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And, yes, I DO take it personally: A view from Kabul: "Protecting Afghans?" Not so much...
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Thursday, October 01, 2009

A view from Kabul: "Protecting Afghans?" Not so much...


some of the warmest relationships and friendliest people i've ever met are among the afghans i deal with on a daily basis... some of them are my professional colleagues, some of them are drivers, and some of them are guards tasked with keeping me not only safe but alive... and i've noticed that they don't respond to all americans the way they respond to me...

i'm not trying to paint myself as anything special but i do go out of my way to smile, ask them how they're doing, how their families are doing, and just generally engage them as decent, fellow human beings... what's stunning is just how much they devour such simple, genuine, person-to-person contact... they're starving for it, particularly from those who are ostensibly here to "help," from those who all too often look down on them as a kind of sub-species...

why would anyone NOT want to engage with these wonderful people and go out of his or her way to extend cheer, a friendly smile and that most lovely of all gestures of friendship common in this part of the world, the right hand over the heart...? isn't expressing warmth to the people we're here to help a large part of what anyone who chooses to be here would want to be sure to do...? unfortunately, most of the ex-pats i know all to often neglect those basic human gestures, opting instead for the look-right-through-you indifference reserved for the general run of fast-food counter employees, airline check-in agents, supermarket cashiers, and the like... my response to those people...? go home... you don't belong here...

meanwhile, the afghans continue to die in record numbers, deaths that have continued unabated for well over thirty years of war, civil war and armed insurgency... the u.s. response...? send more troops, more men with guns... when are we going to wise up...?

Gen. Stanley McChrystal told Congress that the measure of success in Afghanistan should be "the number of Afghans shielded from violence." If that's the case, then his strategy is clearly failing.

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