The Afghan Quarterback

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn't find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghan soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away. -KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a chimney. -KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph. -BULLS-EYE!

"I've got to get this guy!" Coach said to himself. "He has the perfect arm!"

So, he brings him to the States and teaches him the great game of football. And the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young Afghan is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

"Mom," he says into the phone, "I just won the Super Bowl!"

"I don't want to talk to you, the old Muslim woman says. "You are not my son!"

"I don't think you understand, Mother," the young man pleads. "I've won the greatest sporting event in the world. I'm here among thousands of my adoring fans."

"No! Let me tell you!" his mother retorts. "At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn't get raped!" The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says,

"I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!

With thanks to TGIF-Jeff!

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The US and dirty wars

They say if you put a frog in water and slowly warm up the pot, the frog will not notice the increasing temperature and boil to death. A metaphor showing how often we get used to situations, as they gradually get worse and run out of control...

I watched the documentary movie "Dirty Wars" by Jeremy Scahill, an American investigative journalist who also exposed the "frog in boiling water" role of Blackwater in US wars and homeland security.

"Dirty Wars" exposes the increasing role of US covert operations to capture or (mostly) kill anyone, anywhere, without any due juridicial process or proper public oversight. "Dirty wars" takes the specific examples of the killing of civilians in Gardez (Afghanistan), women and children in Al Ma'jalah (Yemen) and of two US civilians in Yemen (cleric Anwar Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki). It focuses on the role of JSOC, the notorious US para-military branch which reports directly to the US President, bypassing the "normal" military chain of command.

I think this is a typical example of "a frog in boiling water"... We all sympathized with the US, and the victims of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. There was a significant global consent of the US invasion of Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban and kill Bin Laden. But as of then things have just turned for the worse and the US took the global sympathy of 9/11 to move on to abolish proper human rights, juridicial process, international law and public oversight. Be it the invasion of Iraq -now internationally recognized as based on fake evidence and subversive economic motives-, the capture and detention of civilians -Guantanamo-, to random drone attacks on the soil of sovereign countries -just about anywhere in the world-, to the use of private militia and obscure security firms to execute its own "private" wars, and intrusion of the privacy of citizens -the revelations of Edward Snowden on NSA practices-,....

As time went by, from 9/11 to now, I think it is time to jump out of the boiling water, and question the foreign politics of the US, with all of its related issues. How is it that a single country, which prouds itself to stand up for worldwide democracy, can get away with worldwide unilateral military action without being questioned?

The issue is not just the accountability, oversight, human rights, states' sovereignty, etc.. But the issue is also that it is getting worse. "Dirty wars" claims that the unilateral covert operations increased over time -more now under Obama than under Bush JR, for God's sake-. It gradually shaped the world's perception of the US, and how it turns the world more polarized "extremist" action against the US and its foreign policy. The issue is not just the foreign policy actions themselves, but how they clearly don't work. Proof in case is that the initial feeling of sympathy for the US in Afghanistan and even Iraq, turned completely against the US, and how they polarized the world so much "with us or against us". With a growing sense of "against us".

No matter how cynical it might be, but somewhere it is comforting to see how Russia bluntly and publicly put the US foreign policy with its back against the wall: in Syria - where Putin took the wind out of Obama's sails for an imminent assault on Syria through shrewd foreign diplomacy, and did so again in the Ukraine -by invading the country before the US could say "1-2-3"-. While the latter - the invasion of a sovereign country- can not be justified, it is reassuring that somewhere the world powers might be slightly more balanced than in 2001-2003, even it were by matching the US through employing the same foreign tactics.

It is time for us, frogs, the leap out of the boiling water, and call the US to justice. It would not only serve international political balance, but most of all serve the rights of us, the citizens of the world.

Photo courtesy J.Ronald Lee

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Travel the world in just a minute

Rick Mereki -filmmaker and traveller traveled through 11 countries in 44 days and made this video which is both simple and complex at the same time..

Love it.

PS: 11 countries in 44 days, I did better than that back in 2000... Did not have a video camera, though :-)

Video discovered via So Bad So Good

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The crazy things people do: Have you ever heard of Heard Island?

Take a point somewhere in the middle between Africa and India, and then go South until you hit Antarctica... Somewhere there, lays a small island called Heard Island. "Property" of Australia, the island was settled by seal hunters a century ago.
So isolated that over thousands of years, several animals developed into unique species, not to be found anywhere else.

Dominated by an active volcano, and covered in black ash, Heard comes as inhospitable as any island comes.

That island was the destination of our 1997 expedition. And this is the video we made of that trip. Probably the trip which was also a turning point in my professional career, when I started to grasp what it took to manage a high performant team, under harsh circumstances....

The video is a rip from a VHS tape...

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The crazy things people do: My first Antarctic expedition

It feels like yesterday, but it was 20 years ago, almost to the date, when I left for my first Antarctic expedition. Our target was Peter I island, one of the most remote corners of the world's most remote continent.

It is still difficult to believe how we pulled off this expedition, challenged by logistical "mission impossible's". But we did.

Enjoy this video, even though it is a lower resolution rip from a VHS tape. The views, with this music in the background still gets the hair on my arms stand up :-)

Read more stories about this expedition on The Road.

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