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September 30, 2009
On being shown the doorBy Greyhawk
Well, take this Voice Of America story:
U.N. officials say the top American serving in the U.N. mission to Afghanistan will not return to his post, following a dispute over how to handle fraud allegations in the country's disputed presidential election. ...in an e-mail to the BBC, Galbraith said he has not been fired as far as he knows....in conjunction with the AP's version:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fired the top American official at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday after a widely publicized dispute with his boss over how to deal with widespread fraud charges in the country's presidential election.
...and you've got a glimpse of the delicacy involved in international relations as practiced in war zones. Back to the AP:
Who advocates what? Answers to that are even less clear. If election runner-up Abdullah Abdullah is to be believed "Galbraith was pushing for things to move quickly and pushed for ballot papers to be ordered for a runoff, if needed". By itself that doesn't seem to rise to a firing offense requiring the attention of the Secretary-General - unless the UN is even more unforgiving and authoritarian than even its harshest critics would claim.
From all indications, however, on-going corruption as immediate concern seems to weigh heavier on the minds of the Obama administration than it does on the United Nations or people of Afghanistan - who would certainly like it stopped but express a much more urgent need of attention to issues like 30 Afghan civilians killed as packed bus hits bomb outside Kandahar. Perhaps connecting them to the services provided by their government might be more doable from their point of view once that sort of thing is less so.
And while we can declare corruption our own exit door, perhaps we'd do well to remember that our real options aren't to support Hamid Karzai or not, but whether to let those who set that bomb once again become the Government of Afghanistan.
From what I've heard, at least they don't tolerate corruption. (Perhaps they'll even make the buses run on time.)
(All links via the Dawn Patrol.)
Update: Well then, here's another detail -
The United Nations fired its No. 2 official in Afghanistan on Wednesday after the diplomat, Peter W. Galbraith, wrote a scathing letter accusing the head of the mission here of concealing election fraud that benefited the campaign of the incumbent President, Hamid Karzai.
The story adds "With American officials increasingly accepting the idea that Mr. Karzai will be the next president despite a large number of well-documented irregularities in the election, Mr. Galbraith's stance put him at odds with both the Obama administration and the United Nations."
But we can add wrote angry letter to threw down napkin and left dinner party in a huff on the list of things we've done to fix corruption in Afghanistan.
And: could we add "went through a big scary show of 'rethinking our strategy' immediately after the elections by way of applying pressure"? Could be, I suppose. I can't be the only one who's entertained thoughts that many of the various events of the past couple of weeks are primarily intended to send Karzai a message. Whether reason #1 or not, that's certainly part of it and would explain a lot. Maybe that's worked to a degree - maybe that's why American officials are "increasingly accepting". Negotiations would be very delicate indeed if that were the case. Such times are when men of admirable, unimpeachable, and uncompromising moral certainty are best utilized elsewhere.
And another thought... would Galbraith tell "the Associated Press he was "surprised" by the decision" if he had actually been fired for writing "a scathing letter accusing the head of the mission here of concealing election fraud"? Or is the New York Times adding an extra dash of drama to the story?
Here's an excerpt from the letter the NYT has decided the public can see. What I find interesting is that according to Galbraith "Ambassadors from the US, UK, EU and NATO" all were made aware of "the greatest risk to the Afghan elections" the month prior to the elections - but any action they may have taken to prevent it is not included in the excerpt.
In coordination with the Ambassadors from the US, UK, EU and NATO, I pressed the Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior either to secure these polling centers or to close them. The Afghan Ministers, whose continued tenure in office was to depend on the fraud, complained about my intervention and Kai ordered me to drop the matter.
What happened to the ambassadors? They were there at the start of the paragraph.
Here's an account of Galbraith's initial assignment to Afghanistan. My take away? It's a good thing the world loves us now.
Final quote from the letter:
Shortly after the elections, Kai told President Karzai that "I am biased" in your favor and that "those who are out to get you are also out to get me." When I asked Kai about this, he explained that being biased did not mean he was supporting Karzai and I accept that explanation. But, I am not sure President Karzai sees it that way. Kai also told me the "those" referred to Ambassador Holbrooke.
Maybe more civilian help isn't what we need after all.
Update - More here
Posted by Greyhawk / September 30, 2009 7:44 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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