Michael's Dispatches

Brother, Can You Spare an Afghani?



Man begging outside the Blue Mosque in Mazar i Sharif, Afghanistan

Published: 22 October 2008

“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”

William Faulkner

Traveling along the roads of Afghanistan (when there are roads) provides a different perspective on life back home.  Folks in the U.S. are worried about the economy, and while I can understand that many are struggling, it’s easy to forget how much we still have.  In Afghanistan, and other countries all over the world, there are many people who literally beg for their next meals.

Americans worry about who will become our next president.  Despite what their opponents say, if Barack Obama is elected, he’s not going to turn the U.S. into a socialist state (at least I don’t think he will) and John McCain is not going to invade Iran (at least I don’t think he will).  Even though a great deal of noise is made about ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans, it’s remarkable how much both sides agree about certain vital issues, and how stable our nation’s fundamental policies are.  No matter who is elected, America will remain true to its basic values of freedom, democracy, private enterprise and public service.  The change of government will occur in an orderly fashion, no bloodshed, revolutions or coups.  Think about it: When this campaign is finished, either an African American man will be president or a woman will be vice president.  The candidacy of Barack Obama has demonstrated how American society as a whole is NOT racist.  For all the scars we have inflicted on ourselves (slavery and racism being one of the worst), our democratic society is self-healing, even if that process can be painful and slow.

We might take a moment to remind ourselves that we do not live in a land of tribal law or a place where intergenerational feuds are part of the social fabric.  Look at Afghanistan. Widows abandoned and shunned.  Orphans everywhere. People missing limbs from the millions of mines still dotting the landscape.  Millions.  Tribes and warring ethnic factions and police so corrupt they make the Mafia look like do-gooders.  Taliban.  HIG. Al Qaeda.  And a lot more suicide bombers than Senators.  (Trust me on that one.)

The people of Afghanistan are extremely friendly and welcoming.  But let’s face it. They live in a world of constant struggle. Their country was already primitive, and their existence difficult enough before they became a place of conquest, civil war, and now a clash of civilizations (or, to put it more accurately, a clash between dozens of civilized countries and violent anarchy).

Near Kandahar, Southern Afghanistan

The woman above was begging beside the highway.  And she was not the only one.  I was a passenger driving through Taliban country in a pickup truck when I took her photo.  Car bombs detonate on that road all the time. Americans and others die there. And this woman, covered as most women in Afghanistan whom I see are, probably a widow, was begging just beside a police checkpoint, which, sooner or later, likely will get attacked. She might get blown to pieces by a car bomb. She apparently has no money, probably no family, nowhere else to go, and no other way to live. Still, she endures.

The world economy is having its problems, but it’s going to come back sooner or later. Meanwhile, those of us in America, and throughout the west, should count our blessings.  We have our families. We have governments which, for all their flaws, at least are reasonably functional, or in many cases, highly functional. We have hope. Or at least we have reason to hope.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    arizonalady · 12 years ago
    Great post, Michael. Thanks for reminding us. You are doing a wonderful job of documenting history in the making -- journalism at its finest. I'm praying for your safety as you brave many dangers to let us know what's really happening at the intersection of civilization and chaos. May God continue to bless you daily.
    Deepest regards,
    Ann H., Arizona
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hank Dondero · 12 years ago
    "No matter who is elected, America will remain true to its basic values of freedom, democracy, private enterprise and public service".

    I generally agree with most of your comments, and fully agree with your mission, past and present. However, I can't abide the above opinion. It is true that America has untold rights and benefits available to us as citizens. But, with a left leaning Democratic congress, and the possibility of the election a left leaning president, many of the core values can be legislated away. Add to this, the future appointment of possibly two Justices to the Supreme Court, the checks and balances set up in the Constitution can be precluded/breached. I am very concerned.

    Keep up the great work.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandy · 12 years ago
    Amen and amen!
    To a large extent the poorest Americans are better off the most of the poor in the rest of the world. It is terrifying to lose what we have, but even then most of us would not end up like the poor in many other countries. I will admit, I'm concerned about our economy. I have no desire to go through a "Great Depression". But what will be will be and I'm not going to have much control over it. I will just try to hold on, like my grandparents did, and make it through.

    Thank you so much for your marvelous words and photos. We need more people like you in the hard places of the world - people who are not trying to push an agenda but are just trying to show us the way things are.

