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08 August 2010


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Ah, 'picnickers'. For such naive, I have never understood why their [missionary] 'group(s)' don't do their homework first 'before' deploying their personnel into their [hostile] destinations? Why they fail to realize that their [warm] well meaning heart doesn't extend to the [cold] grave when they run into the wrong parties, defies reasoning.

Sad, sooo sad.


Why not just helicopter in, do the work and leave? Maybe a big farewell party in the Kabul Health Club isn't such a great idea either.


As Deniro said in Ronin " if there's any doubt there is no doubt, that's the first thing they teach you".

Cloned Poster

sad story

Anyone get the feeling that a ransom was demanded but ignored?


The Pew Research Center's 2010 poll of Pakistan (mostly urban respondents) tells us "Roughly three-in-four endorse the death penalty for those who leave Islam."

If the rural areas are even more "conservative", I'd say one is more likely than not to meet someone who will do harm to Christian missionaries.

Pew Research:

John Bennett

I was in the American Mission during the Vietnam War. A number of our people were captured and either imprisoned until the end or died in captivity. I knew several, of whom Gus Hertz springs to mind-he disappeared riding a motorcycle within 10 miles of Saigon during the Tet New Years celebration and negotiatios to free him never succeeded. They had a naive belief that if they were "pacific and friendly,' they were safe, despite lots of warnings to the contrary. Sad.

Patrick Lang

John Bennet

Yes, even there people did the dumbest, most naive things imaginable.

A civilian CORDS colleague (retired supply sergeant) drove a pickup full of construction materials into an outlying village square once in Phuoc Long province and made a delievery to a mainforce VC infantry unit who were taking a break in the village square. Their officer even signed a receipt for the refugee building materials and told this dummy that the villagers would get it. They waved as he drove off. Whimsy.
Another one of these will suffice. In May (?) 1968 during the second wave of the Tet Offensive I was in an Army bus transporting some of us from the replacement depot in Saigon to Bien Hoa when the PFC driver decided to leave the highway and take a shortcut. we went through several villages and then at a loop in the Saigon river the bus was up on a little causway over the wetlands when the VC opened for with a machine gun (crew served) from a woodline 75 yards away. the bullets rippied through the walls of the bus searching up and down and round and round. The driver stalled the engine of course and so they shot the s--t out of us for a bit. an officer crawled up to the driver and told him that if he did not get the bus moving over the old French bridge right in front of us, he would throw him off the bus and drive himself. We drove away with the PFC behind the wheel. i asked this kid why he left the outposted four lane highway. he replied that he had an early date with his VN girlfriend.


Cold War Zoomie

The missionaries do not surprise me very much since, by their very nature, one would expect them to trust in God to either protect them or "take them home." Kind of comes with the vocation.

As for me, was I a dummy for ignoring the security policy in Honduras? While the "approved" areas of town clumped large populations of Americans together, I lived as a little Gringo Island in the part of town strictly off limits to the Embassy crowd. While their homes and cars were constantly burglarized, I slept soundly with no problems at all. Maybe it was all luck. Turns out my landlord came from an influential family and we got along extremely well, so my guess is the word on the street was to let me be. Who knows?

As always, it's a balancing act. Life is boring without taking some risks. But it can be difficult deciding where the line is between stupid and adventurous.


Colonel Lang,

A sincere question.

You write:
"A variant of the kind of thinking that leads to Badakshan is displayed in; tourists, pilgrims, "straphangers" of various kinds who return from places like the West Bank, Jerusalem, Kashmir, etc. and who then pooh-pooh the level of risk that they accepted in their trip."

I am surprised that you include the West Bank and Jerusalem in this list. In the last several years, have there been any tourists, "internationals", pilgrams, etc. been killed or even injured in either place except those killed or injured by the IDF or those acting under IDF orders/protection like the driver of the bulldozer who killed poor Rachel Corrie.

Obviously my impression is that there have been few if any; I may well be reading the wrong sources. I would be glad to know if your impression differs or if you were referring to danger from the IDF etc.


Patrick Lang


The danger is from people like you who think that dangerous situations are no longer dangerous because nothing has happened recently. I have helped bury any number of people like you.

Your reference to the IDF is laughably political. It is is true that they have come closer to killing me than the Palestinians, but, they are an occupying army. pl

Patrick Lang


You paid your money and you took your chances. You won. pl


Jonathan must not be very familiar with this site.

I recall not that long ago, you said you would not be going back to Israel/Palestine. It seems like your last trip there was a couple of years ago. Apparently it was quite uncomfortable.


It is why I stay away from Mexico.

As much as I enjoy spending money on Mexicanas, if things go bad down there, they go bad in a hurry and you get to be in an after action report sans head and genitals.


Col. Lang,

With all due respect I believe your characterization of this group Pollyanna do-gooders is misplaced. IAM has operated in Afghanistan since 1966, and Tom Little has spent 30 years in Afghanistan do this work and raising a family of three daughters. You cannot be a fool and achieve as much, in a land as unforgiving as Afghanistan.

Patrick Lang


You have more faith than I.

In VN I knew a family of evangelical american missionaries who were translating the bible into montagnard and living out among the VC. Momma, Poppa amd three kids. I worked out a truce with the local VC commander for long enough for him to tell them to leave so we could fight it out.

In Yemen, there was a project that represented a consortium of US universities. They had a nice camp down at Taiz in the south of north Yemen. They were helping farmers improve their work. Unfortunately, the NDF civil war was all around them. Major forces were engaged around their bermed up camp. tank guns firing over them, etc. I was sent down to evacuate them. the women cursed me as a heartless bastard. guilty as charged. pl


I've seen Baptist Missionaries at work in Sulawesi. They made very showy outward displays of their faith and encouraged their converts to do likewise including putting electrically lit Christian crosses on the exterior of their houses and big billboards at the churches and on converts land. There were also unsubstantiated rumours that they had "bought" converts.

