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August 23, 2005

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Tragic story. But was she killed for bringing the 20th century or for being an American?

Well, the Romans didn't build roads out of the goodness of their hearts.

But of course, these soldiers would've been killed had they been handing out lollipops to toddlers. Their attackers didn't care what they was doing, just that they were American soldiers.

And here's another tragedy: that almost four years after 9/11, three and a half after the fall of the Taliban, the US is still only *beginning* to provide crucial infrastructure in Afghanistan.

If we had kept our eyes on the ball--I mean, if we had had a different president--we would have:

1) caught Bin Laden a long time ago
2) turned Afghanistan into such an enviable paradise of pro-Western, enlightened democracy, that the ME would be clamoring to get on board.

We *had* a demonstration project, right there. One that could have shown the true strengths and attractions of the American way, by rebuilding Afghanistan as we rebuilt Germany and Japan--in fact, making a new, modernized, civil society where there has been little but war-lords before.

But no, Bush had an oedipal idee fixe, and had to leave the job undone. And so, three and a half years later, a really, really good American died doing a job that should have been done long ago, in a political climate not poisoned by the destruction of our national image overseas.

On this part, Mr. Bird, I agree with you:
" May God rest her soul and give comfort to her family and loved ones. "

Very much agreed in praying for rest, comfort, and strength for her and those who loved and cared about her. And for someday a leadership worthy of her virtues.

It's very sad that Ms. Walker was killed.

But: It says something about the character our enemies that a new road or a new democracy can be considered a threat to them. WTF?

It might say a host of things. It might say that they distrust our intentions, whatever our pretty words; can we please stop pretending this distrust is wholly without support? It might say that a potential shift in power created by the road didn't serve their interests; can we please stop pretending that we've never done or supported some awfuls acts or actors because we believed it served our interests? And on.

Jeebus.

It says something about the character our enemies that a new road or a new democracy can be considered a threat to them.

It says they are our enemies.

Or were pulling for Alec Guinness in "The Bridge over the River Kwai."

Me? I was pulling for William Holden.

A noble effort; I hope the road is dedicated to the heroes who constructed it when it is complete.

It's rare to see so positive a story on infra-structure, thanks for sharing it Charles.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

From:
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/03/19/60minutes/main607356.shtml

----------------------------

Well, at least we bombed Iraq, more?

I am not exactly sure why but I was really pissed off after I read this.

I can't understand why you wrote this piece Charles.

If you want to honor the memory of our fallen soldiers you should write a story like this each day for the next 2,000 days. I would actually prefer that to picking one soldier and using her story to push Right wing propaganda.

I think I might finally understand why the Right is apoplectic about Cindy Sheehan. If those on the Right think Ms. Sheehan is using her son to push an agenda the way I think you are using Lt. Walker to push yours, they might have a point.

It might say that they distrust our intentions, whatever our pretty words; can we please stop pretending this distrust is wholly without support?

Talibaners and terrorists don't merit our trust. I can give a rat's whether they trust our intentions or not. We're the ones who approached the people and tribal elders and governmental leaders to get the road project going. They can weigh our intentions based on our actions, and those actions serve to improve their way of life.

If those on the Right think Ms. Sheehan is using her son to push an agenda the way I think you are using Lt. Walker to push yours, they might have a point.

Bullsh*t. The difference is that Cindy Sheehan has not relayed Casey's words on his beliefs about Iraq and the war effort, but his actions tell the story of a dedicated soldier who re-upped and volunteered for a mission--ultimately a fatal one--that he didn't have to take. My post here takes the express words of Laura Walker and her directly stated belief that her mission was a noble one. The difference can't be more fundamental.

using her story to push Right wing propaganda.
Um, what right wing propaganda would that be, exactly? That line about "the character of our enemies?" I for one have no problem with people pointing out that the Taliban are a bunch of atavistic troglodytes who thrive on spreading and maintaining ignorance and isolation. It DOES say something pretty damning about a group that seeks to govern a country that is actively opposing something that is so clearly a boon to the lives of the citizens.

Moreover, I am really very unwilling to cede the observation that the Taliban are an illegitimate pack of murderous zealots entirely to "the right wing."

Charles,

These are your words:

"It says something about the character our enemies that a new road or a new democracy can be considered a threat to them."

That sounds a lot like the 'they hate us for our freedom' bullsh*t I hear from Bush.

Lt. Walker's mission was a noble one and she seemed very proud of her part in it. If you want to honor her memory don't use her memory to push an agenda.

They can weigh our intentions based on our actions, and those actions serve to improve their way of life.

