Another old post that I’d made private due to the Military
These are some clips from the Taliban video that I placed on here earlier. I thought it would be fun to piece it together with Toby Keith’s The Taliban Song.
I teach a logistics class here in Herat. For each class, we take a group picture. At graduation, we present the students with a certificate and this picture in a folder. The certificate gives them credentials as a “trained” logistician. This is an MoI ANP requirement. The picture is a memento of the class from our group of instructors.
While taking the pictures, my fellow instructor asked one of our students if he was nervous about having his picture taken with Americans. The taliban catches him with the pic, he’s liable to find himself in a bit of a pickle. The guy in question is from Bale Baluk which is down south in Farah Province. Farah is “Indian country.” It’s a hot area with a high level of bandit/taliban activity. Bale Baluk’s immediate reply; “f*ck the taliban.”
We all had a good laugh at this comment.
Earlier in the week, Bale Baluk told me that he was Muslim because his parents were Muslim. But that it wasn’t important. He and another student went on to tell me that Islam is the religion of the Arabs. They brought it here and left it. But it has caused many problems for the Afghan people. They stated that “Afghanistan would be better off without it.” A profound statement. An unexpected statement.
I am not real fond of Islam as a religion or as an institution of any kind. Because of this, a friend of mine recently asked me why I would come to a Muslim country in support of a program that would modernize Muslims. This endeavor could very well serve to elevate them into a more serious threat in the future.
I see his point. That said, there are days like today and guys like our Bale Baluk student who make it seem a worthy endeavor. 40 is probably the median age of our students. We’ve had a couple of guys who were in their mid to late 20s. A few guys who were pushing 60. Most are around 38 to 45. Senior guys who were around for the Russians, the taliban and the War of the Warlords in Kabul. Now, they are on board with America and our attempt to modernize their country.
I try to engage our students in each class period. Sometimes, they are willing to talk when pushed a bit. Some of them don’t really say a lot to us. They listen. They might ask a question or two. Mostly they sit and learn a bit to take back to their districts. About half of them will engage us in conversation.
Our current class is a little different. There are three guys in the class who have come back for reinforcement training. A second go round. They felt like they could learn more by coming back. These guys are extremely open. At the end of each class, thus far, they have taken to engaging ME in conversation. Asking my opinion on world affairs. Asking me what I think about Karzai and Bush. Asking why I think Bush has not attacked Pakistan.
Something that some of you might find surprising is that Afghanis have no love for Pakistan. They (rightfully) blame Pakistan for the rise of the taliban. These guys have no love for Iran. But they absolutely abhor and completely distrust Pakistan. They think that we (the US) should turn our guns on Pakistan as that is the origin of much of the trouble in this country. The taliban is trained in Waziristan. Peshawar is a hot bed for insurgents. Hekmatyar Guilbuldin is in hiding somewhere in the neighborhood of Peshawar.
Guilbuldin is one of the worst of the warlords from the time of Civil War in and around Kabul. He fought against Massoud for control of Kabul after the Russians retreated across the Amu Darya.
Massoud is another surprisingly complex conversation. Not all Afghanis consider Shah Ahmed Massoud a National Hero. He is not universally loved as some of the international press would have the world believe. Massoud launched many a rocket into the civilian population of Kabul. He, also, is said to have treated often with the Soviets during the 80s. This allowed the Northern Alliance to lick it’s wounds. But it came at the expense of the rest of the country.
Afghanistan is a complex country. There are no easy answers here.
Some of these guys are pretty intense. Some of them are extremely reserved and dignified. You have to be careful. They can’t lose face in this society.
These guys. This class. They are extremely laid back. One of the older guys asked me to play him some sexy videos because he hadn’t seen his wife in a month. He’s from Farah and has been waiting for our class in Herat for a couple of weeks. Travel here is difficult and time consuming. Earlier in the week, I had been playing my Ipod and they all wanted to listen to it. I promised them that I would bring my personal laptop to class the next day. I have 100 gigs of Itunes music and videos on my laptop. They all wanted to hear and see the music videos. And, of course, they wanted to see “sexy videos.”
I connected my laptop to our Sony video projector and a set of speakers that I had one of our Terps purchase downtown when I first arrived in Herat. They wanted sexy, so I played Jennifer Lopez. They loved her. I played a few others like Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Katherine McPhee. Katherine McPhee would be a Superstar in Afghanistan. They seem to love her. One of my terps told me that I “can not compare anyone to Katherine.” “She is the best.” I could only laugh.
The funniest part of the day came when Bale Baluk jumped up on the table and started to dance. I never thought I would see any of these guys do such a thing.
It was a good day. A day I am not likely to forget.
Enough of my ramblings…
Below is a video of one of our classes and a few pictures of our students and us cutting up.
Above is Bale Baluk. He was our table dancer. Now tell me you could predict that one. lol
One thing that is humbling for me is the respect that these guys show me as their mentor. I don’t feel “worthy” of such respect. When I chance upon one of my students on a visit to the Regional Headquarters, they address me as “Teacher” and place their hand over their hearts as they greet me. I get the full hand shake/hug and double cheek kiss as well. Most of these men are older than me by ten years or more. They’ve been through war and terrifying experiences. Some of them risk their lives just to attend these classes. I’m always humbled by their greeting and by their sacrifice. These men have a quiet dignity with which they carry themselves. I feel greatly honored when they feel comfortable enough with us to let down their guard and to allow us a glimpse of themselves on such an informal level. This does not occur so often in my experience. It’s an awesome feeling to sit on an equal step of humanity with these men.