Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dispatch from Afghanistan

The Kandahar summer is hot - over 100 degrees most days, but it is tolerable once 
you get used to sweating constantly.

My unit is part of a construction battalion. We have been busy building base 
camps and checkpoints all over southern Afghanistan. It is exciting 
but tiring work.

The country is poor - in money, and in land. It takes a lot of arduous 
labor to coax crops from the dry land. Years of poor farming practices 
and overgrazing have eroded the soil to desert.

The people are poor but resilient. Only the hardiest survive in this 
climate, through decades of war and generations of poverty. Tali-ban 
literally means one who is on a journey, but the vast majority of the 
country are just concerned with surviving, and improving conditions 
for their children. Once one can get past the cultural diferences, it 
is easy to see that people are the same here as they are anywhere. 
Childen still laugh and play; they have yet to learn to hate and kill. 
Women buy groceries, albiet with their face and body veiled, and men 
work fields.

Violence is born out of desperation, a sense that there is no 
alternative, no peaceful way to affect change. There is no forum for 
public discourse -- no way to voice a dissenting opinion without dire 
consequences. The modern world of mobility and global communication 
has disrupted millenium-old tribal traditions. Women wearing burkas 
living in mud homes may now use cell phones. A day-long trip into town 
now takes an hour thanks to a second-hand motorcycle.

I think a big source of unrest here and in other developing nations is 
this rapid change. Western states made this rocky transition over the 
course of two centuries, countless wars and much social upheaval that 
finished before most of us were born; Afghanistan will come crashing 
into the modern world in a quarter of that time. It is not unexpected 
that they would have trouble with the transition. Each generation will 
be better adjusted than the last, but progress will likely lag behind 
the developed world for the foreseeable future.

I pray everyday for the safety of my soldiers, that they return to 
their families with ten fingers, ten toes and all their wits. I also 
pray for the future of Afghanistan. I pray the people of this storied 
nation find peace with each other and find their way into the global 
community. I pray that the violence ends and people can cease living 
in fear. 

I thank everyone for their support while I was in Afghanistan. Notes from home really mean a lot when one is stationed halfway around the world. Now, we are on to Memphis, Tenn., for new challenges and new adventures. Hope to see you here!

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