I lived in Kabul nearly fifty years ago. It was enchanting and dangerous. I lived on a wide and gracious street lined with trees. We had electricity, phones, hot and cold running water, and marble bathrooms. There was a movie theatre and an American-style cafeteria restaurant. Bazaars flourished, mosques shimmered, a thousand (all male) tea-houses thrived. Barefoot boys scurried bearing tea for businessmen all day long.
It is gone, all gone–mainly due to the Arab jihadis, (bin Laden’s boys), the Soviets, and the native reactionary Islamists. They all bear enormous responsibility for this tragedy as do all the Arab and Muslim regimes who failed to stop bin Laden and who instead spent all their time and resources scapegoating Israel. America? First, we mainly neglected Afghanistan, then we funded what became the Taliban as part of our titanic struggle with Soviet Russia. Finally, after 9/11, we went in to rid the country of the Arab jihadis. That battle is still underway.
Here’s a verbal snapshot of Kabul today. It was written by an American businessman who wrote to a friend of mine who forwarded his words to me. He has a dry and ironic wit and a keen eye. His information is accurate and utterly heartbreaking.
“First of all, the roads aren’t paved. Also, there are no street lights. Not a lot of trees. That’s because almost all of the trees in the country have been cut down for firewood. They’re digging up the roots now. That’s in Kabul.
Second, there must be something strange about the gene pool there because there aren’t any women. I was there six days and there are 100 men in the streets for every woman. And most of them are completely covered. I didn’t see one Afghani couple on a date. In fact, I didn’t see anybody on a date. The restaurants have guards with Ak47’s and double sets of walls to avoid the car bombers. In case you don’t speak Pushto or English, there are big signs with pictures of AK47s x’d out in red just so everybody understand the dress code if you want to eat.
Third, nobody can read. And there is not a lot of room for improvement there because I saw an awful lot of kids in the street begging or working. It was reassuring that none of them were younger then 5. Well, I’m not sure, some of them might have been 4.”
Fourth, no one in the American Embassy is allowed to leave. To eat, to go shopping, even to fool around–assuming that there was anyone to fool around with or someplace to go. They can go to a private house if there is enough security.
Fifth, the Army allows it’s personnel to leave to go out, but they have to be in an armored vehicle. The part about that is that the tactics seem to be completely different from the Petreaus handbook which is a work of genius. Even the soldiers say they are going out of their minds. Its really hard to stay fit and alert in a compound.
Sixth, there may be some infrastructure improvement or improvement in living conditions but even in Kabul, electricity is intermittent for most of the population and even running water is not completely available. Absolutely no one thinks that there is a significant improvement in the standard of living and the rural areas are probably worse because of the war.
Seventh, everyone agrees that the situation is much worse then it was two years ago.
I did like a lot of the people I met, very polite. I love the little ritual they have of going A Salam Alechem and put their hand over their heart. I bet you didn’t know that praying five times a day is a great way to keep limber. They have these small bananas which are excellent when they’re ripe. There is a great history of rug weaving in the country–pretty much the exclusive work of women. The new rugs are magnificent. I bought so many rugs that I have probably supported almost as many women over there that I have over here.
The only two businesses in the country are war and drugs and if you are in one, you’re probably in both.
People do hate the Taliban and our support is not based on money. People want money from us but they want their daughters to have lives. The Taliban destroys things just because they’re beautiful. Buildings, gardens, pictures. Their strategy is very well thought out, their power base in Southern Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan is viable economically because of drugs and has great geography for their purposes. Their leadership is resolute, innovative, and completely dedicated.”
I was told by someone who has now asked me to remove his comments that many Afghan officials are “Marxists” and “Maoists.” If so–even if this is true a little bit– why has the Western media not focused on this? Have they done so and did I miss it? Did you all know this? What can this mean? Perhaps there are radically different analyses out there; please share them with me.
We still have no word about the kidnapped American woman, Syd Mizell. The warlords continue to terrorize. The young Afghan blogger still sits in jail, condemned to death. Western support is viewed as only endangering him further.