Been giving some thought to “Whites in Shining Armor” recently. That, and I’m just feeling too lazy to put out a new post, means you all get to re-read this gem again. Was challenged by my wife with the question: “So if it’s all screwed up, how do we fix it?” Not sure, but fairly certain it doesn’t look like this.
I’ll be honest…there are days when writing about Afghanistan or anything involving, well, humans, can be downright depressing, you know?
I mean, who would write things like this?
Whoever that is has GOT to be some kind of a Debbie Downer, right?
I have to apologize to those of you reading this who have come to expect a lot more sweetness and light from my writing and a lot less of Mean Ol’ Mr. Cynicism.
Fortunately, Pollyanna, have I got a story for you!
It’s got everything: kids, coloring books, school supplies, and “winning hearts and minds of the Afghan people.”
Oh yeah, this one…*sigh*…well, I have to tell you: my faith in humanity? Restored.
Appetite? Back again.
Will to live? Fully intact.
I just…I…oh I have to say thank you…yes thank you, to the fine folks over at DVIDS who post stories like this that make me want to string dandelions and go sell lollipops so I can go to summer camp.
I think I’ve found my innocence…my youth again.
Unicorns delivering pizza!
This story is just that shareworthy that I’m going to post it in its entirety…just move some things around a little so you too, reader, can feel the joy that…well, that I’m feeling right now.
Service members of Task Force Protector here have found a way to make a difference for children in Afghanistan through Operation PENCIL.
Operation PENCIL, a volunteer program started in 2009, promotes education throughout Afghanistan and encourages children to learn. Volunteers distribute school supplies and teach the fundamentals of writing. PENCIL, an acronym for pencil, eraser, notebook, crayons, illustrations and learn, says a lot about the program’s mission.
Protectors! Awesome acronyms! My breath…it is bated.
Operation PENCIL is comprised of more than 50 service member and civilian volunteers who collect, organize and prepare the supplies for distribution. They also work with the children and encourage them to engage in the events.
“The parents are the hardest to get involved, so we started putting things out that would attract them,” said Brummett. “Once [the parents] warmed up to us, the children [were] allowed to stop and play.”
“We use the toys to attract them and get them into coloring and writing; the kids really enjoy it,” said Spc. Denise L. Brummett, entry control point specialist, Task Force Hell Hound.
If you’re a guy with a van, that last sentence is just creepy.
I’m sorry, that was…well it just wasn’t in the spirit of things here. Let’s move on.
The service members are getting support from organizations back home in the states. Operation PENCIL has received donations from family members, churches, schools and other organizations looking to help the volunteers in their mission.
The overwhelming responses from the U.S. allowed the program to expand and open up the effort to a broader audience.
Operation PENCIL has not stopped at school supplies. They have distributed blankets, scarves, hats, gloves and other warm clothing appropriate for the winter season.
The service members volunteering their time with Operation PENCIL have distributed more than 2,000 bags of school supplies to the local populace and 100 teacher supply boxes. In the last six months, the volunteers have coordinated seven Egyptian hospital visits, where they distributed more than 700 bags filled with school supplies.
Reachback! Getting families at home involved! Warm socks! I love warm socks! If I felt any more love rolling off the pages, I’d pass out!
“The volunteers are taking advantage of the opportunity to build relationships and assist in the overall mission of winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people,” said Capt. Mary E. Baars, chaplain to the theater intelligence group, Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435.
It’s…winning! Say so right there! Hearts and minds!
Naysayers, forget for a minute that the phrase doesn’t actually appear anywhere in COIN doctrine…this is important stuff. And it’s an CJIATF! That’s really…well that’s just impressive, you know?
CJIATF 435…why…why does that ring a bell?
The volunteer program originated as part of the family visitation program within the Detention Facility in Parwan. When families and their children came to visit detainees, service members participating in the program would give school supplies to the children as they left the facility.
The program is now called Operation PENCIL and has expanded to a weekly event, held at the DFIP entry control point, where volunteers hand out supplies and encourage the children to write and color.
“This boosts the morale of our volunteers and gives them the opportunity to do something that makes a difference in the lives of many people,” said Baars.
“I have really enjoyed making a difference,” said Brummett.
These kids…they’re so…thoughtful!
I mean, one way to look at this is to say that these families are here visiting loved ones that have been detained without any real due process or hope for release at any point in their lifetime, or the hope of any kind of trial that would be recognized in an actual court of law, so they don’t really have a choice but to color and learn and get warm clothes….but that…that would be cynical. Petty. And just plain negative.
A vast majority of the people being held at Parwan are in administrative detention — without access to lawyers, public trials or other legal rights. As the transfer to Afghan control proceeds, some will go into the Afghan justice system, and others will become Afghan administrative detainees, according to the March agreement.
But many Afghan and international lawyers say that such administrative detention is unconstitutional under Afghan law and that it is being instituted in effect by decree.
Even Afghans who go into the usual criminal justice system at Parwan have little hope of being released quickly. According to an official at the Legal Aid Organization of Afghanistan, which provides most of the defense lawyers to the detainees, 217 prisoners have been tried in the internal court at the facility since July, and 80 were found innocent. Not one of those 80 has been released, as higher courts have undertaken reviews — also at the Parwan facility.
“It’s a sham,” said Tina Foster, an American lawyer with the advocacy group International Justice Network who has been seeking unsuccessfully to represent Parwan detainees. “Karzai has been talking the talk of Afghan national sovereignty, but in the course of doing so he capitulated and is doing exactly what the U.S. wanted him to do.”
“These are just kangaroo courts set up inside Bagram,” she said. “This is not a real Afghan criminal proceeding.”
Most troubling, she said, the creation of an Afghan system for administrative detention perpetuates one of the greatest injustices of the Afghan war period.
“The worst thing is the administrative detention regime the Afghans are adopting is exactly the same as what the U.S. government has been doing for the last 10 years,” Ms. Foster said. “The legacy left here by the U.S. is people disappeared into legal black holes.”
Instead, these schoolkids just happen to be at the DFIP on a regular basis and they…get to boost the morale of ISAF volunteers!
- ISAF Gives Parwan Prison to Afghanistan (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Detainees are handed over to Afghans, but not out of Americans’ reach (staradvertiser.com)
- As Bagram Detainees Are Transferred, U.S. Keeps Its Grip (nytimes.com)
- US Military Secretly Releases Afghan Detainees on a Promise (news.antiwar.com)