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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Journalist Longs To Return To The Afghanistan She Just Left

Journalist Jean MacKenzie (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Journalist Jean MacKenzie (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Jean MacKenzie worked in war-torn Afghanistan for seven years training Afghan journalists and writing for GlobalPost. Stressed and weary after seeing so many people she knew attacked, kidnapped or killed, she couldn’t wait to return to the United States, which she did this summer.

“I left because I was becoming too angry at the way the war was going… at the excuses we were proffering for why we weren’t getting anywhere,” she told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

MacKenzie said she was frustrated that American troops in Afghanistan were not focusing on counterinsurgency or winning hearts and minds by working with the local government to provide services to people, so they don’t turn to the Taliban.

“What we’ve seen is quite the opposite,” she said. “It’s called counter-terrorism: night raids, assassinations, things that really make a very negative impact on the local population… and make [people] more willing to talk to the insurgents.”

Though MacKenzie was frustrated enough to leave Afghanistan, now that she’s back in a family home on Cape Cod, she’s struggling to adjust to American life.

“I find that I’m so worried about what is going on in Afghanistan… that coming back to the day-to-day cares of life in these United States is becoming more of a strain than I thought it would,” she said.

She says she hates being so removed from the big news events, like Wednesday’s assassination of the mayor of Kandahar.

But, McKenzie also misses the Afghan people, and the feeling of living through something so important with them — the war against the Taliban.

MacKenzie says she’s also overwhelmed by how unhappy Americans seem to be.

“I have not yet met anyone who is happy or satisfied with the way things are going in the United States,” she said. “Everyone’s got a pet peeve, whether it’s health care or the state of education… but there is still a bedrock conviction that this is the best country on earth, and I am finding it very difficult to hold those two things in my head at the same time.”


  • Jean MacKenzie, senior correspondent for GlobalPost

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