"bacha baazi", Afghanistan, Ahmad Zia Massoud, Borgess Birthing Center, Colm Wilkinson, Connor Howland, dancing boys, Dubai Airport, General David H. Petraeus, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kalamazoo Michigan, Les Miserables, Mary Howland, President Hamid Karzai, Skype, Spc. Brock Howland, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, Umar Daudzai, UNHCR, WWMT Newschannel 3
Any man who has ever had the privilege of seeing his child’s arrival into the world will share the feelings of U.S. Army Specialist Brock Howland, currently deployed in Afghanistan.
That this sacramental moment was experienced via Skype (www.skype.com), a totally free computer program which is the most-used daily tool of my global business life is even more memorable for me.
We can all be relieved and delighted that both mother and son are healthy and well. A local television station reported the news this way:
Birth via Skype for soldier stationed in Afghanistan – Kalamazoo Michigan, NewsChannel 3
A fantastic use of technology to be there for a once in a lifetime moment. Birth via Skype.
At Borgess Birthing Center and thousands of hospitals across the country, when a young mother goes into labor, the father is ideally there with her.
However, in this case, being with her doesn’t necessarily mean being in the same room–or even in the same country.
Spc. Brock Howland has been in Afghanistan these past few months, but for the past few days, his wife Mary has been at Borgess Hospital giving birth to their newborn son, Connor.
Mary was on the east side of the state when her water broke, and she raced back west.
“I had to get ahold of Brock any way I possibly could, whether it was call the Red Cross or call the President of the United States,” Mary laughed. “I didn’t care. I had to get ahold of him.”
Ultimately, she did. So on Skype, live from Afghanistan, Brock was there for the birth of his son.
“I was bedside the whole time. I could see Mary. I could see whomever was on the other side,” Brock told us, via Skype.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when she delivered,” said Tonya Street of Borgess Medical Center.
Both mother and son are doing well.
Dad, meanwhile, whose deployment lasts through the Fall, continues to be involved, still through Skype, though it leaves him with mixed emotions.
“Sad and happy at the same time,” Brock said. “Sad that I can’t be there, but so fortunate and happy that I have such a beautiful son now.”
Brock hopes to be able to meet his son in person soon. Whether he’ll get leave or not is still up in the air.
To see the very moving embedded video of this report, please click here: Skype birth coverage
(If for some reason this does not open, please click here: http://www.wwmt.com/shared/newsroom/top-stories/stories/wwmt_vid_575.shtml )
The time difference between Michigan and Afghanistan is 10.5 hours. The distance from Kalamazoo to Kabul is 11,106 km or 6,902 miles.
In fact, the time difference is best measured not in miles or hours. Centuries is more accurate.
We all hope that Specialist Howland and all his colleagues survive their ordeal amongst some of the finest 7th Century minds on the planet.
Perhaps by now, SPC Howland has come to realize that the outlook for his son, Connor, a child born in America, is rather different than the road-map of life for any lad born in Afghanistan.
According the US State Department, for the year 2009, published in 2010: “Sexual abuse of children remained pervasive. NGOs noted that most child victims were abused by extended family members. A UNHCR (United Nations Humans Rights Commission) report noted tribal leaders also abused boys. During the year the MOI recorded 17 cases of child rape; the unreported number was believed to be much higher. In January and February, the ANP arrested men in three separate cases of the rape of boys in Jowzjan province. According to the AIHRC, most child sexual abusers were not arrested. Numerous reports alleged that harems of young boys were cloistered for “bacha baazi” (boy-play) for sexual and social entertainment; although credible statistics were difficult to acquire, as the subject was a source of shame and “dancing boys” was a widespread culturally sanctioned form of male rape.
“In extreme examples of child abuse, observers reported several instances of deliberately burned children in Paktya; the children sustained burns after their parents submerged them in boiling water.”
“A favored Afghan expression goes: “Women are for children, boys are for pleasure.”"
“[Men] regard themselves as non-gay because they don’t “love” the sex object so Allah is happy. These are the men who avoid their wives as unclean. Apparently there is very little love of any kind in Afghanistan, which explains a lot,” according to Reuters.
Frankly, it is far more worse than merely innocent children who are being corrupted and victimized.
As U.S. Embassy cables released by Wikileaks proved, Afghan President Karzai’s then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped in October 2009 when entering the genuinely 21st Century shopping center that is also the airport in Dubai. (Ask my bride for a review of all that is on offer!)
Customs officials found that Mr. Massoud was carrying $52 million, in Dollar bills, into Dubai. Perhaps as most Vice Presidents do?
Could some of that boodle have possibly come from Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Citing a New York Times article of 26 October 2010, The Boston Globe reported that
“President Hamid Karzai acknowledged yesterday that he regularly receives bags of cash from the Iranian government in payments amounting to millions of dollars….”
“They do give us bags of money — yes, yes, it is done,’’ Karzai said, responding to questions about a report in The New York Times on Sunday that Iran sends regular cash payments to his chief of staff, Umar Daudzai. “We are grateful to the Iranians for this.’’
“Patriotism has a price,’’ he said.
“On Sunday, Karzai held a volatile meeting with the NATO commander, General David H. Petraeus, as well as other senior Afghan and Western officials. Karzai stormed out of the session, saying that he did not need the West’s help, according to people knowledgeable about the confrontation.
“At the news conference, Karzai lashed out at the US military, implying that US officials had leaked information about Iranian payments to The Times because of disagreements over the private security companies.
“The private security companies, many of which are paid for by the United States, are spreading chaos and unjustly killing Afghan civilians, Karzai said.
“The money dealing with the private security companies starts in the hallways of the US government,’’ Karzai said. “Then they send the money for killing here.’’
Let us all earnestly hope that Karzai’s “price of patriotism” does not include either the life or limbs of Connor’s proud Daddy or indeed those of any of his brave colleagues.
Connor, his mother, indeed all the family and all the other families of men deployed with American, British and other NATO forces deserve far better than any such tragedy.
One likes to believe that one’s own son grew not merely to manhood but, more particularly, into a decent, humane, well-mannered gentleman thanks to a wee bit of help and guidance from his Old Man. At barest minimum, Connor deserves the same.
Connor’s Daddy and his brave comrades serve in the 126th Cavalry Regiment of the Michigan National Guard. The Regimental Motto? “Courage Sans Peur” (Courage Without Fear). For nearly 157 years, the 126th has demonstrated fierce courage all across the globe
The 126th and and indeed all the valiant troops who risk their lives, every minute of every day, in the Hell Hole of Afghanistan are doing the very best job they can. They do so despite the tethers and fetters of “political correctness” embodied in the assinine ‘Rules of Engagement’ (rules for combat operations).
Colm Wilkinson, the very first ‘Jean Valjean’ in the original London West End production of Les Miserables, puts my view about Connor’s Daddy (and his comrades-in-arms) more eloquently than I could possibly hope to do.
(If this link does not open, my apologies, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsYnhVITf9E )
Welcome to our world, Connor! You’ve already made your Daddy as proud as any father can possibly be. L’Chaim! To Life!