Published on Global Research.ca, by Nick Turse, uly 15, 2010.
… War in the Dark:
This critical local knowledge, all but missing from Restrepo, is driven home in footage from a PBS Frontline report in which one of Restrepo’s “stars,” Captain Dan Kearney, speaks to an Afghan elder, Haji Zalwar Khan, in the Korengal Valley in July 2008. It’s around the time Restrepo ends, just as Kearney is about to hand-off his command to another American officer-cum-war-tourist.
“You people shoot at least one house a day. Last night you shot a house in Kandalay,” says Khan. In response, Kearney offers a visibly skeptical smile and predictable excuses.
“You people are like lightning when you strike a house, you kill everything inside,” Khan continues. Later, when Frontline correspondent Elizabeth Rubin is able to talk to him alone, the elder tells her that the conflict will end when the Americans depart. “When they leave there will be no fighting,” he assures her. “The insurgents exist to fight the Americans.”
Perhaps it’s only natural that Junger is focused (or perhaps the more appropriate word would be fixated) not on Afghans wounded or killed in their own homes, or even guerillas seeking to expel the foreign occupiers from the valley, but on the young volunteers fighting the U.S. war there. They are a tiny, self-selected minority of Americans whom the government has called upon again and again to serve in its long-festering post-9/11 occupations. And presumably for reasons ranging from patriotism to a lack of other prospects, these mostly baby-faced young men — there are no female troops in the unit — volunteered to kill on someone else’s orders for yet others’ reasons. Such people are not uninteresting.
For an American audience, they, and their suffering, provide the easiest entree into the Afghan war zone. They also offer the easiest access for Junger and Hetherington. The young troops naturally elicit sympathy because they are besieged in the Korengal Valley and suffer hardships. (Albeit normally not hardships approaching the severity of those Afghans experience.) In addition, of course, Junger speaks their language, hails from their country, and understands their cultural references. He gets them.
Even in an American context, what he doesn’t get, the soldiers he can’t understand, are those who made up the working-class force that the U.S. fielded in Vietnam. That military was not a would-be warrior elite for whom “expeditionary” soldiering was just another job choice. It was instead a mélange of earnest volunteers, not unlike the men in Restrepo, along with large numbers of draftees and draft-induced enlistees most of whom weren’t actively seeking the life of foreign occupiers and weren’t particularly interested in endlessly garrisoning far-off lands where locals sought to kill them.
In his review of Marlantes’s Matterhorn, Junger confesses: … (full long text).