• The Real Tragedy in Afghanistan

    April 8, 2013

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    Blog The People’s Republic of Snarkistan cuts right to the heart of the tragedy in Afghanistan surrounding the death of State Department Foreign Service Officer Anne Smedinghoff this weekend:

    While Smedinghoff’s death is tragic, what’s more tragic is why she was in Qalat at all. She died on a mission meant to prop up the American people in the eyes of a country that doesn’t want us here anymore. Or at least prove to the American people that we are still doing G. W.’s good work, since the Afghan people aren’t buying it. From Karzai down to the “average” Afghan (who, not being as rich as a Karzai, only has the one name), the Afghan people have grown disillusioned as the early years of hope gave way to the understanding that the Americans were here to back a rogue’s gallery of war criminals and thugs, because, well, freedom. We were supposed to be different. To be better. But instead, we’ve replaced the old meritocracy with a new one, one that’s full of a lot of bad men.

    Smedinghoff was yet another casualty in the perception war, part of the “messaging” process, her role to ensure that the Afghans got the story that U.S. Embassy Public Affairs needed them to get. That’s not cynicism, but a gross acknowledgment of the pragmatism that drives these kinds of photo ops.

    Rather than ensuring that education officials in Zabul had the tools they needed to succeed, what happened instead was boilerplate Public Affairs/Public Diplomacy: get the press to the event, get the right pictures of the right kids and maybe get them saying the right things, then get the message out. In this case, the message is that the American people care deeply about the future of education for the Afghan people. It’s 2013: if we’re still having to hand out books for the photo op, we’re doing it wrong.

    It’s 2013: America’s legacy here post-2001 has already been written. There’s nothing a book drop can do to change that. Nothing we can do to rewrite the painful story the American involvement in Afghanistan. And now, there’s nothing we can do to bring Anne Smedinghoff back.


    If a more succinct version of America’s failure in nation building has been written, please send me a link.

    Anne Smedinghoff was also involved in the propaganda show that brought several young Afghan musicians to the U.S. this year to ensure Americans that the nation was well-loved.

    And on the same day Anne died, a NATO air strike in Afghanistan killed ten children.

    I mourn Anne’s death along with you, but mourn it doubly; not just for Anne’s own life so early taken, but for what she represented. I too do not doubt her good intentions and desire to do well in Afghanistan, but am angry that such a person ended up having her life taken from her for such an ignoble cause– U.S. failure in Afghanistan.

    By her death, she is thrust into the role of symbolism, and our job is to determine what she is indeed a symbol of and try to learn from that. I in no way suggest disengagement or isolationism, just the contrary. But America must do so with true intentions, not just as a series of photo ops and wasted lives.

    Diplomacy, yes, always. Propaganda at such a price no more.


    So now, in 2013, as the American Empire rolls over the top of the hill and begins its descent, this is what we sacrifice our young, bright and energetic for. It has reached the point for our nation where killing off young people in the cause of photo ops that are hollow and false makes some wicked sense. In that calculus, we are forever lost.

    Mark this day, historians.




    FYI, Here’s the U.S. Embassy in Kabul’s Twitter response to the death. No word on the killing of ten Afghan children the same day.






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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      Look homeward, Angel: Anne could have made a difference in the poor sections of her hometown, Chicago. Uneducated children are murdered there all the time:
      \http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/01/chicago-shootings-25-woun_n_2991974.html

      04/8/13 5:24 PM | Comment Link

    • State Department diplomat with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan said...

