The many names of Pushoot

When reading old British documents about people's experiences in Afghanistan, one runs across the name of a town and nearby fort, Pushoot, several times. It is a strange thing, for if you search modern texts for such a town name, you will come up empty.

Stranger still because many of the British documents discuss a somewhat disastrous raid on the town in the middle 1800s, which left some good men dead.

A quote

As usual in Affghanistan, and in India too, an inefficient force was
sent against Pushoot. A breach was effected on each side of the gateway, but an inner gate was found closed. An attempt to blow it in failed, though the gallant yougn Pigou, (who afterwards fell before a like insignificant fortress) was the Engineer. An excellent young officer,
Collinson of the 37th N. I. was killed with nineteen men, and double the
number wounded. The garrsion having repelled the attack, shortly after evacuated the place, repeating exactly the occurences of a hundred such assaults, in Hindostan and Affghanistan.

- Kashmir and the Countries around the Indus, Sir Henry Lawrence KCB, A gazeteer of the countries adjacent to India on the North West. . . , Edward Thronton Esq, Wm H Allen, London 1844, Reprinted in Selections from the Calcutta Review, Vol 1, 1881, TS Smith

So where is this Pushoot? There are reasonable possibilities one might attach to the name, working back and forward through time to attempt to assemble the logical correspondence of modern place names and this old one.

First are the clues from the old British text about location. It was about 50 miles Northeast of Jelalabad "on the road to Bajaour". That puts it near Asadabad, which was then called Chagar Serai (with various creative spellings, almost no two of which match). But one would expect that since those same sources describe Chagar Sarai, they wouldn't have mixed up Pushoot with Chagar Sarai, and those two place names represent distinct locations.

Next, there is the clue of the old Russian Vlasenko map of the area. As you can see, if you can learn the basics of the Cyrllic alphabet (which takes, perhaps, an afternoon of study), that one of the cities on this map is marked пашат, which is "Pashat". Pushoot. Pashat. hmmm. Quite close!

There is a problem, though. There is a town in Pakistan called Pashat, that is just over the mountain-border from the Pashat area marked on the Russian map. They are clearly two different places if you look at the maps - one is clearly on the Kunar river to the west, and the other is clearly inside Pakistan, on some small tributary of the Indus / Sindh. These two towns are in different watersheds.

But.... I think we might be OK. Why? Because there is another clue, from the Encyclopedia Iranica. In this encyclopedia, the article on Asadabad mentions that the capital of the area was moved from "Pasad" / "Pasat" to Asadabad in the late 1800s/1900s. And... if you look at the old British text, by Lawrence, he notes that Pushoot was the capital of the "province of Kooner".

There are some other clues we can pull from that old Russian map. Right next to Pashat ( пашат ) is a town called Бар-Наранг. That's Bar-Narang in latin letters. This, we can search for! And so we do.

Bar-Narang is not in google maps, but it is on a site called 'Go Mapper', which has apparently taken it's own database and overlayed it with Google Maps in some way. So. That.

When you go to you can find Bar-Narang, but you will also see something nearby called Pashshad. On the road marked "Bajaur" road. Just as in the British source above.


I am pretty confident at saying, at this point, that the British writers who described their experiences in Afghanistan in the 1800s, including the Pushoot mission, were describing this little spot on the Kunar river, about 20 km south (down the Kunar river) of Asadabad, now called perhaps Pashat or a dozen other names.

Can we narrow it down? Perhaps.

A very, very eye-witness account is given here: The town of Pushoot was on the left bank of the Kunar (Kama) river, 400 yards in, and 400 yards from the Fort.

Well, let's fire up Google Maps. It doesn't have these towns, but it does have satellite images of the entire Kunar valley. So we start at Asadabad, a town it does have, and go down the river until we find something interesting, perhaps something that matches the old Russian map?

Ah. Here. On the map, by a little bit of land jutting out NorthWest into the river, there is a little town, and about 400 yards away, a little square shape on the land. Also of course, the river changed course over time, and the town grew, but it's not crazy to imagine it roughly 400 yards from these places.,71.023564&spn=0.0164,0.032487&t=h&z=15&lci=com.panoramio.all

Perhaps it is the site of Pushoot Fort, the square enclosure? Perhaps not. Only archaeologists and historians could find out now.

Saint Augustine of Hippo and Edward Snowden

I am no expert on Saint Augustine, and obviously some of his arguments in his book City of God are ridiculous to modern eyes. However, I was struck by his indictment of Rome's conquests and riches as spiritually empty and unimportant. He compares the life of a hyper-rich person, who, Tony Soprano like, must watch their back constantly, with the life of an ordinary person who lives simply and tries not to harm others. Then Augustine makes the analogy - countries can be like these men. And what is the final result for these men?

From  (The Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

" In this world, therefore, the dominion of good men is profitable, not so much for themselves as for human affairs.  But the dominion of bad men is hurtful chiefly to themselves who rule, for they destroy their own souls by greater license in wickedness; while those who are put under them in service are not hurt except by their own iniquity. For to the just all the evils imposed on them by unjust rulers are not the punishment of crime, but the test of virtue.  Therefore the good man, although he is a slave, is free; but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and that not of one man, but, what is far more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices; of which vices when the divine Scripture treats, it says, “For of whom any man is overcome, to the same he is also the bond-slave.”"

Obviously the just here are Whistleblowers and the unjust is a political system that forbids criticism. Then, what are the vices?

All the things we saw in Jesselyn Radack's book, in the Drake trial, in the Snowden situation, etc. Some of the people in Radack's office were interested in their careers, their positions in society, their social circles, their contracts and so forth. All of the empty matter of empire. They were not interested in things like truth or justice, as they lied about her and went 'above and beyond' to try to harm her legal career. One in particular, whose name I will not mention, received an award from the new Justice Department head in recent years. You can almost hear St. Augustine echoing in the hall as the Romanesque Attorney General crowned this individual with some token of the secular praise of the empire. These are the vices. Awards. Ceremonies. Recognition. Jobs. Titles. Money. Praise. And of course Radack, in her book, finds some comfort and relief in the simple practice of her religion. Of course she is Jewish and Augustine was a Christian, but I think the argument works anyway. Compare Radack's path with the paths of the unjust who harmed her. St. Augustine had it just about perfectly described.

All of the evils imposed on Radack, Drake, and Snowden were not punishments for crimes. As Radack and Drake said over and over - they didn't do anything wrong. The evils put upon them were tests of their virtue. They passed. These good people, although blackballed, indicted, threatened, or reduced in station in life, were free, while their oppressors lived on as slaves to their vices. Somewhere in the bowels of the various government agencies and contractors, are the persecutors of Radack. . . always looking over their shoulders, never being able to tell their story in the light of day, always chasing career or awards or money instead of what Radack chased. Truth and justice.

Having been obsessed by JRR Tolkien for a week or so, I can't imagine if perhaps the Office of Presidency in and of itself is too great a burden for any man to have placed upon his shoulders? And if perhaps there not some alternative form of balanced government  that might diffuse power even more than we have in our American system?

Or, at the very least, that a Just President would seek to throw the Powers of the Office into the fires of Mount Doom, by, for example, getting rid of the notions of Executive Orders, State Secrets Privilege in public court cases, Executive declarations of secret warfare activities, Executive privilege to violate the fourth amendment, Executive exercise of the assassination power without Congressional approval, and on and on and on.

language puzzle

Why does the writing system used for Malayalm remind me of the writing system used for Glagolitic?