Afghanistan’s Creepiest Game: US Soldiers Stalk Afghan Wildlife


Thumbnail image for camel spider.jpgAndrew Lebovich, a frequent TWN contributor and staff member at the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program, prepared today the AfPak page brief for Foreign Policy this morning.
This slightly disturbing kicker caught my attention:
Afghanistan’s creepiest game

When not on the watch for Taliban, U.S. Army soldiers rotating through a remote Kandahar outpost hunt instead for the things that go bump in the night (AP).
Soldiers go out on patrols for snakes, scorpions and giant camel spiders, sometimes helped by mortar crews firing illumination rounds and cheered on by their colleagues.

I rather prefer the military lip synching and creating Lady Gaga tributes to this.
And then again, in the eyes of the local citizens and the Taliban soldiers we are fighting, both activities look like signs of real decadence that do nothing to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “Afghanistan’s Creepiest Game: US Soldiers Stalk Afghan Wildlife

  1. Jester says:

    For one: I see nothing wrong with the actions of our soldiers while over there in the muck and flax of an uncompromisingly boring situation. It keeps them entertained and focused on sharpening their intuitive hunting skills.
    Have any of you ever been hunting for critters? Ever tromped through the mud searching for that elusive snake? Ever turned rocks looking for that particular spider? It’s hard, taxing work and does nothing BUT enhance your natural hunting ability.
    As long as our soldiers aren’t sitting around with their proverbial thumbs up their a**es, I have no complaints. Sure they are there to do their jobs as warfighters, but action isn’t always nonstop. During the lulls, if you aren’t mentally or physically engaged, you become soft; complacent; and in extreme cases: Dead.
    I’m headed in that direction myself shortly and my worst fear is not the enemy. It’s the extreme levels of boredom between possible engagements.
    What seem like superfluous, or even reckless, extracurricular activities actually serve to maintain a level of organization and sanity in an otherwise chaotic setting. So long as unnecessary dangers are avoided.


  2. erichwwk says:

    POA. By definition it is a wise investment from the point of view of the decision maker or it would not have occurred. You are looking at it from your, your fellow citizen, and the soldiers point of view. We don’t get to decide. We just pay in real terms, and the decision makers receive in real terms. Like our banking system, or military system socializes the costs and privatizes the benefits.
    Have you forgotten the shrink wrapped bricks of $100 bills, tossed around like jelly beans, 6-10 dump truck loads going to some unknown Kirkukian merely by asking?
    But yes I am creeped out even more by the folks that see nothing wrong with our “soldiers” making sport of killing, as I am with the behavior of the soldiers themselves.
    But then here at the Taos, NM “family center,” eight year olds play video games provided by the NM National Guard that simulate killing of dark skinned folk in desert settings, being advised to breathe in, be calm, and slowly squeeze. How far till we get to Genghis Khan?
    The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see their near and dear bathed in tears, to ride their horses and sleep on the white bellies of their wives and daughters.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:
    Nonetheless, as in a tale foretold, congress is expected to vote later this month on US$33 billion in further “war funding” to pay for sending 30,000 troops (plus “support” troops, etc) to Afghanistan – most of whom are already there or soon will be. In addition, an extra $2 billion is being requested for aid and “civilian” operations in Afghanistan (much of which may actually go to the Afghan military and police), $2.5 billion for the same in our almost forgotten war in Iraq, and another $2 billion for aid to (or is it a further military presence in?) Haiti.
    This upcoming vote provides the opportunity that our representatives were asking for half a year ago. They can now vote the president’s escalation up or down in the only way that could possibly be enforced, by voting its funding up or down. Blocking the funding in the House of Representatives would mean turning those troops around and bringing them back home – and unlike the procedure for passing a bill, there would be no need for any action by the senate or the president.
    What does $33 billion look like?
    So, how much money are we talking about exactly? Well not enough, evidently, for the teabagging enemies of reckless government spending to take notice. Clearly not enough for the labor movement or any other advocates of spending on jobs or healthcare or education or green energy to disturb their slumbers. God forbid! Yet it’s still a sizeable number by a certain reckoning.
    After all, 33 billion miles could take you to the sun 226 times. And $33 billion could radically alter any non-military program in existence. There’s a bill in the senate, for instance, that would prevent schools from laying off teachers in all 50 states for a mere $23 billion. Another $9.6 billion would quadruple the Department of Energy’s budget for renewable energy. Now, what to do with that extra $0.4 billion?
    And remember what this $33 billion actually involves: adding more troops, support troops and private contractors, whose work, in turn, will mean ongoing higher costs to maintain the Afghan occupation, construct new bases there, fuel the machines of war, and provide the weaponry. Keep in mind as well that various other costs associated with the president’s most recent “surge” are hidden in the budgets of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State and other parts of the government. Looking just at the military, however, this is $33 billion to be added to an unfathomable pile of waste. According to the Congressional Budget Office, congress has already approved $345 billion for war in Afghanistan, not to mention $708 billion in Iraq.
    According to the National Priorities Project, for that same money we could have renewable energy in 1,083,271,391 homes for a year (or every home in the country for more than 10 years), or pay 17,188,969 elementary school teachers for a year. There may be 2.6 million elementary and middle school teachers in our country now. Assuming we could use three million teachers, we could hire them all for five years and employ that extra $13 billion or so to give them bonuses. “Honor our brave teachers” anyone?
    Even these calculations, however, are misleading. As economists Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz demonstrated in The Three Trillion Dollar War, their book on the cost of the Iraq war alone, adding in debt payments on moneys borrowed to fight that war, long-term care for veterans wounded in it, the war’s impact on energy prices, and other macroeconomic impacts, the current tax bill for the Iraq war must be at least tripled and probably quadrupled or more to arrive at its real long-term cost. (Similarly, the cost in lives must be multiplied by all those lives that could have been saved through other, better uses of the same funding.) The same obviously applies to the Afghan war.
    The fact is that military spending is destroying the US economy. An excellent report from the National Priorities Project, “Security Spending Primer”, provides a summary of research that supports these basic and well-documented facts:
    Investing public dollars in the military produces fewer jobs than cutting taxes.
    Cutting taxes produces fewer jobs than investing public dollars in any of these areas: healthcare, education, mass transit, or construction for home weatherization and infrastructural repair.
    Investing public dollars in mass transit or education produces more than twice as many jobs as investing in the military.
    Investing public dollars in education produces better paying jobs than investing in the military or cutting taxes.
    Investing public dollars in any of these areas: healthcare, education, mass transit, construction for home weatherization and infrastructural repair has a larger direct and indirect economic impact than investing in the military or cutting taxes.
    Too broad a view? Then consider just the present proposed $33 billion escalation funding for the Afghan war. For that sum, we could have 20 green energy jobs paying $50,000 per year here in the United States for every soldier sent to Afghanistan; a job, that is, for each of those former soldiers and 19 other Americans. We’re spending on average $400 per gallon to transport gas over extended and difficult supply lines into Afghanistan where the US military uses 27 million gallons a month. We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bribe various small nations to be part of a “coalition” there. We’re spending at least that much to bribe Afghans to join our side, an effort that has so far recruited only 646 Taliban guerrillas, many of whom seem to have taken the money and run back to the other side. Does all this sound like a wise investment – or the kind of work Wall Street would do?