    Thank you!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charles Coone · 12 years ago
    Michael, I have to disagree in regard to the possible direction of this country. We cannot trivialize the loss of trillions of dollars that Americans lost seemingly overnight. There are elements of our political system who are bent on CHANGING the fundamental makeup of our nation that was built and paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of generations before us. They wish to limit our Constitutional rights, ie 2nd Amendment, and move our economy away from a free market, capitalistic one in favor of a more socialistic direction. The "economic affirmative action plan" in the form of CRA's is the root of our economic meltdown.That not only caused the vaporization of those trillions of dollars of American investments, but indirectly, if not directly, affected the struggling emerging market economies in the rest of the world. It does matter, it has always mattered.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 12 years ago
    I am reminded of a line form Forest Gump when he told Bubba's Mama he was going to buy a shrimp boat, "Are you cazy or just plain stupid!"
    Barack Hussien Obomber is not BLACK or a hyphenated American. He is Arab and white, period! There is even some serious questions about his right to claim he is an American citizen. He is a page right of Marx and Engles! He's not what he seems. He secretly hates the perceived whitey establishment. His own books excoriate his white grandmother for being racist. (A word BTW which has NO scientific meaning relating to humans).
    Michael you have been in the sun to long or have suffered to many explosive shocks to your brain if you think for one minute Barack Hussien Obomber is not threat to the nations economy, peace, and stability. You seriously want this jerk to be Commander in Chief of our precious military forces. What do you think will happen to our forces under this empty suit of a Black Liberation communist?
    Get out of the sun and take a long vacation in Cuba and Venezuela so you can become more accustomed to the world of Barack Hussein Obomber!
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    Tommy Barrios · 12 years ago
    Now that I have expressed my views on politics I will address of the issue of Paradise Lost, i.e. the present situation in the middle east. As Michael has so aptly pointed out, the region of the world he is presently reporting on with so much alacrity and presence of being, was one the worlds most productive regions of mankind. The richest places on the planet existed in this area long before the present day empires where even thought about. It has for countless centuries been the focal point of extended struggles for control and political superiority.
    Unfortunately in recent history the middle east has gone from being the most prosperous and flowering to the most screwed up and destitute due to socio-political forces under the influence of radical Islamic stupidity and ignorance. It's our American presence in these potential gardens of Eden that holds out any hope that will bring back the good times for the people of the middle east. We only have to listen to reason, logic, and the voices of the locals in order to see the mission through.
    Michael has said many times over that it's the local people whom we need to win over in our excursions on the road to peace in the world. Start with the children, make them happy and feel secure and you will win over the rest of the village. That is the true meaning of Paradise;-)
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    brityank · 12 years ago

    Thank you for your reports and insights into Afghanistan and the other hard places of our globe; they really do show how blessed and lucky the United States has become. As you mentioned, the constant battle of the evil forces of the Taliban, HIG, and Al Qaida there are destroying what little civilization they have encountered or is attempted to provide for the safety and security of the populace.

    That same evil is abroad in the United States in the guise of socialism and communism; pretending to be the answer to the ills of America, while undermining the concepts that create the just society we all crave. Obama is at best a mole, at worst a tool, of the insidious Marxist/Leninist cabals that infest the world. His ascension -- or coronation once "the light from above will shine down" -- to the most powerful office in the world bar none will be the death-knell of "the last, best, hope for Mankind", and it will mean decades of death and destruction our children will inhabit before it is reversed.

    I am appreciative of your optimism and clear-headed pragmatism, but as an American by choice and not chance do not hold the same view. I pray for you and our country, that God will keep us safe and secure, and provide for the knowledge we need to continue our mission to all the peoples of the world. God bless you, Michael.
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    Cindy Schmit · 12 years ago
    "We have hope. Or at least we have reason to hope." Yes we do have hope. We need to be a very grateful Nation that we have so many Champions protecting our hopes & dreams. My son will be home soon from his 2nd deployment & I am proud he was part of our history. Thank you so much for all you do Michael. Please stay safe.Godspeed
    Cindy Schmit IL
  • This commment is unpublished.
    McHermann · 12 years ago
    Michael, when one political party uses the fight for our freedom and security for political positioning, then as far as I am concerned, that party has given up it's right to represent what America was founded upon.
    It's not that both parties are coming at the same problems from different angles...The fact is that one party is solidly trying to move the country away from it's founding principles and towards a different ideology...One that you witness our finest young men and women fight and die to defeat every day.

    Most Americans love and give freely. God blesses us and we do our best to bless others. But many Americans hate and are angry, and want to control and dictate to others. We used to ignore people like that and do our best in spite of them...But as that group has grown and gained so much power and control, it has become essential that those who love and give freely must fight and defend the "American way of life", here at home! And a fight it truly is!
    I have often complained that one mistake America has made in her glorious history is that we have not done enough to export "our Revolution"...to work to convert the world to our wonderful system and way of life, to the benefits and the blessings of being an "American"! Now, we are paying for that oversight here at home, because it has not been programmed into our culture, our thoughts, nor into our children's hearts.

