Afghanistan : Notes from the Editor (Larry Kershner)

Reposting, written November 8, 2011, after a month in Afghanistan, midway through the 20 years of US. occupation and war in Afghanistan.

This is the last entry from the journal of our recent trip to Afghanistan. 

I now realize how little I have known and still know about Afghanistan and the people who live here.  Afghanistan appears to me to be teetering on the brink of collapse despite “the light at the end of the tunnel” talk by the militarist machine.  Three and a half billion people on the globe live on less than $2.50 a day- most of the people of Afghanistan among them.  Many people here express the desire that the apparent stability maintained by the military presence continue out of a fear of a return of and the memory of the viciousness of the Taliban.

However, it is impossible for America to “save” Afghanistan.  The current face of the American Dream, corporate capitalism, is based on an amoral domination of both people and the physical world and thus is totally antithetical to justice in any form.  Any hope of a humane future for Afghanistan will require a radical shift in thinking that must arise from the people of Afghanistan.  The Prophet Mohammed has said, “For a man to truly live, he must love for his brother what he loves for himself.”  The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers are practicing this type of radical living each day.  These young people, through some spectacular wisdom which has arisen out of the tragedy around them, ask “Why not love?”  They are not Pollyannas since they see every day the real misery of their situation.  They have recently seen a murderous warlord placed, in an absurd form of realpolitik, at the head of the highest peace council in Afghanistan only to be assassinated but ‘credit’ for this kill is denied by the “Taliban” and other groups.  A female orator at Rabani’s funeral declared that the perpetrators would be found and “we will tear them apart with our teeth.”

We have been told that Afghans are Machiavellian and we have been told that Afghans do not trust one another.  These young people know the difficulties they face but with their clear thinking can see that there is no other alternative except love and truth.

Afghanistan is torn by internal forces of racism between tribal groups, the power hunger of the warlords, the corruption of the government, homelessness for many, “night raids” of killing supposedly to protect them, unsanitary water supplies, an education system that is barely literate, a lack of trustworthy political leadership, a broken infrastructure, the brakes on any social change from the conservative religious leaders, insurgents and criminal gangs, and  the trappings of an incipient police state.  The external forces of the corporate desire to ravage the natural resources of Afghanistan, the militarist knowledge that Afghanistan provides a central position from which to attempt control of the rest of central Asia, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and other minions of the disaster capitalists,  the ideas and excesses of western civilization (sic?), the tremors of the beginning of the end of the American Empire, and the current face of “the white man’s burden” to show the brown people how to be just like us are putting an incalculable strain on the Afghan society. Despite the aberration of the past half century, the history of many hundreds of years shows that the people of Afghanistan are resilient.  If they can gain the time to shake off the militarism and paternalism of the West and remember their own strengths and begin healing, maybe they can follow the lead of the brave members of the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.  This may be their only hope.

All of the daily journal entries are just my observations and impressions.  I am not a sociologist, historian, or any other form of academic.  After a little less than a month here I cannot claim to begin to understand all that I have seen and heard.  I will be the first to admit that all of my opinions and observations may have nothing to do with reality but I do not think so.  Nothing that I have said is to be taken as a position by any of the several organizations that I am connected with.  These are my thoughts alone.  Peace.