~ Victory in Marjah sounds a little bit too familiar.
I think that there may be a great new undercurrent rising, bigger than Vietnam, a massive upwelling of people in America and across the world united in the one great cause – to end the Afghan War. “Pull Out”, pull out now, it was the cry then and it is the cry now and once again. We don’t need a body count from Marjah (Marja) to know that things are wrong. It’s very simple, really. We know that war is wrong. There are no “good” wars or the headlines would have said, “City of Hiroshima bombed, 50,000 women and children dead.” Instead the papers carried a picture of the August mushroom cloud and subheads about an “army base”. Google “Hiroshima Army Base” and try and find it on a map just for laughs or just to get my point.
Today’s headline is just about the same, “Victory in Marjah”, CNN prefers to add the “h” as if “give em ell, Harry” would have taken the punch out of the “H-bomb”; the bomb at Hiroshima had no “h” but it was “ell” anyway if you were there. The real name when spelled in English or American is “Marja”, posted about this yesterday, you can see the map yourself on Google images under “Marja” (Helmand Valley – 1956). You can’t win wars with spin and lies and hot-headed rushes to judgment and journalism fast and dirty. That was THE lesson of Vietnam. Start with the truth and build slowly. All else, including peace, will in time follow.
The CNN news (I should say “news”, because CNN spins the news in such an untrue way) story ran a picture actually (they said) from Marjah (but then again there is that sloppy “h” which puts everything in doubt). There are so few real pictures from Marja, some attributed to Marja fighting show too many hills (as background), assume that no one has really been there. Where are all the cell phone pictures from the 15,000 Americans “hanging out” in this “town” of 80,000? Pictures posted on the net of “bazaars” filled with grains and spices and switchblade knives and T-Shirts that say “Taliban” or “Taliban is Bad” which might be good, but I don’t know – I’m not there; or not there yet. Because is “bad” bad or good?
So now we have a picture, with a flag, with people standing (maybe with guns) around the edges and what looks like a photo-cropped crowd of smaller people huddled in the center. The photo is taken of a field, notice the small berms of earth everywhere – the Afghan way of watering, small flooded plots, there are no pipes for irrigation in Marja. Everything is gravity and water flowing along the lines of least resistance, no pressure, just the flow and the water to each pond; and when it is time the flow is cut-off with just one small shovel full of earth.
So a people who can grow a million pounds of poppies without so much as ten feet of PVC need “telephones, computers and other electronics”. That is what NATO said (read Stanley T. McChrystal).
And CNN said “new shops” have opened (in Marja) as if the recovery in Afghanistan is about new jobs and not about the Taliban after-all. It sounds like Marja is ready for a new Wal-Mart, the fear (of the Taliban) is gone and people there can open their wallets and start spending again. But wait, if it works for Afghanistan, why not here? Maybe it is only the fear of the Taliban in America that keeps those wallets all locked-up tight. Think about it.
So let me know when the Marja pictures start flooding in; pictures of T-shirts and TV’s and electronic game-boys and halter-tops for the summer heat in all the bazaars of this Little America mostly made up. That is the point. We are fighting a virtual war in Afghanistan; no real towns, no real troops, no real enemy worth fighting. It is a media war, with no greater depth than your LED TV screen; except that some Afghan civilians die each day, along the way, scenes that the American TV’s never seem to capture.
Show me photographs of the power lines into Marja, of the telephone exchange, of the cell towers everywhere. Show me the merchandize in the bazaars; the imports from Pakistan and Iran and Kazakhstan and India and even Russia like there was when I was there, in Kabul or in Ghazni or in Lashkar Gah or just about everywhere with a population over 1,000. Americans took pictures of these things even then (in 1958 and 1959 and 1960) and film was really scarce. Why do Americans not take pictures of those things now? Send in your Stars and Stripes reporters, let Bill Mauldin sketch a scene, do a documentary on Victory In The Desert, cameras always rolling as if there was something real to report.
This is a clash of cultures. It was too in 1959. There are no railroads in Afghanistan because the Afghans knew that with railways came Empire and with empire came war. The Afghans don’t really want new roads and more roads and super-highways to a rebuilt Bamian or lakefront resorts at Band-i-amir. It is not about skiing the Hindu Kush or white-water rafting the Kabul Gorge. Afghanistan is better than all of that. Its people deserve better than all of that. Why do we fight? Is Big America not enough, not corporate enough, not ruined enough? Why can’t we be content to keep our waste just here, why must we always seek to export it, to find new worlds or old worlds to trash?
Some say that my posts are cryptic. I guess I assume a lot from my readers. I assume they can and want to and will THINK. I assume that they know a lot or know when they don’t know what they don’t know and will want to find out about what they don’t know (about). I assume that my readers know that violence is basically wrong, greed IS wrong, and ignorance is not bliss because it is always fatal. I also assume that everyone has a sense of humor and is capable of a dry wit and knows the difference between the two.
Having said all that, and since it is spring and it was April 1st (1959) when I left Carson City for Afghanistan and no one knew then where or what “Afghanistan” was (and most people still don’t) I guess it is time to play more of my old Afghan hand and share more of the memories and make a better case for Afghanistan and the Afghans than seems to be being made out there now. I guess I (like you) were expecting to find water towers in Marja, little signs of American aid and progress; Laundromats, not men washing clothes in the nearby ditches; fire hydrants on the corners, fire trucks shined up in the firehouse like any community of 80,000 in America might have. Get your checkbooks ready; saving Marja is going to cost a bundle and after that a whole lot more – like Hiroshima, we will have to rebuild the place from scratch.
[2010.02.25 / Thursday – Hiroshima Army Base]