      2

      [...] The Real Tragedy in Afghanistan | We Meant Well – Peter Van Buren Related Posts:US diplomat among six killed in Afghan suicide bombing – The Guardian The Guardian US diplomat among six killed in Afghan suicide bombing The Guardian A suicide attack claimed six lives, including the first US state department officer to die in Afghanistan since the 1970s, and Nato air attacks killed 10 children over a weekend that …Slain diplomat in Afghanistan ‘felt she was making a difference’ – Los Angeles Times Globe and Mail Slain diplomat in Afghanistan 'felt she was making a difference' Los Angeles Times CHICAGO — Members of Anne Smedinghoff's family consoled themselves Sunday with the thought that the young U.S. diplomat died in the service of a cause that mattered deeply …Young US diplomat mourned as ‘bright and brave’ – USA TODAY San Francisco Chronicle Young US diplomat mourned as 'bright and brave' USA TODAY Anne Smedinghoff, 25, is the first U.S. diplomat to die on the job since the attack in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Anne Smedinghoff (Photo: Family photo …Johns Hopkins graduate killed in bomb blast in Afghanistan – Baltimore Sun San Francisco Chronicle Johns Hopkins graduate killed in bomb blast in Afghanistan Baltimore Sun A young diplomat from River Forest was among five Americans killed Saturday during a car bomb blast in Afghanistan, her family said. By Rosemary Regina Sobol and Dawn Rhodes, Tribune …Kerry in Afghanistan to prod Karzai on future ties – USA TODAY Globe and Mail Kerry in Afghanistan to prod Karzai on future ties USA TODAY KABUL (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry embarked on talks Monday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai amid concerns Karzai may be jeopardizing progress in the war against extremism with … (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; //&appId=1234567890 fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, "script", "facebook-jssdk")); Share on Tumblr « Joel Osteen Resigns? Not So Fast … [...]

      04/8/13 8:21 PM | Comment Link

    • JVC said...

      3

      Thank you Rich.
      Absolutely. I am tired of the neglect of domestic issues by a society and government which persists in its belief that Pax America is a birthright and duty.
      I am tired of the “Best and brightest” believing that State, CIA, DIA, NSA, etc., are the best place for ambitious, mono-lingual, well-to-do, well intentioned, generally Anglo, graduates of fancy private or public universities to pursue careers fixing the problems of others.
      How does “Home Slice,” the recent Cornell grad have a hope of infiltrating the mind or “fixing” the culture of a third world dwelling, goat eating, Koran-believing, unconventional fighter whose happiness lies in home, hearth, Koran and Kalashnikov… Our ex-Chi Psinik wades into a hundred or thousand year old culture armed with an iPad, FP-06 pay grade and minimal CT training, undoubtedly channeling TE Lawrence and intoxicated by the smells and sensations of diesel fuel, feces, kebab and dust and the prolific presence of automatic weaponry… Very stimulating stuff for the 25 y/o’s fresh out of U of whatever.
      Bring’em home.

      04/8/13 8:37 PM | Comment Link

    • State Department diplomat with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan said...

      4

      [...] The Real Tragedy in Afghanistan | We Meant Well – Peter Van Buren Related Posts:State Department diplomat with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan Anne Smedinghoff, a 25-year-old foreign service officer, died Saturday when the group she was traveling with was struck by an explosion in southern Zabul province. They were en route to traveling to donate textbooks toThree U.S. servicemembers were killed, as well as a Defense Department …US diplomat among six killed in Afghan suicide bombing – The Guardian The Guardian US diplomat among six killed in Afghan suicide bombing The Guardian A suicide attack claimed six lives, including the first US state department officer to die in Afghanistan since the 1970s, and Nato air attacks killed 10 children over a weekend that …Slain diplomat in Afghanistan ‘felt she was making a difference’ – Los Angeles Times Globe and Mail Slain diplomat in Afghanistan 'felt she was making a difference' Los Angeles Times CHICAGO — Members of Anne Smedinghoff's family consoled themselves Sunday with the thought that the young U.S. diplomat died in the service of a cause that mattered deeply …Young US diplomat mourned as ‘bright and brave’ – USA TODAY San Francisco Chronicle Young US diplomat mourned as 'bright and brave' USA TODAY Anne Smedinghoff, 25, is the first U.S. diplomat to die on the job since the attack in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Anne Smedinghoff (Photo: Family photo …Johns Hopkins graduate killed in bomb blast in Afghanistan – Baltimore Sun San Francisco Chronicle Johns Hopkins graduate killed in bomb blast in Afghanistan Baltimore Sun A young diplomat from River Forest was among five Americans killed Saturday during a car bomb blast in Afghanistan, her family said. By Rosemary Regina Sobol and Dawn Rhodes, Tribune … (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; //&appId=1234567890 fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, "script", "facebook-jssdk")); Share on Tumblr « WrestleMania 29: The good, the bad and the ugly [...]