  4. Jackie says:

    I read in a magazine a couple of weeks ago that a hunter in the Wahkan corridor was checking his traps and had a Snow Leopard. Afghanistanis did not know they had any Snow Leopard’s left. Long story short, the hunter took it to Kabul to sell but word got around and USAID or some agency talked him into giving it up so they could nurse it back to health. They day they were going to take it back to where it was caught to release it, it died. The vet thought it must have been shock.


  5. susan says:

    “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” says Afghan commander McChrystal.
    Except for creatures great and small whether human or non human, military life is “generally very boring.”


  6. Mr.Murder says:

    “And then again, in the eyes of the local citizens and the Taliban soldiers we are fighting, both activities look like signs of real decadence that do nothing to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.”
    You misstated something. they are not soldiers, geneva doesn;t apply. Just ask Dubya or Barack. Well, ask their White House counsel, or their Ag’s. Perhaps the two soon to be on the SCOTUS can clarify that item for you, on your way to the gulag.


  7. Cato the Censor says:

    Military life is generally very boring. As a result, GIs will do virtually anything to amuse themselves as the Donsblog comment notes. I know this from personal experience. They do not have Georgetown cocktail parties to attend.
    Instead of straining at this small point, Mr. Clemons, why don’t you grasp the real nettle: the situation in Afghanistan is militarily unwinnable. The best thing to do is get out. Once that step’s taken, we needn’t be concerned about GIs having vermin-hunting parties anymore. GIs in CONUS stations who don’t have to worry about being shot or blown up in a hopeless, neo-colonial war will have more opportunities to work on their Lady GaGa drills.


  8. DonsBlog says:

    I have to admit to having done some of the same when I was younger and stationed in Turkey. We were warned about camel spiders, asps, poisonous scorpions, centipedes, and toads. When we had an exercise in the middle of the night I was always wondering what was crawling around me.
    I think it probably gave us a bit of a feeling of control over the more real and deadly human activities around us. I was there before the Iran situation when we “weren’t there”, after the Cyprus war, surrounded by the Soviets and listening to gunfire from the Kurdish uprising every night. If the bugs didn’t get you the mess hall food probably wood, several friends ended up in the hospital on IVs.
    I don’t think my Turkish friends cared, having rituals of their own.
    Those troops are dealing with a lot of stress. If this is the worst they do I don’t think it’s all that bad.


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