Gassing Puppies, Burning Women, and Playing Tennis

Paula Loyd
Paula Loyd

While originally lamenting the “distraction” from discussing the invasion of Gaza by shifting the focus to the story of a single person, the now deceased Paula Loyd, I realize that was the wrong reaction. The story of Loyd is not that of a single actor, unless one focuses it that way, and it encapsulates many of the same colonial and imperial themes to be found in the war against the people of Gaza. In that vein, I offer some further commentary.

In the mass of the usual racist and jingoistic commentary to which Danger Room plays host, and perhaps we should thank them for these fragments of insight into the mentality of some of their readers, as an example of the intellectual monstrosities being generated or nurtured by an American culture of war and fear, I was particularly impressed by those who nonetheless tried to bring some balance and perspective to the discussion provoked by Loyd’s death, in particular these two comments:

My heart goes out to all of the Paula Loyds not blond enough, not pretty enough, not white enough, not Christian enough, not American enough to warrant mourning when maimed or murdered for having the temerity to live on top of natural resources America claims as its own.

A little perspective…

She wasn’t killed walking her kids to school or to the local library. She was killed as a willing member of an imperial force which deprives sovereign human beings of life and property in direct violation of international and moral law. (source)


These aren’t just social scientists. They are employed by the US military to conduct research with a goal of helping the military more effectively carry out the occupation. If I were living in a country that had a much stronger foreign power occupying it, I would probably consider such people valid targets as well. (source)

Otherwise, a great many of the other comments ironically serve to undo whatever they allege was the great good done by Loyd in building bridges of understanding, lessening opportunity for American cultural offense, and loving the Afghan people she was trying to supposedly help. Instead, they opt for extremely vulgar expressions of racism and hatred against Afghan people. It seems that Loyd’s work would have had better application at home, perhaps as a missionary among the readers at Danger Room itself, as it degenerates into a substitute for the Aryan Nation’s website when it is not serving as the Pentagon’s better buying guide to the newest military gadgetry. But that is just my opinion.

Florence Nightingale

The larger issues raised here have to do with what some consider to be imperial and right behaviour. It is a serious mistake to reduce imperialism to aggressive military action alone — indeed, in the literature on imperialism since the late 19th century, military force is neither the central nor necessary component in understanding imperialism. This is apparently irrelevant to those who claim that Loyd was unarmed — as if that mattered, since she was traveling in the company of both soldiers and at least one mercenary, Don Ayala. Attached to a military unit, and the fact that she was a low ranking army officer, seems to vanish as some translate her into a “noncombatant” akin to a nurse, doctor, or priest. As expected, for some her image has morphed into one of a saint, even a Joan of Arc. At the extreme, she is cast as some kid doing a social science project for school. As an American, killed abroad by an opponent of American domination, in the minds of some she automatically becomes a hero; heroism is also transferred to the mercenary, Don Ayala, and for some the death of Loyd offers convenient cover for Ayala. So many transfers are being made, that soon the entire Human Terrain System will be made to look like a battalion of righteous Joans of Arc. Indeed, there is little doubt that was the cynical intention behind some of the propaganda that was mounted in blogworld just in time for the leaked news of Loyd’s death.

CNN's petsAt another extreme, she is raised as a martyr for the great American feminist cause, which right wing America only discovered once it invaded Afghanistan and decided that it would assume the right to chart another nation’s course and rewire its society to be more aligned with American interests. There was a moment, early on, when it also seemed the American state might even adopt an animal rights discourse, when the media began to release videos of golden puppies being used by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to test poisonous gas — except that they were  more likely American videos, filmed in the U.S., and that story was dropped.

There is a growing theme here: the aggressor casting himself/herself as a victim. In “Hate brings her back to loving town,” Cary Clack deploys stock images contrasting the superior American with the Afghan barbarian, as if reverse engineering a postcolonial studies course in English. It almost works as a sketch for a movie on the Lifetime channel. Examine some of the tropes deployed by the writer about Loyd:

  • reaching out to a stranger when it happened
  • trying to remove the veil of mystery and suspicion
  • making herself a bridge between cultures
  • a charming young girl eager to learn and full of joy
  • one of the world’s beautiful people
  • they too often meet human nature’s evil side
  • her comfortable upbringing is part of what gives Loyd her sense of mission
  • had a sense of security and a safe and loving environment in which we could learn
  • [devoted] especially to little girls
  • took art classes…learned how to tend a garden…perfected our tennis
  • Paula represents a sweet time in our lives
  • she is admired and respected by people worldwide