      04/8/13 11:22 PM | Comment Link

    • Michael Murry said...

      5

      “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.”

      Travel around in an occupied country with the armed occupiers and expect to attract the same explosive ordnance that they do.

      When the State Department ceases to function as “little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon” (in Chris Hedges’ words), then employees of the State Department might once again travel safely in the countries where they ostensibly have some legitimate business not involving the U.S. military, CIA torturers and assassins, drug-running warlords, or corporate mercenary camp followers.

      04/9/13 6:07 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      6

      PVB- I believe we both suffer from a shared malady. I can’t shake my American “exceptionalisn” conceit. It isn’t the propaganda exceptionalism sold by the plutocracy of course but a refusal to accept that we won’t change and self correct just in time. Hillary may indeed be POTUS in 2016 -her ascension being not a precedent but irrefutable proof that the USA is stuck with a moribund status quo.

      04/9/13 12:07 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      7

      @ John Poole, re American Exceptionalism:

      Not to belabour my frequent references to religion on this blog, but the historical fact is that the various kinds of American Exceptionalism all stem from origins in America’s religious history, which is essentially Protestant and therefore essentially nationalist – as opposed to Catholicism which is by definition universalist.

      (And yes there’s a paradox in American Nationalism’s PRETENSE to be universalist, but it’s not really a paradox, rather America is split-minded about nationalism vs universalism: America’s international crusade is an American Nationalist one, thus not universalist nor cosmopolitan at all.)

      In brief, American Exceptionalism (which has evolved into various mutations over the past 300 years or so, its current form being a secular, non-Christian one but with Protestant roots) has its relatively recent and totally Modern roots in the illogical paradox of the claim of Protestantism(s) to be a worldwide creed but one with no worldwide center of unity. (In contrast to the Catholic Church, unified in a non-secular head, the Pope – who by the way is mostly a symbol of unity and has almost no other power than that.)

      So, what today’s America has inherited from America’s essentially Protestant roots, is a belief in SOME kind of universal creed, but one with no non-secular center of authority. (Seriously, all, and I do mean ALL of the first Protestant nations – mainly some German states, and especially America’s mother country England – became officially Protestant in order to make the HEAD OF STATE the main RELIGIOUS leader!)

      And as the USA was conceived and born precisely in the MIDDLE of – and at the height of – the Modern Age (which was born with AND THROUGH Protestantism) – the USA represents the Protestant paradox more than any other nation in the world: How can a universalist creed be reconciled with the primacy of a National state?

      America’s answer, in the long run, has been to turn America’s head of state – the “Commander in Chief” (that’s the literal translation of Latin “Imperator”, Emperor) – into a secular Pontiff, the secular equivalent of the Pope.

      And so today, there are only two elected monarchs in the world: The Pope, and the President of the United States. Guess which one reminds me more of lunatic Roman emperors?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJvVEt6F_Xw

      04/9/13 3:45 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      8

      PS to follow my above comment:

      I’m NOT saying that the following video is proof of the truth of the Catholic faith, but I DO say, compare Emperor Obama’s public appearances, with this recent one by the new Pope Francis subjecting himself to easy assassination, because he doesn’t value his own life too highly. QED:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTtbtl0Zwx0

      04/9/13 4:02 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      9

      MLCLT- I’ll reflect on your musings and speculations. I agree that the current Pope seems humble, self effacing and empathetic towards the world’s suffering whereas America’s current “Pope”, Barack Obama is a bringer of death and suffering and seems quite pleased wielding such murderous power.

