The Last Journey
Article #23 “Dusty”
24 August 2010 Camp Dwyer, Helmund province, Afghanistan
The dust storm
continues. I've seen this type of thing
before in Iraq and it could last for days. At the moment, I am grounded here at Camp Dwyer until this dust storm subsides. On the brighter side, it is not as hot as it
usually is giving all of us here a bit of a break from the oppressive
heat. In my tent, things are just fine,
air conditioning works great, even too good.
The cot I am on is fine and I was able to get a shower this
morning. So, I will figure out today as
I always do. One
moment at a time.
At chow this morning I was
sitting next to a young Marine who noticed in my conversation the word, “New Mexico”. Turns
out he is from Roswell, New
later on today, I will go and speak with him and do an audio recording on him
as I coordinate with the Captain who is in charge of public affairs. It was an interesting turn of events for as I
was praying this morning over my meal, with another person, I specifically
mentioned to the Lord, “be this day Lord, arrange
all my steps”. No sooner did I
pray that, then this young Marine just appeared and
sat with us. As things began to unfold,
the civilian across from me whom I was praying with began to see how each and
every one of my days develop. He had
just asked me after my prayer, how I do things on a daily basis. Right before his eyes, he saw. All I had to say was, “this is a
typical day. They all start out like
Being one step away from
where I'm wanting to be is one of those,
“chomping at the bit” experiences.
But I have learned these days to take everything in stride. I will get there when I get there. Just the way it is. In the mean time I've been educating myself
by speaking with many interpreters and linguists who are living in the USA but are from Afghanistan, and now working here with the military. Here is where I get a wide open door of
historical background on this place called Afghanistan. There are times I think back to my schooling years
and remember trying to listen and learn things that were hard to grasp. Here, it is never hard to listen and always
exciting to learn. But there is a
boatload of things to learn. This is a
complicated place, Afghanistan.
the north-east part of the country, where I had been earlier, most all of the
local population is Pashtun. Down here, I have met almost all Tajiks, who are more closely related to the Persians. What I have learned about the ethnic
breakdown here in Afghanistan is that according to some
UN publications, at least 50% of the population in Afghanistan is Pashtun. The same information source says that almost
25% of the Afghan population is made up of Tajiks. There has always been a struggle between Pashtun and Tajiks for power in Afghanistan. It is still part of the
power struggle going on here. Depending
on whom you speak with, is how one's view of this
place will take shape. Once again, it is
not easy to understand, it is complicated.
Hamid Karzi, the
current President of Afghanistan, is Pashtun. His main rival for the presidency this last
election was a man named Abdullah Abdullah. (yes, he has the
same name twice) Abdullah is half Tajik
and half Pashtun by birth. That in itself would
have seemed to be a winning combo. The Pashtun majority however won out in the hotly contested
recent elections. It's a delicate
the recent history of Afghanistan, one must remember who the
Lion of Panshir is.
Massoud, as his name is known. He was the one who was killed by a pretend
journalist-suicide bomber, on September 10, 2001, one day before the events
of 9/11 that changed everybody's world.
He was the leader of what was known as the “Northern Alliance”. The Tajiks here
still esteem him in high regard. From
what I can gather, it seems that a “normal” Afghanistan must somehow mend any rift
between Tajiks and Pashtuns. Of course, that is and has always been a
long-standing course of action that has yet to fully succeed. One might have better luck building a bridge
between Sen. Al Franken and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Differences run deep. But in Afghanistan it is further complicated
by the remaining other ethnic factions which I will not go into at this
time. And, some other remaining leaders
who all fought against the Russians and now have taken sides with the Taliban
who have severe influences from Al Queda. If ever there was a place where, “the
enemy of my enemy is my friend” holds true, it would be here in Afghanistan. In the mean time, where I am now, the Marines
are right smack dab in the middle of Helmund
Helmund province is a place that only some people back home hear about. Those that want to hear about it are probably
the ones that have husbands and fathers and sons and daughters here. I wager that the rest of the populace back
home could care less about this place called Helmund
province. Perhaps they are more
interested in who won Miss Universe or what's happening on some
“Survivor” un-reality show.
I will take it upon myself to put Helmund
province in the spotlight for a few paragraphs today. This is where the battle is at the moment, as
well as many other places across Afghanistan. I had to ask myself, “why?” Why Helmund
province. From my first impressions of
this place, and mind you, the first impressions are coming from within a camp
full of tents, is that what could possibly be so valuable here in Helmund province.
All I've seen so far is oppressive heat and horrific dust in the
air. But there is something here that I
has been said that 80% of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan. And most all of it comes from right here in Helmund province.
Wow...! That's a lot of
dope. That has to be a lot of
money. That has to be a lot of power for
someone somewhere. Lately I've been
concerned about how things in Juarez, Mexico have been going due to the
drug cartels battling over turf. I grew
up relatively close to the border where Juarez is. Thousands of people have been murdered in Juarez each of the past several
years, recently. I wondered how that
situation got so out of control. And now
today, I find myself one stop away from the area where perhaps the most
lucrative drug crop the world has to offer is cultivated. It is also where the fight is. It is where Marines are confronting the enemy
from a variety of angles. I can only
conclude that part of this war on terrorism, right here in Afghanistan, must have something to do
with the worlds most lucrative crop which happens to be right in the exact same
locale. I have now found myself knocking
on the door of a very large world situation.
One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure things out. Is a matter of fact, I'm not trying to figure
anything out. But, if one is going to
“go camping” in this neck of the woods, it is advisable to know
perhaps just a little about the surroundings.
For those of you that are actually reading what I'm writing, I have for
lack of a better term, connected a dot from the global war on terrorism to the
out of control situation in Juarez, Mexico, which is basically my back
yard. It's a stretch, but it
connects. And it is relevant to us all
at some point in time. I hate drugs. I
hate them even more so now.
Today when I interviewed
Sgt. Dillon Hopper from Roswell, New Mexico, I took his photo in front
of a memorial of sorts. On that memorial hung the dog tags of fallen Marines since last
October. A time
span of less than one year. When
I took the photo, I held the camera close to my eye for an extra amount of time
to hide my tears. I did not want to show
my weakness. I hesitated to show this
photo, but I feel now I must. There is a
war here in Afghanistan and it is raging one stop
away from where I'm going. I don't know
all the factors and all the reasons nor do I have all the solutions to make it
stop. But there is one thing I do have
to offer. It is a photo of a fine Marine
from Roswell, New Mexico who is standing in front of a memorial that screams
ever so loudly to all who will look and see.
I'm glad I was joined at breakfast by Sgt. Dillon Hopper this
morning. Without knowing it, his
presence enlightened me just a little today.
He has no idea that a simple photo in front of dog tags pretty much woke
me up big time today. I enjoyed my audio
interview with him today. It had nothing
to do with what I wrote about today.
But, the photo hit me hard. It
happens that way from time to time.
Visibility outside may be almost nil due to the dirt in the air. However, I think I can see a little clearer
through the dust than I did yesterday.
Perhaps I need just a little more eye salve.
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