Monday, October 12, 2009

Doonesbury 10/11/2009

After a hiatus from writing based partially on an irrational fear of having nothing of value to post anymore regarding my deployment, I read the Sunday 10/11/2009 Doonesbury comic, and the will to write came rushing back. A chance occurrence on my birthday? With Halloween coming up, that's spooky!

All I know is, after reading the Sunday comic, I felt like "Wow, Trudeau nailed it!". The visual of: the relationship between the CIA/contractor and the Afghan informant, the reference to the 16th century (which I posted on before), the ubiquitous tea while doing business (chai sabz or chai cia?), to the hat, scarf, and appearance of the informant, the reference to a "drug lord", along with alluding to our enormous technology/firepower. It's all there, powerfully packed into eight colorful panels, with the beautiful Afghan mountains lingering in the background. I couldn't get the comic out of my mind. Not that I wanted to, it brought back a lot of memories. The simplicity of how Trudeau depicted the paradox of war, made me think, "Yeah! That's it, that's what we're capable of!" But, is it really?

I thought back to the days spent conversing with my friends, Afghan linguists, whose opinions about culture, and their fellow Afghans, really moved me to consider how THEY see the war; and like the Afghan informant in the comic, they usually posed a variation of the question: "I don't get it, how come you guys are losing?" That really struck me.

Since returning, I've followed the news, both good and bad out of Afghanistan. It's really heated up since I left, but that was expected. What comes to mind is how humane we (the US) are perceived to be by the Afghans...most of the time, to a fault and detriment.

Afghans are familiar with tribal justice that may include - the slice of a sword, hurled stones, whippings, and harsh death. They do not understand taking prisoners after a fierce firefight, then treating them humanely (What's the point?). They do not forget what the Talibs (and Russians) have done to their families. For Afghans, brutality rules, and they don't flinch. It's just their way of life. And this was imparted to me by the linguists, who in their own way were saying to me: 'We should be kicking Taliban ass!" It is war after all.

Teachers: Have students look up what "Rules of Engagement" (ROE) are. Researching the Vietnam war might help them understand what consequences the rules can have on war. What are the positive/negative aspects of ROE's? What are some of our current ROE's in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts?
What do your students think about the Doonesbury cartoon? What do they think Trudeau thinks about the war? Have them research his previous comic strips relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, and have them report on what they think he believes.


  1. Good to see you posting again!

    I do get tired of people talking about Iraq and Afghanistan like they are mercy missions... it is so very strange.

  2. I'm not sure I understand the "losing" part. I hate losing any of our men, but if we kill more of them than they kill of us...Sometimes in war there is retreat, but that doesn't mean "losing." I'm probably not saying this very well, but it seems that the media plays a big part in our "losing" the war.

    Thanks for sharing that cartoon - you are right. Trudeau is amazing in his simple-ness.

  3. "For Afghans, brutality rules, and they don't flinch."

    Yes, but given the genuine option of living without it would they take that option? Do the men really have no desire to spare their women and children from brutality? I doubt it. (Caveat, I haven't been there)

    Yes we should be kicking Taliban ass, killing as many of the sonsofbitches as we can, but the idea behind COIN is that we should not be kicking the asses of guys that are working for the Taliban and AQ primarily for financial reasons or because they/their families are under threat of death.

    We must separate these types from the radicals, and provide jobs and security for them.

    So, we craft our footprint so as to reflect this distinction as much as possible. Granted it is difficult, and makes of our military a social service program but, if you win the trust of the populace, that makes for a long term removal of Afghanistan from the list of areas of the world we have to worry about. One less source of sonsofbitches we have to kill.

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