Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 29, 2012

Three Weeks Old News - A New Low For The Washington Post

  1. Newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events.
  2. A broadcast or published report of news.

Today the Washington Post publishes the following report by its reporters Kevin Sieff and Richard Leiby as news on its homepage and on the front page of its print edition: Afghan troops get a lesson in American cultural ignorance

The core of the piece is this:

[T]he Afghan army is trying something new: a guide to the strange ways of the American soldier. The goal is to convince Afghan troops that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge.

The pamphlet is intended to “strengthen our understanding of our [NATO] counterpart,” according to an English translation of the pamphlet that was provided to The Washington Post. But in doing so, it also reveals seemingly minor — and rarely acknowledged — cultural faux pas that have created palpable tension between the two forces.

“Please do not get offended if you see a NATO member blowing his/her nose in front of you,” the guide instructs.

So the Afghan government is teaching its soldiers that they should ignore the acculturate behavior of the foreign barbarians. That is obviously necessary as, even after 11 years, the invading savages are still cultural ignorant and unable to learn how to behave themselves. It is interesting to know that. But how come I remember reading that story already and quite a while ago?

Searching the web for "Afghanistan culture pamphlet" shows that the Washington Post is not delivering news here but is more or less plagiarizing a report by Reuters that was put on the wire three weeks ago, on September 6: Afghans use culture guides to cut "insider" attacks

A pamphlet with guidance on handling cultural differences between Afghans and their foreign partners has been produced amid great concern among Afghan and NATO leaders about attacks by Afghan soldiers and policemen on the foreign troops training them. The attacks have killed 45 NATO-led troops this year.
Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi showed it to reporters on Thursday, saying it was intended for the 190,000-strong Afghan national army.
"Coalition troops may ask about the women in your family. Do not take offence, they just want friendly relations with you. In return, teach them that Afghans do not discuss their families' women with others," the pamphlet instructs, referring to Afghanistan's ultra-conservative society.
Putting one's boots on a desk, blowing one's nose, winking, taking photos, swearing and raising the middle finger are also given as examples of Western culture which might offend Afghans.
It is obvious that the Post report is about the same pamphlet Reuters was first to report on. That pamphlet was not "provided to The Washington Post", which makes the report look exclusive, but multiple copies were distributed at an official press conference of the Afghan defense ministry. Russia TV had its own version on the story on September 8. The French agency AFP also had a writeup published, for example, by The Australian on September 10.

The only thing new in today's Post version of this three week old story is a small quote from the officials that released the report. The meat of the story was copy-pasted from the old agency reports.

The quality of Washington Post has been going down for a while. But meshing up three weeks old wire reports and publishing them as own reporting on the front page is not news but for the once valuable Washington Post a new low.

Posted by b on September 29, 2012 at 14:56 UTC | Permalink


The 18-page pamphlet, officially titled “Cultural Understanding — A Guide to Understanding Coalition Cultures,” was introduced this month by the Afghan Defense Ministry. Written in Dari, the primary language in much of Afghanistan, it will soon be distributed to Afghan military leaders across the country. The booklet will be taught in three one-hour sessions to all soldiers as well as new recruits.

On understanding cultures:
* Ninety percent of new recruits are illiterate and can't read.
* The Afghanistan National Army is not truly national, being composed predominately (98%) of illiterate northern Tajiks fighting southern Pashtuns
* Tajiks speak Dari, the predominate language in northern Afghanistan only
* Most of the fighting in Afghanistan, for over ten years now, has taken place in the south and east, home of the Pashtuns who speak Pashto

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 29 2012 16:13 utc | 1

Don bacon explains it all.... but how he manages to say that 90% of recruits can't read, and 98% of the army can't read... I still don't get... so how come being in the army decreases your reading skill? or are there more "educated" people joining the army now?

Posted by: simon | Sep 29 2012 16:51 utc | 2

About the Wall St Journal, not the WaPo, so a bit OT.

The Wall Street Journal's failure to disclose that 10 of its op-ed writers are Mitt Romney advisers has drawn criticism from veteran editorial page editors at some of the nation's top newspapers.”

from MediaMatters:

Independent Journalism, anyone?

The MSM are infeodated (wd? sp?) to those in power - that might be corps, interest groups, lobbyist, candidates with cash to spread around, old ties, the Gov, the military, in the limelight ppl, etc.

These newspapers are shills for all those who can afford to subvert - nay command - them. That is how journos and writers keep their jobs, the swimming pool, the private schools for the kiddies, the aw shucks I just do my job shtick, I’m smart, my wife is lovely, our job is difficult, yes we form opinion, etc.

Posted by: Noirette | Sep 29 2012 17:15 utc | 3

Going into the army makes one stupid. Trust me, I know.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 29 2012 18:12 utc | 4

You lost me entirely when you gave so much as a semi-approving nod for Kerry,b....)

