I few months back, I went to see “Restrepo”, a documentary directed by Tim Hetherington. Hetherington died last week in Libya, a casualty of the wars he covered, just like over 4000 plus soldiers since we decided it was our place to mediate all of the Middle East.
For those who have seen “Restrepo”, the feeling of helplessness can’t be overstated. Why is it that we feel the need to fix these unfixable places with people whose best interests are not served by the fix?
I’m not sure what the answer is. But, I do know this. When somebody drops bombs on my home, threatens my livelihood, and then tries to call himself my friend, I’m skeptical, no matter how noble the cause. And, that is the role we’ve chosen in Afghanistan.
Hetherington’s movie shows us the difficulty in fighting in such a place. The enemy and the friend looks the same. The enemy and the friend make deals for survival. The enemy and the friend don’t want the war we’ve imposed on them.
He shows us how horrible the war is, and that the scars don’t need to be visible to be real. He shows us that wars aren’t video games, but life and death realities whose outcomes aren’t about who’s right or wrong, but who’s in front of the bullet when it arrives. And, in the end, it may be the survivor who’s most injured.
Survival there isn’t about what is right, but who will pay the most. Does the Taliban have the better deal? Does Al Qaeda offer cover? Does the eradication of the poppy fields really mean a better life?
The people of Afghanistan don’t have TVs, or understand the world situation. They just want to survive from one day to the next. The future is an esoteric argument, something to deal with tomorrow by thinkers, not survivors.
So, it is in that light that we fight. We are just the next in line trying to fix this unfixable place. And, eventually, we will leave, just like everyone else.