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Dead Americans, Dead Goats, and Half a Million Gunmen on the Loose

Posted on Mar 8, 2012
mobyhill (CC-BY)

Afghan men on horseback play the national game of buzkashi.

By Ann Jones, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

Amanullah’s successor, an ex-bandit known as Bacha-i Saqqa, lasted only eight months in office before his successor, Nadir Shah, had him hanged, again without intervention from the Afghan army.  Nadir Shah in turn reigned from 1929 to 1933, and although he, like Barack Obama, tried to build up the national army, that force of 40,000 men couldn’t help him when he was assassinated by a schoolboy at a high school graduation ceremony.

From 1933 to 1973, Nadir Shah’s son, Zahir Shah, presided over gradual social progress. He introduced a new constitution, free elections, a parliament, civil rights, women’s rights, and universal suffrage.  During his long peaceful reign, his professional spit-and-polish army served him very well on ceremonial occasions. (This is the same popular king who, after the Taliban fell, offered to return and reunite the country; Bush turned him down.)

In 1973, when Zahir Shah went to Italy for medical care, his cousin Daoud Khan—a general, former Commander of the Central Forces, and Minister of Defense—abolished the monarchy and assumed power with the aid of young communists in a bloodless coup.  The army was in his pocket, but five years later, in 1978, it fell apart and fought on both sides as the communists overthrew and murdered Daoud.  The fractured army could not prevent the Soviet invasion, nor safeguard any of the presidents in power before they came or after they left.

It’s worth remembering, too, that every one of these shifts in power was followed by a purge of political enemies that sent thousands of Afghans loyal to the jettisoned ruler to prison, death, or another country in the prolonged exodus that has made the Afghan diaspora the largest in the world drawn from a single country.  That diaspora continues today—30,000 Afghans fled last year and applied for asylum elsewhere—and the next purge hasn’t even gotten underway yet.


Square, Site wide

In short, Afghan history is a sobering antidote to the relentless optimism of the American military.  Modern Afghan history indicates that no Afghan National Army of any size or set of skills has ever warded off a single foreign enemy or done a lick of good for any Afghan ruler.

As for those Afghan guys who whipped the British three times and the Soviet’s Red Army, they were mostly freelancers, attached to the improvised militias of assorted warlords, fighting voluntarily against invaders who had occupied their country.  The Taliban, like the mujahidin of the anti-Soviet struggle before them, seem to fight quite successfully without any significant training, armor, or heavy equipment to speak of, except what some Taliban snatch by signing up from time to time for basic training with the ANA (or buy from ANA soldiers).

The Afghan National Game

Another objection to spending billions on training an Afghan National Army is this: you never know whom they will shoot.  The problem is not the odd rogue soldier or Talib infiltrator.  The problem is that the Afghan moral code is different from ours, though still apparently invisible to our military and political leaders.

Many years ago, an American Foreign Service officer in Afghanistan fell in love with the place and went sort of rogue himself.  Whitney Azoy resigned to become an anthropologist and in 1982 published an enchanting scholarly book about the Afghan sport of buzkashi, in which mounted horsemen vie for possession of a dead goat or calf.

His book became a bible for visiting journalists who soon made a cliché of the game, comparing the dead goat to the country of Afghanistan, torn apart throughout its history by competing foreign powers: England and Russia, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Pakistan. Journalists compared the game to polo, apparently never having seen a game of polo.  Take my word for it: it is not like polo.  Anyway, that’s not the point.

What many missed is the bigger picture: that all the chapandazan (horsemen) ride for a sponsor, who may be the wealthy landowning host of the day’s competition, or perhaps another large landowner living some distance away.  Chapandazan compete not for the calf, but for the favor of the sponsoring khan who will bestow upon the winners the turban cloths that mark their public stature and the money that will support their families. Here’s the point: if a sponsor fails in his obligations—if he loses the ability and wherewithal to honor, protect, and support his chapandazan—they will switch to the man who can.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment


1.  I am not a man.  I’ve got news for YOU:  there are many of us women out there with bigger balls than yours.

2.  My PhD AND my MA trump yours:  MA 1968 San Francisco State—as it was called then when it was considered by California guvvieboy Raygun to be a hotbed of hippies, antiwar protestors and minority revolutionaries—come to think of it, he was right.  And Thank God we were what we were—some of even all three of those at once.

