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FROM AFGHANISTAN

March 4th, 2011

This is a series of shorts that I feel tells a story about a place I’ve never been, through the eyes of a military that I do not know. However, as a viewer, I found these shorts had impact and provided me with a sense of what it is like to be a foreign soldier in what is now the longest war fought by the United States. Sadly, it is just one of many wars the Afghans have fought over the decades.

I don’t have a real comment nor a proposed solution. Staying the course means more lives, more money, and more trouble with our relationships to Pakistan and India. To withdraw will likely mean more Afghan lives–especially those of women–and, again, Pakistan and India. Much smarter people than myself have run the scenarios. They know the players and possible outcomes, so I’ll let them speak about it. Either way, we’re there.

I compiled these clips is because I believe we cannot forget what our country is doing and we cannot forget the people who are doing it. In our name. Regardless of how you or I feel about the war itself. I have also compiled these clips because of the journalists who are there, and the risks they face to bring this war home to their viewers.

This first clip is in French. I don’t speak French, but in a way that makes me pay more attention to what is happening. I think the film crew did a good job of capturing some of the life on base, but the reason I’ve put this in here is because of what happens at roughly 06:15. It’s news video, not multimedia, but make the time to watch it. Let the moments build.

There are six more clips in this post. See them after the jump.

UNHURT BY TWO MINES BUT NOT UNTOUCHED.
Damon Winter, NY Times

“It was probably the toughest situation I’ve ever been in as a photographer.

“When the first mine went off, it was surreal. I think I was just completely shocked. Petty Officer Kremer was maybe about 50 feet away from me.

“I hear this loud explosion and I see this boom of smoke going into the air and shrapnel and body parts and — you know — all this stuff going into the air. And I’m completely frozen. I’ve got a lot of things going on in my head. I’m thinking, it’s incoming fire.

“It didn’t take long to realize he had stepped on a mine and extrapolate further and realize that the guy who was up there protecting us from the mines was the guy who stepped on one. It wasn’t a good sign for all of us up on the hill. At that point, it took me about two seconds to realize there is nothing I can do right now except pick up my camera and continue to try and work. I shot video at that point without really moving; just standing in place.”

Picture 37

TRIALS OF LEADERSHIP
While the previous clip is from the photographer’s perspective, this is the unit commander’s perspective of the events. What is it like to deploy your soldiers, believing the mission is the right thing and that you’ve taken every precaution, and then to have two of your soldiers step on mines?

Picture 35

FLYING INTO A LANDING ZONE, UNDER FIRE.
CJ Chivers posted this on the NY Times At War Blog. In other posts he’s done a great job of dissecting the minutia of small arms, protective equipment, tactics. He even wrote a book on them. Here, in this two minute clip, he gives you a bird’s eye view from the window of a medevac helicopter, and commentary on the complexities of engagement.

BLOOD AND DUST
Al Jezeera ran a report from videographer Vaughan Smith who embedded with a medevac unit for two weeks. The reason I’ve included this lengthy piece, at 24 minutes, is for three reasons: one of the wounded is an American soldier who lost both legs. It seemed appropriate to include, given the number of wounds from improvised explosive devices (IED’s) and the previous clips. The second reason is the medevac is equal opportunity; you see the civilian casualties. The third reason is Sergeant Jordan Tyrone. He answers with efficiency, even when it gets personal. Stick with it, he deserves it.

TWO BOYS MISSING THEIR FATHER
This piece was titled “the home front” by the NY Times, but I really see it as two boys wanting their dad. They get him, just not exactly as they were expecting. If you’re a parent (and I’m still learning what this means) watch this one. All the way to the end.

Picture 40

What is our solution? When do they all get to come home? And what do we leave behind, in the wake of our invasion and occupation. Will Afghanistan stand on its feet, independent and democratic? I think this is our goal, but is this what we should demand of another culture?

According to Bing West, in a comedic interview with Stephen Colbert, the answer lies in stepping back and letting the Afghans fight the war that evolved from out invasion. He supports a long term investment, but not at the level we’re at. And then he brings out a simple pressure plate, made of wood and padding, that both soldiers and civilians are encountering daily.

EDITED: I had to add this recent Washington Post article about a Pentagon report on the increase in leg amputations and lower abdominal injuries.

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