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Feeding the Taliban

To the Editor:

Speaking of the Taliban, Fahima Vorgetts estimates that “90 percent have joined in angry retaliation against U.S. military force” [“A Fresh Perspective,” Newsfront, Dec. 10]. Metroland should be applauded for reporting on the activist’s talk, for what Vorgetts does is to take one of the standard lines on the war and turn it on its head. According to the view propagated by the Pentagon and repeated in the corporate media, most of the bad guys fighting against U.S. and NATO forces are doing so not out of angry retaliation or from a sense of national pride. Rather, they’re doing it for the money. Therefore, a major piece of the new strategy in Afghanistan consists in bribing those nonideological fighters to lay down their arms and support pro-government forces. If only it were that simple.

The reality, as always, is more complex. But what do we really know about the motivations of an average Taliban fighter? The short answer is: very little. Afghanistan is an incredibly dangerous place for journalists and for this reason most reporters choose to “embed”—or travel with—units from the American armed forces. Consequently, the view of the Taliban in the press is an optimistic one, largely because reporters transmit the military’s view of the war, and the military is convinced that they can prevail. But one study that challenges these assumptions, while supporting Vorgetts’ own view, is a special report by the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper. Published last year, “Talking to the Taliban” is a multimedia project based on interviews with dozens of Taliban fighters. (I would encourage readers of Metroland to go online and read the report for themselves.) About three-quarters of the interviewees said they joined the struggle in retaliation for either the deaths of family members from U.S. and NATO airstrikes or the loss of their livelihoods due to poppy crop eradication programs.

For every civilian killed by a U.S. or NATO airstrike, new Taliban recruits are created. And those recruits are not so easily bought off. As the Globe & Mail report seems to indicate, they will fight to the death against Western forces. Something to keep in mind the next time Adm. Mike Mullen invokes that 18-month “target date” for achieving victory in Afghanistan.

Seth Kershner

Lee, Mass.

Y Not

To the Editor:

My partner and I bought a home in the Hudson/Park neighborhood in July. One of the big selling points for us was that we could easily walk to the Washington Avenue YMCA, particularly in colder weather. We had both been members of the YMCA in Austin, Texas, for some 20 years and appreciated its social work and outreach to disadvantaged youth.

Joining the YMCA was one of the first things we did on moving here. Yes, the facilities were not top-notch, but they were ample. There was not a lot of parking, but we walked or usually could find a space if necessary on the street. We have since been impressed with its programs, particularly those that were designed to help inner city children. But we have been underimpressed to read about the modernization and expansion of facilities elsewhere in the Capital District, while the downtown YMCA was simply left to make do with its outdated machines and building [“Why Oh Y?,” Editorial, and “There’s No Place You Can Go,” Newsfront, Dec. 17].

Perhaps if [Capital District YMCA persident and CEO David] Brown lived in central Albany he would understand the importance of the YMCA for all of us inner-city residents. But I cannot find him in the tax records.

What promotional work has Mr. Brown instigated in the past to buck up membership? Or is he simply waiting until it is too late? The Washington Avenue YMCA, for starters, could immediately give a free month’s membership to all residents of the area so they could try it out.

Simply said, if “our” YMCA should close, we will not give up our street parking place to drive miles to another branch. We will drop our memberships and look elsewhere.

Claude M. Gruener

Albany

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters addressed to the editor. Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length or clarity; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are anonymous, illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

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419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210

e-mail: metroland@metroland.net

fax: 463-3726


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