Friday, August 17, 2007

You Didn't See This on the News

Or, We Can Learn So Much from the French.

But, before getting to the unfolding pageant of history's comic relief, here's good news from Afghanistan.

Yes, good news. At least from one point of view, the author of Reporter's Notebook: Afghanistan Is Growing."

America has been mired in Afghanistan longer than it's been caught in the quagmire of Iraq, and the country is showing the effects of a prolonged U.S. occupation.

I'm going to indulge in taking information from the "Reporter's Notebook," putting my own stamp on an account that almost certainly wouldn't qualify as "all the news that's fit to print."

Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, has fixed most of the war's damage, is home to 2.5 million people, and is growing. The growth isn't just in residents: there's more wealth, too.

Much of the economic upturn is due to financial aid that's been pouring into the country, but I can't help but think that help from the U.S. in keeping religious nuts from killing people helped.

Back to Kabul. They've got roads around there now, not the potholed tracks of two years ago. Sure, there's work still to be done, but people can live with that. If you don't believe me, take a look at outstate Minnesota in the spring and early summer, before the annual road repairs.

Afghanistan's President wants to extend those roads to other countries, to boost trade.

If you can believe what President Hamid Karzai said at John Hopkins University, he wants to make Afghanistan a regional trade center.

I realize that there are some, particularly in the better colleges and universities of America, who loath such philistine occupations as trade, and believe wealth to be a bane upon the purity of culture. When they're not upset about the plight of the poor, at least.

For the rest of us, making a living and maybe having more money at the end of the year than at the beginning is worth the risk of seeing movies that aren't critically acclaimed at the local video rental.

Jadde-ye morgh forooshi, called Chicken Street for the convenience of English-speaking tourists with cash, is either a tourist trap, or a wonderful place to shop for someone with power bargaining skills: depending on who you listen to.

It sounds like it's roughly equivalent to midtown Manhattan, with haggling. The price of real estate is close to New York's now, because of the economic boom.

Of course, there are still stretches of ruined homes. They're being pulled down to widen a road.

Seriously, there are still problems: car bombs; widows and orphans; and women in burkas begging on the street to feed their children.

And, there are the not-so-serious problems of traffic jams on the now-repaired roads.

Western soldiers, aware of the threat of car bombs, sometimes try to muscle their way through traffic. Afghans don't like that.

I said "western," not "American."

Here's the comic relief I mentioned.

The reporter who's "notebook" I've been getting some of my information from was sitting in a car with his local "fixer," Akbar, waiting in traffic, when a car hit theirs from behind.

From the Reporter's Notebook:"

"Of course, we looked to see who it was and perhaps sort out between us if there was any damage.

"Instead, we had an irate French soldier running up to our side window in full military fatigues brandishing a metal pole and screaming at us to get out of the way.

"Of course we tried but perhaps we didn’t move quickly enough for these gallic soldiers.

"As we pulled over, the driver of the white suburban drew his pistol and pointed it at us as the other gave us the finger.

"And as the armored suburban cars drew away, another soldier opened the side door and pointed his pistol at us.

"I was more saddened than shocked. These were not young soldiers as you see in the U.S. forces in Iraq but seasoned French troops who obviously couldn’t control themselves in an urban environment.

"Instead of quietly traveling through Kabul without bringing attention to themselves, which would be preferable to them and everyone else, they made themselves a target of potential attackers.

"The funny thing: As we followed them, they went around a roundabout the wrong way into traffic. Our final image was the French soldiers jumping out again screaming at car drivers to get out of the way.

"C‘est la vie and au revoir oh and bon voyage."

We can learn so much from the French!

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.