Except, of course, in those cases where our actions serve to end their lives. But what's a little prisoner abuse next to a nice smooth road?

st--

"Moreover, I am really very unwilling to cede the observation that the Taliban are an illegitimate pack of murderous zealots entirely to "the right wing.""

Amen to that. I was rooting for the Taliban's demise years before Bush had heard of them. They are murderous, illiberal, scum.

And the fact that they have been allowed to return to prominence is part of what is so outrageous about our Afghan policy.

Our actions to improve their lives have been too little and too late; instead, we have allowed the war-lords and opium-merchants to prosper while we tortured people at Bagram. They can indeed weigh our intentions by our actions--Bush clearly never gave a damn about Afghanistan's fate, or Iraq's fate, which is why he has single-handedly sullied the word "democracy" throughout the world. It's a tainted brand now--tainted by association with his actions. It's going to take a long time for the brand to rebound, and I don't think Karen Hughes is up to the job.

Look, if we are now going to go on an infra-structure building binge in Afghanistan, it's fine with me. Maybe the pork-ridden highway bill that the Republicans passed through Congress could be sent over there instead. Bridges to nowhere in Alaska are nothing but the latest sign of the Republican graft machine; if the same money were spent building useful bridges in Afghanistan, it could help to turn around that nation's fate, and our nation's image.

Vote for the highway bill:

Vote Counts: YEAs 91
NAYs 4
Not Voting 5

I think we can all agree that the highway bill had an amazing amount of pork and that is just wrong. But, if you look at the vote it really was supported by both parties.

http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00220>http://www.senate.gov

Tad you should notice on the link that only Republicans voted NO.

I counted 42 Democrats voting Yea and none voting NO! One could argue that infinitely more Republicans voted against it than Democrats. Since ZERO Democrats voted against it. Hence, perpetuating the belief that Democrats are addicted to pork and Republicans are quickly overtaking them.

But it really isn't relevant to this thread just a cheap shot at Republicans

Hey, Charles.

I agree with what you say in this post. I don't have anything to add. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

I've been waiting for a chance to ask a question of you. (Maybe this is the wrong place? But I can't see waiting for you to write something on topic.) So here's the question.

You have defined "success" in the Iraq war as requiring the creation of a non-theocratic state. You have also said that there is still hope for success. Now we see the early results out of the Iraq constitution process, where the US is now apparently pushing for the acceptance of a constitution that creates an Iraq in which no law can contradict Islam. Given this, do you believe that the Bush administration has officially abandoned all hope of "success" (by your standards) in Iraq?

Kent,

I think it also says that no law may contradict democratic standards or may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in the constitution.

It also grants women 25% of the seats.

Of course, someone has already cautioned against starting off with "I think".

"Bush clearly never gave a damn about Afghanistan's fate, or Iraq's fate"

Big difference between having a short attention span or being incompetent or plain lacking the necessary strength to achieve a goal and not giving a damn.

rilkefan--

yeah, I'll grant you *some* difference, not sure about "big".

When does "yeah, I care, but I can't be bothered to maintain focus or make sacrifices or find people who can help me do the job or admit errors" shade off into simply "can't be bothered"? And "can't be bothered" into "don't give a damn"?

But if Bush made (us make) sacrifices or admitted mistakes, he'd lose the fox-fed midwestern cattle - scratch that, my fox-fed fellow citizens - who fail to understand how his policies affect them and who rely on his word as leader (note to conservative readers of this blog, the above does not refer to you). He's stuck - he believes he's wielding his power for good, but even course corrections are dangerous for his support.

May God rest her soul and give comfort to her family and loved ones. It says something about the character our enemies that a new road or a new democracy can be considered a threat to them.

God rest her soul, but she was not killed because she was building a road. She was killed by scum simply because she was an American.

And if a political tag line is appropriate, then this is also fair:

May God rest her soul and give comfort to her family and loved ones. It says something about the character of the Bush adminitration that 3 1/2 years later, our soldiers are being killed neddlessly and at a greater rate by Taliban scum because of Bush's faliure to do the job properly.

After all, lets be real about why these types of deaths are occurring now in Afghanistan, which is a new trend.

It seems that Ms. Walker died so that warlords and drug lords can more efficiently ply their trade along the new roads she helped construct. No sense in pretending otherwise, unless you are into peddling phony delusions about where Afghanistan is headed.

God rest her soul. P.S., she was killed because she was an American -- as if the scum who killed her cared what she was doing.

As for the Taliban scum, why are they having more success killing Americans these days? Ms. Walker's death has that tragic dimension to it -- it may reflect the deliberate Bush decision not to finish the job properly.

Too bad good things like roads do next to nothing to offset bad things like warlords, drug lords and a resurgent Taliban.

