Afghanistan: The Other War
AIRED APRIL 10, 2007 | CHECK LISTINGS arrow

Afghanistan, Then and Now

By Sarah Chayes

Editor's Note: Back in 2003, FRONTLINE/World aired a story from Afghanistan called "A House for Haji Baba." The film followed former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes as she transitioned from journalist to aid worker to help rebuild an Afghan village destroyed during the Taliban defeat in 2001. In an excerpt (below) from The Punishment of Virtue, her eyewitness account of the Taliban's fall, Chayes recounts her decision to quit journalism and, at the invitation of President Karzai's elder brother, Qayum, to stay on in the country and provide humanitarian help. It was a pivotal moment for Chayes, who has a deep connection to Afghanistan, and building "a house for Haji Baba" was one of her first projects. She has also been consistently outspoken about post-Taliban efforts to rebuild the country, which she says the international community has sorely mismanaged. To bring our original story and her own story up to date, we asked Chayes to write an introduction to the chapter we selected and share her personal thoughts on how Afghanistan, where she still lives and works, looks today.

The following chapter is exceprted from The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afganistan After the Taliban by Sarah Chayes. Published by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Sarah Chayes, 2006.

Introduction by Sarah Chayes

photo of chayes

From 1997 to 2002, Sarah Chayes served as an overseas correspondent for NPR, reporting from Paris. She also covered conflicts in the Balkans and the Middle East. In 2002, she left NPR to take a position running a nongovernmental aid organization based in Kandahar, founded by Qayum Karzai. She has now launched a Kandahar-based cooperative called Arghand, which produces skin-care products from licit local agriculture. Her work as a correspondent for NPR during the Kosovo crisis earned her, together with other members of the NPR team, the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards. She lives in Kandahar.

Sadly, many of the ominous auguries in the chapter of Punishment of Virtue reproduced below have been borne out. Nearly five years after the events described, I remain in Kandahar, Afghanistan (though not at Afghans for Civil Society). And Kandahar is a much darker and more dangerous place than it was in 2002.

There are two main reasons for this deterioration. The first is the obstinate insistence of the international community, led by the United States, to maintain rank criminals, of the ilk of Gul Agha Shirzai, in power. [Shirzai is the controversial warlord and former Kandahar governor who helped the United States oust the Taliban from Kandahar City in 2001. He has also acted as political advisor to President Karzai.] After riding into Afghanistan in 2001 with a posse of repudiated militia commanders, U.S. officials distributed positions of political power to these men, saying they were needed to bring security to the country. But it was these warlords, and the depredations of their militiamen, that created insecurity for ordinary Afghans. For the past five years, international officials have been unwilling or unable to provide the substantive oversight that might have brought them into line and forced them to be more attentive to the needs of their people. Nor has the administration of President Hamid Karzai stepped into the breach. On the contrary, one corrupt, incompetent official after another is appointed to key positions.

The result is an Afghan population deeply disillusioned with the post-Taliban experiment in nationhood. As one of the members of the cooperative I now run put it: "We don't know which way to turn: the government preys upon us in the daytime, and the Taliban prey upon us at night."

This climate of disillusionment has proven a fertile ground for planting the "resurgent Taliban."

The second reason for the terrible deterioration of conditions in southern Afghanistan is the clever work of elements of the Pakistani government. It has been nearly 30 years now that the Pakistani military - of which Gen. Musharraf is a product - has employed religious extremism in pursuit of a regional political agenda. The 9/11 terrorist attacks changed none of that; they just forced Pakistani officials to camouflage their activities a bit more shrewdly. The result is a "Taliban resurgence" that could better be described as an invasion by proxy of Afghanistan by Pakistan.

But the international community, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, is not willing to acknowledge the deep contradiction in its Afghanistan policies. U.S. officials still refer to Pakistan as our ally in the war on terror, when Pakistan is busily concocting that very terror, which costs the lives of our soldiers, Canadian and British soldiers, and brave Afghans every single day. But while Pakistani special forces are carrying out tasks on behalf of the U.S. government in Iran, as was recently revealed, there is little likelihood that Washington will meaningfully sanction Pakistan for orchestrating violence in Afghanistan.

