Illustrator & Armchair Statesman
Late in 2001, our soldiers began operations in Afghanistan. The public saw the Taliban as terrorists who abused women and deserved any punishment they got. The invasion would avenge our dead, save Afghans from the Mullahs, and democratize a South Asian nation, all in one blow. I was worried by the ignorance of the general public, including myself. Worse, the Administration seemed no better informed than we were.
A lesson from Vietnam was that ignorance can fritter away a powerful army for nothing. The pentagon had intelligence and plans on the shelf for invading Iran and Iraq, but we had left Afghanistan to the Pakistanis after the Soviets departed in 1989. If we were being led by the blind, the least I could do was teach myself to see. I consumed information. I read the BBC and the New York Times. I read Steve Coll, Christopher Kremmer, Barnette Rubin, Abdul Rashid, Peter Hopkirk, Gary Schroen, Robin Moore (who is a simple soul), and more. The postcards and website use the stories of key players as a framework to present what I learned. They inform the public and protect furniture from discoloration.
The drawing on the front of the postcard provides a memorable image of each figure. On the back is a short history of the character’s role in events. The strict format forces a very concise presentation of the material. I balance the salacious and the informative and try to be a little sympathetic towards even the most selfish and cruel. If you spot something you know is incorrect, visit the website and email me. I’m more interested in facts, but if you want to rant about my opinions I can’t stop you. When convinced of the need, I will update the site to reflect new information and events, or correct something I got wrong. The website contains material that does not fit in the postcard set, and expands over time.
As for the warlords themselves, they are a glimpse into another age. We live in a society crammed shoulder to shoulder with others, careful not to offend, concealing our ambitions, publicly mouthing pious opinions about how drugs are bad, church is good, and pretending we have freedom. The warlords are a fascinating contrast; contemporary versions of Robert Guiscard, Jesse James, Al Capone, and many other freebooting scallywags from our own past. They are amazingly resilient, lurking in the hills when defeated, waiting for a chance to come back. They are also cruel and brave and crazy with conviction. They live large and die violent, self-pitying deaths.