Did I tell you my boyfriend is in Afghanistan?
To say I am conflicted is the understatement of the year. This is because of the nature of this war. It is not a “just war” and it never was. (We had to learn the definition at Catholic school). It was conceived by a corrupt government as part of their imperialist aims. It continues due to complicated, Greek tragedy-style reasons. People keep dying, over and over. People are badly injured on a regular basis. It is an immense clusterfuck and a total waste of humanity.
Yes, some of the Taliban are prime dicks. This I know to be true. But there are plenty of ways of reducing their power and sidestepping their evil that do not involve getting involved in a land war in Asia. These were not tried. And instead, the imperial forces joined with “The Northern Alliance” (remember them?), who were just as depraved as the Taliban. It was never about human rights. You know this is true because ISAF is leaving in 2014 and no one believes human rights will magically spring up between now and then. They plan to leave before this aim is in place and began the war by collaborating with a group of human rights haters.
If he dies out there, if he loses a limb out there; it would be for nothing. There’s no consolation in that he was trying to do something important or lasting. The best I can come up with is that he works hard to do a good job and I guess he sort of hopes to make the situation better in that country. Though he is quite realistic, so I think he knows his role is bailing out a boat with a teacup. (When there is no better solution, that’s better than nothing, I guess?) I’m rambling now, it’s really hard to find something to cling to in this situation.
Anyway, so it’s complicated and no one comes out looking good. I refused to go to a “next of kin meeting” partly because it would be in Danish all day on a Saturday but mostly because it might upset me with all the tubthumping, jingoistic trite nonsense that surrounds armies like a fug.
I read the document they gave us. There is one page of useful information (emergency phone numbers, how to post things, that’s it), a few pages of historical/geographical context and some information about the living conditions out in the camps.
There is also a document aimed at children. Maybe I should not be surprised but the information given is almost identical. Except the one for children has dolls, showing the children around the camps.
Today’s is about “patrols” and is touching on the idea of danger and what might be dangerous. The two dolls are discussing what a patrol is and the boy doll tells the girl doll that sometimes there are foot patrols, so the soldiers can talk to the Afghans.
Josefine: ”Hvorfor vil de tale med Afghanerne? Er det ikke dem, der skyder på soldaterne og lægger IED’ere (bomber) i jorden?”
Josefine: Why do they want to talk to Afghans? Aren’t they the ones who shoot at the soldiers and put IEDs (bombs), in the ground?
Alexander: ”Nej, da – der er mange afghanere, der er glade for at vi er her. De ved, at vi er her for at hjælpe dem – med bl.a. at fjerne dumme IED’ere.”
Alexander: “No, not quite, there are many Afghans who are glad we are here. They know that we are here to help them – with (amongst other things), removal of the stupid IEDs”
Josefine: ”Hvem er det så, der skyder efter soldaterne og lægger bomber ud?”
Josefine: “Who is it then who is shooting at the soldiers and planting the bombs?”
Alexander: ”Det er et godt spørgsmål! Jeg tror, det har noget at gøre med, at der er nogen, der gerne vil bestemme over de lokale Afghanere.”
Alexander: “That’s a good question! I think it’s got something to do with there are some who want to boss the local Afghans around.”
Josefine: ”Og vi hjælper dem, der ikke vil bestemmes over af de andre?”
Josefine: “And we’re helping those that don’t want to be bossed around by the others?”
Alexander: ”Ja, det kan man måske godt sige – men det er lidt svært. Nogle gange har jeg hørt nogen tale om nogle mennesker, der kaldes talibanere, andre gange taler man om oprørsstyrker – d.v.s. nogen ballademagere, som tror så meget på en sag, at alt andet kan være lige meget.”
Alexander: “Yeah, you could say that. But it’s a bit difficult. Sometimes I’ve heard about people called the Taliban and other times about rebels, that is to say troublemakers who believe in a cause so much that nothing else matters.”
Yes, children won’t “get” it. Yes, grey moral areas are difficult to write about, especially when you are putting words into the mouths of dolls. No, it’s probably not appropriate to tell a child that “the situation is a complete clusterfuck and literally everyone involved has lost.”
I have a particular problem with this conversation.
There are two types of Afghan. The first shoots, deploys improvised explosive devices and wants to boss “local” Afghans around. The second is grateful for ISAF, understands the need for their presence and is a “local” who does not want to be bossed around.
What about the Afghans who are scared of the soliders and scared of the “rebels”? What about the locals who were not on any particular side until they heard about Koran destruction/lost a nephew/or something like that and then joined the Taliban or the rebels or simply picked up a gun and started shooting all by themselves? Why are the “baddies” not considered local? Why are the “good” Afghans painted as grateful?
Yes, I know, it’s for children and children are not good at abstract thought. They also might get distressed if presented with greys, even in an age appropriate, sensitive way.
But why does it have to be so jingoistic? Why is it SO oversimplified? A priest wrote it. A PRIEST.
Why not say
“Most Afghans are ligeglad about ISAF and just want to be left alone. They won’t plant bombs or shoot at your dad but they would rather have him go home, all the same. Because they are scared of him.”
“The people planting the bombs or shooting at soldiers think they are right. They think that they need to defend their country from being overtaken by foreigners and having their values destroyed. (Remember when farfar said the same thing at Christmas and mummy said he might have a point? These men are like farfar in a lot of ways. Of course, farfar wouldn’t plant a roadside bomb, so there are differences too.)
They think that your dad isn’t human. And you know what, your dad has been trained to think that they are not human, too.
The funny thing is, they are all human beings. And no one is looking for a solution that doesn’t involve dehumanisation and murder.
What a fucking mess, Josefine. What a mess.”
is probably a bit too much.