Sunday, August 18, 2013

Month 12 Day 18

Notebook entry
15 reports given, other conversations, on pussy down, bird in gym goes up, CJ Radin coming over yesterday, why doesn't being hated bother me?

Journal entry
I went to the gym in the morning.  A sparrow, was trapped inside, or
so he thought.  Both doors were wide open, easy enough for two men to
walk through shoulder to shoulder, but the bird was trying desperately
to get out by flying up to the top of the tent, he just kept ramming
into the tent walls, turning, and falling.  His default is to fly up,
it doesn’t matter that the exit is wide open, but down a mere few
feet, he tries to fly up to safety, that is what he is hard-wired to
do, up is the only horizon, the only solution that he knows.  This
struck me as a metaphor of Afghanistan, in two ways the people, all
they have known their entire lives is to be selfish, it is the only
thing that gets them by, the most reliable choice in a world without
an overarching hand to enforce the rules.  The environment has now
changed, but they don’t see it, they can’t fly to the exit, they still
act like they are preprogrammed to.  If they spent their life in the
new environment, then they would understand, but now it’s too late to

So how does the bird make it out, he works himself to death and either
wanders to the exit on the ground because he has exhausted himself, or
someone moves him out of the tent.  This made me think of Amir Dad, my
S2 soldier.  He was able to just go and pick up a bird off of the
ground and it didn’t fly away.  I have never seen a wild bird act like
this.  Every time I tried to approach, it fled, but Amir Dad could go
retrieve it with ease.  I couldn’t help but believe that there was
something fundamentally different about Amir Dad and me.  Amir Dad has
to be one of the most gentle, unassuming and nice boys here.  I asked
him why he became a soldier and he said to me “what’s one to do”
meaning that he had to do something, and this seemed as good as
anything.   He was a farmer back home in his little Hazara community,
but he did something uncommon in leaving and coming here.  That bird
was undoubtedly exhausted when Amir Dad picked it up, but it wouldn’t
go to just anyone, it had to go to someone kind, not like me.  Once
Amir brought it outside, it stayed with him for a while and eventually
flew away.

We were on our way to wake up Munir at 0900. Amir Dad just finished
telling me “it’s not good to wake up people from sleep and then expect
them to work, they will be in a bad mood.”  Such a wonderful and
dutiful Chai boy.
I asked Amir Dad why he became a soldier and I pointed to a small
scrub growing next to the cement pad where the Afghans do ablution.
“Amir Dad, why are you a soldier, if I told you to kill that plant I
don’t think you could do it.”
“If my commander told me to, then I would kill it.” He replied
Sammy, in tow, chimed in. “All Afghans are like this, they will kill
anything if they need to I have seen it with my own eyes, my uncle was
killed in front of me, and believe me, I wanted to fight. For 80,000
Afghanis a man can be killed, for 200,000 a commander, it happened to
my cousin and when I called my uncle to ask why he said that he had no
idea, actually” the last word is a Sammyism that he throws in whenever
he is saying what he believes.
“Where does that come from Sammy, Afghans in America don’t act like
that, yah, we get honor killings of girls wearing western clothes, but
not random deaths for no reason.”
“Actually, I don’t know, sir.”
“Do you think it will ever change.”
“Maybe in 100 years”

So there are the two different views of Afghanistan and I don’t know
what is right, the metaphor of the bird is all screwed up, but the
question is this.  Are there some gentle souls like Amir Dad who are
young and don’t remember the irrational solipsistic reasons to do
things who can live in the new environment of security, or are there
only damaged souls who are only a millimeter away from the exit, but
still choose to act as though they are in chaos.

If it is the latter, then how long will be have to hold the security
blanket on before the find the exit?  How long does it take to change
their programming?  Do they have to be completely exhausted and fall
to the ground first?   Can it be done in a lifetime?  Can some kind
soul like Amir Dad lead them out of their self-imposed prison?  If so,
then who is that man?  I think Karzai is still in his own
cage-of-the-possible. Can we, can they sense that we are here to help?
 Will they come when they are exhausted?

One thing is certain; it seems that the Afghans don’t believe it is
possible, even the gentlest soul will say that he can kill at a whim.
Does their belief comport with reality?  Does their belief matter?  I
find it personally convincing that it does.

One thing I forgot to mention from yesterday.   Chuck CJ Radin came over
and didn’t bring a linguist.  He must have thought he could force my
hand by just showing up.  When I reiterated to him that I could not
give him a linguist because I had been ordered not to, he came up with
the brilliant suggestion
“Why don’t you act as my linguist.”
“Really, you want me to violate the spirit of my commander’s orders if
not the letter.”
I handed him my Persian-English dictionary and said
“Good luck.”
He did come back successful because Munir knows enough English to
understand that he was telling him that he was going to be briefing
these slides.

That was really the reason that I was bound to see Munir in the
morning.  The RCT had made his slides for him and wanted me to show
them to him so he knew what to brief.  I complied.  I showed him the
slides and talked to him about the different between written and oral
communication (they normally just stand up and read their reports
aloud).  I then transitioned into a basic IPB class.   When I started
to show him all of the areas the ‘Dueshman’ come from he asked me:
“Why don’t we have troops there?”
“We don’t have enough Marines to put there in that spot in
Afghanistan, we have a limited number mandated by our congress.”
When I started talking about weapons flowing North out of Pakistan and
drugs flowing south, the same things that Gretchin Peters talks about,
but naming the specific locations he asked me.
“Why don’t Marines go there?”
Such a child-like question, I felt bad for him.
“Brother, my country cares about you, but if we go there, then we
would be at war with a country with 100,000,000 people.  We care about
you, but we can’t do that.  The best we can do is try to stop them as
they come.  We even have a special Marine unit down there that is
protecting your whole brigade from the deushman, without them, a lot
more of your soldiers would die.”
He nodded, but I don’t know if he really understood.  Would I
understand if I were him?  If some alien came to me from outer space
and said.
“We are here to show you a new way of living, we need your help, but
we have certain constraints put on us buy our alien form of government
in a place that you can’t even imagine.  Trust me though, we are doing
all we can to help you, and we are doing the best we can.”
If I believed him, I don’t think I’d understand.  I might even get
pissed at the aliens.

I finished my class with Munir, he went to the combined Ops-Intel
meeting.  I met up with Qais for class.  We reviewed the symbols, the
map locations, cardinal directions.  He is getting very proficient.  I
am proud of him.  He asked me, “why don’t you give me that notebook
that you make me take notes in so I can study?”
“Because I have given you notebooks in the past and you always lose
them, maybe your next mentor will be willing to give you another
“When are you leaving, I want you to take pictures and you need to
print them and we can hang them and remember you.”
It's kind of nice, but even when they are trying to be nice, they are
asking for something.

In the afternoon nothing amazing happened.  I worked I what I hope
will be the last command Chronology, and worked on putting together a
binder for turnover.

The other guys stayed up late waiting for a leave flight that didn't
end up coming.  The LtCol mercifully let me go to be early rather than
subject me to a 2100 meeting and the requisite "Call on Me" video.

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