The USA is spending 2 Billion Dollars a Week in Afghanistan and Americans just don’t get it. Read and listen to the Democracy Now Interview below. –KAS
AMY GOODMAN: John Wendle is speaking to us overlooking Kabul, Afghanistan. He’s speaking to us from the Afghan capital. And John, I don’t know if you’re able to follow U.S. electoral politics. Right now, the Michigan and Arizona primary are taking place today, and President Obama has come under criticism from leading Republicans for issuing an apology for the Koran burning. Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each said there’s no need for Obama to apologize. Take a listen.
NEWT GINGRICH: Churches are burned in Nigeria. Churches are burned in Egypt. Churches are burned in Malaysia. Do we have a word out of the President of the United States about the fact that maybe they demand an apology for religious intolerance? No. There seems to be nothing that radical Islamists can do to get Barack Obama’s attention in a negative way. And he is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the president of the United States, period.
RICK SANTORUM: There was no act that needed an apology. It was an inadvertent act, and it should have been left at that. And I think the response needs to be apologized for by Karzai and the Afghan people of attacking and killing our men and women in uniform and overreacting to this inadvertent mistake. That is—that is the real crime here, not what our soldiers did.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, John, in Afghanistan, in Kabul?
JOHN WENDLE: You know, I’ve been reading this coming from, you know, the Republican presidential candidates. And to me, it just seems to be simple rhetoric meant to, you know, garner support among voters in the U.S. The story I wrote about the two killings at the Ministry of Interior, you know, the comments at the end of my story were shocking. You know, the fact that the dialogue in America has come to this is just outrageous to me. You know, I had some of my readers saying that Afghanistan should be bombed back to the Stone Age. You know, and I’ve heard that sentiment from American soldiers and from development workers. But, to me, it—you know, that kind of talk just does—it does nothing. It’s totally—it does nothing for relations.
And I think President Obama was correct in apologizing. I think, at this point, things are so broken here that, you know, we’re going to have to do what we can to try to calm things down to the degree that we can, and, you know, if that requires that the president of the United States apologizes for the burning of these Korans, then that’s what needs to be done, just so that, you know, things can be brought back to where they were just a week ago. You know, things have deteriorated very badly here, and, you know, they’re very fragile. And, you know, both sides need to kind of walk towards each other with olive branches in hand and try to make peace, and then, you know, get back to where we were and try to—you know, try to get back to training, you know, try to build trust. But, you know, things are extremely broken. In the story I wrote a couple days ago, there was a report that came out in May 2011 that, you know, outlines very specifically, through hundreds of interviews with both Afghan and American soldiers—you know, that it outlines the kind of problems and the kind of lack of trust and the misunderstanding between cultures and between soldiers. And, you know, I think Obama was right, right to do this, and we need to, you know—sorry, the U.S. government and military really need to kind of start building all these bridges that have been burned.
AMY GOODMAN: Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, also said not to apologize. But, John Wendle, you have been covering Afghanistan extensively, living there for several years. You have done a series of reports on the people who die in the Afghan winter. Talk about the conditions for people on the ground, as, in this country—well, before the Koran burnings, the word was the situation was getting better. I mean, the U.S. spending more than $2 billion a week in Afghanistan.
JOHN WENDLE: Well, I wish I was wearing a jacket right now. It’s a little cold. But we had a beautiful day today. But it has been extremely cold here in the city. You know, I think, at last count, there are about two dozen children who froze to death in refugee and internally displaced people camps throughout the—throughout the city here. And those numbers may increase, depending on the weather, but certainly the number of refugees and IDPs, as they’re known, will increase as the security situation in the countryside deteriorates and people feel that the only place that they can come are the big cities like Kabul or Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar, or Herat in the west. These are kind of bubbles of security that exist that people can kind of come to. And even if there are no job opportunities, at least there’s safety. And, you know, it’s kind of a measure of—and I think a very telling measure of—the lack of security in the country that people continue to come to Afghanistan. Now, we know that, you know, the urbanization across the world has been on the rise. There’s more people living in cities now than ever before, or than are living in rural areas, and so, you know, that’s part of it. But mostly, people are here for security, even if it means they’re living in mud huts with plastic roofs. And—
AMY GOODMAN: John, does the U.S. have responsibility under international law—
JOHN WENDLE: —you know, those numbers will continue to grow.
AMY GOODMAN: Does the U.S. have responsibility under international law to provide for refugees in these camps, considering it is occupying Afghanistan?
JOHN WENDLE: Under international law, I don’t know. I think that, you know, just as people, we definitely have, you know, a responsibility to help take care of these people. I know that the head—or former head of the UNHCR, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, had said that, you know, the United Nations and the Afghan government and the U.S. government and our allies do not have, you know, a solid plan for taking care of these refugees, especially as NATO routinely announces that, you know, there’s more refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran in the past few years because the security situation has improved. But, you know, once they get here, there’s nothing for them.
AMY GOODMAN: John Wendle, I know we might lose you in Afghanistan, but a quick question: Who is in charge right now in Afghanistan? Who’s got the power?
JOHN WENDLE: I don’t—I don’t think anyone has the power. It’s so, so fractured here. There’s 10,000 groups fighting for little bits of—little bits of power. Maybe it will come together. Who knows?
AMY GOODMAN: John Wendle, I want to thank you for being with us, a freelance reporter for Time magazine, photographer for Polaris Images. John is based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, the latest WikiLeaks document dump. They have begun releasing five million emails of—obtained from the servers of Stratfor. We’ll explain what that is in a moment.