If you've been reading DWT and my travel blog you may know that I love Afghanistan. I got there for the first time in 1969, before the troubles-- unless you're of the opinion that the troubles started when Alexander the Great invaded what is now Afghanistan in 330 BC-- and I absolutely fell in love. Much of it hadn't changed all that much since Alexander conquered the place. I think he was the last one to conquer it. Indians, Brits, Russians, Americanos... all failed. And what did I like most about Afghanistan aside from it being vaguely biblical? The people. I liked the character of the people I interacted with there-- even more than the music and the food, which I also liked.
Lately, Rachel Maddow has been on a near-nightly crusade for the Afghan interpreters and other U.S. allies, pressuring the Biden administration to do more than just talk about it but to start the airlift and bring something like 20,000 Afs-- and their families-- to America. And it isn't just Maddow. Everyone is crying about our allies in Afghanistan, especially soldiers who were stationed there and had good experiences with someone who may have even saved his life. The media is all over this and so are veterans groups and congressmembers who served there. No one thinks of them as collaborators, a bad word with very different connotations than "allies." Nor do Americans consider themselves occupiers or invaders; it's a self-awareness kind of thing.
But the pressure seems to have worked. NPR reported yesterday that we "will begin flying Afghan nationals who supported U.S. and coalition operations in Afghanistan, according to a senior Biden administration official. Evacuation flights will begin in the last week of July. During the 20-year war in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan citizens served as interpreters, provided intelligence and assisted the U.S. and its coalition partners as drivers, security guards and in other roles. Roughly 18,000 Afghan nationals, along with tens of thousands of their family members, have applied for special immigrant visas to the U.S. But administrative delays have long meant the visa process can take years, allowing the backlog to grow."
Is this a good idea? These are very primitive people. I love 'em but I mean very primitive. I never-- literally never-- saw an Af male without a gun (and I was there in a time of peace), so maybe we should move them all to rural Texas, Tennessee, Missouri or Arkansas which are pretty primitive too. Although there may be a little problem with them not joining the local snake-handlers or talking-in-tongues Baptist churches. And I'm sure someone along the way will explain what toilet paper is for. After all, if the U.S. gets half of them out-- with their families-- it's just another 40-50,000 people.
There are about 90-100,000 Afs living in the U.S. already. Whenever I used to go to DC I was always able to brush up on my Pashtun by hailing a taxi. When I was in Afghanistan, Mohammed Zahir Shah was king. One of his relatives got me out of jail when I was caught with 50 kilos of hash-- and got me back my hash. But he was deposed in 1973 while he was on vacation in Italy. His heir, Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan (now age 86), lives in Virginia. He's a poet, or was a poet, and has two sons and a daughter. The next crown prince is Prince Muhammad Zahir Khan who was born in 1962 and has a daughter, Princess Roxanne Khanum, who was born in the U.S. in 1988.
I found the Afs I knew and lived with to be generous and noble people. I'm sure there were others who weren't, but the national trait dictates generosity of spirit. But... some Afs betrayed their country and worked for foreign invaders. Some worked for Russian foreign invaders. We don't like traitors who betrayed their country to work for the lousy Russian invaders, right? Right. And the ones who betrayed their country to work for the American invaders? I'm sure they're all wonderful people, right? Right. And I'm sure they'll have someone weeding out the ones who are neither noble nor... desirable new Americans, right? Um... maybe but I doubt it.
I'm not advocating anything other than caution after these people are brought to Guam or Tajikistan or wherever they're going to be stached while they await their green cards and their shot to become Americans. If they're like the people who sheltered me in the Hindu Kush for a winter, our country will be better off for having them as our fellow citizens. But I gotta say, I get nervous when I think about the character of traitors and collaborators. Or am I being a dick? I keep thinking about the French and Polish collaborators who worked with the German occupiers during World War II. Nicole Sandler just told me a good way of looking at it is to remember these are refugees from a bunch of brutal thugs who would murder them without trial and that they deserve to be rescued. Hard to argue with that.