Saturday, August 13, 2005

Guest blogger: A Three-Legged Goat Should Never Stand Outside In The Winter 

Today's guest blogger is Jeff Raleigh, a US diplomat currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Here we are in the midst of a good old-fashioned Kabul summer. You know the kind, where the aroma of rotting sheep fat wafts delicately out from some of the City's best butcher stalls. Or where the pungent odor of a six-camel caravan softly drifts across the night making us gasp for a breath of the searing hot Kabul air.

Ah, summer in Kabul. The rise in temperature is matched by the rise in dust and dirt in the air. No humidity, no trees, no water, no breeze. Not that there isn't any wind. As a matter of fact, each afternoon around 4:00, a searing wind picks up from the west, or the east since I'm not real good on compass points, and blows a day's accumulation of dirt, dried feces and other even worse elements across the city and into the world famous CAFE compound where our intrepid band of Embassy staff spend more hours than you could ever imagine. We are together under trying circumstances but spend it with a great deal of humor and savoir faire, though I don't know if that is really the phrase to describe our Executive Protective Detail (EPD) guards.

These are our "shooters", the guys who protect State department employees when we venture into the wilds of Afghanistan. They are a mixture of former Marines, Special Forces and Rangers. Some of them were street cops before they took the opportunity to make big money as a shooter in one of the world's dangerous places, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, nations under threat from Islamic terrorists.

Their humor, which tends to be a bit rougher than that found in the salons of the Bel-Air or the Upper West Side, is honest and direct. Their stories, honed by years of sharpening in barracks and bivouacs around the world, usually touch upon three subjects; beer, women and running away from cops. Or chasing someone who was running from a cop. So far the best story was about a three-legged goat who died of exposure while drunk. When told by "Top," a decorated Ranger 1st Sergeant and the dead goat's former owner, is hysterically funny, even if his most heavily used word is "frikin," an all purpose word used as a sop to good taste that fools no one.

Virtually every night a group of the shooters, "Top," "Hunter," "Big Country," "Pyro," (whose real name is Cannon Ball!) and others in the ever-changing cast of Embassy characters open their lounge chairs and beer coolers, invite every woman who lives in the CAFE to join them, and set up shop in front of my hooch. They then tell stories and drink beer until the very wee hours of the morning. An old guy like me usually leaves around 11:00 PM, but most of them stay until 1:00 or 2:00. Amazingly the next morning they are up, loaded with M-16s, 9MMs and armored vests and ready to move.

Another amazing thing is that we never have fights either of the fist variety or with guns. Now you have to understand that we live in a guarded compound and are not allowed to leave it on other than official business, a term that has taken on a very elastic quality these past few months of lockdown. The shooters have never been allowed to enjoy what little life, restaurants, private parties, etc., that Kabul has to offer. So the situation at the CAFE is made up of equal parts boredom, cheap and plentiful booze, testosterone laden shooters, all armed, and just the right amount of starry-eyed young women who still think big guys with guns are cool to inject a note of volatility that in most situations would inevitably lead to trouble. Here, in part because it is a dangerous situation and in part because most folks are fairly bright, nothing untoward has happened. (Though we did institute a No Guns Allowed rule in our bar.)

We doubt that we will have any lessening of our rules until at least after the September 18 election. As we approach the final weeks before Afghanistan's parliamentary election, Islamic terrorists are doing all they can to disrupt it and to kill as many innocents as they can. Today, for instance, they blew up a bomb in a women's market. Brave folks these terrorists.

These are the same type of terror bombings taking place in Iraq, most of which are aimed at police stations, schools or election organizations. A question for each of you; Do you remember before the 2003 war a number of western peace activists took up positions in front of Iraqi industrial and military locations in order to prevent the US from bombing them. How many "peace" activists have you seen take up posts in front of election locations, schools or mosques in Iraq or Afghanistan the last two years, locations that symbolize democracy and freedom? Locations that are targeted by Islamic terrorists, crueler and more deadly that the KKK.

So the question must be asked, if "peace activists" are really concerned with peace and freedom why won't they stand in front of these very real facilities of freedom? Perhaps you can ask if you bump into one of them at a "peace" rally back in the States.

I know we could use some folks in addition to the soldiers and Marines who now lay their life on the line each day to protect democratic institutions here and in Iraq.

Jeff writes occasionally at his own blog.


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