3.  I don’t give a fuck when the gringos celebrate independence from the Brits.  As one of the Native Americans from which you folks ripped off every centimeter of land you claim to own, I see that you colonial genocidal goons all look alike.

4.  You stink of racist piggery even across virtual space.  Pimps for patriotism—the last refuge of scoundrels—give me a pain in the ass.

5.  If I did not respond to the rest of your patriotic pablum it’s probably because I stopped reading your putrescently puerile post. 

Feel free to twirl on any or all of the above.


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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 12, 2012 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

ghost:  You just JUMP on those typos, now—it’s your only chance to save that face of yours with the egg all over it.

By the way, this poster happens also to know where the expression egg on your face comes from—from the fox (or the dog) being caught in the henhouse eating eggs….

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 12, 2012 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

shost:  Hah!  You definitely DID misspeak.  And now after a quick blast through google you tried to cover your tracks.

No cigar, shostieboy:  Since this poster has written two books about the two revolutions in Mexico—the first being that of 1810 against Spanish rule and which ended with independence being granted in 1821 and the second being that of 1910 which ended somewhere between the assassination of Zapata here in my municipio in 1919 by Carranza’s goon squad and that of Carranza a year later by Obregon’s goons, which made him the Last Man Standing and therefore he named himself president—I think I do just happen to be a little bit better informed than you regarding Mexican history.  I have also since 1999 directed a campesino theater group here in a project of Recovering Historical Memory.

Apparently the folks at the University of Massachuettes at Amherst who gave me a PhD in English in 1972 believed my syntax was passable.  But that egg on your face looks cute after you sneered at this educator who not only directed university divisions in Gringolandia, but in Latin America and the Middle East, as well.  Looking foolish suits your mug just fine. 

And your crotchety insults when caught with your information down around your ankles cuts absolutely no ice with me, gringo.

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By heterochromatic, March 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

NXDoug——typo or not, I really like the way   moloforous   looks and sounds.

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By NZDoug, March 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

Check out the comments on the CNN article on the Afghan shootings…
A moloforous stench from America.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm Link to this comment

It is sad and unfortunate (for the Afghans) that this soldier snapped, it doesn’t matter that he was a green-grow*** or not, just another lunatic with a machine gun who got past the screeners.

We can expect more of this kind of behavior as extended mission creep sets in.

If we’re not going to get out of Afghanistan, lets make it a state.


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By heterochromatic, March 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment

ASs——even you should have noted that I was
attempting to show moonie what her bigoted comments
read….. and not suggesting any such thing about
Mexicans in seriousness…...

perhaps you didn’t read the comment, but merely
reacted in your usual knee-jerk and blind

try actually reading the shit before gasbagging,

let’s argue about stuff where we have ACTUAL
disagreement…not just every damn thing.

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ghostofwatergate's avatar

By ghostofwatergate, March 11, 2012 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment

@ Moonraven: You say, “Mexico, where this poster has lived for the past 20 years, did NOT receive its Independence from Mexico [sic] in 1810, but in 1821!”

Disregarding both your non sequitur and mangled syntax, you seem to be implying that I misspoke. I said Mexico “obtained” it’s independence from Spain in 1810. I should have said, Hildago “declared Mexico’s independence” in 1810.

OTOH, if you knew anything about or understood the principle of indigenous sovereignty you would know the difference between a declaration of rights as contrasted to a colonizer’s deigning to recognize those rights.

However, I suspect that that is too subtle for you.

I note your ad hominems.

