Rabbi Arthur Waskow : Some Cockamamie Ideas about Afghanistan

Afghani women: Offer micro-loans for economic development. Photo from UNHCR.

Remembering Pharaoh, Plagues and Exodus…
Afghanistan: There has to be a better way

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow / The Rag Blog / October 29, 2009

When some of us outside Washington (and even some inside) say there must be some other way of dealing with Afghanistan, Good Old Official Formal U.S. (GOOFUS) says this is a cockamamie notion. So The Shalom Center is going to put forward four cockamamie plans. Read on!

Present U.S. plans for Afghanistan and present/past U.S. behavior toward fossil fuels and the world’s climate share four factors:

  • Both are based on top-down control over the “weaker” communities of human beings and the web of life on earth;
  • These “weaker” beings turn out to be able to fight back in unexpectedly effective and destructive ways;
  • For a moment, decision-makers in the White House (Afghanistan) and Congress (climate) are shuddering as they see the precipice before them and are trying to imagine change. But the pull of “Top-Down” habit is very strong.
  • In this moment, We the People can make a difference.

This pattern is a very old story. In the Bible, it is called Pharaoh, Plagues, and Exodus.

On Sept. 10, 2009, Matthew Hoh, a senior U.S. diplomat and former Marine resigned from the U.S. Foreign Service after serving more than five years in Iraq and five months in Afghanistan.

This week the Washington Post published his letter and reported he has been invited to meet with Vice President Biden’s staff.

Hoh said:

I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war. The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency.

The Shalom Center offers four cockamamie ideas for U.S. policy in Afghanistan, two of which are already under official consideration inside the Washington Beltway.

  1. (“Counter-insurgency”) Send 500,000 U.S. soldiers to occupy the most ornery anti-occupation people on the craggy face of earth, killing thousands of Afghans and Americans along the way and bankrupting any hope of social reform in America;
  2. (“Counter-terrorism”) Keep flinging lightning bolts from the sky to kill bands of “terrorists” who we then discover are wedding guests, thereby multiplying the reserve army of “terrorists” a thousandfold after every wedding.
  3. (“Bribery”) Fire all U.S. generals and diplomats in Afghanistan. Send five women U.S. Senators to negotiate with Afghan women and all male Afghan factional leaders (including the varied Taliban factions) with two promises: (a) Any governance agreement they unanimously agree to will be backed up by one billion dollars a month in U.S. “economic aid,” delivered as five-dollar bills in suitcases, if requested, and by the withdrawal of all US troops; (b) If no such agreement is reached, or if the agreement breaks down, the money and all other U.S. involvement in Afghanistan ends at once.
  4. (“Wild Far Far West,” also known as “Grass-roots gamble”) Call a conference of the independent women’s organizations in Afghanistan. Offer micro-loans for grass-roots economic development to any group of ten women who apply as a group (loans ranging from $1,000 to $5,000). And — offer ten revolvers and 1000 bullets to each group of women: one gun and 50 bullets for each woman for target practice, 50 bullets for defense against anyone who comes to assail them for being uppity. If any women’s group chooses not to receive the guns but to take their chances on nonviolence, their micro-loan doubles. Then the U.S. leaves — Generals, Predators, Drones, and all — except for continuing contact with the micro-loan organizations.

Of the four, which plan is least cockamamie — most likely to save American lives, benefit American society, save Afghan lives, and help self-government grow at the grass roots in Afghanistan?

The Shalom Center is posting this letter on our website at www.theshalomcenter.org and welcomes you to write your own comments there. On the website you will also find a “take action” memo for writing your Senators about Afghanistan, as well as a longer note about urging your Senators to act on global scorching and the climate crisis.

Remember: both issues are at a crossroads, a crucial choice point. We the People can make a difference.

Shalom, salaam, peace!


P.S. – For David Hoh’s full letter of resignation from the Foreign Service and his analysis of present failures in Afghanistan, go here.

[Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center. He can be reached at awaskow@shalomctr.org.]

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