In this troubling context, I make soap. Literally. Figuratively, I suppose it is a way to continue to try to clean up Afghanistan! There are 12 of us at the cooperative I founded in May 2005, men and women, who extract precious oils from the (licit) bounties of southern Afghanistan: almonds, apricot kernels, licorice root, pomegranate seeds, roses, wild pistachios. ... From these things we make soap, which we export to the United States and Canada. An island of fragrant harmony amidst all the turmoil.

Chapter 13 - Civil Society

January-April 2002

I can't remember how, but I did manage to browbeat the Pakistani bureaucrats into allowing me back in their country. Rushing now to get home to Quetta, my big driver tried to skip the stop I insisted on in the Chaman bazaar to drink one last round of tea with my Achekzais. It was a delicious moment, suspended in time, infused with a loving kind of fellowship.

And then I couldn't delay it any longer. We climbed back into the long-suffering yellow taxi, and headed down the switchback road to Quetta. It was January 11, 2002. I was tasked to meet my NPR replacement at the airport and do a pass-off, before finally pulling out of the region.

What I was really looking forward to was dinner with Uncle Aziz Khan Karzai-King Uncle, as he is known. He was the sparkling and sharp-eyed gentleman who, during the drawn-out negotiations for the surrender of Kandahar two months back, had helped me understand the Pashtun propensity for consensus building.

We had a lovely evening. I remember Uncle Aziz aligning and realigning the fine, olive-green stones of his prayer beads on the sofa cushion beside him as he voiced his fears about what would come next for Afghanistan. By this time, his nephew Hamid had left Kandahar for his capital, Kabul, accompanied by a vast crowd of well-wishers and job seekers. He had settled in the sprawling, tattered royal palace, where, bereft of the most elementary infrastructure, he had set about creating a nation-state out of whole cloth.

Aziz was troubled by the humanitarian free-for-all he knew would be unleashed as opportunists poured into the Afghan vacuum, riding the projected tide of aid. "They are sharpening their teeth and sharpening their knives," he said of the old barons of local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). War profiteers, they have lived for years off the humanitarian bonanza, the latest incarnation of the foreign subsidy that has long sustained the Afghan tribes. "The word NGO should be struck from the English language!" Uncle Aziz cried. He knew something about it. He had placed several of these barons in charge of local branches of big international nonprofits, back in the pre-Taliban heyday of the aid biz.

At last I rose to leave. I turned in the doorway to thank Aziz one last time, and abruptly he asked me: "Wouldn't you come back and help us?" The question hit like a bolt from a crossbow. My ears registered with surprise what my mouth replied. "Yes."

And then our thoughts started tumbling out, in an excited jostle. "You find someone to send you here," he said, "someone to pay your salary, and we will give you all the authority."

Almost without faltering, as though hypnotized, I set out upon the course so abruptly opened by that brief exchange.

For this was what, unwittingly, I was waiting for. Well before 9/11, a part of me had been casting about for such a sense of potential as I was feeling now. I could no longer bear to watch our Atlantic democracies go through the motions, in a business of democracy, while half our people -didn't even vote. That -couldn't be right. Through my reporting, I had gained the conviction that somewhere out there, from one of these post-conflict disaster areas, a phoenix was going to rise. Someone from some other place-not America or Western Europe-was going to winch us up out of this rut.

Though I searched, I did not find it in the Balkans. The very worst tendencies of that region's peoples had been stoked white hot by cynics and by disillusionment. Everyone in the Balkans was out for himself.

This was different. The context was much bigger. The context was the alleged confrontation between the two great cultural and ideological rivals of the day: Islam and the West. Both of them were part of me. Hamid Karzai was different, too. He was the most inspiring political leader I had come close to in my adult life.

And this man's uncle wanted me to help?

I went to the United States, instead of home to Paris, and spent two months casting around for a way to do it.

The time was punctuated by calls to Uncle Aziz in Kabul to reaffirm the reality of it all. He had joined the team in Kabul and would describe life in the leprous presidential palace, the Afghan equivalent of the White House-an empty, echoing place, without steady electricity to stave off the midwinter cold, or telephones, or a single computer, let alone the Internet, or a satellite dish to catch coverage of nephew Hamid's first, acclaimed visit to the United States.

Karzai's elegant style and ringing eloquence took Washington by storm. Newspaper reports were comparing him to South Africa's Nelson Mandela, and commenting on his dazzling sense of fashion, as, grafting together typical clothes of different Afghan regions, Karzai invented a new national dress. The acclaim was only reaching Kabul in tiny fragments.