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By heterochromatic, March 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

I don’t know him, moonie, but if I were like you, I
would probably guess that he was just some ignorant
Mexican peon that got into the mescal and went all
blood simple on those Afghans.

since I’m not like you…. I won’t say shit until I
know some.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

As usual, hettie the hatespeecher has nothing to say.

How about that gringo grunt that massacred 16 people during his morning walk in Afghanistan, hettie?  Neighbor of yours?  Friend?  Cousin?

Ya sure know how to pick em.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 11, 2012 at 11:13 am Link to this comment

Well, pimps for patriotism, chew on this:

Yesterday one of your hotshit soldiers got up before dawn, walked out of his barracks, entered without knocking the homes of several families in Afghanistan and mowed down 16 men, women and children.  Then he set fire to their places.

Aren’t you just SO damn proud, now?

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 11, 2012 at 11:08 am Link to this comment

hettei:  Those frijoles you just farted here are ten years old, at least—from a pinche plastic bag at the foodbank.

Get a job.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 11, 2012 at 11:04 am Link to this comment

PS ghostieboy:

Mexico, where this poster has lived for the past 20 years, did NOT receive its Independence from Mexico in 1810, but it 1821!

Sit on that fact and twirl.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 11, 2012 at 11:02 am Link to this comment

ghost:  george was a pinche genocidal slaveowning landthieving goon—and he cuts absolutely no ice with this old Native American.

Nor do you.

All you did here is cut the rancid cheese.

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bonito's avatar

By bonito, March 11, 2012 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

How can anyone believe our fearless leaders in
Washington or in Afghanistan. In 4 1/2 years during
and before the second world War, The U.S. trained
eighteen million Men & Women to not only fight our
War against Japan, but also to fight Churchill’s War
in Europe. It is down right stupid to believe that We
cannot now train a much   smaller force in the ten
years that We now find ourselves being bogged down in
Afghanistan.  It is not because We have not thrown
enough money at this problem, it now costs the U.S.
taxpayer a million dollars to place one U.S. Soldier
in harms way in the middle east, this if for no other
reason should preclude our involvement in these
Foreign Adventures. If the Republicans ( and some
Democrats ) in Congress insist on fighting these
stupid Wars, just maybe We can get them led by John
Wayne McCain to don their Combat Boots and rush on
over to save this Nation from disaster, with an
Imperial Force like that how could We possibly go

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By NZDoug, March 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm Link to this comment

Operation “ENDURING OCCUPATION” is so last century…..
99% is the flavo(u)r of the decade.
Get with it, AMERICA!

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By Archie1954, March 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The author of this piece just doesn’t get it after all this time. The Americans in Afghanistan are an invading and occupying force. They are like the Nazis in France during WWII and the Afghanis assisting them are like the quislings in Paris that helped the Nazis control occupied France. The Afghanis who are killing Americans are simply like the French underground doing their duty to their country. So get off your high horse and open up your eyes for Heaven’s sake!

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ghostofwatergate's avatar

By ghostofwatergate, March 10, 2012 at 2:46 am Link to this comment

Here’s a flash for all you bleeding heart liberals: first of all, I’m an ultra-leftist. If it weren’t for the Constitution, I would be mounting an expedition to remove several states from the confederation - specifically places inhabited by those idiots that whistle Dixie as they tool around in their 4-wheel drive pickup trucks dragging negroes behind, and right after I put Wall Street under military occupation.

As to the question at hand: back in the day, the North American colonists were referred to as Americans by the Crown and all the folk back in the old countries, while the Americans were divided as to what to call themselves. A solid third of the population referred to themselves as British. After the Declaration of Independence, that changed. Everybody became Americans, willy-nilly. I mean come on, what would you say is the name of this country? Columbia? That’s taken. Red Indian Land That We Stole? Honest, but not very poetic.