      04/9/13 4:16 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      10

      John Poole:

      Good on ya (and now I’ve revealed my adopted country, haha!), as far as your response to me goes…

      …but my point was not just to contrast the present Pope and US Emperor. My point is larger than that, both in time and space. My point is that THE USA DOES NOT REPRESENT GOD! And altough the American Empire does not (now) openly SAY that it believes that it represents God, the fact is – based upon all available evidence – that the American Empire DOES believe that it represents some kind of universal “god”! Otherwise, what’s the point of America’s aggressive wars and invasions and attacks all in the putative name of some universal abstraction, “Human Rights”?

      Hm, now I think it’s time for some comic relief. Here are your CARMEN MIRANDA RIGHTS! You have the right to wear fruit on your head! You have the right to do a silly dance!:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQtRPvBlkKY

      04/9/13 5:46 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      11

      PS to follow my above comment, here’s Bugs Bunny dancing like Carmen Miranda (claiming his Carmen Miranda Rights) – and ONLY a REAL American would know about this!:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYKGNNmL6oM

      04/9/13 5:57 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      12

      Wow guys. Do I detect a little..well, let’s just call it..SANITY? vs the rest of the HELL YEAH ‘MERICA! Let’s KILL ANYTHING THAT MOVES! part of mentally insane ‘merika.

      Anne Smedinghoff notwithstanding, I just was reading Kevin Gastola’s interview with Birgitta Jonsdottir, the Iceland parliamentarian who is being investigated by Team Murder Inc. for her role in helping Wikileaks release the US military murder video, where, in regards to Bradley Manning.. she asked this question…
      quote…

      “Many people say he’s a traitor and he should be killed and hung. I read it and it is very disturbing because it’s sort of a reflection of a mentality that I don’t think it is normal.”

      My reply…

      Mentality ..not normal. Right I’ll file that under BLINDINGLY FUCKING OBVIOUS. Let’s set the record straight..AMERIKA IS FUCKING INSANE! Once the pharmacuticals started injecting millions of human beings in this country with Ritalin etc, and the video game manufacture’s picked up on BUSH’s success at commandeering the latent violence in the populace..hey, HELL YEAH ‘MERICA, let’s KILL ANYTHING THAT FUCKING MOVES! ..including a class full of kids, a farm house full of religious zealots, or a mother holding her baby at Ruby Ridge, or a Vet protecting his wife and kid from a SWAT team, or an entire sovereign nation full of stone age populace, or given the chance..every living thing on the entire fucking planet…HELL YEAH ‘MERIKA..WERE FUCKING ‘CEPTUNAL!! OH, and ’bout that traitor MANNING..LET’S BURN THAT MOTHERFUCKER…ALIVE!!! ON LIVE TV!! HELL YEAH!!

      And then we have the linked MSM stuff on Anne Smedinghoff

      Not normal. god I think I’m going to puke.

      04/9/13 5:58 PM | Comment Link

    • jim@ rangeragainstwar said...

      13

      pvb,
      just as terrorism is symbolic violence it appears the working for State or any other us agencies in theater is simply symbolic hypocrisy.
      sadly it’s the young ones that die for the lies.
      jim hruska

      04/10/13 1:31 PM | Comment Link

    • 13turner13 said...

      14

      And now we learn she was walking from the airbase to the school. Why? Photo op again??

      04/10/13 1:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      15

      Benghazi, the sequel. Who in DS fucked up this time?

      Quick, get Susan Rice on the phone.

      04/11/13 1:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Death Of A Diplomat: Caught In An Old War said...

      16

      [...] “While Smedinghoff’s death is tragic, what’s more tragic is why she was in Qalat at all,” he wrote in his blog. “She died on a mission meant to prop up the American people in the eyes of a country that [...]

      04/11/13 4:27 PM | Comment Link

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