Never could one expect to see such a loving, beatifying, recognition of the warm humanity of an Afghan victim, let alone Abdul Salam. The images are of  white, middle class people, enjoying comfort and leisure, their safety, education, and basic goodness. All of these images are relational, and to understand the other text, or subtext of this piece, one has to see what their opposites would be, since that describes the side of “hate” (first word in the title of the piece) and the “evil side” — a more skillful colonial writer would have implied it, not stated it. She lifts the “veil” — the word and its Islamophobic meanings are not accidentally chosen. Her focus is “the little girls” — except she was “interviewing” a man when she was set ablaze. As I argued before, these are moments that afford us additional insight into what it means to be “selectively outraged, half humane, and All American.”

Loyd the person becomes Loyd the persona who then becomes a mere icon that is used to whitewash a brutal imperial mission. The actual person is left far behind and she becomes an ideological construct in the service of war. I personally know nothing at all about Loyd the person, nor does that matter.

The issues I raise go beyond Loyd the person, and to how “humanity” is selectively appropriated and monopolized by other Americans, as if it were uniquely theirs, and appropriate Loyd as a symbolic vehicle. The reality of their own brutality is conveniently pushed out of sight. Indeed there are countless Afghan “Paula Loyds” about whom we never hear, will never know, nor mourn. In fact, when they are killed by American forces, the rush is not to mourn them, to reflect on their personal qualities, but to debate either the logistics of targeting, or in some extreme cases, to blame the victims for their own deaths.

Dismissing the generation of extreme circumstances of struggle and deprivation, such writers from our colonial comfort zones reel when faced by those who emerge as the mirror image their state helped to create: the extremists. Their mistake lies in abstracting and extracting the extremist as an aberration, insane, an animal, a brute, and as is convenient now, a man. They preserve their vision from turning to their own many acts of extremism against Afghans…the bridges they preemptively torched that then created employment opportunities for the imperial bridge builders, sweetly setting up beachheads inside the minds of villagers. And all of the claims of inherent American goodness comes from a society with a history of lynchings, of forced marchings of natives, of slavery, of detention camps, of daily police brutality, and of its own steady interpersonal and institutional violence against women and the poor. The hypocrisy is inexcusable, but what is a real challenge is understanding how easily some find refuge in such unmolested states of absolute self-affirmation at the expense of the others they dehumanize and then demonize. Is it taught in school? In the church? In the home? Likely it is taught in all of these arenas, and no wonder then that in some places anthropology courses stand as a severe challenge to these received “truths” of imperial America. At its best, anthropology poses as a Trojan horse of the anti-empire.

usarmy_iconWe need to turn our attention to the question of foreign noncombatants and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and whether or not we include Loyd as a noncombatant is irrelevant. Whats interests me here is the use of non-military and even NGO personnel as part of imperial attempts to occupy and reengineer a nation to move along several courses. The influx of self-appointed saviours in Afghanistan, turning their backs on poverty and homelessness in their own countries (that is, until those begin to look more like security issues that raise the hackles of fear), proposing to win Afghan hearts and minds (only incidentally for the good of empire?), pacifying the restless, stabilizing a situation unsettled to make room for greater incursion, all of these would be obvious to anyone on the receiving end of an invasion.

The videos below, of a conference in which Paula Loyd was a speaker, certainly made it clear that there is a “link” between “development assistance” and “military operations” in what the conference strangely calls “post-conflict areas” (the terminology itself carefully chosen to advance linguistic pacification and to civilize violence). Security and development, civil-military relationships, scholarship and policy: all of these are coupled, rendering any retroactive attempt to distill the Loyds from this context and relocate them to the side of civilian peacefulness impossible. It is not the Taliban who invented the realities that the American state enacted, but they certainly have some understanding of precisely that which Lee Hamilton below refers to: the blurring of the line between the civilian and the military in U.S. domination., and they attack that blur. Loyd, at best, stood in that zone of blur, and any attempt to translate her as somehow remote from occupation does two things: it misunderstands, but it also confesses to the fact that there is something troubling about her work with the military, an  incongruous moment of denial in an otherwise jingoistic stream of self-assurance.

