MacGyver on patrol in Afghanistan


ur citizen-soldier correspondent today sent us our first glimpses of his Team Swamp Fox on patrol in the vicinity of Kandahar.

Here are excerpts from his report, which I include here in PDF format:

While our work at times may involve direct action against the enemy, we achieve our biggest victories by building relationship with the people. And that
takes time… lots of it….

A child’s heart is a loving heart… The children are always the first to great us and they have no doubt been conditioned a bit as US soldiers at times give treats while they pass but it always reminds me of my alma mater’s, the University of South Carolina’s motto – “Education humanizes the heart and does not permit it to be cruel.” I have never seen that pronounced so clearly and with such exclamation as when I pass each day and village and people here. And I believe the converse of that is true. A heart of hatred has to be trained and conditioned to hate… Those that would follow the Taliban and intentionally kill themselves and those completely innocent with them have to be taught to hate us and others like us. Despite our different languages and cultures and vastly different wealth… as peoples those things really important in life we share. The value of our families and our communities and a desire for the opportunity for our families to live and grow in a safe, healthy, peaceful and secure environment.


18 thoughts on “MacGyver on patrol in Afghanistan

  1. Karen McLeod

    So old an understanding, but so true. “I give you a new commandment. Love one another as I have loved you.”—When are we going to understand that “one another” includes each person, and that the commandment is “Love one another” not “Love people like you” or “love people who think the same way you do.”? Or have we been “taught to be afraid?”

  2. Brad Warthen

    Actually, Karen, “we” haven’t been taught that. Certainly “MacGyver” hasn’t.
    It’s the people he was sent over there to
    fight who were taught that, and who teach that. And when I say “teach,” I don’t mean in the sense of making certain ideas available. I mean they impose it. That’s the kind of society the Taliban was running over there. That’s exactly what we have to stand against. For the sake of those children, if not for our own.
    Unfortunately, the Taliban will not allow a civil debate on their world view. They kill to impose it, and insist upon doing that until they themselves are killed.
    Hence the moral ambiguity of war for a decent person, and “MacGyver” is indeed a decent person.

  3. Karen McLeod

    I agree, ‘MacGyver’ is indeed a decent person, and I believe you are, too. The problem I have is that, at least as far as I can tell, in order to wage war, a morally decent person must first demonize the other side. Sure, there are some really vicious people on the other side; I couldn’t agree more. But in a war others are killed. Men, women, children who are not participants, whose only ‘sin’ was being in the wrong place at the wrong time are killed. And they are killed not only by bombs, but also by lack of medical supplies, lack of clean water, and lack of food. The real meaning of ‘collateral damage’ is dead bodies. And when people have their innocent loved ones killed they begin to demonize the other side. Voila! they have been taught hatred and revenge very effectively. That’s why I think that unless we can truly rebuild their country and provide them with a stable government, and somehow teach them to stop hating each other as well (they seem to have a long history of atrocities to each other), that the best we can do is to stop participating in teaching hatred and revenge. Yes, I have problems with Islamic fundamentalist extremists; I have the same problems with Christian fundamentalist extremists (and boy do we have our fair share of those). However, I suspect that both sets of fundamentalists think that their cause is God’s cause. And I also think that most of them would not be nearly as vicious, if they saw that they didn’t have to be. If killing people is so wrong, why are we doing it?

  4. Brad Warthen

    “MacGyver” is there because the people who want to teach that child to hate want to kill you. They would consider killing you to be a positive good, the point of the whole exercise, not “collateral damage.” They provided a safe base from which Osama bin sent his suicide squads to kill 3,000 people like you, and they think it would be wonderful to be able to do that again. At least, they keep saying so, and all their actions seem to back up their veracity.
    As for your seeing equivalence with Christian fundamentalists. I am not a fundamentalist. But — and you should think about this — I don’t demonize such people; it’s OK by me that they look at things differently.
    I’m a Catholic. A lot of those folks (fundamentalists) don’t much like Catholics. But last time I checked, they had not armed themselves with the aim of killing all of us Catholics. So when I look around myself for threat levels, the Taliban seems — logically speaking, a greater threat.
    We’re not talking political debates over blue laws or gay marriage here. Our ability to have non-lethal debates over such matters is a blessing, not a curse, and people need to stop getting so furious other people disagree with them about these things. It’s terribly unjust to describe people who disagree with you on such subjects as being like the Taliban. The Taliban doesn’t want debates. The Taliban wants the world run by their rules, and the want anyone who stands in the way of that to die, and they’re willing to act on that.
    So nice guys like “MacGyver” end up in Afghanistan.