The entire US system in terms of its defense/foreign policy, budge etc,. is entirely criminal, entirely fubar. Kerry would no more alter that for the better than Kissinger or Hillary.... our or latest Nobel Peace Pres.. who might appoint him.

Posted by: Eureka Springs | Sep 29 2012 22:04 utc | 5

John Kerry's "finest moment" was in the heat of the 2004 presidential race, standing next to the Grand Canyon on August 10, 2004.
Kerry stands by 'yes' vote on Iraq war

Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said Monday he would not have changed his vote to authorize the war against Iraq, but said he would have handled things "very differently" from President Bush.

Bush's campaign has challenged Kerry to give a yes-or-no answer about whether he stood by the October 2002 vote which gave Bush authority to use military force against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The question of going to war in Iraq has become a major issue on the campaign trail, especially in light of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found there.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 29 2012 23:42 utc | 6

the pamphlete reminds me of the The Iraq Culture Smart Card distributed to all Us troops and personnel 2003

it didn't help much, maybe for the reason given by Don Bacon, so now they are hoping the Afghan soldiers have a higher literacy rate

Posted by: claudio | Sep 30 2012 1:55 utc | 7

Or maybe illiterate people are more sensitive to body language.

Posted by: dh | Sep 30 2012 2:31 utc | 8

Weird. Can't post on the "Netanyahoo" (used to call him that when I posted at TWN) thread, or some of the other threads below this one. Emailed b about it. In fact, called him a jackass for banning me. He emailed back, saying he didn't ban me, and asked me for my "ISP", (so he could un-block me) or some such thing that I haven't a clue about how to provide. Too bad, really. Its not often I get a direct path to commenting about what a fucking despicable racist piece of shit Netanyahu is, yet still manage to stay "on topic".

Oh well.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Sep 30 2012 3:01 utc | 9

Your ISP address is a number. You can get the number at the top righthand side of the page at . The number has the format X.X.X.X where X is a one, two or three digit number.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Sep 30 2012 14:15 utc | 10

It may, or may not, be true that Afghans can be deeply offended by the insensitive way Yankee buffoons blow their noses in public. However, there's no doubt in my mind that what offends 90%+ of Afghans, whether from the N, E, W or South, is the way they habitually blow away groups of Afghan women, children and other unarmed civilians whenever they find one.

The cowardly Yankees kill women and children wherever they go in the world. EVERYONE finds it "culturally offensive" - even me and I'm as broad-minded and easy-going as anyone, who hates cowards, can be.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 30 2012 14:28 utc | 11

I have a question for Don Bacon, Colm O'Toole, somebody, or anybody: Who are the Iraqi insurgents today who are fighting the Iraqi government? and specifically what do they hope to achieve? I asked myself this question today, and found I couldn't answer it, after reading the following in today's news:

Iraq, AFP, 30 Sep 2012 at about 5:00 pm Iraqi time. Militants struck eight different cities and towns across Iraq in 14 separate bombings and two shootings on Sunday [30 Sep 2012], killing at least 32 people and wounding 104, Iraqi officials said. This brings the tally to at least 254 people killed and 806 wounded in attacks in Iraq so far this month, according to official sources. -- source: AFP.

In general the targets of the car bombings are the Iraqi police. But, more often than not, civilians are also present at the sites of the explosions. Insurgents opposed to Iraq's government are regarded as weaker than in past years in terms of support among the population.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Sep 30 2012 14:33 utc | 12

@ 12.
Good question.
I blame the Yanks for everything but don't have a definitive answer. I'd suggest James Petras, MK Bhadrakumar, or Steve Lendman's scribblings may provide a clue.
Or even Steven Gowans (What's Left) if he's written on the subject.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 30 2012 14:49 utc | 13

Look Parviziyi, I do not know anything about Iraq, just what the press tells me. So probably reality on the ground is something different alltogether.
According to the BBC, Shia were targeted.
The Iraqui government is largely sectarian, no? So I assume the bombing is sectarian.
I have come to the conclusion that it is true that some stupid people are trying to redraw the Middle East map. I consider the attempt stupid as I am sure that Middle Eastern people's identity is much more complex than being Sunni or Shia.
But, as I said, I know nothing, just compare the press with my experience...
Iraq's Shia, by the way, are very intelligent not to retaliate which is presumably the intention of the bombings, to incite a sectarian civil war. The Sunni part of Iraq borders on Syria, no?