The first video features parts of Lee Hamilton’s introduction, and the second video is a new video of Loyd that I have edited, forced to abridge it to fit within YouTube’s 10 minute window.

Lee Hamilton on Civilian-Military Cooperation in Conflict Zones

Paula Loyd, 2006, Civil-Military Affairs Officer, U.N. Mission to Afghanistan


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17 thoughts on “Gassing Puppies, Burning Women, and Playing Tennis

  1. MadAxe

    Hey Max

    glad you’re moving on to Gaza and Greece where the focus belongs.

    [comments removed]

    See ya mate. And get some sleep goddamit ;-)

    1. Maximilian Forte


      I decided eventually that I had to remove the sharper and blunter comments you made, as you suggested I might want to do.

      There has been an extraordinary volume of visitors to these posts over the past two days, and it is more than likely that members of Paula Loyd’s family have seen the posts, and that more might in time.

      I don’t think you or I have any issue with her family members, they are complete strangers to us, and they don’t deserve to be emotionally crushed beyond what they have already suffered. That’s why I decided to take down the “mid section” of your message.

      Unfortunately, I was very slow in doing so, even while deleting a whole bunch of other very petty and personal, sometimes pathetic rants, I gave you a big pass because we’re friends.

      Apologies to any family members who may have read the commentary.

      Max Forte
      Jan. 9, 2009, 11:07pm

  2. Maximilian Forte

    Following from my note above, a message to anyone else wishing to post comments here: Only those comments that advance the discussion, add value, and contribute to dialogue and understanding will be accepted. Anything less than that will not be approved, and eventually comments will be closed on all the Loyd posts on this blog.

  3. MadAxe

    Don’t sweat it. I like how you edited my comment anyway since it focuses on what I said needs greater attention.

    I agree with what you wrote in your revised message. I know you’ll say that there all kinds of anthropological issues that come up in this Loyd story. My problem is that there are too many people who only want to see this as a “Loyd story” and they go around injecting all sorts of stuff about her personal biography as if this were like some soap opera. I think, if this is going to be a story about one person, then better we move on to the way bigger stories. You’ll say I’m Stalin in reverse here: one death is a statistic, and the death of millions is the tragedy. I have no problem with that.

    See ya later.

  4. Maximilian Forte

    Alright, this is better.

    The details of her biography matter in some ways, not as something for us to laugh at either. They matter because they are the focus of the huge outpouring of emotion from those who knew her, since that emotion then makes everything else drop away: imperial domination, resistance by other human beings, attacking a country (Afghanistan) that never attacked the U.S., rushing in to remove the Taliban (who also never attacked the U.S.), then staying in the hope of doing a giant social and cultural makeover, expanding U.S. interests over Afghan territory, etc. So the emotion and personal details matter in explaining how people lose sight of all this, and instead assimilate Loyd into other pre-structured stories that their culture has taught them: women trying to make it in a man’s world; America reaching out to help people; or, St. Joan of Arc (see comments on the videos of Loyd I put on YouTube).

    Also, there is a second side to this, and I mentioned this to you in recent days to alert you to the kinds of messages coming in here even before her death was announced. There are the mirror image American jihadists in the civilian and military political structure of the U.S., and in HTS, who will want to seize on the emotional outpouring, and the golden details of Loyd’s personal biography, to create a martyr. It will also help to whitewash Ayala’s own macho act of frontier American Justice — imagine, a mercenary, standing in judgment, dispensing justice. Incredible irony. Indeed, as soon as the news of Loyd’s death spread, so did the mass of “Ayala is a goddam American hero” messages begin to pollute whole screens of comments. Finally, making a martyr of Loyd helps to renew and reinforce the romance of empire that motivate people into furnishing themselves as new bodies for HTS.

    What is really sad is that those who in the past, and recent days, rush here to proclaim the goodness of Loyd are totally missing the point of all the posts, which are about stepping back and analyzing the Loyd story in the much wider scheme of imperial encounters and conflicts in Afghanistan. They have no questions about Salam, he is just an “animal” (look for that as a keyword, it comes up again and again, and it is disgusting racism juxtaposed with individuals’ supposed appreciation of Loyd’s work in “building bridges”). By the way, I have no reason for either doubting and denying that all of what they say about her is true. My point has always been that what was at work in her attack was a lot more than a clash of two personal biographies.

