Belmont Club

Cultural Sensitivity

Four American and two British servicemen  died last week from “insider” attacks — they were killed by Afghan security forces — while an attack on Camp Bastion destroyed 6 Harrier attack aircraft and damaged more. The assault on an aviation base also killed two more men. Bill Roggio writes:

The members of the jihadist assault team were “dressed in U.S. Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests.”

Once inside the perimeter, the assault team “attacked coalition fixed and rotary wing aircraft parked on the flight line, aircraft hangars and other buildings.”

Fortunately, as the Bangkok Post reports, the United States is taking steps to combat insider attacks by issuing a culture guide. “Five thousand copies of a hastily written 28-page brochure have been distributed among 195,000 members of the Afghan army, most of them illiterate, in the latest attempt to clamp down on a phenomenon known as insider killings.” In the estimate of NATO, 3/4 of the attacks are spontaneous.

NATO attributes around 75 percent of the attacks to grudges, misunderstandings and cultural differences, so the Afghan ministry has taken matters into their own hands with avuncular advice for soldiers, even if they can’t read.

More than 10 years after NATO troops came to Afghanistan, Western habits — like winking, swearing and raising the middle finger — need to be spelt out to make sure Afghan troops in the deeply religious country do not feel offended.

“Even minor cultural differences can cause friction and misunderstanding,” says the “Brochure for Comprehending the Culture of the Coalition Forces” before listing taboos in Afghan culture that are seen as perfectly normal in the West.

“A coalition soldier might well walk in front of someone who is praying without realising it, or put their feet up on a table or desk so that they point at people in the room — do not take offence,” the pamphlet said.

Another is blowing your nose in public.

“This practice is very common among coalition member countries. If a coalition force member blows his nose in your presence do not consider it an insult.”

A further cross-cultural minefield is chatting about relatives and showing off pictures of wives and daughters.

One US officer says it is possible to give offense without even knowing it. All you have to do is make the locals realize that you don’t live in a straw hut at home and it fills them with rage.

Army Special Forces Maj. Fernando Lujan, who is currently a visiting fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said these rogue incidents could have been predicted based on lessons from years of working with Afghans. “Everyone is talking about green-on-blue attacks. That is something that we have had a lot of direct experience with in the field,” Lujan said Sept. 4 during a panel discussion hosted by the Center for National Policy, in Washington, D.C.

“Friction [has been] generated as a result of a large force presence,” said Lujan. The contrast between NATO and Afghan force size and wealth, too, can be overwhelming for some recruits, he said.

“When you have a force ratio of 100 Americans sitting on a base to 20 Afghans living in straw huts,” a sense of humiliation could drive an Afghan to commit a violent act, Lujan said. “We forget they’ve been living there for six or seven years with limited opportunities to see their families. And we’re there with all the advantages that we have,” he said. “It gets very easy to forget about what they think, consider their opinion and bring them onboard for planning,” Lujan said.

Incidents in Libya suggested that anything can set off a wave of murderous hatred in America. Ambassador Susan Rice called the attacks on the US consular offices there “spontaneous”. They just happened when the locals heard of a YouTube video which they presumably could not watch themselves for lack of a computer and Internet connection. Perhaps it was the inability to watch it due to the lack of WiFi that ‘humiliated’ them.

A deadly assault on a U.S. consulate in Libya was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Sunday, even as Libya’s president insisted the attackers spent months preparing and carefully choosing their date — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks….

Rice’s depiction of the chain of events contrasted with one offered by Libya’s Interim President Mohammed el-Megarif, who said Sunday there was no doubt the perpetrators had predetermined the date of the attack.

“It was planned, definitely. It was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago,” el-Megarif said. “And they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.”

There are signs that another spontaneous event is brewing in Syria. Reuters reports cites a French physician from Doctors Without Borders who says that foreign fighters are pouring into the burgeoning civil war from all points of the compass.

In an interview with Reuters in his central Paris apartment on Saturday, the 71-year-old said that contrary to his previous visits to Homs and Idlib earlier this year about 60 percent of those he had treated this time had been rebel fighters and that at least half of them had been non-Syrian.

“It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar al-Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterwards and set up an Islamic state with sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” the doctor said.

The foreign jihadists included young Frenchmen who said they were inspired by Mohammed Merah, a self-styled Islamist militant from Toulouse, who killed seven people in March in the name of al-Qaeda.

Assad himself has consistently maintained that the 17-month-old insurgency against him is largely the work of people he refers to as “foreign-backed terrorists” and says his forces are acting to restore stability.

If a US consulate is sacked and burned in Syria after the fall of Assad it will doubtless be spontaneous. Another future surprise may be in the offing in Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says “Iran was just six to seven months away from being able to build a nuclear bomb, adding urgency to his demand that President Barack Obama set a clear ‘red line’ for Tehran in what could deepen the worst US-Israeli rift in decades.” He shouldn’t worry. Another culture guide will be issued and all will be well.  Without the dastardly provocation of a YouTube video the Israeli-Iranian situation can be managed by buying the world a Coke.

The real culprit for everything — the producer of a YouTube video — is shown below.

I Ruined the President's Genius Plan

Although it has not received much play, a report from NBC relates the efforts of young Pakistanis who disagree with the spontaneity theory. They believe it is necessary to oppose the rise of theocracy and um, ah … outrage against America … in their own countries to prevent their countries from becoming entirely toxic.

Ali Abbas Zaidi knows all about that anger. When he went to school on September 12, 2001, he was shocked by what he found.

“Some of my friends, they were congratulating each other,” Zaidi says. “They were like, ‘Congrats — 3,000 people have died in America.'”

Zaidi, a soft-spoken 26-year old who was studying to become an aeronautical engineer, smiles in disbelief as he recounts the story.

“That was the changing point for me,” says Zaidi. “I was like, ‘How can you be so sick,’ you know? Being a human being that you’re happy on the death of 3,000 innocent people?”

Zaidi worked to trace back the dominant collective mindset he saw in so many of his peers. He found elements perpetuated early in life by the educational system, and reinforced at various stages by religious, social, and political leaders. It is a mindset, he says, that glorifies violence and conservatism, and leaves the country’s youth vulnerable to manipulation by ideological and cultural forces.

These Pakistanis are risking their lives for a delusion. There is no toxic meme threatening their countries. It was all spontaneous. There was probably YouTube in Pakistan back in 2001 but the West didn’t know about it.

Zaidi is obviously the victim of Islamophobia and will probably receive sensitivity training as soon as he can be helped. Nor should he work with Americans lest his name be recorded on some computer or file stored in a US Embassy which may then found by persons spontaneously attacking and burning the diplomatic compound. Fortunately for the United States, the adults are in charge and the success of President Obama’s Middle Eastern diplomacy is momentarily expected.  To Zaidi: go to Bulgaria. It’s safer there.

We've Got the Jihadis Surrounded Now

Yes, another culture guide and the enemy won’t be able to escape.

Lay Thy Healing Hands Upon Them Barack, That They Mayest Forget YouTube


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