Monday, May 29, 2006

Quiet As It Shouldn’t Be

Today it didn’t sound like a 3rd world city. I could hear the birds singing and leaves rustling with the wind. This at 2pm here, when all one normally hears are bleating car horns, street chatter and the busy sounds of poverty’s overcrowding.

It was oddly serene. Odd because the serenity was continually broken by the sounds of passing rioters chanting, and exchanges of gun fire and whatever else was on hand and would explode. There would be the stillness of a shallow breeze. All the sudden broken by a few gun-shot claps and the swelling noice of a crowd passing. An exchange of gunfire echoing off the hills and buildings. And then quiet. Quiet like you never hear in the center of Kabul.

It’s been even quieter for the past few hours or so; a few sporadic gun shots at most, not full on exchanges. The cars are returning to the streets, a few at least, and not the military/police vehicles or ambulances-rather a few honking taxis and speeding motorcycles. I can hear my neighbors’ children’s voices again, venturing a few steps into their courtyards now.

I’ve heard a few reports that a couple expat guest-houses were ransacked and looted. The fire I saw this afternoon from our rooftop, which may have been one of those houses, is no longer raging though.

I imagine it will be quite a few days more of protests here and there—hopefully without gunfire. And Juma and the funeral processions will be the real test of whether the powder keg is still volatile.

I imagine it will be even longer before the anti-American/West/Karzai sentiments that exploded today will calm down. That is only if things don’t get worse here in Kabul and in the south.

In the least, I hope the evening will be serene, and not oddly so.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Better Said Than I Could Ever...

Ahmed Rashid has a new article in the Yale Global Online.

The article is titled "A Taliban Comeback?" (I approve of the use of the question mark, and finally am praising an article headline!) Not surprisingly, given the author, it discusses the some of the issues I've been trying to touch on much more intelligently and articulately than I could ever. Obviously, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Learning Lessons

I hopefully have learned mine, especially since the lesson was so fresh (surely to be later forgetten as always). So I wont critique the headline of this WaPo article.

The article discusses the same topics that showed up in the AP article mentioned a few posts below. The WaPo article, at least briefly, touches on some of the contending issues. The issues I wish were mentioned, at least briefly, in the AP article. Though the WaPo avoids discussing the warlord/druglord/gov't official issue in depth, which is understandable, given the complexity and contending issues.

So, yeah, a lot of deaths this past week in the fighting. The Taliban are surely making a showing. But whether or not it was just that, a show, was quickly mentioned at lunch. I'm venturing towards that camp, thinking it's a show, rather than a strengthening. Partly, because I suspect the Taliban were dispersed rather than destroyed over the past few years (the NWFP being the well known sanctuary), and with things boiling up in Balochistan and other areas bordering, it's an opportune time to come back across the border and stir things up. And Iraq has been dominating the headlines for way too long now, the Al-Qaida here and in Pakistan are probably feeling left out.

Interestingly, the WaPo article mentions a public disapproval of the ISAF/CF tactics in rooting out the militants here. That brings me back to the lesson part. As is also mentioned, there are more troops here now than there were in the initial invasion and attack. It seems like the lessons applied then are now forgotten. Moreover, the same lessons, which should have been reinforced in the Iraq fighting seem to be ignored. Namely, from what I've read, part of the success of the initial attack in Afghanistan was due to the "small-scale" and integration of outside forces with the allied Afghan parties, i.e. the heavy use of integrated special forces. The other part, of course, being the fact that there were allied parties, and a common enemy.

That may be the problem this time around, and the cause of the necessity for the heavy-handedness. In these recent lurches towards democracy, we've gotten, or at least seen, factionalism (which most likely reduces to the long-standing tribalism of the region) rather than pluralism. And so there may no longer be a broader alliance and dominant or sigular enemy, such as was apparently present before 2002.

Of course, my perspective as a contractor is highly limited, and only compounded by the compound walls, and the hills that completely obscure the horizon beyond Kabul.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We See Where That Went This Time

A mere 6 or so hour later. It looks now like it'll be the end of September.

In no way a comment on Kunitz, but those recent sentiments below will now have to be short lived. At least the title of the poem will be more appropriate at the next round. So it'll be a new season and not home that will get me through dust storms and itchy eyes.

In continuing with the theme, I leave you with three (apparently appropriately) unremitting Robert Creeley pieces.


On such a day
did it happen

by happy conincidence
just here.



Back a street is the sunken
pit of the erstwhile market
first century where the feral

cats now wait for something
to fall in and along the
far side is the place where

you get the bus, a broad
street divided by two
areas for standing with a

covered provision, etc. Antichi!
Zukofsky'd say--all of it
humbling age, the pitted, pitiful

busts someone's sprayed with blue
paint, the small streets laboring
with compacted traffic, the generous

dank stink floods the evening air
Where can we go we will not
return to? Each moment, somewhere.



