Wednesday, June 22, 2005



I'm not claiming I know more about Afghanistan than Bush and his advisors do just because I spent
almost a year there in the late 1960s (and again in the early 70s). Theoretically, they (although not Bush himself, a self-admitted and notorious non-reader) may have even read some of the same history books about Afghanistan that I read. The problem with the current U.S. regime and with their so-called policies in Afghanistan is that they don't base them on hard facts but on ideological, usually simpleminded preconceptions. Their black and white world-view seems to work well enough in the backward U.S. electoral districts of Mississippi, Utah, Texas and Kentucky, but not at all in the reality-bound universe where pigs don't fly and when running into a brick wall hurts your head.

Alexander the Great more or less conquered "Afghanistan," although even when I was there a couple of thousand years after Alexander, most of the people I met outside of the capital city didn't really recognize a country we call Afghanistan. The king of Kabul managed to get his hands on U.S. and Soviet weapons and jigger the local balance of power in his favor. So he was claiming to be the king of... Afghanistan. The folks in Kandihar didn't see it quite the same way. And neither did the guys in Herat or Mazar-i-Sharif-- and those are the big "metropolitan" areas (they had some electricity). And even Alexander had to put his lover aside for a while and marry some local king's daughter to shore up his very tenuous "control" over the area. After Alexander no one conquered Afghanistan. Shortly before I got there the Americans and Russians built the first paved roads. There were exactly zero miles of railroad track. If you look in Webster's under "remote cut off backwater" you might find a picture of Afghanistan. Only two things unite the people who live there: their love for Islam and their hatred of foreigners. They united, albeit briefly, to destroy two superpowers who invaded them in the past: the British and, more recently, the Russians. And in stumbles George W. Bush, babbling about "a crusade."

Today I saw an AP story under the headline "Dozens Killed as US, Afghan Troops Fight Rebels." The AP, which tepidly acknowledges "fears that the Afghan war is widening, rather than winding down," is gonna get in trouble with Darth Cheney if they don't change their tune. For whatever reasons-- like between 25 and 40 million of them killed during the unpleasantries of the1940s-- the Russians can be pretty brutal, far more brutal and far less sensitive than even a pack of Alabama rednecks. But all that brutality (and a pretty short supply line) didn't prevent the Russian's ignomious defeat at the hands of the backward Afghan tribes a few short years ago.  "We are not letting up on the enemy and will continue to pursue them until the fighting stops. Coalition and Afghan forces will continue to defeat these militants for as long as necessary to ensure the people of Afghanistan remain free of oppression and tyranny," said a U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara. I have a feeling Lt. Col. O'Hara has not read the same books Bush hasn't read. If he wants to talk about endurance, he better pack up now and come home and save a lot of lives. The Afghans will all die before they let America and its corporations conquer them.



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