Yesterday we nearly had a mutiny. (A mutiny is defined in military terms as when a group of subordinate military members goes against the command of a superior officer; this is different than simple insubordination – a mutiny has the objective of rejecting the authority of the commanding officer.)
Our ETT had been threatened by two members of the ABP. This was because I had taken some truck keys from one of the drivers, and that driver became indignant over it. He talked about my doing this, which riled up other ABP as well, leading them to make some terribly stupid remarks about wanting to harm us.
“Captain Kirk” is not one to trifle with threats, so he reported the incident to the Platoon Sergeant in charge of the Infantry unit here in Do China. This sergeant had already done a tour in Iraq, and was in no frame of mind to take threats against any US Soldiers lightly, so he ordered his Soldiers to arm themselves and take up positions inside the FOB to keep the peace. Meanwhile, we held a meeting with all the ABP Soldiers present to try to diffuse the situation.
The ABP Commander was there, trying to patch up what he saw as a misunderstanding. However, during our discussion, a couple ABP Soldiers who had already created problems with their foolish talk began criticizing us in front of their Commander, and demanded that we fire our interpreter (apparently they felt it was the interpreter’s fault for doing his job!).
Before the ABP Commander could address his group, several ABP began walking away, and went into their barracks. They returned with their weapons, which they dropped on the ground. Then they took off their uniforms, under which they had civilian clothes. They left these in a pile. A lot of anger was brewing, so before the ABP could take back their weapons, the US troops took the weapons and put them in a safe place.
A couple ABP, however, still had their weapons, and were still quite angry. The US troops had to take their weapons for security’s sake, which angered the ABP even more. Ultimately, we had to ask the ABP to leave the FOB entirely, and return the next day, after they had a chance to cool down. The US troops escorted the ABP out the gate. Only the ABP Commander and his driver remained.
The next morning, a large group of Afghan elders who had sons and relatives in the ABP were sitting at the front gate, waiting for an audience. We spent most of the morning talking to these older gentlemen. They asked us to allow all the ABP to return to work, but we had to tell them that a few of the ABP had behaved so badly, with such insubordination, that they constituted a threat to FOB security and could not be allowed to return. (In the US Army, if a US Soldier had taken the same actions, he or she would have been promptly arrested and held for court-martial.)
The elders assured us they would correct their young men, and that there would be no such behavior in the future. The ABP ringleaders responsible would not return, and business would get back to normal.
Things were pretty tense here – I was concerned that something bad might happen; fortunately it did not, although we lost some good ABP Soldiers for saying and doing some stupid things.
The whole event made me tell “Captain Kirk” that I should have studied drama, so I would have been better prepared for this.
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.