Afghanistan and truth!

“But better to be hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”

The quote is from the film, The Kite Runner, which was based on the book  of the same name written by Khaled Hosseini.

This Post is not about taking a position, at any level, about the West’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan – far too dangerous territory!  But it is a reflection on what truth means.

At first that proposition might appear bizarre, of course we know what truth means. My Thesaurus offers three meanings: Correspondence with fact or truth; Freedom from deceit or falseness; The quality of being actual or factual.  Clear?  H’mmm not really in this instance.

OK, to the motivation behind this article.

Last Sunday two outwardly disconnected actions came together, as often seems to happen, to cause me to ponder on how my opinions are formed.  The actions concerned Afghanistan.

The first was that a friend from the congregation gave me his copy of TIME Magazine for January 17th.  In it was an article about a Black Hawk Medevac unit in Afghanistan.  From the TIME website:

The Birds Of Hope: With A Black Hawk Medevac Unit In Afghanistan

By James Nachtwey Monday, Jan. 17, 2011

General William Tecumseh Sherman got it right. War is hell. But even within the cruelty of war, there exists mercy.

Across a dusty field, two U.S. Marines walk toward a helicopter, each carrying a bloodied and bandaged child. They hold the children as if they were their own. Although at this moment they appear as saviors, a few minutes earlier, they had called in air support in response to enemy fire. The shooter was among children, however (a fact that I have to believe was not known to the Marines), and two were seriously wounded by fragments from machine-gun rounds.

Innocent people are caught in the cross fire in all wars. That’s reality. The two Marines never signed up to hurt kids, and in the shock and confusion, their default reaction was to be protective of the children they indirectly had a hand in wounding. The kids were not left to die, as they might have been in another time and another place by other armies. Instead, a U.S. Army air-ambulance medevac crew was dispatched to fly them to the same medical facility that treats American casualties. If the shooter had survived, he too would have been helped.

Read more:,9171,2041191,00.html#ixzz1Byu1S0xj

The article in TIME Magazine contained some emotionally powerful pictures, such as the one below.


A Marine carries an Afghan child.

The full description of the photograph, taken by James Nachtwey for TIME , is Helping Hand
A Marine carries an Afghan child, one of two wounded by coalition aircraft during an air support mission.

My reaction on reading the gruelling story was confused and difficult to articulate clearly but certainly not complimentary! Something along the lines of big and powerful nations, such as the USA, Russia and the United Kingdom, playing out their global strategies with no real insight into the pain and suffering caused by their big ‘war games’.

The second action was that Jean had returned a rental film to the local Blockbuster store and returned with another one that had caught her eye for us to watch on Sunday evening.  That film was The Kite Runner based on the book of the same name by Khaled Hosseini.

There’s a good summary of the plot of the film at WikiPedia.  Here’s a flavour.

In Kabul, prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, well-to-do young boy Amir and his loyal young Hazara servant Hassan are best of friends. Amir enjoys writing and literature, reading stories to the eager but illiterate Hassan. Amir’s Baba (father), is contemptuous of Amir’s writing and privately regards him as a weakling for letting Hassan protect him from bullies. Baba’s friend Rahim Khan demonstrates interest and encouragement to Amir. Assef, a bully with rancor towards Hazaras, and two accomplices confront Hassan and Amir, but Hassan prevents the attack with a slingshot, a birthday gift from Amir. Assef swears revenge, ridiculing their relationship as mere master and servant. .

Soon the Soviets invade Afghanistan; forcing Baba, a known anti-communist, to flee the country leaving Rahim Khan as property caretaker. En route to Pakistan, Baba bravely risks his life defending a female refugee from a Soviet soldier who demands to rape her in return for safe passage for all. Baba and Amir eventually reach the United States as humble refugees in Fremont, California. Baba tends a gas station while Amir attends community college and vends at a weekly flea market. There, Amir meets Soraya Taheri; Soraya is interested in Amir’s writing although her father, the ex-General Taheri, a proud traditional Pashtun, is contemptuous. Baba is stricken mortally ill but manages to obtain General Taheri’s permission for Amir to marry Soraya. Although Soraya feels bound to confess her previous relationships, they are happily married despite an inability to conceive children. As foreshadowed in the movie’s first scene, Amir’s debut novel is published, dedicated to Rahim Khan who encouraged his writing.

It was a fabulous film, one of the more thought-provoking films seen in many years.  If you haven’t seen it, do so.

So to the point of this article.

The film demonstrated to me that my rather black-and-white opinion of the West’s involvement in Afghanistan was based much more on my instincts that ‘war is bad’ and that the USA tends to throw its military weight around, than having a clue as to the enormous complexities, both at the level of a family and of the nation, that these conflicts entail.

The film showed a much more compassionate aspect to the activities of the USA, specifically in getting involved in Afghanistan and, more generally, in a policy of offering a new home and new hope to those from afar.

And for me, the realisation that while it may be said, ‘There is only one truth’, knowing what that truth is is something very much more challenging!

The first casualty when war comes is truth“. (Hiram W Johnson, senator for California, 1917)

One thought on “Afghanistan and truth!

  1. Hi Paul,
    I didn’t see the movie, but last year read the novel. I also read Hosseini’s later one, “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which is my favorite. They are truly two of the best books I’ve ever read.
    Within the stories you can literally imagine what life is like for many of the people there and much of the time it isn’t nice. Part of what is so moving about the novels is indeed a portrayal of the positive effects our military’s presence has had there.
    I’m out of my comfort zone talking war and politics, but I definitely wanted to share my love of these two books!


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