Four U.S. soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber today as they took pictures and went sightseeing in an Afghanistan park.Well, listen to Afghan Blue for the full story.
Witnesses said the bomber walked up to the troops, who had been warned by locals 'not to roam around the city', screamed 'Allahu Akbar' and then detonated a suicide vest.
Four civilians and two Afghan policemen were also killed in the midday explosion in the northern city of Maymana.
The news stories about the event are disturbing. Some stories reported that they were acting like a bunch of battlefield tourists, strolling in the park and taking pictures. Some depicted the soldiers as having opened fire indiscriminately in the aftermath of the attack, killing children in the process. One such story appeared in Stars and Stripes, of all places, who apparently cut and pasted their story directly from al Jazeera. None of them are true. Not one American fired a shot following the blast. They were performing a mission, not wandering around like a bunch of carefree war tourists.Read it all.
Newspapers in the US and the UK published photos of the grim aftermath, violating the dignity of the dead and dying. For that, I am eternally angry. The editors of any publication that did so had best never meet me and be identified as being responsible for the publication of such war porn. It would not go well for them. Just because they could didn’t mean that they should.
The team that was hit was an SFAT (Security Force Assistance Team) like the one I am a part of. It’s actually part of the group of small teams that I belong to. This team worked with the Provincial headquarters, mentoring the Provincial Police Chief and his staff. The Afghan Public Affairs Officer, or “PAO” as they are known in military parlance, was doing a mission that included a visit to a radio station and then distributing radios to college students. Some local residents were interviewed as well. The PAO from the 1-148 Infantry, the unit supporting the SFAT in the area, was there to work with the Afghan PAO. The Afghan Police element was detailed to provide security for the operation.
Some PAO’s sit the war out almost exclusively within the walls of a compound, but CPT Rozanski didn’t. Not this day. He went out to support the Afghans and partner with them.
Some reports say that the locals had warned them about “wandering around the town.” They did not.
These men were doing a mission. They were supporting the Afghan Police in their mission, and that means going with your Afghans and doing what they do. That means that sometimes, insurgents will try to kill you. They want to frighten the Coalition into staying on the FOB. These men knew that lives can be changed or ended instantly here. They were out there, doing their jobs, and the worst happened.
In Afghanistan, almost anything can happen on any given day; it just usually doesn’t. Sometimes, however, it does. This is an example.
Before the smoke cleared, men with cameras… perhaps covering the events for local media, perhaps documenting the strike for the insurgents… descended upon the dead, dying and wounded and began snapping pictures. One of the wounded recalls wanting the shoot the vultures, but being unable to. The resulting pictures of dead and wounded Americans are all over the internet. Many newspapers published them and earned my undying emnity. If you haven’t seen them, do yourself a favor and don’t.
There is no dignity at the moment of death. There is no dignity in agony. The dignity comes from the purpose in their hearts, the reason that they subjected themselves to the risk of such incredibly lethal, destructive violence. Those pictures do not show that dignity. Without the context of the honor of their hearts, which cannot be captured in a photograph, the only thing captured is the inhuman lack of dignity in that moment. A photograph may appear to be coldly objective, but it lacks this greatest of contexts and is therefore highly subjective. To view these men in that vacuum is to fail to grasp the reality of that captured moment, and to view only the absence of dignity; which is to objectify the dead.
Objectifying human beings, especially their deaths, is not good for the human soul. It is the natural state of the sociopath, and bringing even a bit of that into your own soul depletes you. Now, some will not be able to help themselves, but I’m telling you that it never feels good after having seen the result of extreme violence in that moment where the context of the man is missing, where the viewing of a human being as an object is unavoidable. Those men do not deserve to be gazed at in their agony. They do not deserve to be gawked at where they were tossed by the horrific violence of that last moment. When the dignity of their spirit cannot be conveyed, when they become horrific objects to the human eye. I can’t stop you, but I can ask; please don’t. For you, for them, please.
Hat tip B5.