Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thoughts on 24 Jan 2007

Well, timeliness is not the trademark of the Army Postal Service, but that isn’t the point for today. Last week our entire unit received a package from Harry and David that was accompanied by a card from Governor Kulongoski that was sent for Thanksgiving. It is a very nice package, with some of Harry and David’s goodies. So, thank you very much to the citizens of Oregon, Governor Kulongoski, and Harry and David’s. I appreciate the thought and effort that went into it.

My wife went to speak at Putnam High School where my son Chris goes yesterday. She told me this evening for me (Morning for most of you all) how it went. My son is a junior; he is a great kid, no bias on my part of course.

Many of the students there asked questions and a couple of points stuck out that I thought were worth highlighting.

War would be so simple if it were truly good versus evil. However, all engagements that the United States Military engage in are not truly wars. If it was truly peaceful here, then other organizations who have nothing to do with the military, and not much to do with the government would come in and conduct support operations here, the Peace Corp, and many other organizations that I frankly don’t know the names of would be operating.

It is not so safe that unarmed people can come in and challenge the people’s ideas about how they should live, what they should grow, and how their women and children should be treated with out fear of reprisal. That is why the military is here, that and the fact that the Taliban is only out of this region, because we are here.

In my region of this country, which is the _Herat_ Province, down to the Farah Province most people here are very much like most Americans, or folks of any other country. The parents want to feed cloth and shelter their children. They would like for their children to have better lives than they have had, and they work hard with in their traditions and in their jobs to accomplish that in the best way that they know. Their exposure to the modern world is far less than what our children in the United States have been exposed to. Their education revolves largely around the Koran, which allows them to teach the language with out fear of incurring any party’s wrath, as the Taliban, and the government here both believe that teaching the Koran is good and proper.

Much of the bad stuff that happens in this area involving guns are truly the actions of criminals who are trying to keep their hold on the population through intimidation, and by virtue of their willingness to use guns to enforce their will. In our country, people who attempt the same thing do so under the cover of secrecy, because our police force is multilayered, and full time, and has the strength to bring the rule of law to everyone’s neighborhood. I personally must know 6 or 8 police officers of various departments in our local community. They are there to protect and serve.

In Afghanistan, the police are not necessarily there in the first place. They don’t have better weapons, they don’t have a better infrastructure and they certainly don’t have a judicial system behind them to house criminals for years at a stretch. In short they are impotent at this point in time. There are things being done to fix that, but that is where it stands right now.

95% of the people I deal with in the country are either friendly or reserved. Some men resent having foreign soldiers in their country, just as we would resent them in ours. However, this marks the 3rd year in over 25 years that most people live in a stable environment. More landmines are turned in to authorities than are emplaced by the Taliban in my region right now. That can change of course, but by and large, people are happy to be able to make a legitimate living with out fear of being shot by one faction or another.

To put it in perspective, things that have happened in the our country in the last 150 years have been enabled largely because there has been no conflict that involved a foreign Army on our soil in that period of time. Many of our families have no experience with anything outside of three states in our nation, and our most common hardship is if the electricity goes out for an extended time.

Afghans largely don’t have electricity. Washing is done by hand. Floors are made out of dirt in a house, covered by a rug. Sleeping happens on the floor with carpets as padding, with a foam mattress laid down each night. Closet space is almost nonexistent; Chairs are replaced by hard pillows that raise you up 4 inches off the ground. There is no toilet built into the house, and so outhouses are sometimes constructed, sometimes the world is their toilet. (When you gotta go, you gotta go). Water is scarce, and is not pumped into a shower in most places, so cleanliness and personal hygiene is a different task here. Schools are being built, but currently abandoned buildings may serve as a school for many students. I saw 80 students from 4 to about 12 in one classroom with one teacher with no chalkboard, and they attend class for a couple of hours each morning until it is not possible to maintain them in the class. That classroom would have housed 30 students and 1 teacher in our society.

I would say that I like the majority of the people I come into contact with. If they are in the military, I trust them to a fairly large extent, because they have demonstrated that they care for my safety as well as their own. If they are civilians, I am cautiously optimistic, but again, I am always armed, and have soldiers who keep the area secure. It is unfortunate, but in some ways it allows us to conduct business easier, we all know that violence is not a good option in the meeting, and I have never had it be chosen to date.

All of this said; it is merely my experience. Other soldiers in other areas have much more violent experiences.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

All my best,



kitchen6 said...

I have been reading your blog since you started. I find your entries to be thoughtful and informative. I appreciate that you take the time to explain how the Afghanistan people live. This is omitted in so many other blogs out there.
My husband is there also, with the 41st, but stationed elsewhere. The news coming out of A-stan is scarce, so your blog is great just to feel connected to you all.
Keep up the good work! Thanks for your service and STAY SAFE!!!

Keith said...

I am glad that you enjoy reading it, tell your Husband I said hey, and stay safe. We will be home soon.


Alice said...

Well, Keith, if you weren't busy over there, I'd say come on back and be a teacher!! Of course you are being a teacher in this way and with your fellow servicepeople and the local folks. A big pat on the back from me to you!!!
Love, Alice