Saturday, July 31, 2010

Romantic Afghanistan
King Amanullah Khan 1919-1929

"The average man does not know what to do with his life, yet wants another one which will last forever." -Anatole France

66 American soldiers died in July in Afghanistan, the most since the invasion of the country on October 7, 2001. Things have not gone well and are getting worse.

The British fought three wars (known as the Anglo-Afghan Wars) in Afghanistan in the 19th and into the early 20th Centuries. During this period what was known as "The Great Game" was played in Afghanistan between the Russian Empire to the North and the British Empire to the South, in India.

The First Anglo-Afghan War 1839-1842

Notable Event:
In 1842 the British were forced to withdraw a column of 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 camp followers from Kabul. Only one, Dr. Brydon made it to Jalalabad. A few prisoners were repatriated later. The rest were lost.

The Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878-1879

This war was precipitated by the Emir Sher Ali's refusal of entry of a British diplomatic mission into Afghanistan at the Khyber Pass. The Brits were in a snit because an uninvited Russian mission had entered Kabul. The British had previously rejected Sher Ali's requests for advice and support about Russian incursions into his country after the Russians and the British had seemingly settled their differences at the 1878 Congress of Berlin.

The Third Anglo-Afghan War 1919

Afghanistan achieved "independence" after a short conflict when Amanullah Khan took advantage of British exhaustion after The Great War. Afterwards the Brits, in a snit again, refused to address Amanullah, the Amir and later Shah and King, as "Your Majesty." Amanullah instituted a liberal constitution and his wife was a champion of women's rights. Reform was predictably unpopular and it precipitated the Khost rebellion of religious fundamentalists in 1926. In 1927, probably at the instigation of the British, the country revolted while Amanullah traveled in Europe. He abdicated in 1929.

The "Game" continues.

Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. 1979-1989

The Russians returned to Afghanistan to support an unpopular Communist government.
The United States got involved in a big way at this time, funding much of the resistance against the Soviets, including elements led by Saudi rich kid Osama Bin Laden, which, in retrospect, may have not been a good idea.

American Invasion 2001-?

The British are back again, with us. No one seems to be able to explain the purpose of this war other than to get the vaporous Al Qaeda, which flits from place to place. This was part of the "War on Terrorism" which was cited by the Bush regime to justify all kinds of destructive and oppressive activities. Al Qaeda camps located there were said to be imminent threats of terrorism and the training grounds of the 911 hijackers. Saudi Arabia, which, we are told, spawned and trained the majority of the presumed terrorists themselves, was not invaded and the question of invasion was never addressed or even contemplated. President Obama has escalated this war while at the same time trying to convince us there is a timetable to leave. The existence of vast resources of minerals and oil have been confirmed in Afghanistan recently.

No foreigners have prevailed in Afghanistan since Genghis Khan devastated the land in 1219. Kipling's poem reproduced below could have been written today.

"Do you like Kipling?"  "I don't know -- I ain't never kippled"-Elly Mae, The Beverly Hillbillies
Rudyard Kipling

When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East
'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,
An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier ~OF~ the Queen!

Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,
An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what's fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --
Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --
An' it's bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --
Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
An' it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:
You ~must~ wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,
An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it's beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --
A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,
For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.
'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --
Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er: that's Hell for them both,
An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,
Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,
An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier ~of~ the Queen!

“What you see in yourself is what you see in the world.”-Afghan proverb

"The reluctant obedience of distant provinces generally costs more than it is worth. Empires which branch out widely are often more flourishing for a little timely pruning."-Thomas B. Macaulay, Empire 

(with apologies to Kipling)

Anonymous British Soldier, 2009

When you’re lying alone in your Afghan bivvy,
And your life it depends on some MOD civvie
When the body armour’s shared (one set between three),
And the firefight’s not like it is on TV,
Then you’ll look to your oppo, your gun and your God,
As you follow that path all Tommies have trod.

When the Gimpy has jammed and you’re down to one round,
And the faith that you’d lost is suddenly found.
When the Taliban horde is close up to the fort,
And you pray that the arty don’t drop a round short,
Stick to your sergeant like a good squaddie should,
And fight them like Satan or one of his brood.

Your pay it won’t cover your needs or your wants,
So just stand there and take all the Taliban’s taunts
Nor generals nor civvies can do aught to amend it,
Except make sure you’re kept in a place you can’t spend it.
Three fifty an hour in your Afghani cage,
Not nearly as much as the minimum wage.

Your missus at home in a foul married quarter
With damp on the walls and roof leaking water
Your kids miss their mate, their hero, their dad;
They’re missing the childhood that they should have had
One day it will be different, one day by and by,
As you all stand there and watch, to see the pigs fly.

Just like your forebears in mid, dust and ditch
You’ll march and you’ll fight, and you’ll drink and you’ll bitch
Whether Froggy or Zulu, or Jerry or Boer
The Brits will fight on ‘til the battle is over.
You may treat him like dirt, but nowt will unnerve him
But I wonder, sometimes, if the country deserves him.

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