The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, November 06, 2009

Why We Fight

A 'senior serving soldier' tells The Independent about some problems with training the Afghan police:
We went out to Helmand to mentor the Afghan National Police without understanding the level they were at. We thought we would be arresting people, helping them to police efficiently. Instead we were literally training them how to point a gun on the ranges, and telling them why you should not stop cars and demand "taxes".

Most of them were corrupt and took drugs, particularly opium. The lads would go into police stations at night and they would be stoned; sometimes they would fire indiscriminately at nothing.


It was difficult just getting them to a basic level, to do things like man a post. They would take drugs, go to sleep, leave their post, have sex with each other.



Bisexuality has always been common and largely accepted in the Muslim world. That's what happens when you go to extraordinary lengths to prevent men and women having pre-marital sex!

As I understand it, prosecutions for 'homosexual acts' are normally a veneer for political executions.

Afghanistan used to be rather famous for it, see for e.g.,

Which seems to be the continuation of something similar to

I don't think that the sexual aspect of this great quote is much to the point. Rather, it's the nonchalant, uncaring, so what, laid-back, lazy, mentality that's at issue here. Note that I'm neither prudish nor religious.

Feudalism will do that to a dude.

@George, I'm not sure how 'Afghan police are corrupt and undisciplined' is, by itself, worthy of surprise.

@Jamougha, I didn't intend to express surprise. I meant that one should consider the significance of the prevalence of such attitudes in the current Afghan context. But do note that I have no way of evaluating the veracity and implications of the text. A very-ex friend wrote an influential article in The Washington Times (not: Post) that used closely related descriptions to justify forced reeducation of Iraqis in their country. It was published in 2003. Realising that it could be used to justify torturing anyone you consider sub-human --an Untermensch--I broke with him in an explanatory email. I approach all such texts with a lot of inirial skepticism.

The Indy article finishes with this:

A lot could be done without putting British soldiers' lives at risk. They should recruit the right Afghans, security check them, pay them regularly and train them properly...

Who exactly are the "right" Afghans? And who exactly is this "They" that are going to train the?

Upcreekpaddlelessness of the highest order.

Interesting questions, Anomymous. Look at your quote carefully. It suggests to me that it's ok to put Afghan (cops') lives at stake, but not quite ok (at least) to risk British lives. If that's an aspect of the writer's intended meaning, then how can he justify that assertion? Suppose he means, "To achieve our present goals (dictated by the Americans), it's better to sacrifice Afghans than to let Brits get killed." That smells of racism, desire not to help yet more Brits reject this war, or both

@George: "I didn't intend to express surprise." I didn't think you did. I was referring to Ken's expression of surprise and to the reason for the post being made. You seem to have changed the topic.

My best friend is in the Marines and served a relatively uneventful 11 weeks in Afghanistan. He was shocked to find out that every Thursday night all the Afghan soldiers disappeared into the barracks to have sex with each other. He said it was surreal.

@Anonymous, sorry that I missed noticing your referent. Well, being unsure just what the topic was, I went off on a tangent directed at an interesting subtext I think I spotted. But whtever I did, I certainly meant to play down the sexual aspect of our text and our discussion. Having sex is just one component of the behaviour in question. All are of equal importance. There's no reason to harp on sex. It's one part of the package and, it seems, a routinely enjoyed one at that.

"My best friend is in the Marines..."
Ah yes, the always-popular My Friend Says format for disseminating urban legends around the world.
Mackie, did your Best Friend ever say why Thursday nights were always Gay Orgy nights amongst Afghan soldiers? I could be wrong, but I have this impression the the weekly Muslim holy day starts on the sunset before. So I guess that Afghan soldiers are an exceptionally and uniformly blasphemous lot, no?

Mackie how did your best friend know they disappeared for a gay orgy? Did he pop in, over hear, peek in the windows?

Just curious as to how certain he was or whether it really was just hearsay?

Come on folks. the only important matter is that they are slackers. Only when you realise that can you discuss the political implications of such behaviour.

Thanks for the apology, Mr Berger, I don't appreciate being called a racist and a warmonger when I am neither.

I demonstrated on the streets of London against the coming war in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11 - long before the anti-war movement got into full swing over the invasion of Iraq.

