Tag: Afghanistan

Hail the Hero!

A Marine Died In Battle, But What His Dog Did After The Funeral? I’m Speechless!

That subtitle is the main title of an article over on the site: Dogs Make Life Better For You.

The article was brought to my attention by Julie back in England who sent me the above link.

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A Marine Died In Battle, But What His Dog Did After The Funeral? I’m Speechless!

A dog is the only thing on earth who loves you more than he loves himself – so imagine a soldier dog’s mourning when his handler dies in the line of duty!

Max, a feature film by the producers of the doggie classic Marley and Me, intends to explore a soldier dog’s journey that doesn’t end with this heartbreaking image of a pup chasing down his fallen brother, but rather begins with it.

Max, a precision-trained military dog, loses his handler Kyle in Afghanistan. Max is too troubled to continue to fight, and the only human willing to take the dog in is the late Kyle’s little brother, Justin. Fortunately, Justin is able to relate to the troubled pup because he has problems of his own.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen military dogs do great things after their time serving our country overseas – and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Watch the trailer for the full-length feature below, and tell us in the comments: Would you watch the film Max?

Please SHARE this powerful story of a soldier dog’s heroic journey after war with all of your friends! Military dogs deserve to be treated like heroes both during and after wartime.

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OK, it’s a plea for people to watch the film and, frankly, why not!

WikiPedia have a good summary of the film:

Max, a Malinois used to help U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, is handled by Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) (Marine MWD). Kyle is questioned when weapons seized by his squad go missing. Realizing his friend Tyler Harne (Luke Kleintank) is among those involved with the shady dealings, he warns Tyler that he cannot cover for him. The two then go into the battlefield with their squad, with Max on point. While advancing on a suicide bomber, Max is injured by an explosion. In the ensuing gunfight, Kyle is shot and killed.

Kyle’s brother Justin (Josh Wiggins), who makes money selling illegally copied video games, their mother Pamela (Lauren Graham) and their father Ray (Thomas Haden Church) are informed of his death. After Kyle’s body is brought home for burial, the other Marines notice that Max is only calm when he is around Justin, apparently sensing that he is Kyle’s brother. The family adopts the dog, who would otherwise be euthanized for his disturbed behavior. Justin initially wants little to do with Max but eventually warms up to him. While meeting up with his friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake), Justin meets Chuy’s cousin Carmen (Mia Xitlali), who offers to go to his house and show him some handling tricks for Max. Little by little, Max’s behavior improves around other people.

Tyler visits the Wincott’s one evening, provoking an aggressive response by Max. Later, after the Fourth of July, Ray asks Tyler what really happened. Tyler implies that Max turned on Kyle and caused him to discharge his weapon on himself, leading to his death. Justin decides to investigate the matter. Calling on one of Kyle’s old friends, Sergeant Reyes, for help, he is given a DVD of Kyle training Max that moves him to tears.

The full details of the plot can be read on that WikiPedia page.

There is also a movie trailer on YouTube; presented here for you.

Whatever one thinks about this specific film, or films like this in general, that doesn’t alter the fact that all of us who live with dogs understand the capacity of dogs to offer unconditional love to us.

Something to Make your Day!

Another gem sent to me by dear friend, Bob D.

While the C-5 was turning over its engines, a female crewman gave the G.I.s on board the usual information regarding seat belts, emergency exits, etc.

Finally, she said, ‘Now sit back and enjoy your trip while your captain, Judith Campbell, and crew take you safely to Afghanistan

An old Master Sergeant sitting in the eighth row thought to himself, ‘Did I hear her right? Is the captain a woman? ‘

When the attendant came by he said ‘Did I understand you right? Is the captain a woman?

‘Yes,’! said the attendant, ‘In fact, this entire crew is female.’

My God,’ he said, ‘I wish I had two double scotch and sodas. I don’t know what to think with only women up there in the cockpit.’

That’s another thing, Sergeant,’ said the crew member, ‘We No Longer Call It The Cockpit

It’s The Box Office.’

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Quote for today:

‘Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart.  She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.’


Remembering Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo

The body of a soldier who died along with his dog in Afghanistan last week has returned home to the UK.

