Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Blurred Lines of Battle

I began this blog with a post about the revival of the National Theatre of Afghanistan.  The inspiring article referenced in this post from UK's The Independent told the story of rebirth in a land battered by years of war and oppression.  Half a world away, everyday is a struggle to survive.

Today, I want to commend those who work in the impoverished and unstable parts of the world, striving to help those most in need.  I recently finished "Three Cups of Tea", a book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin that chronicles the humanitarian work Mr. Mortenson has done (building schools) in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past 14 years.  If you haven't read the book, I absolutely recommend it.  I also recommend checking out the Central Asia Institute's website to find out about current work that Mr. Mortenson and his organization are doing.

Humanitarian work, through education and the arts, is absolutely necessary to stabilizing and revitalizing the war torn and impoverished countries of the world.  Education provides opporunity and empowers.  Art gives both the creator and the audience the dignity and human value that is so often lost in war time. This is especially true in the current "war on terror".

Terrorism confounds modern war tactics.  The terrorist does not outfit him/her self  in the uniform of a militant, but blends in with the general population.  This makes it particularly difficult for the counter-terrorist strikes to draw the line between civilian and militant.  Out of the fear and confusion created by the inability to clearly identify the assailant, civilians often fall victim.  I cannot think of anything more destructive to a society.  A particularly haunting example of this blurring of the lines was featured in this Wall Street Journal article today.

Militants planned to attack an oil storage facility in Pakistan by gaining access dressed as women in burqas.  I'm not sure if these men considered the implications of their actions, but regrettably I fear this will further endanger women in an already volatile situation.  Imagine, following this attack, counter-terrorism forces will now fear that every figure in a burqa is a threat.  I desperately hope that this will not be the case, as the consequences of such an attitude will be catastrophic.

My plea is this:
To those fighting terrorism with firearms, please carry out your missions with the utmost care and concern for citizens and humanitarian workers.  Your job is to protect and I admire your valor.
To those who endanger citizens through terrorism, think about the many innocent individuals who will suffer directly and indirectly from your actions.
To governments of the world, work for peace.  Seek solutions that benefit the global community, and encourage your military and citizens to conduct themselves in ways that promote cultural understanding and global well-being.
To humanitarian workers the world over, thank you.  The work you are doing will not only benefit those in distress today, but it will improve the world for future generations.
To the entire world, be good to one another.  If you have the means, give or volunteer.  Peace starts with you.

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