`Crystal' View'

How to help heal Afghanistan

A Hood River doctor went to Afghanistan among the first American physician group to enter the war-torn country since war campaign began in October.

Dr. Michael Pendleton gave of his expertise and, with his colleagues, also came away with some insight on how to make things better in more than a clinical sense. (Pendleton is a family practice doctor with Columbia Gorge Family Medicine and a Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital board member.)

As reporter Janet Cook describes on page B1 of this issue, Pendleton and his colleagues concerned themselves with rehabilitation as well as rescue. Pendleton hopes to go back to Afghanistan to help enact a model for relief teams to help the Afghanis help themselves. The model is a three-pronged aid program that would distribute medical help along with food and non-food supplies via other non-governmental organizations (NGO's) -- "out of the back of the same truck," said Pendleton.

Much debate flows now over the future of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan -- that is, how far to go with "nation-building." The term has unfortunately gained a pejorative tone, but ideas like that of Dr. Pendleton and his team are just the kind of community-building that our government, along with NGOs, should pursue. That is, if Afghanistan is to ever truly become a "post-war" place and not just a land ever between crises.

As Pendleton put it, "I look at (Afghanistan) as a delicate piece of crystal. We only have one chance to do this right."

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