Most days when I’m sitting in front of my PC I tend to drop in on the BBC New website.  Today (last Thursday) was no exception.  However I did not expect to be so moved by a story of the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan together with his sniffer dog.  Here’s how the BBC reported it.

Liam and Theo, RIP

The body of a soldier who died along with his record breaking sniffer dog in Afghanistan last week has returned home to the UK.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, was shot dead while on patrol in Helmand province.

The ashes of the 26-year-old’s dog Theo were flown home on the same plane.

L/Cpl Tasker, who was called a “rising star” by Army chiefs, was shot by Taliban snipers and Theo died of a seizure shortly after his master.

The soldier and his 22-month-old dog had made 14 finds in five months while on the frontline.

The pair’s successes at uncovering so many explosions and weapons had resulted in their tour of Afghanistan being extended by a month.

Just three weeks ago, springer spaniel Theo was praised as a record breaking Army sniffer dog.

The body of L/Cpl Tasker and the ashes of Theo were flown to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire at lunchtime, before a cortege passed through Wootton Bassett, the Wiltshire town which has built up a tradition of welcoming back fallen heroes.

But what the BBC report doesn’t make clear is that Theo, L/Cpl Tasker’s dog, did not die in the action that killed Liam but of a seizure just three hours later.  Here’s how the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported the sad event.

Hundreds of mourners lined the main street through the Wiltshire town to honour Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, who was shot while on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan on March 1.

The crowds were swelled by family pets and a dozen police and Prison Service dogs at the repatriation ceremony for the 26-year-old soldier, whose dog Theo died from a seizure three hours after his master was killed.

L/Cpl Tasker’s family said they believe the dog died from a broken heart.

The body of L/Cpl Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and the ashes of Theo had earlier been flown back to RAF Lyneham in the same aircraft.

L/Cpl Tasker was the subject of the repatriation ceremony but Theo’s ashes will be presented in private to his family.

So a silent prayer this Sunday for Liam and Theo and for all those who knew them both.  Finally, if anyone wants to share a thought on the UK Forces in Afghanistan Blog then here’s the link to the Post that mentions the death of these two brave soldiers.

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: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2041191,00.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)

Are today’s friends tomorrow’s enemies?

Sometimes looking down the other end of the telescope reveals more, much more!

Afghanistan - where is it leading?

Now that coalition forces have just recently suffered their deadliest month yet in the conflict in Afghanistan, it now has become more crucial than ever to rethink the strategy of the United States and its allies in the region.  Currently, the cornerstone of this strategy rests upon two key factors – winning over the local peoples of the region, and training local forces to carry the burden when, and if, coalition forces leave the region.

At least on the exterior, these goals in Afghanistan do make some sense.  The only possible way to succeed via a continued military occupation of Afghanistan is to attain and bank on the support of the local peoples.  Also, if western powers are ever to withdraw from the region, local forces will have to be able to maintain whatever structure these forces leave in their wake.

However, while this strategy is not completely outlandish and does show some merit on the part of military strategists in that they are leaning more towards localized models that entail comprehension of diverse local factors, the question still must be asked – is this strategy actually possible to carry out and have the sought-after effects in the region?  Can the United States and its allies actually win over the peoples of Afghanistan and western Pakistan, and can these same powers possibly train forces that will remain peacekeepers in the years to come?

Despite the fact that I admire the intentions of the military’s current strategy in this region, I do not think that their plan is in fact possible.  It seems to me that rather we are fighting an unwinnable war to win over a people that we do not and cannot understand, and that by funding the Afghani security forces of today, we are inevitably funding our enemy of tomorrow, just as our nation has mistakenly done so many times in the past in this very region.

I cannot foretell the future.  Nor can anyone else.  However, I can comment on what is likely to occur.  And, in constructing such a model, two of the most important subjects to understand are history and praxeology, or human behavior.

An attempt by the United States to make Afghanistan a stable, western-friendly state is by no means a new happening.  The date of the beginnings of our intervention in the region could be debated, but a decent starting point is the late 1970’s when President Carter put forth the Carter Doctrine, which stated that the United States would defend its interests in the Middle East.

This doctrine just barely preceded the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and it was this invasion that saw the beginnings of American forces, at this point being mostly CIA and other such agencies, which were attempting to hamper the Soviet forces by funding the Afghani resistance.

