The government of New Zealand has announced that it will withdraw its small troop contingent (145) from Afghanistan as rapidly as possible after three soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack outside Bamiyan last week. This chilling video shows members of the 2/1 RNZIR Battalion acknowledging the return of their comrades’ bodies to their parade grounds with a traditional Haka war dance.
I like this short film by Lukas and Salome Augustin because it reminds me of how beauty and humanity co-exist in a place that we’ve been relentlessly conditioned to negate the existence of both. Societies tend to dehumanize their adversaries in times of war. We do it in order to make the killing easier to shrug off. In the case of Afghanistan, we’ve long made a habit it, going back to the British Raj (remember your Kipling: “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your God like a soldier”). If we succumbed to our media’s treatment of the decade-old conflict today, we’d all share a vision of a brown, war-torn shit-hole; a 15th century den reserved for heroin-making, intolerant, terrorist-enabling fanatics who’d sooner blow up an ancient statue of Buddha than play a round of golf. But it’s never that simple. Despite our society’s seemingly perennial effort to de-sensitize us to the destruction of these people (in the name of their country’s salvation), they are clearly as human and beautiful as we are. What a tremendous shame it is that we were ever meant to doubt it.
Every television season, the PBS Frontline team goes deeper into stories the mainstream media only deals with in two minute segments. Their season opener, The Choice 2008, would have been a bit of a snoozer if you’re a rabid politico, though it did provide insights into the McCain and Obama that we seldom hear about. This was followed up last week by Heat, an in depth look at how corporations are dealing with climate change. Depressing, yes, but fascinating.
Last night I watched their newest, The War Briefing, and was totally blown away. It was an illuminating summation of the War in Afghanistan, sprinkled liberally with boots-on-the-ground footage. Deftly apolitical and as visually stunning as it was shocking, it was hard to turn away from. The trailer is above, but as is the case with all Frontline shows, you can watch the whole thing online here.