I am as sick as you are of these imperialist forays to secure energy transport routes for the west.

I am doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint - currently it's 1/11th of the national household average - so this war is not being fought in my name.

when there is too much good stuff readily available, there is hell to pay.
if the blue grass lawn was cannabis, would I be tempted still?
if the potted plants of petunias suddenly sprouted poppies, could I resist again.
at present now it's a matter more now of being allergic.
there may be something said for being signed, sealed and delivered for.
a controlled substance by defining that grows uncontrolled might need a cultivator with less interest in what self-service it could bring.

or look at this way, 'they' were infiltrators, and they were very loyal indeed.
very convincing in the part they were assigned as basically support staff who had no real interest or skill in fighting.

Presumably the guys on the other side, not being 10 ft tall supermen, are pretty much like these ones. Probably better motivated.

Maybe we should just pay them a few dollars not to call themselves Taliban, declare a victory & go home.

@Anonymous, I think you misunderstood me. I would never think of calling you a racist and a warmonger. For your text contains very little more than that thing you quote, which I knew quite well does not express your thoughts. My subject- matter was the quote's hidden racism, and absolutely nothing about you.
We are on the same side, although my demonstrating days are over. I was on the streets many times in NYC, Poughkeepsie ( great place to forget), Wash.dc, , Amsterdam, and Utrecht. Oh yes, CIA hq in Langley, Virginia. Since 06 I have been heavily into Internet journalism in various ways. I am now an active member of the Swedish Libertarian Socialist ( =Anarcho-Symdicalist) labour union, doing Internet and networking stuff for them, I know little about political theory, but I have the best of personal and other reasons for despising capitalism. In real life I'm a retired academic. To close, you are right to suggest that the current war is senseless.

To be honest, it was the matter-of-fact mention of sex that struck me. I'd heard and read about this sort of thing, but not in the mainstream press.

There's actually a serious problem of male rape by 'security' forces in Afghanistan, according to Patrick Cockburn in today's Indie.

Hi ken---I heard about the male rape too, probably this morning but I really don't remember where or when. Still, it was precisely the matter-of-fact character of your quote's description that got me to voice my objections. Sure, the sex bit struck me too. But when I read the report in full I decided it was harmless and just one of many ways of goofing off.
The male rape is a different kettle of fish entirely. Your quote describes behaviour among consenting adults. That's not male rape, it's just eh....screwing around :)

I'm a different anonymous to the one who :

'..demonstrated on the streets of London...immediately after 9/11'

I demonstrated against the war in Afghanistan immediately after the soviet intervention in 1979; and continued to do so during the decade which followed; but the dialectic of history is such that the current intervention has my full support. The sexual practises and other recreational habits of Afghan policemen are irrelevant.

I'm a amazed that you put such store on the musings of "senior serving offciers"; back in the day, such gentlemen could not heap enough superlatives on gallant Johnny Afghan.

Well, I agree with Jim about that irrelevancy. But I have doubts, to put it mildly, about the "current intervention." Here's one reason. When the bombing (and I'm talking about such nice items as Daisycutters) began I didn't know what to think. So I called up a person who is a politically active neo-con. An old college friend of mine who is quite smart. I asked him what he thought. He could control neither his enthusiasm nor perhaps his sense of political secrecy, and blurted out: "Great. And now on to Iraq." That was in 2001. A bit perplexed by this I looked around online and found stuff by and about the PNAC= Project for the New American Century. I then learned that this bunch of people (Cheney, Rummie, I think Wolfowitz...) had been bombarding first Clinton and then Bush with advice after advice (no doubt secret then) urging an invasion of Iraq., not Afghanistan. It was not long before I realised that the "current intervention" in Afghanistan was primarily a prelude to the invasion of Iraq. I have very little doubt that the attack was not an intervention even then. Rather, it was intended to stir up war fever and justify extreme measures of snooping, interrogation, and armed force. 9/11 was a gift from heaven for Bush, who perhaps wanted to go along with PNAC but lacked a casus belli. Now some armies are stuck there and nobody in power seems to know what to do. If some do know, we might soon find out. A total mess. No support from me ever, at all, thanks to my bellicose contact.

Post a Comment