    (I also don’t deny that she died in the worst way I can imagine, which is another blow for those closest to her. What I am denying is that this is all that matters. I could flood this blog with descriptive accounts from people in the several wedding parties that the U.S. Air Force bombed to shreds…how the survivors had to go up in the trees to retrieve pieces of flesh from their relatives, to free a torso impaled on a branch, to collect eyeballs from the dirt, so they could have a funeral.)

    That is why, again, I will not hand over this blog to those who want to engage in personal rants, or who cynically exploit Loyd for making some ghoulishly cheap shots at those who attack HTS and what it represents, especially as some of us are already conscious of how this blog has already been identified in the media as “a platform for critics” of HTS. It will remain that, and others have their own places where they can rant, American jihad style.

  5. sayke

    wow. i’m pretty far left on a lot of issues, but having lived and worked in afghanistan for a few years now, i must have forgotten about this part of the spectrum! i strongly suspect we agree about the vast majority of the other interesting policy issues in the world, but i’m having a really hard time seeing where you’re coming from with this one…

    the notion that we’re imperially dominating afghanistan seems patently absurd to me, and not just because the karzai regime only usefully controls about 1/3rd of the country ;) i work on a project that is 90% afghan-staffed, and have quite a few afghan friends, and the *last* thing any of them want is for the taliban to come back!

    what they want is security and stable economic growth – peace and jobs, basically. according to the asia foundation’s polling, this reflects the desires of the general populace, and makes perfect sense to me. the vast majority of the afghan people expect the international community to deliver on this, and we must not fail to do so.

    the alternative is the return of the taliban/isi, who are detested by pretty much everyone who can read, and would imperially dominate this place in a way that makes us look like the liberators that the afghans thought we were in 2001-2005.

    resistence against the US is generally bought and paid for by the pakistani government, drawing on the resources of a vast and ever-churning movement of dupes, fanatics, opum lords, and ethno-sectarian supremicists. the taliban pays better then the government does – but if they didn’t, guess how much of a resistance there would be?

    the taliban is, in essence, a combination of the 700 club, the cia, and khmer rouge – anyone who seeks to legitimize their war need only ask one thing: what, exactly, are they fighting *for*?

    i’m not excusing US tactics here – far from it… but i dare you to tell any afghan hazara or tajik or uzbek that the US should never have overthrown the taliban. hah!!

    you should come out here for a while – i’m sure your analytical expertise would be very useful to people here.

    or maybe you could dig them some wells…

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Don’t worry, you can’t be pretty far left of anything, otherwise you would not have produced an attempt to rewrite this war as some grand act of liberation to save the Afghan people, for their own good. It’s tripe, really, but at least you should try it out on the senior NATO commanders who say the war is as good as lost, that this is all too much too late, and that hatred and distrust by ordinary Afghans is mounting to unprecedented levels.

      I am also sure my analytical expertise would be more useful to them than what they are getting now, if the above is any indication. Dig them some wells? I see that you think of them as helpless and ignorant people all round then. Nice liberator.

      Good luck, keep your head down.

  6. sayke

    have you spoken to any afghan people about this, ever? what about anybody who lived and worked here under the taliban – NGO or UN types, whatever, anything…? here – i’ll take a poll of the seven afghans in this office right now… ok, the first one said the taliban needs to go back to pakistan “where they belong”, and everybody seems to agree with that…

    the british general who said the war was as good as lost was right, of course, but not in the way he’s commonly misinterpreted, and not in the way you think. he was advocating for political settlements with various taliban-aligned factions and saying that they could not be militarily defeated, which is neither new, nor surprising, nor the consensus held by analyists here.

    many afghans are deeply disappointed in the international community’s efforts – it’s undeniable that we’ve let them down, but that just means we’re undeniably responsible to help them build a secure, free, sustainable, and dignified future here. i think people here are more disappointed then anything, and they have a right to be. this has been a republican-party-led operation, and as such it’s been ill-concieved, virtually unplanned, and terribly implemented!