Around this planet (and yes, I have been around this planet) people from the US are uniformly referred to as Americans, except for *some* Spanish-speaking nationalists who refer to us as Nord Americanos, when they aren’t calling us gringos and worse. (Not that I blame them.) Regardless, when I say I am an American to anyone anywhere on this planet, there is absolutely no confusing my origins; nobody thinks I’m from Canada or Costa Rica.

In any event, America: It’s barely a place so much as it is an idea, and an ideal for some. The word belongs to that ideal, and no other. Argentina is Argentinian, and they know it. Ask an indigenous Incan if he is an American and he will laugh at you.

I suppose there are those gringos who would say to a Mexican, “Oh, you’re not an American.” I’m sure it happens. Your confusion arises from your presumption that a Mexican, say, in Europe would want to call himself an American - which he most certainly wouldn’t do. He identifies himself with Mexico because he is a Mexican. Good for him. There was a Mexico far far longer than there was an America.

As to the Constitution: your remarks indicate to me that you haven’t a clue.

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, March 10, 2012 at 2:15 am Link to this comment

“ - legacy of the Obama strategy: the presence of half a million gunmen on the loose-“  Ann Jones article

An increasingly efficient continuation by indigenous, of that which was initiated by “American” forces.  An activity that feeds the psychotic needs of the few who control western world leadership.  Russian leadership showed wisdom by quitting.

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By johnsalmond, March 10, 2012 at 1:54 am Link to this comment

“If it’s good enough for George Washington, it’s good enough for me” to appropriate “american” for the US.

Conservatism disappearing up its own fundament.

Like constantly recurring to the Constitution, a bit of paper now mighty out of date; haven’t grown up much in 200 years, some people

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By heterochromatic, March 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

Ameonly one nation is the United States of America and Americans we are…....
tough frijoles, old bird.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 9, 2012 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Yes moonraven you are right.

While traveling in western Brazil near Foz de Iguazu I remember telling someone that I was an American and was told “no, you are a north american”. 

It has stayed with me ever since.

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ghostofwatergate's avatar

By ghostofwatergate, March 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm Link to this comment


You object to the use of the term “American” to refer to the people of the United States.

The first historical use of the term that I am aware of is by George Washington in his Letter to Touro Synagogue (1790). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to have the impression that Canadians, for instance, refer to themselves as Canadians and occasionally, North Americans. Further, at the time Washington wrote his letter, the US was the sole “nation” on the continent, being that everywhere else consisted of colonies, with the subjects identified as, variously, French, Spanish, and a smattering of Germans. The non-colonials identified with their tribe-nations, referring to themselves as Arapaho, Apache, Aztec, Inca, Olmec, etc.

Pancho Villa referred to his compatriots as “Mexicans.” BTW, Mexico obtained it’s independence from Spain in 1810, i.e., post-Touro letter. The country’s official legal name is Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

Feel free to be as PC as you want, but speaking for myself, I maintain that if it’s good enough for George, it’s good enough for me.

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By gerard, March 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

moonraven:  Thanks for the reminder about the misuse of “America.”  It’s a hard habit to break!

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 9, 2012 at 11:12 am Link to this comment


Native American scholar Ward Churchill was persecuted and driven out of his job at the University of Colorado for daring to mention that 9/11 just might have been the US’s chickens coming home to roost.

I would like to suggest that those of you who are not neo-con trolls stop using the term America for the U. S.  There are many other countries in America—and the gringos, in their usual piggery, decided to hog the name for themselves.

Don’t buy into it.

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By Gloria Picchetti, March 9, 2012 at 5:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How much would we still have if we had put our troops at both borders & both coasts to take care of us instead of a lawless society that has never changed?

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment


Sadly I must confess; “we are who we are”. Odds are that’s why we created the Devil; to explain away our dark side.

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By gerard, March 8, 2012 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment

And by the way—what’s the big difference between Afghan’s sucking up too the Khans and fighting to kill goats or Americans sucking up to the Empire and fighting to kill foreigners? No, don’t tell me!

