Afghanistan 500 Afghanis Banknote – Face and Back
Afghanistan 500 Afghanis Banknote
Afghanistan 500
Afghanistan 500 Afghanis Banknote back, featuring horsemen
Afghanistan 500

Falerístico, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bahij Virtual Academy, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Taliban, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Afghanistan; stan signifies “the place of”, afghan signifies “horsemen” and “horse breeders”. With this in mind, look again at the image on the back right of the banknote above. One can almost feel the adrenalin of the spirted horse and rider flying in competition across the land. The riders are engaged in the historic sport Buzkashi. Some readers may have seen this reverently exemplified in the move Rambo III.

Afghanistan is a landlocked central Asian state. Its southern borders appear on a map to be nestled between Pakistan, on the right, the southeast, and Iran on the left, the southwest. Continuing clockwise on the map, Turkmenistan, then Uzbekistan, then Tajikistan and finally a small border with China in the northeast, complete the circle of 6 states that surround Afghanistan.

The mighty Himalaya mountains, centered in Nepal and extending though much of central Asia, extend through Pakistan into much of Afghanistan. These impassable mountains have made trade routes rare and valuable since ancient times.

The Himalayan mountains extend deeply into Afghanistan.

Hindu-Kush is the name for the mountain range in Afghanistan. Its highest peak is 24,580 feet. more than 2000 feet higher than any mountain in the Western hemisphere.

Trade is ancient; and efficiency in trade, essential. Facilitating routes between the East and West, between the seacoast and interior, around the mountains and through the valleys, were pioneered in time immemorial, and since traveled for generations and centuries, for millenia. The Silk Road is the name given to the collection of heavily traveled trade routes by a writer in the 1800s. At key points along these trade routes, villages sprang up and grew. In the land of the Afghans, these include the modern cities of Herat and Zaranj.

Islam arrived in Herat in the 7th century.


It’s August 31,2021 as I begin this section. America’s longest war is being declared over, today. It is a war I have hated from before the beginning and have never really understood. A college friend of mine lost his first son in Fallujah a short time into the war. I was much luckier; all I lost was tax dollars and the earlier, more innocent, pride in my country. Prior to its commencement, I too listened to the intelligence assessments that were promulgated through the media, the profession of “slam dunk” certainties. I too was shocked and grieved for the destruction from 9/11 but said, during the build up to war, “you don’t just go and invade a sovereign nation; I hope he knows what he’s doing”, referring to President Bush. It was the era of “yellow cake” and “slam dunk” intelligence assessments and the outing of Valerie Plame. Terror Treat Assessments were orange, then yellow then orange again then red and then orange and then red again and everyone watched them as closely as traffic signals. TSA stripped us down and felt us up as we stood obediently in longer and longer lines to board a plane.

“Papa, what do you think of going to war?” asked my daughter, my only child. “I don’t know”, shaking my head, as if she could see, as I held the phone, “I hope he knows what he is doing. You don’t just go and invade a sovereign nation.” Well, as it turns out, it appears he didn’t know what he was doing. It might be better said, he was overly optimistic. An even better way of saying it is that he believed his advisors, and he had bad advisors. And here I use the word “bad” in its moral sense as well as its professional sense. I am thinking that it’s not just that they gave advice that proved bad in the sense of erroneous, that it didn’t work out as hoped, but it was bad in that it was duplicitous, morally mischievous.

perhaps we need not struggle too much on this point for it is well known that bad is good to some and good is bad to the same. The belief in absolute bad and good may confound our understanding, like the belief in absolute time and distance confounded physicists before Einstein. Almost half a millennium before Einstein, Machiavelli demonstrated, with a mind as clear as sunlight that, badness and goodness are relative to one’s frame of reference.

The media was 24/7 pro-war and the Democrats asked for a revote in Congress so that they too could go on record as pro-war, joining the Republicans and their Republican President. It felt like the atmosphere was 90% pro-war. Few in the media or in politics were anti-war. If we consider these the “experts”, than experts were near unanimous in promoting the war. Who were “we” common people, to doubt the experts. The talking heads were professional talkers, hired for, among other skills, the ability to talk rapidly and with an air of authority, and the ability to counter objections and diminish opposition, making their position, and their network, appear the strongest. The politicians were professional job applicants, always looking to the next election, the next interview, burnishing their resumes to appeal to the most voters. The politicians swung with the voters who were turned by the media.

We were told that the intelligence agencies were quite sure that there were WMDs in Iraq, a slam dunk in the words of the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet. We were told we should be ok with war because everyone knew that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, because he gassed his own people, and that the people would be better off with democracy. Saddam bad, democracy good, how could not we be on board with that? But it felt like a pre- justification for an invasion even should WMDs not be found.

Pop stars were on board selling the war; the Dixie Chicks were ostracized for their criticism.

Looking back I feel that America was manipulated into war for financial gain. Many have said it was for oil, and perhaps that was part. But rivers of money poured into the accounts of the military-industrial complex. It’s not like the America hasn’t been manipulated before or even after. What is perhaps somewhat surprising is the extent to which the media coalesced into something approaching a monolithic posture of war advocacy. Dissenting voices existed but were effectively drowned out by the flag-waving clamor of the majorities of the various media corporations.

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  1. portrayed in Rambo III
  2. Buzkashi How The National Sport of Afghanistan Came To Be
  3. Iraq and the Media, A Critical Timeline

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