Joanne King Herring is the real-life heroine portrayed by actress Julia Roberts in the movie "Charlie Wilson’s War" which chronicles her crucial assistance to Afghanistan freedom fighters in defeating Soviet forces during the 1980s. This personal interview discusses her proven plan to now win the peace, one village at a time.
Joanne, Americans are tired of getting involved in wars which appear endless and hopeless. How is Afghanistan any different?
Joanne Herring: Larry, because the Afghans are different. They will work, and they will fight. We have a village encompassing 20,000 people that has flourished for eight years in an area so dangerous no one would go there. Not only has this community empowerment discouraged terrorist attacks over nearly a decade, it has also empowered its citizens to prosper and dramatically improve overall living conditions. And all of this has been accomplished for $500,000…half the cost of keeping one American soldier in the field for one year!
But haven’t charity aid programs been tried before, with the bulk of the money and humanitarian goods winding up in bank accounts and pockets of crooked politicians and bureaucrats?
Joanne Herring: First, many charities naively assume that contributions for a school, clinic, or any single item or service, will result in lasting difference. Any real success must involve a combination of five things given simultaneously: food, water, education, healthcare and a training center for jobs to sustain these necessities.
Second, it is absolutely essential that the help be given directly to the people who need it in small increments for specific projects through local leaders who are held accountable to show results.
Our program provided all of those five general things, but the populace voted on every particular project priority. When we asked them what they wanted to make that could be sold in their area, they chose repairing bicycles, rug weaving, and making small cooking stoves. When they chose learning to sew, we provided the machines, thread, and fabric to produce uniforms for soldiers and clothes for children.
We also provided a school building, a teacher, tablets, and pencils. We cleaned up the water with two new wells. We gave them the seeds for soy beans, fruit, wheat, and we provided a few goats that rapidly multiplied. We got them the tools, metal, a teacher to make the small stoves for cooking that require no electricity, and the parts to repair bicycles. We built a clinic to provide medical shots and a midwife.
The Afghans are a very industrious people. Given the tools, they will work very hard.
With no more help than that, they made enough money to support themselves and flourish over eight years. They tell me that theirs' is the only village that received comprehensive help. While many nation populations that America tries to help refer to us as the Great Satan, they sign their letters GOD BLESS AMERICA!
In addition, our village raised a volunteer army to protect their people from terrorists. I am convinced that this approach can be implemented country-wide. Then, given the best weapons money can provide and with proper training, they will not need our troops... except as advisors.
Remember that they defeated the powerful war machine of the Soviet Union. We simply gave them the necessary arms and equipment. Not one American soldier died. The Afghans did it all.
Joanne, what about dealing with the counterproductive influences of incompetent and corrupt governments? Afghanistan is a sadly unfortunate example.
Yes Larry, as U.S. "occupation" now enters its 18th year, Afghanistan is being manipulated by a communist movement that is driving the country into a devastating civil war for the second time. The corrupt government has failed to provide for basic security, economic and service needs of its people.
Meanwhile, the Russians are providing guns for terrorists in exchange for drugs. They make money on both transactions. As a result, suffering Afghanistan citizens are literally being bought by the ISIS and the Taliban, and for a very little price. The population is being terrorized daily with murders, kidnappings, and mass killings. But not in our village!
Winning the war without a follow-up of winning the peace is fruitless. Winning the peace requires taking care of the population from the ground level up in the villages. They need incentives. They need hope. They need peace. But most of all, they need freedom, and they will fight to the last drop of blood to get it
The Marshall Plan Charities initiative is vital to enable Afghanistan citizens to self-sustain themselves. With far less money than it now takes to supply our troops, we could help every village in Afghanistan. Why not give it a try? Nothing else has worked.
Joanne, thank you for your indomitable determination to make this happen.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2012). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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