    that does not detract from the worthiness of its cause, however. you invoke “ordinary afghans”, but i dare you – ask any afghan women whether they want the taliban to come back! or ask any hazara or tajik or uzbek – or hell, *any non-pashtun* afghan…! or any pashtun who can read…

    remember, the taliban are sunni pashtun ethnosectarian supremicists, and conquered afghanistan with massive support (hundreds of truckloads per day) from the saudis etc channeled through the pakistani government. they engaged in systematic genocide against every minority they could whup, and without the massive and ongoing outside support they’re receiving, they would fade away as surely as the karzai government would.

    and as for digging wells – i’ve been to villages where they barely had any metal. i’ve been to villages where they thought we were russians, and honestly suspected that cell phones were magic from the devil. this doesn’t mean they were helpless, but there’s ignorance aplenty here – i’ve hung out with some serious buses-don’t-run rednecks over here, and the one thing they needed more then anything else was water… so i don’t talk about wells lightly.

    of course, they’re massively overpopulating and destorying their water tables by having 10 kids per family, so in some cases even very deep wells won’t save them. hell, i’ve been to places where nobody should live – places with essentially no ecosystem capable of even supporting goats, let alone people… there are some utterly desolate places around here, and water resource management is a huge part of ensuring that these places won’t be completely depopulated in five years.

    in sum, i don’t think you have any sense of the actual problems most afghan people are facing. the most significant of these are 1) jobs, and 2) security (from goons, corrupt police, the taliban, the US army, whoever). remember, this is the 4th poorest country in the world, and that’s *after* the international community has been active here for several years. it’s no wonder they’re disappointed…

    we in the international community (but especially the US) are now responsible for the afghan people. after the soviets left we abandoned them to civil war and externally-funded religious fanatics, and the same would happen if we abandoned them again. this is how the vast majority of afghan people perceive the situation. feel free to look the asia foundation’s polling if you don’t believe me!

    in the meantime, please don’t claim to speak for “ordinary afghan people”. quote your evidence, by all means, but remember – we live in a world of shifting signposts, and neither of us are afghan, or grew up under the taliban…

    but some of us speak the language and have worked and lived here for years ;)

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Yes, many years in fact, reaching a Soviet extent now, and with the same results most likely. I can’t speak for the Afghan people, and I don’t want to intrude on your assumption of that role. Polling in a place like Afghanistan is beyond laughable however, ask the “Mayor of Kabul”: Hamid Karzai. Sorry, but neither I nor anyone else has either seen or heard about anything resembling a popular outpouring of support for U.S. occupation and its objectives. Many may hate the Taliban, but they hate you too, and many hate you even more and with just as much justification.

      Anytime we hear from independent voices — not the people in your office, and decidedly not yourself, and from people who have been there more than a few years…they were born and raised there ;-) — we get a very different picture from the one you paint. On the other hand, at least you were honest enough to hint at how you might be positioned there. (While IPs can be faked, I will assure other readers for you: your IP does say that you are writing from Kabul, Afghanistan.)

      But whatever you do, don’t come and try to sell an imperial mission on a site such as this one. Some polling you might want to check: the overwhelming majority of Canadians wants an immediate or extremely rapid withdrawal of Canadian forces from Afghanistan…that is how impressed we are with the entire ridiculous, pointless, unwarranted adventure. Even our very right wing Prime Minister maintains a commitment for us to exit by 2011 no matter what — but we’ll make sure it’s much sooner.

  7. sayke

    ok, we’re getting off track here, but this is fun! =D let’s stick to some specific things:

    1) what exactly is “yes, many years” in response to? have you lived and worked in afghanistan? if so, cool =)

    2) nobody i can possibly think of, let alone either of us, can speak for the afghan people, but they can speak for themselves quite well… and lots of people are carefully listening. is a good place to start learning about what they afghan people are *actually* thinking =P

    3) attempting to delegitimize afghans who disagree with your position as less then “independent” does not serve your cause well. if you want to talk about whose opinions on this matter are legitimate – about who exactly is an “independent” afghan, well then by all means let’s talk! in that vein:

    3.1) a vast number (at least a third of the country’s population) of afghans were born or at least partially raised outside of afghanistan. are they not “independent”? are their perspectives illegitimate?

    3.2) the taliban engaged in genocide against pretty much every non-pashtun ethnic group (especially hazaras) in the country, and as such, those ethnic groups are deeply hostile to the taliban return implied by the possibility of an international community pullout. are the members of those ethnic groups less then “independent”?

