Tuesday, January 1


Men who fear independent women are weak, no question about it. "Attacks on women in Afghanistan show the weakness of militants and aim to create panic in society, officials say," reports Najibullah in Kabul for Al-Shorfa. Two women serving as the women's affairs director for Laghman Province have been assassinated, one five months after the other.

"Condemnation has grown stronger in the wake of Najia and Hanifa's assassinations," the article concludes. "Not only is killing an innocent woman considered the greatest shame in Afghan culture, but Islam prohibits it, said Khalilullah, an Afghan citizen."

US women service members regularly meet with Afghan women, advising on humanitarian and security programs.

Photo of 2007 meeting in northern Laghman courtesy of Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein, US Air Force and Wikimedia Commons


One can imagine climbing ancient  hills overlooking a desert landscape, a river valley, standing with the drifting morning fog, and relishing looking off in the distance. And we think, How can my life ever change?

Of course, that's if we're enjoying a happy period of life.

The computer-generated landscape is courtesy of Terragen software and Wikimedia Commons


Kathryn Bigelow offers an inadequate, tortured response to the criticism about torture in her film Zero Dark Thirty.

Critics have argued that the film misleads by suggesting torture was instrumental in catching Osama bin Laden. This criticism does not interfere with her First Amendment right to "create works of art and speak their conscience without government interference or harassment" - especially when the producers of the film purport to tell "story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man."

She argues that torture was used in the early years, and it's fine for the film to include these scenes. Most critics have not denied her the right to that depiction, and I've heard no criticism specifically accusing her of endorsing torture. Yet the film is incomplete as long as it does not reveal, even emphasize, the methods most instrumental in bin Laden's capture. She argues that "confusing depiction with endorsement is the first step toward chilling any American artist's a light on dark deeds," and yet she goes too far. The critics did not ask for her to ignore or deny torture as she alludes toward the end of the essay. All most critics have done is point to a major hole in her film and suggest that the story would have been immensely improved had she relayed the true consequences of torture.

Now as a former writing instructor, let me point to the phrases that signal her lack of confidence in this argument.

After labeling the criticism as "brouhaha," she writes "I'm not sure I have anything new to add, but I can try to be concise and clear." Beware of any writer who must assert that he or she is being "clear," an attempt to deny the reader the ultimate judgment.

Bigelow is right on one point when she questions "if some of the sentiments alternately expressed about the film might be more appropriately directed at those who instituted and ordered these U.S. policies, as opposed to a motion picture that brings the story to the screen." Unfortunately, the film's depiction of bin Laden's capture might suggest policies allowing torture have value.

Bigelow tries to distract her readers with emotional references to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the bravery of the military in providing security. Yet in the end, she admits that torture "was the key to finding bin Laden." And by suggesting that he was defeated by "ordinary Americans" she reminds us that torture was used on ordinary Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and others whose names we may never know.

Bigelow squirms under the criticism that Zero Dark Thirty missed the opportunity to be a great film and story, relaying truth about the human condition.

Mom power

Thank you to the reviewers reading the book and writing about the central themes. 

"The settings of the two books [Royal Escape and Fear of Beauty] couldn't be more different, but both involve the efforts of a woman to take control of her own life," writes Verna Suit for Gumshoe Review. "Both tell their stories effectively, thoroughly engross the reader, and reward with feel-good endings, a fine formula for a novel."

Natalie Papailiou, writing for Shelf Awareness for Readers, calls the book "a compelling portrait .... Froetschel has great respect for the Afghan culture and deftly provides a slice-of-life tale that informs and even surprises."


CriminalElement.com posted the first pages of Fear of Beauty.

The author certainly appreciates the reaction from all those who took the time to read it and comment! Reading the comments is humbling - and I hope the rest of the book meets their expectations.

Point of view

Helmet cameras offer a closeup look at fighting. Like any tool, like the internet itself, they can aid in analysis and understanding or they can be cheap thrill, watched with little thought at all, explains Greg Jaffee of the Washington Post.

In the middle

Soldiers in the Afghanistan National Army are on a quick learning curve - not simply practical lessons in securing their country but maintaining a delicate balance among many, many competing factions. Luke Mogelson embeds with an ANA unit and profiles Lt. Col. Mohammad Daowood, a battalion commander for the New York Times

He asks some of the Afghan soldiers what are they fighting for: " Most of them, when I asked, answered with the word 'watan,' or 'homeland.' But what does the notion of a homeland mean for someone who has seen his ruled by monarchists, dictators, communists, mujahedeen, Islamic fundamentalists and Karzai?"

The ANA troops are being weaned from US support, and a reader can find as many connections as differences between the concerns of Afghans and Americans. The soldiers don't always agree with the choices made by US commanders. They don't always agree with their own government. And they are wary about corruption, which weakens a society from within. Ordinary citizens must be vigilant, both resisting corruption's draw and taking risks by speaking out. Mogelson describes a plea that convinced the Afghan commander at the center of his article to join the effort: "If good men don’t participate, the criminals will take over. We have to reclaim this country from them."

The article makes me nostalgic for writing about Laashekoh, my invented village in Fear of Beauty.  Consider this passage: "Apple orchards and trees with white trunks and bright yellow leaves crowd the basin. Dark canyons branch into the mountains. A single road follows the river deeper into the valley, connecting the lawless foothills of the Hindu Kush to Highway 1, a critical transit route that bridges Kabul and Kandahar, northern and southern Afghanistan." The article is set in the Chaki district of Wardak, not too far from northern Helmand, the province of Laashekoh, per the handy distance calculator for Afghanistan. And another Afghan soldier reminisces about his home: "The river was wide and clear, bountiful with fish. The people were kind; the air was fresh; the fruit was sweet."

The soldiers even crash a wedding.

The Afghan soldiers have a big job - to provide a sense of security by protecting families and homes. But in the end, Afghans are the only ones who can really accomplish peace at home.