Hard to be unaddressed-
Empty to reflection-
Take the road east-
Be where it is.

The End of Something

Work has calmed down a bit. We're back on that close-down/wrap-up cycle. For certain, some things are ending. Around the house there is certainly the air of something ending.

We'll see where that goes this time.

But, I've had a bit more free time. So, upon reading that Stanley Kunitz just passed away, I was able to go spend some time reading his stuff again. Here is the obit from the LA Times.

Below is one of his most famous.

Feels appropriate right now.

End of Summer

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.

I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.

Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was forever over.

Already the iron door of the North
Clangs open: birds,leaves,snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

There Is No Chicken, There Is No Egg

Since figuring out which is which, or even if there is a chicken/egg situation here is impossible and fruitless. Further the situation is obviously cyclical and intertwined and well known, today, what AP put up is largely a non-story. So it's about the violence and joblessness, and has an odd title, at best.

Jobs, a lack of, lead young muslim men to terrorism. Terrorism makes it impossible for a stable and growing economy to take root. Thank you for stating it again. Except this time the AP writer didn't belabor, let alone mention the point. It drifted there, nonetheless, and was more than implied in the quotes.

I would have loved to see the journalist mention the kick-up in the poppy eradication programs of this season, and of late. Some research on how that is effecting the job market would be interesting too. Any of the Afghan folks or -philes see anything about that of late? I cant find anything.

E has a post about an interesting, odd and altogether sad incident in the Afghan Parliment. As terrible as it is, I did chuckle when I read the article off the listserv. But I was nodding my head side-to-side to, not tilting my head backwards. Oh yeah, I seem to be forming a habit of late...the incident involved a very courageous Afghan Woman MP getting attacked for her comments during session.

And relating to the above violence thing and "the big O" (as I'm now going to refer tothe spring offensive...ok maybe not, we'll see) I got this tid-bit today:
Rocket/Mortar fire: 08 May, Kabul Province, Kabul City, Presidential Palace Area – (0730), a typical fruit and vegetable cart, loaded with eight 57mm helicopter rockets on a remote controlled launcher, was discovered near the Presidential Palace....a disconnected control wire caused the remote control to malfunction...instructed to be on the lookout for carts, bicycles and motorbikes left unattended.

Eight 57mm rockets, on a fruit cart?? Look below, they aren't the smallest thing (that picture is/was actually a weapons store in Maymana). Eight...I definately woulda seen that smoke plume from my roof.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming....

Folks—dear, dear, loyal folks—sorry about those last two tangential posts. Excuse my vagrancy. Temporary as it was.

So now a post about music, oh wait...this blog was never supposed to be about...well never mind...

J---, who probably doesn’t read this blog anymore because of all the annoying music posts, pointed me to yet another band I’ve missed the past few years, and an album from last year that completely flew under my radar. (I blame it on my ineptitude and utterly un-hip High School friends that drag me down. I surely don’t blame it on J, besides J doesn’t even read this anymore so blaming him would do no good. N-mode, can you paint that crying tears mime make-up on my face and I’ll do that ‘tearing your own heart-out and crushing it’ act right here.)

Oh the album. The band is Stars and the album is “Set Yourself On Fire” (maybe I should go all performance artsy and mime the sewing of my heart to a string, raise my arm as if I’m holding the heart on a string, hang my head, mime that one movement light a zippo trick, and set my heart aflame. Get it myself = my heart. So profound.)

Beautiful and restrained chamber indie-pop, even when they go all grandiose on your ass. Dizzying and dazzling at times, especially after a few listens. So they’re up there w/ The National now. Take them, remove the ‘sobering up after a one-night stand while away on a business trip’ pathos, and keep the regret and misery. As the p-fork review put it, it's "the moments right after you hit your emotional nadir and start getting your shit together." Not as cacophonous as Arcade Fire, but as swelling and climactic.

Go get the album and listen to ‘Reunion’ over and over and over and over...

P.S. I hope all the Mudville Gazette readers enjoyed this post. Seriously though, welcome aboard.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tattletaling on the Taliban

I'm going to stay after class and tell Ms. Condi that the Taliban, espcially with their more recent changes in operational style, are...umm...terrorists by any (of the many) standards the current administration has employed. They've killed civilians for political purposes.

In trying to improve my foot speed to dodge bullets when I'm kidnapped and my Taliban captors are shooting at my feet making me dance the jig for their own entertainment, I was looking up Salsa steps and came across this. At least the Taliban will be playing some hip-shaking rhythms for me.

