Romance Redacted

June 23, 2008

James Michener’s Caravans is a good-read, romantic novel set in an exotic 1950 Afghanistan.
The hero is a young, likable consulate worker with the American embassy in Kabul.
The plot: He’s called on to chase down and retrieve the free-spirited daughter of a US senator who has charged off with a local warlord into the Hindu Kush, the towering mountain range between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As a numb-nutted 18-year-old high school senior in1967, we dreamed on Caravans in big, beautiful pictures of a Lawrence-of-Arabia-like world in Afghanistan, and extremely romantic, poetic.
If one wanted to form some view of current Afghan society, which apparently hasn’t changed much in near-60 years, Caravans is an excellent source.
Michener was an excellent locale writer, blending both a journalist view of different parts of the globe with a novelist’s craft — most of his titles are places, i.e Alaska, Texas, Iberia, Poland. Good reads: The Source, The Fires of Spring.
Of course, Michener’s version of Afghanistan was way before the Russians, before Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the US.
Not so exotic any more, maybe way-more toxic and dangerous.

Maybe Decider George was waxing back to his own high school reading of Caravans when he blubbered to GIs a couple of months ago during a video conference about how “It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic…” to be fighting, and dying, or getting slaughtered in Afghanistan.
No, it was Decider George just being his normal, thoughtless, asshole self.

  • A woman and three children have been killed after rockets fired from Pakistan hit a residential area in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials say.
    The four civilians were killed when rockets landed in the eastern town of Khost after being launched from about 300 metres inside Pakistani territory, Arsala Jamal, the governor of Khost province, said on Sunday.
    Eight people, most of them women, were also wounded by the rocket fire – one of three cross-border raids that took place about the same time overnight.
    Pakistani officials denied the allegations.
    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Athar Abbas, a Pakistani military spokesman, said: “[Pakistani forces] only fired at the militants who were observed in the border area, so I don’t know how they are claiming that we fired on the camps or the bases of Afghanistan.

    Dan Nolan, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Afghanistan, said there were definitely two rockets attacks on Khost.
    One of those attacks killed three civilians; another attack targeting Nato and Afghan army bases killed one civilian, he said.
    An Afghan defence ministry spokesperson told Al Jazeera that both the attacks came from the Pakistani side of the border.

    — Al Jazeera English, (6/22/08)

Read the whole story here.

A stress pattern has developed along the Afghan/Pakistan border — not a good thing.
A good-pitched, nasty-little dust-up right there, and with the Taliban seemingly never ceasing, coalition forces, especially US GIs, will face a shitfire.
Apparently, the Taliban and some of the Pakistani border patrol have become partners:

  • The issue of the Taliban’s ability to cross and recross the border with Pakistan into that country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas is becoming one of the most contentious issues of the war, with many – including Afghan President Hamid Karzai – insisting that his country is involved in a ‘regional conflict’ and threatening to send troops across the border.
    The Pakistani Frontier Corps has been heavily infiltrated and influenced by Taliban militants, sometimes joining in attacks on coalition forces, according to classified US ‘after-action’ reports compiled following clashes on the border.
    According to those familiar with the material, regarded as deeply sensitive by the Pentagon in view of America’s fragile relationship with Pakistan, there are ‘box loads’ of such reports at US bases along the length of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Details of the level of infiltration emerged yesterday on a day when five more US-led soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan. Four of the soldiers died in a bomb and gunfire attack outside the southern city of Kandahar.
    Nato officials have reported a dramatic increase in cross-border incidents compared with the same period last year. The US documents describe the direct involvement of Frontier Corps troops in attacks on the Afghan National Army and coalition forces, and also detail attacks launched so close to Frontier Corps outposts that Pakistani co-operation with the Taliban is assumed.
    The reality,’ said a source familiar with the situation on the ground, ‘is that there are units so opposed to what the coalition is doing and so friendly to the other side that when the opportunity comes up they will fire on Afghan and coalition troops. And this is not random. It can be exceptionally well co-ordinated.’

    — The Observer, (6/22/08)

No Fear: The US-led coalition is here with the big-suck.
These big suck weapons are horrifyingly effective, and without all the radiation hangover from off a nuclear device.
These have been around awhile and were even used by the US in Vietnam.
The UK has re-introduced the munitions — with US guidance and aid, of course.

  • Apache attack helicopters have fired the thermobaric weapons against fighters in buildings and caves, to create a pressure wave that sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies.
    The Ministry of Defence has admitted to the use of the weapons, condemned by human rights groups as “brutal”, on several occasions, including against a cave complex.
    The use of the Hellfire AGM-114N weapons had been deemed so successful they would now be fired from RAF Reaper unmanned drones controlled by “pilots” at Creech air force base in Nevada, an Defence Ministry spokesman added.
    Thermobaric weapons, or vacuum bombs, were first combat-tested by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and their use by Russia against civilians in Chechnya in the 1990s was condemned worldwide.

    Legal experts concerned that use of the weapons broke international law simply renamed them.
    “We no longer accept the term thermobaric (for the AGM-114N) as there is no internationally agreed definition,” a ministry spokesman said.
    “We call it an enhanced blast weapon.”

    — The Australian, (6/23/08)

Does the entire thermobaric weapon situation sound familiar?
What constitutes torture? Or abuse?
What represents ‘Executive Privilege,’ really?

If legal problems arise, just redact the name.

What the hey! Thermobaric sounds too barbaric anyway.

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