    3.3) the vast majority of pollable afghan women, especially those who have had the spine to get an education, understandably fear the possibility of an international community pullout. are afghan women – especially educated ones – less then “independent”?

    4) i’d like to hear from some of your “independent” voices – you know, the ones that want the international community to leave. are they pashtun/sunni/patriarchal supremacists? if so, why in the name of everything good would you possibly consider their opinions legitimate?

    5) how many people hate the international presence here, and what is their justification? how many of these people are above-mentioned ethno-sectarian supremacists? if you actually look into it, you’ll find that the actually ideologically-rooted opposition to the international community’s efforts (as opposed to the pervasive for-profit violence) emerges from a pretty consistent and narrow demographic of afghan society… but if you disagree, by all means cite your sources!

    as i said before, many afghans are deeply disappointed in our efforts here. that does not translate into hate – it translates into ambivalence, apathy, hopelessness, and grinding corrosive corruption.

    we were welcomed early on, and for quite some time thereafter. the educated elite still welcomes us. the idea was sound and lauded by all, but these republican apparatchiks made a hell of a mess of it… so as usual, it’s up to us to clean it up =/

    also: i’m not trying to sell anything. please don’t try to delegitimize my side of this conversation by insinuating that i have commercial motives – i could just as well accuse you of being on the isi’s payroll. it’s not constructive.

    i do, however, think it’s really too bad that so many canadians want to withdraw their resources, and i don’t understand why. we need all the help we can get over here…

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Just a quick reply, all I can afford right now: the “many years” comment was in response to your saying you had been there for some years. Otherwise, I see a bit of a conceptual problem in your message: hatred for the Taliban means support for the West. It does not. Besides the fact that in some areas the Taliban was popular or at least accepted (you don’t rule through force and terror alone, not for long anyway, and the U.S. itself should be learning this after 8 years there), you know for a fact that many Afghans refuse to fight them, even as some agree to fight NATO forces. Let’s put it this way, if everything you say held, you wouldn’t be there right now. You would have won.

      Canadians don’t want our forces there because:
      (a) there is an economic crisis, and we have already blown $18 billion on this adventure — that is a lot for us, we have less people than California;
      (b) Afghanistan never attacked us;
      (c) the Taliban never attacked us;
      (d) we have been implicated in human rights violations, regarding handing over detainees we pretty well knew would be tortured, and,
      (e) there are mounting rumours that our forces are protecting or engaging in an illegal trade in opium (incidentally, one source of these allegations was someone connected to the Minister of External Affairs, and she went on the record with this).

      We also fancy ourselves as peacekeepers, rather than war mongers and counterinsurgents. Add it all up, and the public is rightly sick of the whole thing.

      Anyway, if I get a chance to respond more in depth in the next 24 hours, the comment will appear here.

  8. Ines

    Allow me to weigh in here. Accusing anyone of imperialism defeats the point. Like it or not the US and its NATO allies have gotten themselves embroiled in a war that is unwinnable from a purely military standpoint. The legitimate quest to ensure maximum support to the (least we forget!) democratically-elected Afghan Government would be a no-go without the backing of both military (especially, but not limited to Provincial Reconstruction Teams) and civilian actors, be they Governmental, Non-Governmental Organizations or sub-contractors. It is therefore not a question of whether or not one backs the US military in its quest to fight terrorism and defeat the Taliban but rather the recognition that given the presence in Afghanistan, we have no alternative but to use all means at our disposal to support the Afghan Government to deliver to its people. That quest to deliver security and basic services would be meaningless without the support of the military given not least that access to almost a half of the country is restricted. Now given that military involvement in supporting the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and working with local government to delivery much needed services, it is undoubtedly the case that that effort is much enhanced by civil-military co-operation and the sum of efforts, by individuals such as Paula Loyd, to ensure a better understanding of local community priorities.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Sorry Ines, I had not even noticed your message, while responding to the last one by sayke, in case my reply causes any confusion as to which comments I was responding to. Anyway, it’s better that others comment. I will monitor from time to time to see if more come in, and do the necessarily approval (until some spammers go away, moderation is on).

