Going for a Walk

I went on a dismounted patrol yesterday. Our mission was to obtain bids for medical and veterinary supplies for future medical and veterinary missions. In short, we walked to the local village and went priceshopping.

As you can imagine, going shopping here is a little more involved. Back home, my wife will prepare a shopping list and one of us will go get the stuff. Here we had an operational order brief and pre-combat checks/inspections (do you have water, ammo, do you know your call sign and radio frequency, etc). Once all that was done, we got into a patrol formation with the ANA soldiers and we moved out.

Anyone who has traveled outside of the United States and Europe will instantly recognize what I saw. Dirt roads, open shops hawking their stuff, people everywhere, mules, camels, motorcycles (rice burners with 150cc to 300cc engines), cars (wagons mainly), jingle trucks (big trucks with ornate decorations), the occasional minivan and SUV. What got me was the overabundance of moondust. Of course this moondust was getting into everything, including the food that was being prepped in front of the shops.

What we did was that a couple of ANA soldiers along with our Doc went to all the pharmacies in the village soliciting bids. The rest of us pulled security. I was taking pictures while all this was going on. I was able to take pictures with one hand and the other hand was on the pistol grip of my rifle (a tactical sling for my rifle lets me hang the rifle in front of my body).

Some of you are probably thinking "all the pharmacies, how many pharmacies are in the village?" According to Yahoo Yellow Pages, there are fourteen pharmacies in Jefferson City, Missouri (Walmart wasn't listed so I know there must be more). We visited somewhere between ten and fifteen pharmacies! These do not look at all like the pharmacies you are accustomed to. It is a little shop with a sign that says pharmacy and there is no board certified pharmacist dispensing meds. If you have the cash, you can buy the meds.

The one thing that amazed me the most was the sheer number of men out and about. To visualize this, think of the local Walmart on its busiest day and replace all the adult women with men. That is what I saw. I only saw three adult women and they were herding kids from point A to point B. They didn't have on those blue burqas but they were covered up.

I saw probably around ten young girls (under twelve years old). I saw over a hundred young boys. They mainly wanted pens and other goodies (any time they see Coalition soldiers, they expect to get freebies). I had to say "no pen" more times than I remember. I had one boy walk up to me and ask me in perfect English "what is the name of your father". I told him and then he asked me the name of my brothers. I told him I have one brother and what his name was. I then tested him and told him the names of my sons,my grandfathers, my uncles, and the names of my wifes father and brother but I exceeded his English capacity.

The youths I saw yesterday are a far cry from what the "youths" are doing in France. I recently read a hilarious article written by Mark Steyn (a pundit with marvelous wit, especially if you appreciate British and Canadian humor). You can read the article here. France is in a bit of a pickle.

The "youths" in France that are torching the place are third generation descendents of North African immigrants who are primarily Muslim. Why are they mad? The rest of France refused to consider their parents and grandparents as French and did not attempt to assimilate them into French culture. Because of that, they have been marginalized culturally and economically.

I wrote my masters thesis on multicultural education and how it affected students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. I touched on the dangers of focusing so much on their culture (or any culture) at the expense of emphasizing American culture (the Founders, the Constitution). What happened in France was that they let these immigrants stay North African while in France. Now they are trying to "understand them" and are telling them that burning cars "is not the way to achieve a fairer, more fraternal society". France should have allowed its schools to drum into these "youths" the whole history behind Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and allowed the parents of these "youths" full economic participation.

We (the Coalition) are attempting to invigorate the local economy by purchasing our supplies locally. I guess we could have brought all the medical and veterinary supplies in but that wouldn't have introduced capital needed to improve distribution channels. We aren't even attempting to "understand" the Taliban diehards. We are giving them a chance to participate in an emerging Afghan civic culture, if they don't want to participate the ANA will deal with them.

Economic participation and clearly defined expectations of civic participation. Our method worked in the US and is steadily gaining traction in Afghanistan. France? Wonderful cheeses, foi' gras, and wine. Too bad all that will be lost.

CPT NightHawk


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