perspectives of America

Amazing William Vollman New Yorker article after traveling extensively in Afghanistan in 2000.

If I stopped and gave money to a child, others came running. I slipped one boy five thousand afghanis-about ten cents-and when I looked back in the rearview mirror it seemed that the other boys were practically tearing him to pieces. On a road bend where no other beggar could see, I gave a twenty-dollar bill to a boy who stood beside the carapace of a Soviet armored personnel carrier, and he took it and held it as if he were dreaming. I wanted him to hide it before anybody else came or the wind took it from him, but the last I saw of him he was still standing there with the banknote dangling from his hand.

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SFGate on Abu Mohammed al Amriki

Mohamed admitted a long list of such crimes: training guerrillas who attacked U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993; arranging a summit conference of anti-U.S. terrorist organizations in Sudan in 1994; plotting the suicide bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.
Other suspected activities during his California days include raising money for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, implicated in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and smuggling sleeper agents for bin Laden into the United States from Canada.

then later…

Mohamed’s story also is important because it shows how easily even a top- level terrorist can operate unmolested and undetected from the very heart of the United States.
Terrorist groups have “woven themselves into the fabric of America,” said Harvey Kushner, an international security expert and professor at Long Island University. “That is why this is going to be a long, protracted war (against terrorism). The enemy is not outside, it’s within us.”

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NYTimes on Middle East perspectives of America. Maybe the root of all evil is American TV 😉

…for many Iranians, America is a country full of the scantily-clad, available women of Baywatch and MTV. First-time visitors to the United States are often shocked by the more spiritual and socially conservative side of America. “What surprised me the most when I came to the United States was how many churches there were,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, the head of Teheran’s town councils and editor of the daily newspaper Hamshahri. “I certainly didn’t know how religious Americans are.”

* * * * * on Afghanistan.
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Russian journalist Artyom Borovik chronicled the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan. I hope to read this book sometime soon.

In the book’s introduction, in a passage that could just as well be about the United States’ experience in Vietnam, Borovik writes: “We thought we were civilizing a backwards country by exposing it to television, to modern bombers, to schools, to the latest models of tanks, to books, to long-range artillery, to newspapers, to new types of weapons, to economic aid, to AK-47s. But we rarely stopped to think how Afghanistan would influence us.”
The single most haunting image in the book isn’t from some dramatic battle scene, though there are those, too, but of a woman standing outside Borovik’s Jalalabad hotel, holding an infant in her arms: “The baby had died on the trip from Pakistan two days ago. But the mother still refuses to give up her child. His tiny body has stiffened and turned blue. Of all the things I’ve seen in Afghanistan, this strikes me as the most horrible.”