  9. ccorday

    I’ve spent a good deal of time since 2001 traveling to Afghanistan, and think Sayke is spot on with his/her observations. The Talibs at best have a Sunni-Pashtun supremacy thing, but most Afghans I have talked to want security above all and have an understandably nationalistic “Afghanistan for Afghans” mentality, not something we’re encouraging by propping up a widely hated socket puppet govt, and turning a blind eye to universal corruption like Wally Karzai’s drug running.

    I too would like to read your complete response to Sayke and clarification of your response “yes, many years”.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Not to make more of it than it deserves — but since it escaped more than one reader it was an apparently subtle joke about how long sayke has been in Afghanistan, as a comment on a war that has now lasted twice as long as the U.S. involvement in WWII, and almost as long as the Soviet quagmire…meaning, you have been there “many years” because the U.S. is stuck there.

      ccorday you make some of my points for me, regarding a widely hated government. I will once again reaffirm that any polling done in situations of combat, with fear on all sides, in a country with large areas that remain off limits, where suspicion is necessary for survival, where there can be retribution for being seen to speak to the wrong people, etc., etc., discredits the validity of any opinion poll or any election.

      I also question the independence and credibility of the Asia Foundation, posing as a NGO when it has in fact served the U.S. national security state for half a century and received CIA funding. You will find this entry in Wikipedia:

      The Asia Foundation began in 1951 as the Committee for Free Asia, which, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), was “an ostensibly private body . . . sanctioned by the National Security Council and, with the knowledge of congressional oversight committees, supported with covert indirect CIA funding” (CRS 1983). The Committee was comprised primarily of California businessmen who hoped to combat the expansive efforts of the Kremlin and push back the new communist regimes in China and North Korea through Radio Free Asia.

      In 1954, when it became apparent that a more long-term strategy to promote democratic development was needed, the Committee reorganized itself into a public charity called The Asia Foundation. The CIA remained the primary source of funds, but the anticommunist rhetoric diminished and the programming began to focus on indigenous needs in Asia and initiatives on education, civil society, and international exchanges.

      In 1967, the U.S. media revealed that the CIA was covertly funding a number of organizations, including The Asia Foundation, and all CIA funding ended. A commission authorized by President Johnson and led by Secretary of State Rusk determined that The Asia Foundation should be preserved. The Foundation began to restructure its programming, shifting away from its earlier goals of “building democratic institutions and encouraging the development of democratic leadership” toward an emphasis on Asian development as a whole (CRS 1983).

      SourceWatch says the following about the Asia Foundation:

      In 1967 it was revealed that they were receiving CIA funds. Victor Marchetti, once an executive assistant to the CIA’s deputy director, is less delicate — he says Asia Foundation was established by the CIA and until 1967 was heavily subsidized by them, even though some of their activities were legitimate.

      “These days the National Endowment for Democracy model is preferred over those old, risky, secret CIA conduits, so in 1984 the Asia Foundation Act provided for funds from the Department of State. In 1987 the Foundation received $10 million from State and another $3.7 million from AID, in addition to private support (88 percent of which was in the form of donated books) and matching Asian contributions. We wonder if Asia Foundation is really out of the U.S. intelligence loop after all.”

      ***So what you need to do, sayke, is find a credible source that does not act as an arm of the State Department and CIA. In the meantime, I dismiss that poll altogether.***

      The justifications used by sayke for prolonging the stay in Afghanistan beg one critical question among many: WHY AFGHANISTAN? Humanitarian assistance, security, well being, freedom from ethnocentric tyrants, etc., etc. Good. Laudable. Spot on! So when do you mobilize to protect Gaza and attack Israel?

      You have added incentive from a GWOT perspective: right now events in Gaza, and the fact that the UN is doing nothing, the US is doing nothing, NATO is not bombing Israel like it did Serbia…all of this validates Bin Laden’s long standing accusations. Don’t you hate that in parts of the world people are now saying, “See, Bin Laden was right all along!”

      The reality is that none of the justifications for a continued occupation of Afghanistan, as offered by sayke, really matter. Afghanistan is simply a beachhead in this ideological fixation known as the “war on terror” by a state anxious to maintain and expand its dominance worldwide. It satisfied the American public to assault Afghanistan as revenge for 9/11. I think you got ample revenge now…go home. Stop wasting the lives of your own, of Afghans, and of other nations in this absolute folly.

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