Sunday, August 22, 2010 6:50 AM
Winning hearts and minds means losing your own. It involves teaching defenders of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to "respect" an Islamic tribal culture (as advocated by Admiral Mullen and other leaders) that subjugates women, girls, boys and non-Muslims (assuming there are any of the last left in the country ), while increasingly assuming its customs -- from troops adopting native dress to a US admiral involving himself in the ritual slaughter of sheep, to redefining our very perceptions of reality.
Now, it's part of basic training.
From the Des Moines Register staff blogs (thanks to a vigilant Marine mom):
Camp Shelby, Miss. – Sgt. Eric Campbell did almost everything right in his first try at greeting an Afghan community leader, but he forgot about the gloves.
The Iowa National Guard cavalry sergeant walked confidently into a mock-up of an Afghan police office, where he warmly greeted a commander in a blue uniform shirt and red head scarf. He asked permission to take off his body armor and helmet, and he politely set down his rifle. Then he sat cross-legged on the carpet with his counterpart and an interpreter.
May he be permitted to take off his body armor and helmet?
During a 15-minute conversation, he maintained proper eye contact with the commander, and he used an interpreter to ask appropriate questions about the man’s family and his police force’s needs.
Needs. The continuing theme. Strike that -- the eternal theme -- of the Great Society in A-Stan.
“We need a lot of training for these people,” the commander replied in Dari, one of Afghanistan’s main languages. “We want lots of soldiers, too.” The previous American unit in town sent over a junior officer who never could deliver on his promises, the commander complained.
At what point -- who knows? -- does the role-playing commander start to believe this?
Campbell listened patiently and promised to do all he could to help the local police. Then he added, “God willing.”
That would be, "Inshallah." Allah willing. Redolent of Islamic concepts of pre-destination and all that. Why is an American non-Muslim being steeped in Islamic conventions even as he's giving away the US store?
In the end, the commander seemed satisfied. “You need to come here often, often,” he said.
"And bring more stuff," he should have added.
Campbell, 29, of Sioux City, had never done this sort of thing before. He was going through his first exercise in “key leader engagement” during a training session at Camp Shelby.
Engagement? The term implies a measure of equality that is absent in this demeaning training exercise.
Think of it: The young guardsman is trained to enter the Afghan police station, beg permission to doff his armor, ask all the right (read: obsequious) questions of the Afghan police officer, allow the Afghan police officer to run down the guardsman's American predecessor as a liar, and then offer unconditional aide -- that is, utterly fail to extract concessions of any kind, or make aid contingent on anything whatsoever. Who's the supplicant here -- the American benefactor and protector, or the Afghan drag and recipient?
And the critique is (below) that the he didn't show more ritualistic deference.
One of his soldiers, Spec. Broderick Miller of Sioux City, took notes. Seven other squad members watched, then critiqued the session.
One of the soldiers pointed out that Campbell forgot to take off his gloves before shaking the Afghan commander’s hand, which could be seen as disrespectful. Campbell made a little grimace as he recalled the incident.
A camp instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Payne, agreed Campbell should have taken his gloves off. But he said overall, the session went well.
“It may not always be that easy,” he warned. “There may be some tension. Sometimes, there may be a lot of tension.” It could take months to build rapport with a community leader, he said. Sometimes, it could prove impossible. ...