Stunned by Aziz's description of the home front, I wondered: how anyone could possibly start building a country in such conditions. Everyone knew how backward and shattered Afghanistan was even before the latest conflict, after centuries of isolation and three straight decades of war. Given the notoriety of the place and the symbolism of the moment in the wake of 9/11, I was astounded that someone like Microsoft's Bill Gates had not thought to pack off a half dozen computers and the $5,000 satellite dish it would take to establish an Internet connection. All of the postconflict zones of the past decade had been in similarly desperate shape when the shooting stopped. I thought that if the United Nations wanted to do something really useful, it could organize a rapid-reaction force for public utilities: a team of engineers on call to dash to countries emerging from war and restore communications, electricity, running water.

In the end, at Aziz Khan's suggestion, I fell in with another one of his nephews, Qayum, President Karzai's senior by a decade. Qayum Karzai and his wife, Patricia, had founded a nonprofit organization four years earlier in Baltimore: Afghans for Civil Society (ACS). After a brief telephone conversation, I suddenly found myself field director for ACS's as yet unborn operations in Afghanistan.

In a similarly noninstitutional way, I roped my older sister Eve Lyman into the venture. Radiating a dazzling gold, like a human sun-not just from the color of her mane of curls and the golden clothes she wears to set them off, but from the intensity of her passion and drive for life-Eve was at a turning point too. She jumped in with all her being, and side by side we set about inventing an NGO.

It was like being poised at the lip of a bright, churning, intoxicating tract of white water. The twinned feelings of urgency and opportunity were overpowering. With inspiring Karzai at the helm and Americans of good faith in the field, it actually seemed Afghanistan might be the place where some of the damage could be repaired-the damage caused by years of ignorance and neglect, arrogance and withdrawal; the damage caused by the surrender of the force of ideas, in much of the United States and the Muslim community, to those who would split the world into opposing civilizations, irrevocably hostile. Afghanistan might just prove them wrong.

And how fitting: Afghanistan, which for seven years had symbolized the twisting of Islam into a glowering fascism-bent on social control, isolation, extirpation of difference-could regain its ancient role as a connector of empires, facilitating the exchange of riches, people, and ideas between them.

This vision for post-Taliban Afghanistan was always, and openly, the inspiration at Afghans for Civil Society. We never espoused the traditional humanitarian credo of rigid political neutrality. It was not our aim simply to ease physical suffering indiscriminately. Rather, we wished to focus our necessarily limited activities to influence, in whatever tiny way, the direction the new Afghanistan would take. And unashamedly, we wished to promote awareness, understanding, and mutual appreciation between Afghans and Americans.

The window of opportunity seemed unparalleled. Here was a Muslim country that had twice in two decades rid itself of tyranny thanks to U.S. assistance. I thought of the Kosovo Albanians' indelible gratitude following the 1999 expulsion of the Serbs by NATO, the United States in the lead. On September 12, 2001, the light of a thousand candles lit the Kosovar capital as Albanian Muslims thronged the streets in condolence for America's loss. A Kosovar friend called me in Paris to say that a group of his peers wanted to enlist in the U.S. army to fight against Al Qaeda, and what should he tell them?

I hardly entertained any delusions of the same kind of outpouring from the prickly Afghans. And yet this historical juncture was pregnant with a unique potential. In contrast to the Balkans, Afghanistan was blessed with visionary leadership in Hamid Karzai. But the Afghans had suffered from too many leaps of faith in their recent turbulent past to sustain another if it did not pay off fast. Eve and I judged there were about six months to make a palpable difference before the moment would be lost. I went back to Afghanistan to meet Qayum in person and search for likely projects.

Qayum and I hit it off instantly, connecting, fanning the embers of each other's enthusiasms.

One decision I urged upon him during that exploratory trip was to base Afghans for Civil Society in Kandahar, not Kabul. I knew how it went with postconflict capitals. They always draw the bulk of the international resources, as humanitarian organizations devise projects within driving distance of their spacious headquarters, and new restaurants open up to cater to the foreign crowds. I felt that it was important to reach beyond the capital and the artificial world that develops there. Only by that extra effort can money be distributed with any fairness through the country being assisted. And only by that effort can any sense be gained of the country's real conditions. In the capital, solutions are viewed as abstract models, while the details-the local anecdotes that illustrate the projects' true impact and meaning-never come to light.

