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On The Ground In Afghanistan: Observations Of A Peace Delegate

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opednews.com Headlined to H2 9/28/09

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Kabul is eye-popping. I have never seen so many helicopters in my life as there were along side the runway when we landed there. Lots of military presence: mounds of sandbags, military vehicles, soldiers, guns. As we rode into the buzz of Kabul humanity, the contrast between the costly military apparatus and the aching poverty screamed at the insanity of our military presence there.

The poverty is overwhelming. So is the vibrancy which should obviate the poverty, but instead it felt as though they went hand-in-hand. Destroyed, unidentifiable structures abound as do hovels made of whatever apparently was available. Then there are the random buildings in pretty good shape. But subsistence living would be a gift to most of the people we saw as our driver navigated our way into the city.

The U.S. could do so much more than provide subsistence living for the Afghans with a mere fraction of the money we are pissing away on our military presence. The world needs a major Taliban Prevention Plan instead of the current Taliban Recruitment Plan. That would mean building one modest school for 100 kids for every soldier we don't train.

Think of the agricultural program that could be set up here in lieu of training just one Cobra helicopter pilot at a cost of several million dollars. We could teach Afghans how to grow food for their people instead of poppies to fuel the Taliban movement. And take the money we are frittering away on our own corn subsidies that have worked so well to create an obesity epidemic with cheap corn syrup and build irrigation systems so Afghan farmers can count on their crops coming to fruition every year. We can build up the Peace Corps for a fraction of the cost of this ridiculous war and help rebuild the Afghan educational system, infrastructure (jobs!!!) and good will. With nothing to lose, young Afghan men now see the Taliban as one of their few viable options.

The Kabul traffic is as bad as anywhere I have seen--in fact, reminiscent of Katmandu minus the cows. Try to imagine every driver as someone who drives as if there were no one else on the road. Doesn't inspire confidence. In fact, I'm more likely to meet my maker at the end of a catastrophic car ride than from an unfortunate encounter with the Taliban. Though those psychopathic misogynists must be around because I see a surprising number of women in full-length burkas. They appear to be about as close to prison as one could get without actually being in jail. Only deadly fear of the Taliban could make them put up with that crap.

I have been wearing a scarf on my head (I do NOT ever wear hats or scarves!) and a top over my slacks that goes below my hips and I am so freaking hot, I don't see how I am going to last the week in that garb. I could never survive a burka.
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We get to go back out in the traffic tomorrow as we start our agenda of meetings with various women's organizations, projects and centers; various government officials and, of course, some of the local bazaars.

There is a 50/50 chance we will get to meet with Karzai. I want to have words with that man. On what civilized planet is marital rape legal?

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Sara Nichols is co-founder of Los Angeles Bioneers and a full time environmental/political activist. She's a former Congressional candidate and public interest environmental attorney who serves on the boards of several public interest/environmental (more...)
 

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On The Ground In Afghanistan: Observations Of A Peace Delegate