Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Don’t forget your Zoloft next time you go to Afghanistan

My, my. Farah it trying REAL hard not to give a positive spin to what is going on in Afghanistan. I guess she just wants to keep the editors happy. It is funny, when you look how slow history and cultures change, one would think that an assessment of AF would start with “Look at what is positive…” and then go to the “..but…” line. Oh, no. A free registration req'd, but give her bit a read. Here is some of it.
This is Afghanistan today: Luxury Hummers among horse carts. Great hospitality amid the ruins of civil war. And dust. Everything is the color of dust -- the people, the houses, even the trees.
Um, yea. That is what happens in that climate. Come visit New Mexico with me sometime. Ditto.
Four years after the United States launched the war to topple the Taliban regime that harbored Osama bin Laden, the country hangs between stability and chaos, progress and stagnation, intermittent war and sputtering peace.
Who started what war? 11 SEP 01? I know we aren’t supposed to remind folks of that and all….. and when in, well, the entire history of AF has the country NOT dealt with chaos, stagnation, intermittent war? Could it be the US, Coalition forces, and NATO have helped bring the balance represented by stability, progress, and sputtering peace?
Four years and $61.4 billion in US spending later, Afghanistan is a work in progress, where 18,000 US troops still engage in deadly battles with insurgents and where reconstruction efforts have crawled forward far more slowly than initially planned.
''There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and interest in getting things done quickly," said Alonzo Fulgham, a Dorchester native who heads the USAID mission here. ''We have to be very careful that we manage expectations in this country."
Farah, he is talking to you.
Commercial buildings, some financed by drug barons and others by businessmen recently returned from exile, feature never-before-seen wonders: Afghanistan's first escalator and modern shopping mall, complete with a metal detector at the door; a coffee shop that would not look out of place in Paris; and showrooms full of flat-screen televisions, Beverly Hills Polo Club watches, and Turkish suits that almost no one here can afford.

But for most residents, Kabul is still a city of antique rugs, open sewers, and mud houses built into the hillsides. For those residents, the face of progress is far more subtle.

Often, it is just enjoying entertainment outlawed by the strict religious rule of the Taliban.

Boys fly battered kites from rooftops, a national pastime that had been banned. A chess club has opened, where bearded men in camouflage fatigues ponder military strategy on a black-and-white board rather than on a battlefield.

''Voice of Sharia," the only TV channel under the Taliban, has been replaced by a handful of stations that show Indian musicals and international news. The main Kabul cinema has reopened, advertising an action movie with a bikini-clad heroine, her bottom half covered with a piece of white construction paper.

Girls in white head scarves and black gowns fill the afternoon streets on their way to school, which they were barred from attending under the Taliban. But the streets are also filled with children begging and selling chewing gum, too poor to take advantage of the new schools. Warlords who once destroyed the city fighting one another in ethnic turf wars now duke it out at the ballot box. Larger-than-life billboards left over from the recent parliamentary election show female candidates, now free to participate in politics. They gaze down on burka-clad women begging for money and work below.

A short distance outside the capital, the signs of progress fade. The road east winds past a vast no man's land dotted by adobe villages that have seen little change in the past four years.
…and on and on an on. She shows some light and then feels a need to smother it in darkness.

It seriously looks like Farah forgot to bring her anti-depressants when she went on her press junket. I am a true believer at looking at both sides of a story, but this seems so cut-n-paste and broken up - almost as if she wrote a posititive story then felt the need to throw in some negative. Either that or she pre-wrote a story, went to AF and thought, "Wow, there are some good things here, but I don't want my fellow journalists to think I am so unsophisticated as to write a Miss Mary Sunshine article. I'll just type in some of the good things inside my template."

What did she expect? Through three Anglo-Afghan Wars and a Soviet-Afghan War over the last 150 or so years in addition to the fratricide, I think we are doing pretty good in that history mutilated culture. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Jeffersonian democracy won’t take root in a generation, if then. It never will if no one is willing to give the folks in AF a chance. Cut them some slack.

Baby steps. Baby steps. Make no mistake, AF is making progress – let’s not quit on her.

Farah seems a bit standard issue for her Harvard background. Maybe with more seasoning ….. she has some good international credentials, but with her US experience centered around Mass., I don’t have much hope for the depth for the intellectual diversity of her peer group. Sad, sharp cookie; and a personal writing style that just needs to break through the Bi-coastal cant.

My dear Farah; I don't know what is going on with your life. If you feel the need to please your editors, don't. If you don't have a diversity of opinion in your peer group - hunt around for some new friends or new social settings. If you are already stuck with a certain worldview, well that could make things difficult. But, in case it is the problem, take your medication with you next time you travel – please. Drop me an email, I’ll get you some. Like they say in the souk, “For you my friend, special-special price.”

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