A new culture takes root in postconflict capitals like Kabul. I am not sure-to adopt the terms of a debate among some humanitarians and some of their beneficiaries-whether humanitarian action as currently practiced constitutes a form of colonialism. I do find, however, reading those accounts of the nineteenth-century British in Afghanistan-with their servants, foxhounds, and cigars-a certain parallel with at least the lifestyle of Western aid workers in Kabul.

They live apart from Afghans in guarded compounds. They do not walk about, but are driven by chauffeurs. They eat special food, imitation Western, bought in special stores-instead of popping down to the corner for fresh-baked local bread. They indulge in riotous drinking parties, with almost no thought for how this may offend their Afghan staff, almost no realization that such behavior in itself constitutes a security risk: in a strictly dry culture, many Afghans take exception to the injection of such taboo behavior into their country, seeing it as exactly the kind of corruption that Westerners bring with them-another reason to keep Westerners out.

My bias in favor of local action immersed in local knowledge was to be confirmed and reconfirmed during my time in Afghanistan.

Such a bias would have argued in favor of any provincial town over Kabul. Even more so Kandahar, with its special symbolism as Afghanistan's former capital and the native region of all its rulers. Kandahar, I knew, also had a special symbolism as the native region of the Taliban. In the new Afghanistan, it was a pariah. But I was sure that if Kandahar was left behind, the rest of Afghanistan would not be going anywhere.

Besides, I loved the place.

That spring of 2002, residents of the city dizzied by this latest revolution-their fourth in a quarter century-wore out a path to the house of the younger Karzai brother, Ahmad Wali. As the de facto representative of the new president in his home base, the de facto elder of the Popalzai tribe now that President Hamid was off in Kabul, and as a man known for getting things done, Ahmad Wali Karzai was one of the few fixed landmarks in sight.

Like most houses in Kandahar, his consists of two separate buildings, one for the family, one for receiving guests. The private residence is set back from the public one across a few feet of dry rose garden, where birds in wicker cages sing. Small bedrooms, a kitchen, and a Western-style living room for private talks or honored friends open onto a carpeted hallway with cushions on the floor, which serves as the general gathering place. Tea and glass dishes of raisins and pistachios, and meals laid out on a plastic cloth, are served here in shifts: first family and friends, then the platoon of young men who keep the place running. They are "Karzai's people," utterly devoted, utterly respectful, but reveling in a certain irreverent intimacy. Inside this sanctum the Karzai magic reigns, a kind of gracious calm, in the face of the hot, dusty whirlwind-human and meteorological-buffeting the house.

The front building is dedicated to the tribal elders and petitioners who fetch up at all hours, and must be welcomed and heard out without exception. Five separate receiving rooms are arrayed about its two floors. The indefatigable, beturbaned Lajwar guides each delegation to its appointed place, according to its rank, and whether-because of some feud or private confidence-it might be inopportune for its members to see or be seen by some other party present. Lajwar executes the steps of this complicated minuet with a surefootedness born of a detailed but unspoken familiarity with the private histories of all comers.

That spring of 2002 the building hardly emptied. You could tell with a glance if Ahmad Wali was home by the crowd of shoes waiting outside the door.

The tale of one group particularly moved him. The delegation, led by an elder with a running sore on one hand, explained that their village, Akokolacha, was in ruins. Abutting the perimeter of the Kandahar airport, it had been caught in that last withering barrage of U.S. bombing that delivered the deathblow to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Of some thirty mud-brick houses, ten and the village mosque had been reduced to misshapen mounds of earth. Families had scattered to Pakistan or were doubled up with friends in nearby hamlets.

Ahmad Wali Karzai made the trip to Akokolacha, a half hour out the airport road, to survey the damage. He came back genuinely distressed, and mentioned the villagers' predicament to me.

There it was: a perfect project. Again I was reminded of Kosovo, where the rebuilding of houses the Serbs had trashed and burned in their final, furious bout of ethnic cleansing became the symbol of a new era. Within weeks of the Serbs' retreat, the defiant skeletons of dozens of new homes aimed their limbs at the sky, with, snapping from their roof beams, the black eagle of the long-banned Albanian flag splayed wide against a red ground.