Sorry for double post -- the first one came back with an error message, I reloaded and it still had not posted. Go figure.

rilkefan: But if Bush made (us make) sacrifices

I would encourage everyone to be a leader in their community! Don't wait on the President to ask you to make sacrifices. Start making voluntary sacrifices. Two weeks ago we donated a brand new Britax car seat to a family. Her husband is stationed in Iraq. 2nd tour for him and 2nd child.

If you don't know anyone in the military another option would be to donate money to the government. There is no law that I know of against overpaying your taxes.

Arguably, not the most efficient method of helping to share the burden of the war but it might make you feel better.


DDR, re your point - I'm helping a friend with a program to send books to soldiers - certainly not a noticeable dent in my buy-a-house nest egg. If I thought my money wouldn't be given away in sacks to friends of Chalabi, I'd be happy to chip in with higher taxes too. Nearly everyone not enlisting is of course having it easy.

http://www.homesforourtroops.org/

Don't wait on the President to ask you to make sacrifices.

Yes, because heaven knows you'll die waiting for it.

That sounds a lot like the 'they hate us for our freedom' bullsh*t I hear from Bush.

Lt. Walker's mission was a noble one and she seemed very proud of her part in it. If you want to honor her memory don't use her memory to push an agenda.

I'm sure that what I write sounds like a lot of things, BP. I could also make some observations about what your writing "sounds" like, but I'll refrain. BTW, what part of the "agenda" in Afghanistan do you disagree with? They've had one national election (for the first time ever), another one is scheduled for Sept. 18, we're providing infrastructure and we're going after Talibaners and terrorists.

Also, if you're against honoring a fallen soldier's memory to push an agenda, I take it that you're fully opposed to Cindy Sheehan's vigil, right?

Are you Lt. Walker's father or mother, Charles? That's a nontrivial difference, I would imagine.

I, by the way, take it as given that you were doing nothing more than noting the good work and honoring the memory of a fallen soldier.

Charles: I take it that you're fully opposed to Cindy Sheehan's vigil, right?


Phil: Are you Lt. Walker's father or mother, Charles? That's a nontrivial difference, I would imagine.

I'm not so sure. The exploitation of anyones death is vulgar. I don't think that being related matters.

Your opinion is noted. I'm sure you find our President's repeated invocations of the victims of 9/11 equally vulgar.

I haven't found anyone vulgar. All I said was that if one is exploiting the dead that would be vulgar regarless of the relationship with the dead. Please add that to your note.

Whatever.

You have defined "success" in the Iraq war as requiring the creation of a non-theocratic state. You have also said that there is still hope for success. Now we see the early results out of the Iraq constitution process, where the US is now apparently pushing for the acceptance of a constitution that creates an Iraq in which no law can contradict Islam. Given this, do you believe that the Bush administration has officially abandoned all hope of "success" (by your standards) in Iraq?

Not just a non-theocratic state, but a "free, peaceful, non-theocratic representative republic" is my threshhold for victory. My short answer is that it's too early to tell because there's too much back-and-forth going on. I fully expect a final Iraqi constitution to contain language that it will abide by Islamic principles. That same language is also in the Afghan constitution, and no one is calling that place a theocracy. The question is whether the federal government will adopt large portions of sharia into their document. Hopefully not, and I don't think it will happen. The Kurds won't go for it and Sistani-led Shiites are definitely in favor of a secular government. The Sunnis were secularists under Saddam's reign. They're just going to have to realize that they have only a certain amount of power and that the return of Baathist dominance will never happen.

FYI, Ken White's son provides security for the Triple Nickel:

"My Son's company provided escort to that crew from the 555th on a number of occasions. They did not that day, got an e-mail from him tha night to let us know it wasn't him or his guys. Someone else had the mission.

"The Talib have been trying to stop the road from being built, have continuoudly fired on the construction crews, have killed several Indian workers and have used IEDs without success before. They were just successful that day.

"The Americans and the Indians as well as an Afghan workers are all targets -- the Talib just don't want the road finished."

I'm sure that what I write sounds like a lot of things, BP. I could also make some observations about what your writing "sounds" like, but I'll refrain.

Charles, if you think anything I write sounds like I am using the memory of a fallen soldier to frame political talking points then you have my permission to challenge me on it.

BTW, what part of the "agenda" in Afghanistan do you disagree with? They've had one national election (for the first time ever), another one is scheduled for Sept. 18, we're providing infrastructure and we're going after Talibaners and terrorists.

You have every right to push an agenda I just don't think you should use a fallen soldier who you don't know from Eve to do it.

Also, if you're against honoring a fallen soldier's memory to push an agenda, I take it that you're fully opposed to Cindy Sheehan's vigil, right?

