Sunday, November 24, 2002

Kabul Recovers. Slowly

The people of Kabul, a place I know well, are some of the most self-sufficient in the world, living in a laissez faire economy that the most devoted libertarian would love... in theory. All of these American Randians and Anarchists, Posse Commitatus and Harry Browne Libertarians, have a philosophy that sounds really good to the really fit. Survival of the fittest always has sounded like less of a good idea to those who feel a little more, well, marginalized. Now, go and read how those under the margin deal with it. They actually seem to be holding up quite well, considering, but they could use a little help.

These people are just like you and me. Racially polyglot, but primarily white skinned, dark haired, proud people (There is a theory that the Pashtuns are descended from the Jews). They know that the world owes them nothing. They make do with whatever they have, and thank God for what little they can obtain. Many live on bread and tea. And they survive, some even thrive, under conditions that would make many Americans commit suicide.

Our Army on the scene is ready to help with the reconstruction of the infrastructure. Yet president Bush remains uncomitted to this. It is the one area where the democrats are ahead of the president in the war against the anticivilization contingent. The Pentagon says:
"Since September 11, I think everyone understands that we have a stake in the future of Afghanistan that is not simply nation-building for the sake of the Afghan people, it's security-building to prevent terrorists from returning," the senior official said. "That's not a mission we ever thought about before for the United States.
Meanwhile in Congress, they voted $3 billion for Afghan reconstruction, more than Bush asked for, and much more than he seems intent upon spending.

We, who are so fit, who have so much, must make a bigger contribution to the plight of the Afghan people. Whether through charity (my choice) or encouraging our government to spend more (which should warm the heart of all of you liberals out there) we, who consider ourselves so civilized, must make a greater contribution. Just read this excerpt:
But much of the internationally pledged aid has yet to materialize, Baz complained, while tens of thousands of Kabulis remain in highly vulnerable conditions that will only worsen this winter. At least 100,000 of them, like Kandi Gul, are squatters living in abandoned ruins that provide little more than shelter from the wind. "My son spends all his time looking for work, and I'm too old to go out," said Gul, whose relatives recently squeezed into one room so an even more desperate family could share their drafty abode. "We have no future here, but we don't have enough money to go back to Pakistan either," she said. "Only God is keeping us alive ."
Whether from enlightened self interest, or a personal desire to show a little rochmonis, we all have to do something. Anything. And soon.

... [Update] Dan Hartung of lake effect has some suggestions on where to send money. I republish it here without comment or endorsement other than to say that I have no reason to doubt Dan.

There is relief, and there is reconstruction. The choice is every individual's to make, of course, but here are a few:

Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund from the World Bank link

America's Fund for Afghanistan's Children, the one trumpeted by Bush during the war last fall, and administered by the American Red Cross; for the most part it has purchased food and supplies which are sent there. link

US-Afghan Reconstruction Council is a clearinghouse that lets you direct your funds to specific regions of the country or aspects of reconstruction. link

Afghans 4 Tomorrow is a group representing professional class Afghan expats, which sends most of its money to schools. link

If corruption is your main concern, think in terms of tangibles -- school supplies aren't very convertible, for instance. Construction of things like highways and buildings isn't going to be corruption-free (nor is it, necessarily, anywhere), but at least a highway can't mysteriously walk off.