I was surprised at the contrasting lack of attention in Afghanistan to "shelter," as it is termed in the aid biz, especially given the staggering number of refugees who had been camped out in neighboring countries not for days or weeks, but for years. Rebuilding the village of Akokolacha would be an important symbol, I thought, and even more so if American soldiers, in uniform, were to do the work.

I thought about the marine I had interviewed in his foxhole on Christmas day. How eloquent a message, if Americans were to be seen repairing what Americans had destroyed. What better way of demonstrating that President George W. Bush's proclamation at the beginning of the bombing campaign was sincere: that the war was not against Afghans or Afghanistan, but against the criminal regime that had taken power there. Akokolacha's impoverished farmers, long-distance taxi drivers, or small-time mechanics, who had fled the deafening violence of the U.S. bombing, could surely not be held accountable for Usama bin Laden. If they could regain what they had lost in this latest Afghan regime change, maybe they would understand that this one was different from the others, promising a better future for all Afghans, not just those whom chance had tossed to the top of the pile.

That I had even conceived of such an idea, complete with U.S. soldiers armed with picks and shovels, indicates how removed I was from contemporary humanitarian theory.

In the ongoing international debate about "humanitarian intervention," one of the arguments made by responsible aid organizations is that troops participating in an armed intervention-even if the military action is said to be motivated by humanitarian or human rights concerns-should not be involved in -postconflict relief and reconstruction. As parties to the conflict, humanitarian theorists argue, soldiers have no business mixing with civilian humanitarians in the field. The lines inevitably become blurred, and the neutrality that is a credo of humanitarian action is cast into doubt. Soldiers should keep to soldiers' work: maintaining the security and freedom of access necessary for aid agencies to do their job, ministering to the people.

To me, I confess, these distinctions seemed a bit theoretical. I suppose my thinking was stuck in the past, tangled up in the legend of the Marshall Plan in post-World War II Europe. Moreover, I could not efface yet another memory from the Kosovo conflict. When, with explicit prior warning, the Serbs deported tens of thousands of Kosovo Albanians to Macedonia as the first NATO bombs fell, the United Nations refugee agency was caught hopelessly by surprise. I stood in the NATO briefing room in Brussels gaping up in horror at a television set on a wall bracket, watching masses of wretched Kosovo Albanians corralled in the mud of a no-man's land just inside the Macedonian border, at the mercy of the Macedonian army.

Thousands of NATO troops were billeted right nearby. If they boasted no other skill, they certainly knew how to pitch a camp. "Why -aren't the soldiers building tents for those refugees?" I would practically shout to my fellow reporters, gathered in a knot below the TV. I later learned that it was the humanitarians' refusal of assistance marred by military uniforms that had kept the troops away for several agonizing days.

In this matter as in others, Afghans for Civil Society was iconoclastic. We went right to the U.S. soldiers for help. We argued that rebuilding Akokolacha would enhance their image, and thus their security, just as I had told that young marine.

We could have saved our breath. U.S. Army Civil Affairs, the branch of the army charged with interactions with local civilians, and in this case, with any relief activity the army sponsors, does not actually perform any reconstruction itself. It pays local contractors, then monitors the work. And in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Civil Affairs was not contracting out the reconstruction of private property.

As general policy, this made sense. Otherwise, there were bound to be inequities. The army might find itself obliged to drill a private well or build a house for every village chief as the price of permission to assist his people.

In our own view, Akokolacha hamlet seemed worthy of an exception, since its inhabitants had been rendered homeless as a direct result of U.S. action. And yet that fact seemed to make it even more taboo. Above all, a precedent must not be set, we were told. It must not appear that Washington was taking any legal responsibility for war damage, lest it be induced to pay compensation or reparations. We talked to USAID, the State Department's overseas development agency, which was spearheading the overall U.S. reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. We got the same answer. No precedents.

So we fell back on the goodness of ordinary American people. September 11 had unleashed such pent-up generosity and hunger to help, much of it frustrated; we hoped to tap into the receding tide.

In April, I returned to the United States from that quick Afghan trip for a period of intense, creative NGO conception side by side with my sister Eve. Some friends from the town of Concord, Massachusetts, Mary and David Clarke, had invited me to give a talk at the First Parish Church. In their farmhouse kitchen, familiar and comfortable to me as a pair of old jeans, Eve and I brought up the idea of rebuilding Akokolacha.

