Million Mile Walker Dispatch: The Afghanistan Debacle, August Edition

The Afghanistan Debacle!

Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,

This month’s Culture Watch will focus on the disastrous departure of the U.S. from Afghanistan after twenty years and over $2 trillion, as well as a brief segment on initiatives to overcome income inequality by promoting low-income housing. As always, I’ll include My Writing and ReviewsVoices of the Day, What Others Are Saying and our Calendar.

Culture Watch
Although the media is laser focused on the military pull-out in Afghanistan, little is being said about what is behind the U.S. spending $2 trillion over 20 years on America’s longest war. Over 6,000 U.S. troops and private security contractors, plus 47,000 Afghani’s, dead. All this following military debacles in Iraq and Vietnam—when will we learn? Although the focus of the media is on logistics and inefficiency as being the problem and the entire mess being politicized, few are asking the tough questions about the underlying causes. And why we still look for military solutions to far more complex problems, which the military is unprepared to deal with.

The last twenty years of U.S. presence in Afghanistan can be appreciated as an occupation as opposed to any real “nation state building,” by establishing a virtual American colony within the country and arming Afghan natives with technology they’d never be able to maintain without a U.S. presence. According to this article from “Politico,” opposing Afghan factions had long negotiated arrangements to stop fighting—something the U.S. failed to understand or ignored. And local family and tribal relationships as well as the importance of the heroin production were key considerations. The sad situation of the U.S. attempts at state building are reflected by the Soviet-backed Afghan state surviving for three years after the Soviet withdrawal and, in fact, outlasting the USRR itself. In the end, the problems were caused by a failure to study Afghan realities.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen makes some revealing comparisons between the embarrassing departure of the U.S. military in Vietnam and the existing disaster in Afghanistan. He reminds us that, “Americans like to imagine war stories featuring their heroic soldiers, sailors and pilots. The reality is that refugee stories are also war stories. Yet despite a growing sense of anti-war sentiment in the country, the United States has found it hard to give up its habits of war, partly because of the military-industrial complex built for war, and partly because even anti-war stories featuring the military still center on the seductive glamour of firepower, hardware, heroism and masculinity.”

The author reminds us that, “The nightmare doesn’t end for Afghans after the last American leaves. Our obligation to help Afghans in mortal danger extends beyond the present moment and well into the years ahead.” The number of refugees could grow to 500,000 —so we need to do more than send them to other countries.

On another note, Tanasia Bailey, from “Bankrate” contacted me after coming across one of my Million Mile Walker Dispatches, “I came across your website while doing research on the racial wealth gap, and I thought our guide would make a great addition to your page below:

According to Tanasia, “The racial wealth disparity in America is a complex, and very real, issue. In 2019, the Federal Reserve reported that White families hold eight times the wealth of the typical Black family, and five times the wealth of the typical Hispanic household. Our experts at Bankrate created a guide that provides current information about the racial wealth gap in America, and ways to build financial wealth despite the obstacles many Americans face.”
She even provided a useful resource, which illustrates the U.S. racial wealth gap, which is growing. Just 45% of Blacks were homeowners in the Spring of 2021, compared to 74% of Whites and 48% of Hispanics.
9 Charts That Illustrate America’s Racial Wealth Gap | Bankrate

So share this with anyone who would benefit from these insights and the resources this group provides. I was pleased to note that according to one of my neighbors who works with Goldman Sachs, they’re doing something similar. Of course, this is only part of the solution, but it’s nice to see some initiatives taking place in the private sector.

My Writing and Reviews

I picked up this book in search of a similar presentation of a writer’s life to a book I’m working on, The Moritz Thomsen Reader, to strengthen my proposal to attract a publisher. Moritz wrote, Living Poor. My book will also be an anthology of the writers who knew Thomsen best. And “Gabo” is one of the great writers of Latin America recognized with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Both irreverent and hopeful, this book by Silvana Paternostro recounts the life of a boy from the provinces who decided to become a writer. This is the story of how he did it.
My latest article was based on the trip my wife and I took through New Mexico and Colorado, which I highlighted in the last Dispatch. I’ve submitted “The Yin and Yang of Travel: Post Pandemic,” to several literary magazines, as well as the Solas Award for Best Travel Writing competition.

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I’m finishing up with “Uncovering the Art of Francisco Goldman,” which I’ll also submit to the Solas Award and, eventually, to Revue Magazine. Francisco’s “The Art of Political Murder” was made into an HBO documentary and he recently informed me that the documentary was nominated for an Emmy. More on Francisco and how we might work together in the next Dispatch.

I think we’ve made a breakthrough on some seed funding for “Trouble in the Highlands,” which will allow us to continue filming. Maybe a matching gift opportunity, which could lead to some foundation funding.  I’ll have more on this and some new collaborators in next month’s Dispatch, as well.

My latest idea for an article is “The Saddest Pleasure,” taken from the title of one of Moritz Thomsen’s books—how our expectations of a given destination are dashed by reality or sometimes disaster, what we remember about it, and how the experience transforms us in some way. Moritz and travel writing icon Paul Theroux made some insightful observations about this phenomenon, and I’ll share some of my worst travel experiences.

As I mentioned above, I read and reviewed a book that I can use to strengthen the proposal for my proposed book, The Moritz Thomsen Reader: His Books, His Letters and His Legacy as Told by the Writers Who Knew Him Best. So let me know if a publisher or an agent comes to mind…

Voices in Action
We are all carried by each other. Francisco de Rouxa Jesuit priest who heads the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence, and Non-Repetition within the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia. 

Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth, June Jordan, Poet, educator, activist.

What Others Are Saying

Wow, thank you Mark, I really appreciate it!!!!!
I don’t know if you saw, but our Art of Political Murder doc was nominated for an Emmy.
Best of luck with the fundraising!  Sure it will work out.  What incredible days these are in Guatemala, in a bad way of course, but also in a promising way, given the widespread resistance being demonstrated.
Best – Francisco Goldman, upon reading my review of his latest book, Monkey Boy.

Proud of you – Jim Lord, after reading my last Dispatch. He’s an iconic fundraiser who I worked with promoting the “Philanthropic Quest” with many charities over the years.

Mark, love your Dispatches…laughed at your having left the car running in your rush to catch the train…sounds like something that could happen to me!
Love that you and Ligia love to adventure together.  Paul Thompson, after reading last month’s Dispatch. Paul is a former CEO of MAP International and Project Concern.

September 9th: I’ll be the guest speaker at ASU’s Peace Corps Prep student’s “Life Long Learning” program. I’ll focus on the future of the Peace Corps and reflect on my own journey in the arena of International Affairs. Fellow RPCV and Principal Lecturer on international leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. Jessica Hirshorn, has invited me to speak to her class for the last two years.

All 60 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos, are at “Follow” me on Twitter., @millionmile_wal Facebook for the latest on international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it.


Mark D. Walker

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