As promised I"m trying to send out periodical email to y’all, weekly if possible. I guess this is my second attempt. Forgive me for "opening up too much." I simply wrote what came to mind. Maybe next time I'll try to compose the update at a time when more of the synapses in my brain are firing.
The week has been crazy, which I'm beginning to believe is the norm. If crazy = normal schedule, then what does an actual intense schedule feel like. I dont know...... I can tell ya, we've all had crazy days and they usually start off immediately upon waking up. No matter how much sleep you get (6 hrs if you're incredibly lucky), you still wake up tired, mind racing but body feeling like you've been hit by a truck. It feels good to lay in bed, but the headache from dehydration sets in and you know the best thing to do is move.
Yeah, your mouth feels dry because you had quit drinking anything at dinner around 6pm (AT THE LATEST) because you dont want to get up in the middle of the night multiple times, get dressed, and walk outside to the latrines to pee. By the time you return to bed you're awake because of the distance you had to walk and the brisk coldness of the night air. Going back to sleep takes some time. Therefore, I can truly say: I love being a guy.
Being a guy means I can use one of those large mouth gatorade bottles to relieve myself at night. Come on, dont act like you're shocked. I can guarantee ya that most guys over here have pissed in a bottle at least once during the deployment to avoid getting out of bed to trek to the port-a-john. And why not? We're certainly equipped for the process. I've discovered the key is laying on your side, bottle and member at an a 45 degree angle to your body. It never hurts to have a kleenex or dirty sock underneath "just in case." I had one of those "just in case" moments. Not here, but during a previous deployment. It was mortifying - realizing the sudden warmth wasn't because the temperature had increased, but rather because my aim was off. Hence, the large mouth bottle, dirty sock / Kleenex. I'm much more careful now.
Well, on to something more cerebral. How do you get someone to talk to you, especially when the consequence could be losing your head? It's a tricky question to answer. I can certainly tell you the Afghan people are a wily, crafty, street-smart people whose allegiances shift like the winds of the Hindu Kush mountains. The adage "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." holds much water here, as people struggle for basic survival. Survival can be defined many ways, from putting bread and rice on the table at night, to avoiding the omnipresent threat of a suicide bomber detonating near you, to keeping your few goats from being stolen by your neighbor.
Everyone is out to make a buck because there is no steady income thru a permanent job. There are no permanent jobs here, no guarantee there'll be food tomorrow or that the Taliban wont come knocking at your door in the middle of the night and haul you off to some cave where you'll be half starved and beaten because someone accused you of working with the Americans. It's a crazed, tribal based, almost barbaric world, yet people survive, dare I say flourish, depending on how they play the cards Allah dealt them.
So, back to the question: how do you get someone to talk to you when their very association with Americans could mean their death? With incentives of course. What kind of incentives might you ask? Surprisingly minor ones, well, at least minor to us "wealthy" Americans. Yeah, there are those who will only provide information for cash - Aghani notes in this case. Problem is, the ludicrous, ineffective system under which we work has a horrendous track record for providing us cash with which we can pay people. I'm supposed to get a monthly stipend to use. I'm lucky if I get the stipend every two months. Who wants to risk his neck for the "promise" of payment? Uh, NO ONE!
There are other incentives though. Petrol, blankets, children's clothing, food staples, crank radios, school supplies, pens, etc. However, recently those have been in short supply as well. I dont know how the military expects us to "incentivize" people to talk to us when it provides paltry amounts of supplies. We've been given guidance to write home and ask charities to send us packages of incentives (the aforementioned items) that we can provide people who give us information? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I'M BEING ASKED TO OUT-SOURCE MY SUPPLY ISSUES BECAUSE THE ARMY DOESN'T HAVE THE FUNDS? WHY DON'T WE JUST HIRE THE CHINESE TO FIGHT THE WAR? THEY BASICALLY KEEP OUR ECONOMY RUNNING!!!
If that's the case, will someone please explain to me where the money will come from for the troop surge? If you want me to protect our troops by finding out who is emplacing IED's, where weapons caches are located, what routes the Taliban use, where they bed down, and who keeps mortaring our bases, dont you think providing me with the means to compensate peoples should be a higher priority? Hell, I've been doing this for almost 20 years! I'm not an idiot! I certainly wouldn't risk my ass for a cheap crank radio and a package of tea.
Uh... sorry ya'll. I think I might've "vented" abit here. Hey, there's never enough to go around. Everyone suffers from one kind of shortage or another. Let's just say, those who control policy and the purse strings are either ill informed on how to "win the war" or suffer froma shortage of common sense and the perspective of the military professional on the ground doing the work to protect us all.
And with that, I bid you good night. Until next time.