True to its central role in America's own founding mythology, Concord preserves the spirit of direct democracy and community involvement in public affairs that animated the Thirteen Colonies during the years surrounding the American Revolution. It is one of those places still governed by town meeting, a yearly gathering of all interested citizens to thrash out and vote on issues of municipal importance. In between, committees and forums marshal Concord residents' interest, energy, and money toward various worthy causes.

The Clarkes were enchanted by the Akokolacha idea, and went at it in their unparalleled way, mobilizing a whole network of Concord-and-beyond folks. A cabal of local activists (primarily women) dubbed themselves the Concord Friends of Afghans for Civil Society, and invited a select forty people to a fund-raising tea. The public middle schools joined in, holding a vote among the students on the slogan for T-shirts to send to kids in Akokolacha. "Concord and Akokolacha," they chose. "We are the Bridge to Peace." The declaration, traced in my laborious Pashtu, hung above an outline of the Concord Bridge where our own famous battle against the Redcoats was fought in 1775.

Struck by the similarities between the Pashtun tradition of the shura, or council of elders, and the selectmen who govern New England towns, the Concord Friends decided they wanted to send gifts and a letter from their selectmen to the Akokolacha elders. I called Ahmad Wali Karzai in Kandahar. He was thrilled and suggested sending radios. He said that when I came back we would go together to Akokolacha and convene a shura to explain the whole project and describe the special significance of Concord, and we would build a council room and name it the Concord Room.

I gave three talks in Concord in one day, the last one at the First Parish Church, which crowns the Puritan dignity of Concord's village square. As assorted Clarkes and Eve and I and a few other friends stood around the church basement wolfing turkey sandwiches, with Mr. Clarke enjoining me to "just relax," I realized this felt like nothing so much as the frenetic, exhausting energy of a political campaign.

Something like two hundred people showed up that night. It was an exercise totally unfamiliar to me. As wide a public as I might have reached during my reporting days, I never had to watch the people listening to me. I filed my stories from the privacy of my Paris apartment, often from under my winter parka, which I tented over my head to dampen the echo.

But I could feel the people with me. In a way, they knew me personally, since most of them listened to National Public Radio. Some had probably endured my company while they brushed their teeth in the morning. That night had the sparkle and intimacy of addressing a family reunion. For a grand finale, one lady asked me to do my NPR sign-off: "Sarah Chayes, NPR News, Paris." For some mysterious reason it captivated people more than my reporting ever had. Something to do with the final s being pronounced like a z, and the long a in the middle-the name rhymes with haze. I had never done this SOC-out, as it is called, for an audience, and it normally comes at the end of a story, not just hanging out there by itself. So to trick myself into it, I turned my back, solemnly read the last paragraph of one of our project proposals, and signed off, "Sarah Chayes, NPR News, Concord." To roars.

"It just about killed us," Eve told her daughter on the phone a few days later, "but we got the money."

And it went on like that. The people of Lincoln, Massachusetts, stepped up, in a neighborly competition with next-door Concord. Lincolnites turned out, another couple hundred of them, on a snowy Friday night at seven-thirty. I looked around the room, in wonder. What are all these people doing here? Like Concord's, Lincoln's commitment proved to be in persisting earnest. After a magic potion of a dinner Eve concocted one night, a brilliant, intuitive philanthropist named Greg Carr wondered if we could use an office in the middle of Harvard Square. He eventually funded the radio station we launched in Kandahar to the tune of $100,000.

We were stunned by the response we generated with our simple plea to do something concrete and direct and our promise that we would communicate our friends and donors about the fortunes of their project, in detail. We were not CARE or the American Red Cross, we promised. Contributors would not be receiving glossy self-congratulatory pamphlets in the mail. They would hear exactly what became of their money, personally, in the flesh. Suicidally, we promised that every single penny would go to project activities. We would find our overhead elsewhere. It began to dawn on me that I was offering myself up to donors as a kind of human sacrifice. Was there enough flesh and blood in me to satisfy them? As we registered people's hunger for this approach, we grew almost frightened. What were we unleashing? What kind of sacred trust were we taking on by inspiring people this way? It got so that we almost avoided telling the latest new acquaintance what we were doing, lest the person offer to help.

And so we glimpsed the precious well of civil society lying frustrated and untapped just below the surface of apparent U.S. indifference.

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