    In your book, "Moment of Truth in Iraq" at the bottom of page 89, you state that one of al Qaeda's strategies was to "humiliate and exhaust America" by provoking a civil war in Iraq, and that it was a "tempting strategy". Well Michael, to me and my beliefs, this is Satan's strategy against freedom and America. It is a strategy of control and dominance, a strategy of fear and terror. It is what America's enemies will be increasingly doing to undermine our Government, our Constitution and our way of life.

    The scenario goes like this...Those who stand for freedom and the Constitution end up in a bitter battle against those who stand for control and dominance...All the while America's external enemies feed the struggle, exhausting and preoccupying Americans until they feel the time is right move against America in a bold and decisive manner, toppling our Government, subjecting and enslaving Americans in our own land.
    Again, on page 89 you state, that for al Qaeda, the war in Iraq is just "one front in their battle to humiliate and exhaust America", and you could not have been more right! It is also just "one front" on Satan's war on America and if we don't fight back now, if we allow the wrong side to take complete control of our country, then we are lost and it will take generations of suffering and turmoil to recover from the oppression and destruction. Just look at the Soviet countries, China, Afghanistan, Iraq.
    Since when do all of these countries of the world not deserve the freedoms and prosperity that America has enjoyed?
    We should have done more to export our Revolution to the world. We could have done more. And we are paying for our complacency.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    SallyO · 12 years ago
    Thanks for the reminder about what we have in America. I'm taking a class about blogging as a social force, and our latest assignment was to discuss the situation in Myanmar. I was pleased that most of the college students' responses expressed appreciation for the freedoms we have in America, and the desire to share what we have with others. Too often the rhetoric becomes overheated, and we lose perspective. It's good to be reminded.
    Keep up the great work, and stay safe!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    H Tuttle · 12 years ago
    Michael, I've appreciated, applauded, circulated and even contributed what I could to support your mission, but I'm not sure about your comment that "[n]o matter who is elected, America will remain true to its basic values of freedom, democracy, private enterprise and public service." I certainly hope so, but an ultra-left Obama as president coupled with left majorities in the House and Senate.... well, you've been out of the country for a good deal of time these past few years. Just saying. ;-)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hohum · 12 years ago
    Apparently when a black Kenyan and a white American have a child it's born a white Arab.

    I've learned something. o_O
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tommy Barrios · 12 years ago
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pingage · 12 years ago
    Im an infantryman in the U.S. Army, and i did (and still am) a lot of research about things like this:
    Yes, Obama's dad was a muslim, but he was a Kenyan. Kenya is not an arab country. Its not the primary language (its Swahili and English http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya ) and the religion is not Islam, therefore he is not of arab descent.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arab says:
    Arab -noun
    1. a member of a Semitic people inhabiting Arabia and other countries of the Middle East.
    2. a member of any Arabic-speaking people.

    Also: Afganistan, Iran, and the other Persian nations are not Arabs? They speak farsi and pashtu!
    In most of the arab countries (ex: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq) there are MANY christians who are arab! Why? They speak the language and have lived there for thousands of years (ethnically arab).
    One more point: Obama is a christian now, regardless of what he practiced before. Remember the Bill of Rights? Freedom of Religion is right in there. I do remember one fundamental piece of our country is the freedom from religious persecution, and thats all i see these days.

    I am an independent voter. I do what is right for humanity, not for my personal beliefs (except freedom of religion of course)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pingage · 12 years ago
    "Also: Afganistan, Iran, and the other Persian nations are not Arabs? "
    replace the "?" with a "."
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    Kerry Wilson · 12 years ago
    We are proud of you in Winter Haven. It's a great place, in a great country, and we are glad you are speaking truth. Thanks!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jesus Mondea · 12 years ago
    Excellent Post Michael. I appreciate your journalistic talents. You inspire the rest of us lackers.
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    Steamboat Jack · 12 years ago

    ƒ??Barack Obama is elected, heƒ??s not going to turn the U.S. into a socialist state (at least I donƒ??t think he will) ƒ??

    Socialism is more than controlling the peoples ƒ??social welfareƒ? from cradle to grave. It includes the state ownership of the means of production.

    The Democrats got the ƒ??bail outƒ? bill through Congress. Henry Paulson, a Democrat although he is the Secretary of the Treasury, had the CEOs of the major banks in last week and told them to sell stock in their banks to the government ƒ??or elseƒ?. Even the ones that are not in trouble (e.g. Wells Fargo: they donƒ??t have the bad loans on their books).

    There is talk about the government buying stock in the largest insurance company, AIG. And the car manufacturers are going under, partly because of their pension liabilities so there is talk of nationalizing their pension plans. And Maxine Waters (D-CA) threatened that they will nationalize the oil companies.

    It was the Democrats social engineering with Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Greenspanƒ??s ƒ??easy moneyƒ? that caused the financial crisis. Now the Democrats look like they are taking control of the whole works in the name of ƒ??the workersƒ?.

