Up until her death the other day, a 36 year-old British woman named Linda Norgrove was working in Afghanistan for a civilian company called Development Alternatives Inc. (“DAI”), which is based in Washington D.C. DAI is described as a “global consulting company.” DAI had a contract funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help the people of Afghanistan grow something besides the poppies used for heroin production. Agriculture/horticulture was Ms. Norgrove’s field. Apparently, helping developing countries was her passion.
On September 26th, Ms. Norgrove and three Afghan “colleagues” were kidnapped by the Taliban. The three Afghanis were soon released, but Ms. Norgrove was held, big surprise. Her location was known. This past Friday night, NATO forces decided to try to rescue her. It went badly. Reportedly, one of her captors detonated a bomb, and she died in the explosion. Very sad.
Why do I bring this up?
I have three equally-brilliant sisters. Seriously, the women got the brains in my family; they make my two brothers and me look like drooling, slack-jawed mental retards. My youngest sister, Eleanor, is an archeologist. She specializes in the history and archeology of the Middle East. Throughout her life, she and her husband have made numerous trips over to some extremely unstable areas. We always worry about them both. Being tall and veddy, veddy British, my sister’s husband Tony stands out like a sore thumb. And Eleanor herself, well, a young, pretty American woman always makes an easy and desirable target.
Eleanor has always downplayed the risks, claiming that she and Tony take extraordinary precautions, blah blah blah. That may be, but a fact she cannot change is that she is often an American woman in places where they don’t like women to begin with, never mind American women.
Eleanor has always gone to places like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Israel. (She often has to get a new passport so the visa stamps won’t betray her travel history.) In fact, in 2003 she was in Iraq and left only days before U.S. forces invaded to “liberate” Iraq from Saddam Hussein – oh, and to find those darned weapons of mass destruction.
My family has come to terms with the fact that Eleanor and Tony voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way. We understand the consequences that could arise from such actions. …Which is the delicate way of saying, “we know they could get killed doing what they do. And that is their choice.”
But I will never understand why people like Linda Norgrove and my sister Eleanor deliberately go into such risky places: countries that are either at war, or Muslim countries that don’t like Americans (or any white Christians for that matter). To do so seems reckless and dumb. We grieve for Ms. Norgrove’s family, but what can we tell them? She certainly knew there was a war going on…knew that she had no protection over there. Bottom line: She should not have been there.
I fly helicopters. I ride motorcycles. I do some risky stuff. But you won’t find my ass over in Afghanistan, trying to convince people to grow soybeans instead of poppies. That's just crazy.