Posted by: somebody | Sep 30 2012 14:53 utc | 14

@Parviziyi #12 Who are the Iraqi insurgents
I haven't gotten into it and don't know. After putting so much effort into trying to stop OIF I put it away. Since Saudi Arabia and Iraq are now enemies, with great religious (Wahabi/Shia) and political (Iran) differences, I assume the insurgents are any young men who will kill (and even sacrifice themselves) for money or glory, funded by SA (and possibly Qatar), similar to Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.You know, Saudi Arabia, the stalwart U.S. ally. (The U.S. wouldn't be sad to see the Iraq Iran-allied government go down, or Iraq to be divided.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 30 2012 15:12 utc | 15

Reuters' report on today's slew of bombings in Iraq offers as a explanation for the motive for the bombings: "Sunni Islamists are still seeking to undermine the Shi'ite-led government".

But what can the bombers realistically hope to achieve, according to their own thinking? Do they aim merely to achieve some sense of vengence, or do they aim for something more? Does the concept of futility ever cross their minds? They are not crazy in their own minds, but what's inside their own minds is obscure to me, and obscure too, I believe, to most of the readers of Reuters.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Sep 30 2012 15:14 utc | 16

Thanks for the replies. It's telling about what's not in the newspapers when Hoarsewhisperer, somebody, Don Bacon and me don't have a clear answer to the question.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Sep 30 2012 15:26 utc | 17

@11 "... there's no doubt in my mind that what offends 90%+ of Afghans, whether from the N, E, W or South, is the way they habitually blow away groups of Afghan women, children and other unarmed civilians whenever they find one."

Absolutely. That's about as strong as body language can get.

Posted by: dh | Sep 30 2012 15:39 utc | 18

What do death squads achieve? Wikipedia's summary is not scientific but gives an idea how they were used in history.

Posted by: somebody | Sep 30 2012 16:19 utc | 19

@ 18.
LOL. Nailed it!
Body language vs body bag language?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 30 2012 16:21 utc | 20

@ 12 & 17.
If you intend pursuing the Iraq question you might find the August 22, 2007, article, which is in the list of articles which come up when you click on the "Iraq" archive at What's Left, (below) helpful.

You might also find Land Destroyer Blogspot useful.

If you discover something that makes sense in the next 3 weeks or less, how about sharing it on this (3 weeks) thread before it disappears from the MoA list (in about 3 weeks)?
Good luck.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 30 2012 16:46 utc | 21

from a May 2011 study:
A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility regarding the culture clash in Afghanistan.

Namely one group generally sees the other as a bunch of violent, reckless, intrusive, arrogant, self-serving, profane, infidel bullies hiding behind high technology; and the other group generally views the former as a bunch of cowardly, incompetent, obtuse, thieving, complacent, lazy, pot-smoking, treacherous and murderous radicals. Such is the state of progress in the current 'partnering' program.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 30 2012 16:48 utc | 22

Btw, Parviziyi, I thought Don Bacon was, and usually is, on the right track.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Sep 30 2012 16:51 utc | 23

Icing on the cake -- on top of everything else, there's been no fix for 'Jesus rifles' deploying to Afghanistan

The code on an ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) made for the U.S. military by defense contractor Trijicon includes the lettering JN8:12 which refers to the Bible passage John 8:12 -- "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 30 2012 18:44 utc | 24

Ignoring, "rising above" and "not stooping to their level" responses are NOT working. If you are dealing with Barbarians? Speak Barbarian, not high Latin. Muslims need take the offensive for once. Piss on the Torah. Piss on photos of Holocaust events, and piss on the Bible. flush them down the toilet. Do unto them as they do to you. Otherwise this appeasement will continue ad infinitum.
And no I am NOT a troll, just tired of these violations and suggesting concrete countermeasures that may communicate. Ignoring wont and hasnt done so.

Posted by: boyd | Sep 30 2012 20:25 utc | 25

@boyd Ignoring, "rising above" and "not stooping to their level" responses are NOT working.
You mean the West is winning? Where's the evidence for that?
The high road is always better.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Sep 30 2012 21:02 utc | 26

you mean there is no media embedded with the iraqi insurgents???

Posted by: brian | Oct 1 2012 1:06 utc | 27

@ # 25 Boyd . . I believe there is a certain sense in what you say. I'm fairly sure the cartoons about Mohammed from a couple of years ago that caused that round of riots by Muslims, had been published twice beforehand, before it took a third "go" to achive "the desired western reaction" - i.e. that "they're just religious fanatical savages and it's about freedom-of-speech". Reasonably easy to get this message accepted by your average white-middle-class-rushing-to-work-to-continue-consuming-giving-zero-thought-to-whats-actually-going-on type. They may be able to be awoken, however briefly, if it becomes a question of "how do ya like it eh" when it's your religion that's getting pissed on(however far removed from the faith the average westener is). Works even better I'd suggest if the desecration / whatever was done by westeners, incensed at the "state of play" in the world at present. But there's a slippery slope too . . . . a case of offering aid to the terrorists wouldn't be hard to make.

Posted by: DontNnSUName | Oct 1 2012 1:20 utc | 28

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