  5. Karen McLeod

    Wait a minute, Brad. I’m not talking about your Christian fundamentalist who happens to have a different approach to Biblical interpretation than I do. I’m talking about a ‘Christian fundamentalist extremist’ who actively advocates ridding the world of anyone not like himself (try surfing the web; you can start with “Christian Identity” if you like and check others from there). These people have about as much in common with what you or I would consider Christian as the Taliban has with Islam (i.e. not much). And check your own writing for generlized demonization. Yes, Bin Laden killed over 3,000 people here. Low estimates are that we have killed at least 30,000 civilians over there. I’m not sure that a dead person perceives the difference in motivation so well. Yes, the Taliban would like to force us to think their way. The Taliban were not in Iraq; they were in Afghanistan. They may now well be in Iraq. Al-Quaeda (sp?) were not in Iraq; they were in Afghanistan, and we were doing a fine job of running them and the Taliban out of there, until we divided our forces and attacked a country that had done us no harm. Now both Al-Quaeda and the Taliban have not one but two countries that they’re in; Iraq rather than a balance to Iran is becoming more extremist. From what I’ve read in your paper and extracted from other sources, we do not have enough soldiers to put overwhelming force on the ground, the military services are not meeting their recruiting goals, and we aren’t winning the hearts of any of these people. MacGyver is clearly trying to understand and be understood by the folks over there, but it will take a lot more of him and a lot more goodwill on our part to succeed. By the way, I’m an Episcopalian, one of those folks that you Pope has just declared mortally impaired as far as being a member of the Body of Christ goes. But thats OK. I think we’re all one, by reason of our baptism, and I’m not willing to count either one of you (or our fundamentalist brethren)out. But enuf theology; I’m not trying to say that we’re awful, I’m just trying to point out that what we’re doing is not suceeding in advancing our cause. Peace.

  6. Brad Warthen

    My pope? Hey, I didn’t vote for him.

    See, if you talk about "your pope," that tempts me to say to an Anglican, "How’d it work out with your King Henry and that second wife?" And that wouldn’t be nice, would it?

    The Church is bigger than the pope. I don’t say that to criticize him or anything. I just accept the fact that he’s the pope and I’m the guy who administers the Eucharist and occasionally reads the Gospel in Spanish at St. Peter’s.

  7. Karen McLeod

    Having just returned from taking Eucharist to one of our homebound communicants, I’ll buy that you did not elect him. I didn’t vote for Shrub either. My concern is that our current engagement in Iraq is forcing that country and the whole middle east further from us. I think that our president has been the best recruiter Osama Bin Laden has had. We are now perceived in many places as a rogue nation. Of course we’re not that bad! But how do we change a policy that is clearly failing us? Given the political climate now, I don’t think we, in reality, would sustain this war, even if we had the men to do it, because I think a goodly part of the nation perceives it as wrong. The only way I can see to win it by continued warfare is to go in there with a massive force, overwhelm the guerillas, and then proceed to spend 15 to 20 years restoring their infrastructure, providing jobs, and basically teaching them how to survive peacefully. All while learning their culture well enough to ensure that we don’t do this in such a way as to make them hate us forever anyway. Since we won’t (and probably can’t) do that we need to start thinking about what we can do to achieve our goals. Any realistic suggestions? And yes, Henry VIII was a peace of work, wasn’t he? Isn’t it amazing how time and most especially, the grace of God can redeem and heal any situation if we allow it to?

  8. bud

    The whole sordid Catholic priest scandal shows that Christians can be pretty damn awful too. Let’s clean up our own act instead of go half way around the world to force others to believe in our chosen god. What we really need is a plan to bring Macgyver home. Not more Brad Warthen preaching. This constant international meddling is only condeming more young men (and women) to an early, untimely and wasted death.

  9. Brad Warthen

    FYI, MacGyver believes in what he is doing. So do I. He went to a lot of trouble to be right where he is. I admire him greatly for it.
    Do you actually not believe in what he is doing? Maybe you were confusing this with Iraq. Do you actually believe that we shouldn’t be fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan EITHER?

