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
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
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
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.
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