    What in the Wide Wide World of Sports gives you ƒ??HOPEƒ? that what has already started will not continue if the Democrats get both a veto proof majority and the Presidency under Obama?

    I love your reporting but I think you donƒ??t understand what is going on here.


    Steamboat Jack
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MikeAngelo · 12 years ago
    Michael -

    It seems you've created quite an uproar with this post. : )~

    I have to agree with the majority of your readers, that you might need to take a break and come back to the war-front at home. The war at home could use some of your honest takes about the disaster that is unfolding for us here.

    Although, we will continue to live in a 'blessed' nation for the short term. The long term is looking bleak based upon the latest election polls. There's a hidden war going on and the civil rights fight is about to take a turn for the worse.

    But, we have time. All of us need to get out there and spread the word. Not just sit at our desks and read it.

    Best regards to you Michael...and keep up the GREAT work!!

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    voice_in_dc · 12 years ago
    Many Americans have no clue how great we have it here in America. Thank you for giving us just a hint of how blessed we are. It is true that we must fight the daily fight to fend off those who would destroy our freedoms, yet isn't it wonderful that we can? Unlike the lady begging for food, we can put our energies into a higher calling of defending freedom here and other places where we are asked. Keep up the great work!
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    Dave · 12 years ago

    If you think 'private enterprise', 'freedom' and the like are the longer term result of putting Obama into office, you haven't been paying attention to who he is and to the people he's spent the last twenty five years sipping tea with... Obama certainly will weaken our military to the point where it is useless beyond meals on wheels, and he will break our economy in the name of 'fairness', and he will tax all sizes of business into ruin in the name of 'good government making decisions for all the people'.

    I realize you have larger things in your sights right now, but you simply MUST do some serious reading about him before you go on imagining what he is like.

    I realize McCain isn't a wonderful candidate, but he at least comes from the generation which fought communism. Obama thinks the theories of Marx and the deeds of Lenin are teaching moments.

    Ayers and his pals, during their ill fated 'revolution', actually had a serious discussion witnessed by an informant about how to kill the 25 million Americans who were die hard capitalists and would not go along with the 'new leadership'. They talked of 're-education camps' for the ones they did NOT have to kill. Ayers and Obama are thick as thieves, now more than ever.

    Blanket statements like yours, laudable in their intent to calm, are simply uninformed.

    Keep up your great work Michael, glad you're out there.
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    Clint · 12 years ago
    if Barack Obama is elected, heƒ??s not going to turn the U.S. into a socialist state (at least I donƒ??t think he will). You will be surprised what happens when he gets the major majority that is expected and he will not veto the Dems efforts to move toward socialism. Try reading "Rules for Radicals." Obama has the methods down pat with the "Rules for Radicals" most often mentioned word CHANGE.
    Find the following article @ SouthCoast com
    Frank envisions post-election stimulus from Democrats
    "In a meeting with the editorial board of The Standard-Times, Rep. Frank, D-Mass., also called for a 25 percent cut in military spending, saying the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs, and that upper-income taxpayers are going to see an increase in what they are asked to pay."
    Google this one and if read today you can find the link on Drudge. This article contains very alarming discussion.
    House Democrats Aim to Remove 401k Tax Breaks
    Powerful House Democrats are eyeing proposals to overhaul the nation's $ trillion 401(k) system, including the elimination of most of the $80 billion in annual tax breaks that 401(k) investors receive.
    House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-California, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support are looking at redirecting those tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute.
    A plan by Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economic-policy analysis at the New School for Social Research in New York, contains elements that are being considered. She testified last week before Miller's Education and Labor Committee on her proposal.
    At that hearing, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, Peter Orszag, testified that some $2 trillion in retirement savings has been lost over the past 15 months.
    Under Ghilarducci's plan, all workers would receive a $600 annual inflation-adjusted subsidy from the U.S. government but would be required to invest 5 percent of their pay into a guaranteed retirement account administered by the Social Security Administration. The money in turn would be invested in special government bonds that would pay percent a year, adjusted for inflation.
    The current system of providing tax breaks on 401(k) contributions and earnings would be eliminated.
    I have read proposals that if there is anything left in your 401k you cannot will more that 50% of the remaining amount to your heirs. If that is not socialism I can see it and smell it from here Michael but hope you are right.
    Keep up the good work reporting on the War on Terror that under Obama will have another more PC name and get back to us here in the US and find out what is really happening here. Your good words may let you report longer. In Florida difficult questions to Biden has caused the Obama and the Dems in a non negotiable comment excommunicated this TV station from interviews with the nerve to ask questions they do not want to answer. So keep this in mind because this cabal will not like news that does not flatter them so be warned by this news.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    sohbet · 12 years ago
    thank you very much

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