  10. bud

    Brad, I was in support of the Afghanistan operation as a means of capturing Al-Qaeda leaders and ridding the world of a safe haven for the terrorists. Since we’ve lost interest in capturing Osama and we don’t appear to have the resources to help build that country then we probably should leave or at least develop an exit strategy. I see no long term benefit to staying forever in a particular country.

  11. Brad Warthen

    OK, maybe you’re no longer interested in fighting the bad guys who actually DID send the 9/11 terrorists (literally and concretely in a way that you’d think would satisfy even the most literal-minded), but last time I checked, “MacGyver” was.
    You want me to check with him again? I sort of hesitate to do so, because he’s kinda busy and all, doing stuff that, in my opinion at least, is more important than anything you or I have on our plate. But if you insist, I’ll think about it.

  12. Karen McLeod

    While I dislike war intensely, I think one viable option might be to throw everything into Afghanistan and see if we can’t win there, preferably without totally destroying the population there. And see if we can’t flush bin Laden out. I realize that there are several different countries forces in Afghanistan, but maybe others would be willing to add more as well. That country could use a decent government, or even an opportunity to resume traditional tribal ways without tyranny.

  13. Doug Ross

    Here’s an interesting story from an embedded reporter in Iraq. Sort of gives a different perspective than that of someone sitting at a desk at some think tank in Washington:
    Here’s some key quotes from a U.S. soldier in Iraq:
    “I challenge anybody in Congress to do my rotation,” said Spc. Michael Vassell of Apache Company. “They don’t have to do anything, they just come hang out with me and go home at the times I go home, and come stay here 15 months with me.”
    Apache Company was sent to Iraq in June 2006 for a 12-month rotation which has since been extended to a 15-month tour.
    “It’s a joke. We will have spent 14 months in contact, basically fighting all 14 months,” said Cpl. Joshua Lake. “Our battalion got right to Baghdad … first week we were in Baghdad we lost two guys in our battalion … it hasn’t stopped since.”
    “We got grenades going off, we’ve got an IED blowing up your vehicle … and then you are expected to go back in those four to six, four to five hours … and relax!” he said. “You just don’t have time to do it. Your body never gets to come down, you’re always on that heightened sense of alertness.”
    “Because we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a 2-year-old who don’t know what they are doing — they don’t experience it. I challenge the president or anyone who has us for 15 months to ride alongside me,” Vassell said.
    “I [would] do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day for 15 months. I’ll do 15 more months. They don’t even have to pay me extra.”

  14. Brad Warthen

    I’m kind of thinking the president wouldn’t be much good to us on the front lines. Ditto for most of Congress. What do you think?
    God bless these men and what they do. I wouldn’t take 100 members of Congress for one of these men, in any sense you choose to take that.
    On another plane, it’s kind of a reaffirmation of the eternal verities, isn’t it — soldiers doing a damned hard job under horrible circumstances for the sakes of all the flabby-souled people at home, and exercising their extremely well-earned right to gripe about it?

  15. bud

    I’m kind of thinking the president wouldn’t be much good to us on the front lines. Ditto for most of Congress. What do you think?
    Explain to me exactly what good the president is to us now.
    Brad, maybe you just ignored Doug’s point. He’s not portraying Spc. Vassell as a hero just for the sake of showing how brave and honorable our troops are. He’s pointing out the injustice of this war. Spc. Vassell is not griping so much as showing what a waste of time the whole adventure is. Wouldn’t Spc. Vassell’s time be better spent in a classroom or at a job somewhere rather than suffering the deplorable conditions his president has condemned him to?

  16. Doug Ross

    >> I’m kind of thinking the president wouldn’t
    >> be much good to us on the front lines
    I think he thought the same thing during Vietnam, eh?

  17. bud

    Doug, good point about the president’s failure to serve in Vietnam.
    Has anyone noticed how occupation supporters devote an inordinate amount of time telling us how brave and devoted our troops are? It’s almost become a cottage industry with all the ribbons and signs and stories. All the flag waving and fawning over the troops is really quite a spectacle. Maybe it’s a guilt complex or something. Or maybe they figure if they spend enough time and energy telling us how much they admire the troops that somehow gives their arguments more weight. For all you occupation supporters out there let’s get one thing clear. No one disputes the devotion and valor of our men and women in uniform. So stop wasting your time trying to use the troops as some kind of prop for your war-mongering, excuse me, occupation-mongering message.

Comments are closed.