It is my policy to give Gold Star Mothers a lot more leeway than Righty bloggers.

You have every right to push an agenda I just don't think you should use a fallen soldier who you don't know from Eve to do it.

A hint, BP. Read Phil's last sentence. Not every post from this moderate conservative lurks an "agenda", and not every line is there some "message" in between. Also, there is no language in my blogging contract that says I am obligated to write a post on every fallen soldier now that I've written about one, nor am I obligated to write about anything else for that matter. Anything goes.

Not every post from this moderate conservative lurks an "agenda", and not every line is there some "message" in between.

I applaud your attempt to honor Lt. Walker. I would not have known about her or Sgt. Davis if not for your post, and for that I thank you.

If you hadn't included the last sentence of your story I probably would not have commented on this at all. I don't know your writing well enough to discern when you are wearing your political blogging hat and when you are not. In the future, if you intend to honor a soldier on a political blog you may to add a 'no politics intended' disclaimer so hotheaded Lefties such as myself don't challenge your motives.

Charles Bird wrote:

Anything goes.

Apparently so, including a ploy to get around the posting rules by substituting an asterisk for the letter "i" in a word which I don't think is considered appropriate for this blog.

Like others here, I regret the death of Laura Walker. Unlike some, I do not regard the motives of those who attacked her (or the road-building project) as inexplicably evil.

I cannot speak to the specific situation in Afghanistan, but years of study of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Asia have led me to the conclusion, which her attackers may have shared, that much road-building in 3d World countries is _not_ apolitical, but is specifically oriented toward the strategic goals of the government. Roads are built to get troops to the frontier or other areas of dissent quickly. Roads are built to move new settlers, presumably already pacified, to "unpacified" areas. Roads are built to facilitate the construction and supply of military bases in previously inaccessible locations. Roads are built to help favored capitalist enterprises (e.g. mines, plantations), often at the expense of indigenous smallholders. (Examples available from Siam/Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, &c, as needed.)

(FWIW, railroads are [were] even less "neutral." And, of course, the outcomes of road-building were, like most other human endeavors, not totally constrained by the motives behind them. I suspect that most colonial roads in SE Asia, even those with demonstrably political intent, were on balance beneficial to the local populations, if not in the ways foreseen.)

The original item cited says as much, in as many (actually fewer) words:

" As 1LT Sullivan puts it, “This road is not just an engineering feat; it is a show of political force.” "

Under these circumstances, it seems to me disingenuous to take the position that those involved in such potentially _political_, as well as arguably humanitarian, tasks should be exempt from any attack by those hostile to the government or agency that employs them.

When you build roads, especially in a country not your own, you are playing politics, and must therefore risk the consequences thereof. It is a crying shame that Lt. Walker was put in a situation where the consequences of politics can be so lethal, but the same holds true for _all_ foreign soldiers in Afghanistan (and Iraq), regardless of their particular assignments. Those who sent them there, who put them "in harm's way," must accept a major part of the responsibility for their injuries or deaths.

I'd been meaning to look up exactly where Tarin-Kowt was when I first read CB's interesting post, but Dr. Ngo's last comment spurred me actually to do so.

Here is US Special Forces Captain Jason Amerine telling about his experience (article dated 2002) in the battle to seize Tarin-Kowt, a village Karzai described as the heart of the Taliban movement. The special forces guys seemed to rely heavily on aircraft at that time.

This Stars and Stripes article shows that the US military operates a "forward operating base" at Tarin-Kowt.

Since there's a major task force (Combined Task Force Bronco, according to the SandS article) in Kandahar, this road would seem to have major military objectives in the short-to-medium term.

Which doesn't make it any less sad that Ms. Walker died, as I hope goes without saying.

In the long-term, I hope, another road in Afghanistan will be beneficial, as Dr. Ngo points out was the case in colonized SE Asia.

I fully expect a final Iraqi constitution to contain language that it will abide by Islamic principles. That same language is also in the Afghan constitution, and no one is calling that place a theocracy.

No one is calling it a functioning state, either. When there's a government in Afghanistan whose authority extends beyond Kabul, we'll be in a position to judge how much of a theocracy it is.

I find it odd to post arguements based on one person. How much actual building does an officer do and how is it that a project which requires hundreds of people get simplified to one person who may or may not have done any actual work. I was one of many that put some hours into the construction of this particular road, and I know several other people who put quite a bit more time in it than I, yet their names are not written in papers, nor on blogs. No doubt is this particular soldier's death a great tragety, but they all are. Just don't forget and over look the fact that there are numerous soldiers and marines involved in various construction projects throughout the world whose labors go unnoticed by all except for those who were there with them entangled in the same situation

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