(Photos are of the treacherous Afghanistan terrain, Madam Jane in her Afghan burka and a graphic demonstration on how extremely hard it is to see out of the freaking thing!)
I seem to be feeling totally ambivolent and wishy-washy regarding the United States' current occupation of Afghanistan. On the one hand, I really like and respect the MARSOC Marines who are carrying on the mission there right now and really want them to succeed. But on the other hand, war is war. Sure, war creates the ultimate in disposable consumer goods and, sure, we must protect America at all costs. And then there's that strategic oil pipeline and the Great Game with Russia to consider. But on the other hand, war is always your basic zero on a human evolutionary scale of one to ten and should only be used as a LAST RESORT -- if at all.
On the one hand, we really do gotta stop spending our money right and left and also cut down on Big Government -- as conservative Republican teabaggers keep telling us again and again and again (eight years too late, I might add). So perhaps cutting down on the billions of dollars that we now pour into the Afghanistan military money-pit and finally putting a leash on the Pentagon's happy spending spree will make the teabaggers happy. It's certainly worth a try.
Plus if we pulled out of Afghanistan now, then the name of America would stop being associated with the top opium-poppy-growing state on the planet.
But on the other hand, I have been to Afghanistan and talked with several Afghans on the subject of Americans pulling out, and, surprisingly, many Afghans want us to stay. "Of course we want U.S. troops out," they told me, "because we hate being occupied -- but we are also afraid that warlords and religious fanatics will once again rush in to fill the void if the U.S. does leave again."
"America deserted us once," one Afghan told me, "and the results were disastrous to my country. All the horrors of the 1992 civil war and the rise of the Taliban could have been avoided if America had helped us out back in the 1990s instead of turning their backs on us after we had finished serving their purposes with the USSR -- and leaving us to starve, one of the poorest countries in the world."
Plus the Taliban appear to treat women worse than cattle and make them wear burkas. Have you ever tried to wear a burka? I have two of them -- a lovely sky-blue one and a nice purple one. Very stylish. But with one of those over your head, you can't hardly see anything AT ALL. You might as well just go blind. Plus it's hard to breathe inside one. And they don't even make good Halloween costumes. Who wants to trick-or-treating when you can't see a freaking thing -- even though people do give you candy because they think you are just a tall kid dressed up like a purple ghost.... But I digress.
It appears to me that we would be much more likely to bring peace to Afghanistan if we spent most of our money there (that is, if we have any money left to spend) on getting to the real root of the problem in Afghanistan right now -- poverty and desperation. Having a few Marines around is always a bonus, but we still gotta keep our eyes on the bottom line: Economic stability both here and there.
According to Fetrat Zerak of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, "By some estimates, up to 70 per cent of the Taliban are unemployed young men just looking for a way to make a living. In Farah, Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul, and other southern provinces, the majority of insurgents are fighting for money, not ideology." Being a Taliban in Afghanistan has become a lucrative part-time job. If these boys were living in America, I bet they would have become telemarketers instead!
Another potent argument for getting the American military out is the scary example of what happened to the USSR when they invaded Afghanistan and tried to stay there. People died and money was poured down the rat hole but in the end, the USSR had to leave anyway -- licking its wounds as it went.
What to do? What to do? I haven't got a CLUE about what we should do in Afghanistan. So I once again turned to that world-famous accurate predictor of the future, the all-knowing all-seeing Madam Jane. "Should we stay in Afghanistan or leave?" I asked her. "Based on all the evidence, what would you recommend?"
"That's easy, no contest," replied Madam Jane. "Get the freak out NOW. Right now. Today."
"But if we do that, won't the Taliban have won? Won't the women and girls of Afghanistan be endangered?"
"Look, Jane. Look here into this crystal ball. Do you see all those huge mountains, lofty crags, cliffs, canyons, deserts and snowstorms in Afghanistan? That place is all but impossible to live in let alone govern from the other side of the world. How does one get a military supply line going across all that?"
"Plus once the outposts are in place, who's going to man them? Forever? When the youth of America get tired of living out in the middle of nowhere in some forsaken foreign country when they could be home watching CSI, is this whole operation going to be performed by drones? Or is the Afghan army that we are now trying to train going to be able to take over? And if so, who is going to continue to pay these guys? Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has no oil. Where is that money going to come from? When jobs get scarce over here in America, what voting taxpayer is going to ever want to pay Afghan troops for the next 30 years while his little girl runs around in rags?"
"But MJ," I whined. "We just can't go ahead and DESERT the Afghans now!"
"Better now than later," MJ replied. "If we leave now, we might still have some military and financial shirts still left on our backs. But if we leave later, it will be too late, you hear me? Too late!"
"You are wrong, Madam Jane. You are not looking at the facts. You gotta look at the facts!"
"Facts can be manipulated. But the crystal ball never lies. And it is telling me that we must get out now."
Wow. I'd better go talk to President Obama and General Petraeus about this -- and warn them that they'd better get some really strong juju going in Afghanistan RIGHT NOW or else they're gonna find themselves in some really deep dog dookie really soon.
Madam Jane has spoken.
PS: I just got a press release from the "Multi-National Security Transition Command -- Iraq," regarding how the Iraqi Army had just recovered a bunch of stolen antiquities artifacts from local smugglers. "Citizens in Abu El-Kahsib, Bab El-Tawael and El-Amir [facilitated]...the recovery of 235 artifacts by Iraqi Army commandos from smugglers and the subsequent handover of the items to the Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry.... The recovered objects included, among others, gold jewelry,ceramics and stone figurines."
Of course all us history buffs are all fascinated by the discovery of more Babylonian and Sumerian artifacts, but the key words in this important press release are these: "Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq" -- with emphasis on the word "Transition". Hey, it's a step.