The Taliban aren't terrorists. See, the State Dept. seems to think such.

"In the latest State Department report last Friday, one item went unnoticed by the press, until now: the US doesn't classify the Taliban as terrorists -- and haven't for the last six years.

The find was made by's Tom Regan. The US does classify other groups on the US hit list as terrorists -- such as Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Hamas."

Though I'm not expecting consistency on this front. I'm not consistent in my own "definition" of "terrorism" or "terrorists". I don't believe it's even appropriate in foreign relations. But come on now, 6 years running? All the while, as iocaste212 points out here, the Earth Liberation Front gets tried under domestic terrorism laws and put on the DHS terrorist list?

I can see why before 9/11 the Taliban weren't put on the terrorist list. Largely, they weren't on our radar as national security threat. And the Clinton and Bush administrations had other political/economic motivations to engage with them. So is the current reason for leaving them off the list simply to justify the current administration's view that Afghanistan is a decreasing threat to US national security? That we've won the "war on terrorism" here? That we can pull our combat troops out of the southern parts of this country and put in NATO troops with more restrictive rules of engagement?

I'm gonna go watch that Colbert bit again.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Motorcycled

Finally, Afghanistan makes some front pages, or at least one, as noted by’s TP. NYT has a summary article on the annual the Taliban spring offensive, which every reader here is familiar with now. The article paints a good picture of how this offensive is a bit different than previous ones. This one not just consisting of rogue or guerilla attacks, but rather offensives for control of areas of the country.

TP also mentions an older news item, the ban on motorcycles in Ghazni, as they are often a Taliban mode of transportation. (The preceding link's article links to an IWPR article.) The news on that ban had made its rounds here after it was issued, one article, if I recall correctly, even including a quote extolling a certain powerful Mullah’s ability to ride 2-up and hit his targets w/ an RPG. But, the subsequent ban by the Taliban on all motor vehicles in the same area and the effectiveness of that ban is news to me. Though that article that discusses it is a few days old, I haven’t seen anything referencing it (haven’t looked hard though). The effectiveness of that ban, and the quotes are quite foreboding.

A few rockets and kidnappings are one thing, and even an increase in their frequency, though indicating a rising threat, wasn’t terribly concerning to me, given a lot of the current political and military context. The Taliban being able to shut down a whole region of the country, indicating their effective control of the area, is quite a different matter. The former only requires a safe house here and there or a couple of caves to duck into. Keeping all traffic at bay shows that the Taliban are the de facto authority in that area. Whether true or not, meaning whether or not they have the means and ability to be the de facto authority in the region, it doesn’t matter, as the locals seem to believe it.

That belief is the primary concern for me. I recall often reading coverage after the Taliban was ousted where the sentiment often expressed was to the effect of “we didn’t want them, but what could we do?”—in other words, a sentiment expressing a belief in the de facto authority of the Taliban—a sentiment of hopelessness. I hope it’s too soon for hopelessness. And of course, there is the actual possibility and fact that support for the Taliban is rising again.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Join the Masses! Join the Multitude!

Get yourself on The Ark!

...fine, I sincerely apologize for that. I just couldn't help myself. It was just so...I know, I know...OK, I'm sorry. Deeply sorry.

But the are that good. I'm moving to Sweden and becoming a groupie. A free track here.

But just buy the album.

If the world was right, "Hey Kwanogoma!" AND "Clamour for Glamour" AND "One of Us Is Gonna Die Young"(the free song above) would be the song of the summer.

Thank me in the comments.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My Pinko Card Expired...

...obviously, as is evidenced by the fact that it's nearly midnight (here), and I haven't put up a happy May Day post. I'll call it a strategic choice, which my safety in mind, seeing as there is generally a strong distaste for those even remotely associated with Marx. And that distaste comes from two opposing groups here, one well armed, the other crazy. Getting those two factions to unite as they hunt me down in the hills of Hazarajat wouldn't be good. Nonetheless, my 18 year-old self would be ashamed of my 28 year-old self.

Perhaps more importantly (and in dismissing the holiday celebrated around the world), and definately quite interestingly, as N-mode points out, today is Natonal Law Day. And yeah, so he's right on how lame it is. (Any significance to them choosing May Day to celebrate Law Day in the US?) BUT, he also found that the ABA site lets you buy Law Day t-shirts.

Take a look at those law-day revolutionaries. Soon the masses will be taking the streets and chanting "Our heritage of liberty under the law and the rule of law makes our democracy possible!", as the ABA suggests. And you don't even have to silk screen these t-shirts in the basement of your punk-house.

One click-shopping...take that 18 year-old self!

P.S. Completely foiled by blogger, or perhaps the powers that be conspiring to make a point, some javascript error wouldn't let me publish the post on May Day...