Friday, July 29, 2005

Gulab: Hero or Village Idiot?

I had intended to offer a commentary on this subject but I was distracted by other matters. A few weeks ago, there was heavy news coverage concerning a helicopter rescue mission for four Navy SEALs which went awry when the Taliban fighters successfully shot down one of the helicopters. One of the SEALs managed to survive with the help of an Afghan civilian. My first reaction was surprise. The incident took place in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan where the populace is either sympathetic or scared shitless of the Taliban. Why would a native help an Navy SEAL? Time magazine had a extensive article on Gulab, the friendly villager. Unfortunately, I took so much time to write this story that now Time is requiring actual money to read the article. Damn, don't they know that everything on the web should be free? ;) Oh, well, you'll just have to take my word for what they wrote. Gulab, a Pashtun shepherd, was rounding up his goats and accidentally rounded up a human. To be less flippant, he stumbled across the wounded commando who had the good sense not to immediately kill Gulab. The Navy SEAL managed to make it to Gulab's village where he was given shelter by the community elders. The Taliban came by and demanded they turn over the American but the elders refused since that violated their beliefs for granting hospitality to strangers. The Taliban left. Gulab carried a message to nearby U.S. military base and the soldier was saved. Gulab and his family apparently left their village due to fear of reprisals. This story bothers me. I know that there is a tradition among the Pashtuns called Pashtunwali. Essentially, it's a tradition of helping your fellow man which is similar to the Middle Eastern practice of generosity to your guests. Still, risking your life, the lives of your family and maybe the entire village sounds extreme. Also, why did the Taliban just accept the refusal of the village elders? Were they outnumbered by the villagers? Was it against the beliefs of the Taliban to violate the traditions of the villagers? The Taliban are also Pashtun and they may very well have the same beliefs. Alternatively, they may not have wanted to alienate the local people. Another possibility? The military is lying through their teeth. I may sound paranoid but the U.S. has been caught in so many lies that they don't have very much credibility with me. I'm not too sure how much credibility the U.S. military currently have with the Pashtun, either. Afterwards, as part of their attack on Taliban fighters, they bombed another village and killed 17 civilians . Allegedly, the U.S. attacked a home where several Taliban fighters were located. After the first bomb attack, the local villagers came to help the injured and the U.S. dropped more bombs. I thought it was rather ironic that a humanitarian tradition saved an American soldier while also leading the U.S. to kill 17 civilians.


Blogger Jeff Huber said...


I'm in regular touch with several information ops types who wonder why they have credibility problems. I keep telling them its because they get caught telling so many lies.

They seem to think the problem is "getting caught," and blame the media for ratting them out.

7/30/2005 08:35:00 AM  

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