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By gerard, March 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm Link to this comment

vector56:  Break out, and run like hell before the Boogie Man steals your soul!

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Arabian Sinbad's avatar

By Arabian Sinbad, March 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm Link to this comment

Actually, this whole lengthy article can be summarized by the proverbial maxim of:

      “American chickens coming home to roost!”

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment


You are a better man than I; you can still dream of a world that “could have been”. I, on the other hand an “stuck” in the world that is.

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By gerard, March 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment

Haven’t you noticed that it’s getting to be a long time since violence accomplished anything good for anybody except the corporate goons in the MIC?

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment

P.S.  I forgot Syria.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, March 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment

Simply put; if some one (anyone) invades your country, kill countless numbers of your men women and children, you kill them back!

If the situation was reversed and any other country did to America what we did to Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and soon to come Iran (notice that all are Muslim countries) no one here would question any of us “busting a cap in their asses!”

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 8, 2012 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

It’s very easy to see what has gone wrong iin North America.

All three countries have leaders who, no matter how much blood is shed and how much money is wasted, have sworn never to change their strategies of war on the environment, on narcos, and on non-whites.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insane.

Meanwhile, the US has managed to slaughter millions in its inaptly named wars on just about everything and everybody.

Canada chimes in with them whenever its convenient and spends the rest of the time making war on the environment—especially in countries south of the Rio Grande.

Mexico in 5 years has managed to slaughter at least 75,000 and i million 600 thousand folks have been displaced by the violence in the war that the gringos outsourced to Calderon.  Gringos get the drugs and the drug money keeps their banks almost afloat.  mexico provides the corpses.

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By heterochromatic, March 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment

gerard—- Pashtunwali is not that hard to understand…..not as complex as that of
other cultures

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By heterochromatic, March 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm Link to this comment

EZ—- while you’re fomenting the fermenting

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment

Graveyard of empires. 

How true.

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By gerard, March 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm Link to this comment

Proof that anthropology is one of them-there “arts and sciences” that they teach you in elite universities which makes God-fearing Christians turn into those snobs called “relativists” who think Americans have to “understand” different cultures instead of going right in and forcing them to give up their stupid ancient ways and do things the right way like we do.
(PS Sarcasm!  Beware! Another one of those “relativist” dangers!)

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

@ Heterochromatic

Thank you for fleshing out your position.

I guess the final confrontation will have to be delayed. I must gather my wits about me and let them ferment a bit longer.

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By heterochromatic, March 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

EZ——- not sure what you want… want me to say that I think that we’re
gonna build a stable rational non-predatory government in Afghanistan?

ain’t gonna…..

want me to say that we shouldn’t blame Afghans who are working alongside
NATO troops in office buildings who decide to walk up to their co-workers and
murder them?

ain’t gonna…..


I’ll grant you this

but probably you ain’t getting a full pound

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm Link to this comment

@ Heterochromatic


Don’t ever do that again. I will just try to forget I heard any of those first 20 seconds.

Anyhow… don’t chicken out on me buddy.

I want my pound of flesh, my moment of truth.

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By heterochromatic, March 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

EZ—- stay on the safe side and don’t worry about digging for diamonds

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By berniem, March 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

I believe it’s called retribution!!!! FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

@ heterochromatic

I don’t quite get where you are going with this comment my friend.

Please elaborate so I can decide whether or not to call you a butthole.

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By SarcastiCanuck, March 8, 2012 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone with half a brain who has read the history of this region and the Pashtun people would know this is exactly what would happen.The Afghans will keep killing us until the last soldier leaves the country….Ann,maybe try asking a Russian for info.They were there just 20 years ago.

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By heterochromatic, March 8, 2012 at 11:06 am Link to this comment

gee Ann Jones, isn’t it just so silly when Americans blame Afghans for murdering
NATO soldiers while wearing the uniform of a military allied with NATO?

that’s just so picky.


brilliant analysis, Ann Jones.

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