before we leapt . . . and realized that  Afghanistan defies military occupation and has for millennia, that the words that greet visitors as they arrive at the Kabul International Airport might properly be those that  greeted sinners entering Hell in Dante’s Inferno:  “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”   Instead, we came, we saw, we thought we conquered, we declared premature victory and off we dashed to Iraq to destroy that country.   Having accomplished  Operation Iraqi Ruination, we turned our sites back on Afghanistan to discover that it had – OMG! – metastasized.    What to do?

What to do, indeed?

That was the  conundrum with which Obama had to deal when he took office (conundrum in the sense of a logical postulation evading resolution):  1) how to slink out of Iraq while saving sufficient face to show ourselves on the world stage after that particular embarrassing and devastating debacle; and 2) how to get out of Afghanistan without looking like a bunch of tribal yahoos whopped our technologically superior asses. In an earlier blog, I referred to the war in Afghanistan as a tar pit – easy enough to clamber into, hard as Hell to get out of, and virtually impossible to emerge from not besmirched.

What are Obama’s current options in Afghanistan? The Left wants him to bail; the Right wants him to hunker down and win.  The Left wants out yesterday.  The Right doesn’t care how long it takes, so long as we WIN, goddam it!  Of course, this is all hypothetical because victory in Afghanistan is impossible. This isn’t a conventional war, after all; it’s a police action and, boy, are those bad guys are winning! Worse and much more conclusive, they’ll be there long after we leave and, possession being nine tenths of the law, that’ll be the end of that.

So, what’s a President to do?  After a lengthy review of the war effort and much consultation with generals, Obama decided to compromise.  (Was this a good idea?  How the Hell do I know?  Can you have a good idea when it comes to Afghanistan?)  He nearly triples the force he inherited as Commander in Chief, giving the Generals and the Right more or less what they wanted; then, to appease the Left, he promises to start drawing down troops in July 2011, to, in effect, end the war at a more or less specific point in time.  In other words, he gave the Generals what they said they needed to win on their terms and then he’s getting us the Hell out of there, no matter what. He’s ending the war and trying to put the best face on it that he possibly can.

Oh, now, stop your fulminations!

Lefties, remember the scene in Saigon when we all of a sudden pulled out of Vietnam.  Do we want to a repeat of that in Afghanistan?  I don’t know if I’m prepared to sit through a performance of Miss Saigon set in Kandahar.

Righties, stop foaming at the mouth.  We’re losing! Sometimes America loses!  No, really. Suck it up.

As for the military brass. . . .

Well, that is where McChrystal’s very public insubordination comes in. As McPeak pointed out, McChrystal is a Warrior.  He’s not a police chief.  He’s not an administrator.  He sees that our offensive is on the defensive, that our “war” effort is circling the drain, that our attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people are offset by their desire to keep their heads.  And, as a Warrior, a proud Warrior, he can’t stomach it; for sure, he doesn’t want to be associated with it.  I don’t believe for a nano second that McChrystal did not fully intend for his remarks and those of his closest aides to appear in print. I don’t know whether he knew he’d be fired, but I suspect he did.  After all, that way there could be no question that the unspeakable nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan is Obama’s war and not McChrystal’s.

Move over you three Afghan officers who,  as reported by Time, shot yourselves in the foot when your battalion’s combat tour was extended so that you could get medevacked the Hell out of Hell.  Make a little  room on the heli  for Stanley.

Tagged , , , ,