About a Thousand people were killed in the Christian - Muslim riots that followed (1999 - 2000, and in my opinion the Baptists were responsible for that. Another Thirty or so people have since died.

Why the missionaries even went there at all is beyond me. Sulawesi is the most prosperous part of Indonesia. Most locals even had optical fibre to the door.

Charlie Wilson

Re: PFC taking short cut.

Good sex triumphs over evil war.

Lesson to be learned.

I love it. That kid should have been awarded a medal.

When you gotta have it you gotta have it.


It seems these folks were VERY experienced people their leaders having been in Afghanistan for 30 years continuously.

Some info on them from people who knew them.

Babatim at Free Range International: The Good Don’t Always Die Young

Press reports indicated that the local people warned Dan and Tom Little (team lead and another good friend who’s been here for more than 3 decades) that the woods they were going to camp in were not safe but they went as planned telling the people they were doctors and that the Taliban would not molest them. That last fact has been true for many years. Despite this precedent apparently the Taliban claimed credit for this multiple murder but I find that hard to believe. Afghan Taliban groups don’t do that to western doctors who are traveling in harms way unarmed and unafraid to treat people in remote locations. At least they never have before.

Kate Clark from the Afghan Analysts Network: Ten Dead in Badakhshan

While not forgetting that in total ten people were murdered, this blog focuses on the two oldest members of the team, the leader, sixty-one year old Tom Little who first arrived in Afghanistan in 1976 and Dan Terry, who arrived in 1971 and was almost sixty four. They were both veterans of the Afghan aid scene, brought their children up there, spoke fluent Dari, travelled widely and had friends everywhere, touching the lives of countless people.
Both men – like their organisation, the International Assistance Mission, (IAM)(2) stayed in Afghanistan through the worst of times, the 1978 coup, Soviet invasion, the bitter civil war for Kabul, the Taleban regime and the current times – which have proved so deadly.

Maybe luck had run out after 30 years ...

Patrick Lang

Charlie Wilson

You wouldn't have felt that way if you had been on the floor of the bus. pl

Patrick Lang


"At least they never have before."

Famous last words. pl


The "unexpected" behavior of the Taliban, in butchering missionaries who in the past felt safe, is not a surprise to me. History moves on. The Taliban of the 1990s, as bad as they were with their dark age fundamentalism, were different than the Taliban of today, who get most of their funding from criminal enterprises, particularly the illegal opium trade. Gretchen Peters' recent report for the USIP updated her book, and I happen to agree with her that the Taliban label covers a whole apparatus of criminal gangs, involved in opium trafficking, radical fundis, etc. When Taliban commanders go off to Dubai to party, you know things have changed. This behavior by the "Taliban" is no different than what we saw with Sendero Luminoso and the FARC in South America.

Yet somehow, the Petraeus-McChrystal COIN program rejects the need to wipe out the opium trade as the most effective means for cutting off the funding so vital to continued Pushtun insurgent operations.

So, I think a larger picture emerges from this massacre, which goes well beyond the question of whether or not the missionaries were naive, inexperienced, etc. Either way, we are seeing a further degeneration of the Afghan war into a level of brutality that is no different than what we are seeing in Mexico, with the drug cartels operations there. Narco-terrorism is a form of asymmetric warfare that, by its very nature, degenerates into barbarism.

We have a losing strategy, so long as we put COIN forward as a way of ignoring the obvious factor of Afghanistan as the hub of global opium and heroin trafficking. 95 percent of the world's heroin and opium comes out of Afghanistan. Russia is begging the U.S. to cooperate on eradicating the opium and wiping out the narco-terrorists, who are targeting Russia and Europe on a devastating scale. Evidence suggests that the opium production and trafficking is already spreading into Central Asia, and that the whole coup and counter coup in Kyrgyzstan was partly about drug trafficking.

Iran, too, has a strong vested interest in dealing with the Afghan opium flows, since Iran has the highest opium addiction rates in the world, devastating the young population there. Baluchi gangs run the drugs across the border into Iran, and on from there. I suspect there is some IRGC role in this, but, nevertheless, Afghanistan is an issue that the Iranians have raised as a possible point of cooperation with the U.S. and even Obama, in his White House talk last week with a small select group of journalists, mooted that cooperation between the U.S. and Iran on Afghanistan could be an ice breaker in the relationship.

We are clearly on a losing trajectory in Afghanistan, and paradoxically, there is a strong institutional view at the Pentagon and CIA that we cannot afford to lose. So, doesn't that suggest that another major policy review is in order and that we should take a regional approach to a viable exit from Afghanistan?

I know I have gone somewhat far afield from the massacre issue perse, but I do think that some of these developments are implicit in the search for an explanation of what happened to these people. Maybe, if the incident does provoke a retargeting against the narco-terror factor, their deaths will have not been in vain.


"Famous last words"

Yes. But Babatim, who is on the ground, thinks those were not Afghan Taliban. Could have been foreigners from Pakistan or Uzbekistan or some Arab country - the U.S.? - who knows? But the general Afghan resistance - unlikely.

BTW - these were no preachers, they did not attempt to convert anyone.

The Quetta shura likely knew they were in the country and they did not do anything about them for the last 30 years - why would they now?

Patrick Lang


"the U.S?" Make sure the corners of your aluminum foil cap are tucked in tightly. p


so sad seems so senseless

frank durkee

As one of my organizing mentors { an then episcopal bishop, WWII Marine vet., Navy Cross] told me: " If you go where danger is ,it can happen and at some time will, take note". And God knows neither he nor I in bad US slums were ever in anything like the danger those medical people were.

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