Now, there is no room here for a history of American involvement in Afghanistan.  However, what must be noted is that during the 1980’s and 1990’s, a pattern developed in the Middle East – the United States would fund a group in the hope of combating some common enemy, and then in later years the group funded with American taxpayer money would inevitably end up turning against the United States.

A few prominent examples of this are Al Qaeda, who received $6 billion from the United States from 1989 to 1992, the Afghani Taliban, who was receiving US foreign aid up to the very minute American forces entered their country (and continues to receive US foreign aid through Pakistani backchannels) and Saddam Hussein, who received chemical weapons from the US during the Iraq-Iran War of the 1980’s, weapons he later used to kill American soldiers.

This, though briefly put, is the history, or the “what.”  So now must come an examination of the “why,” or the element of praxeology.  For obviously, our attempts to forge friendships in the region in the past have failed.  Our friends have become our enemies, in fact our worst enemies.

There are several possible explanations for why this occurs.  However, mine is quite simple – we do not understand these people, we do not understand this region, we do not understand Islamic culture, and, to be quite blunt, we never will.  It is not a wrongdoing by the West to look at the Middle East through Western eyes.  Rather, it is the only way that a westerner possibly can look at the Middle East.

On top of this extremely problematic misunderstanding of the Middle East by Western peoples then comes another layer of problems, these being the base problems of intervention in any context, amplified by the extreme foreignness and instability of the Middle East as a whole.  The consequences of intervention in any scenario are so unpredictable, so many, and so far-reaching that no one can possibly intervene and successfully fulfil their objectives without in the process creating a dozen new problems.  This is seen with the federal government intervening in states in their own country – how much greater then are the problems when intervening in a region like the Middle East?

All this now brings us back to the point on considering the future.  As I mentioned previously, I cannot say what the future holds.  However, I can make an educated guess.  And, based on analyses of both history and human behavior, it is safe to say that by both indirectly and directly funding the training of a new military force in Afghanistan, we very likely are creating our enemy of tomorrow.  For when these people that we are now training realize that the United States is not leaving, that they are not in fact a free state, that they have become a part of the American empire, and that if they want to live culturally independent of western influence they will have to forcibly remove Western elements within their borders, it seems extremely probable that they will do exactly that.

To say that we are creating a force that will do what we expect it to do in the future is a wish at best.  The reality is that we do not and cannot understand what is truly a foreign mindset, and our best course of action would be to distance ourselves from what is and will be for many years of region of perpetual conflict.

By Elliot Engstrom

Karzai’s Flawed Legitimacy

If there’s a strategy behind Karzai’s ‘win’, it’s pretty difficult to spot!

Hamid-Karzai-after-voting-001

AFGHANISTAN: News from the Press on November 2nd revealed that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had phoned Hamid Karzai to congratulate him on winning the recent Presidential election.

“Yes,” I hear. “He is our ally in a war and has been re-elected. Quite normal.”

Yes, but, but …. the election was very seriously flawed – indeed rigged – mostly by supporters of Karzai.

In “The Telegraph” we read: “An inquiry by a UN-backed watchdog this week confirmed staggering levels of fraud, most of it in favour of President Hamid Karzai. It declared more than one million ballots suspect – a quarter of the total cast..”

So, many in Karzai’s party CHEATED. To what extent Karzai himself orchestrated all this is unclear, but HE IS THE LEADER, and if the Leader is not overall responsible, who is? Mr Brown and the UN have also called on Mr Karzai to “end corruption”.

To summarize, A) the Karzai regime is corrupt and B) it cheated in the recent elections.

Given this, WHAT ON EARTH are we doing CONGRATULATING him? Do we usually congratulate corrupt cheats, or only when they are Presidents?

Or perhaps this is traditional, accepted “Diplospeak”?

For us, the world needs honesty, which includes above all speaking the truth. The truth is, there is NOTHING to congratulate Karzai for and so it should NOT have been done. If this is “diplomatic convention”, then CHANGE the convention in the interests of honesty.

_46653598_ssgtschmid_226mod
Sgt Olaf Schmid, British Army

We are stuck with Karzai for the moment, but if the corruption continues, then we will lose the fight; the Afghan people will simply no longer support our presence propping up a corrupt regime. But being stuck with him does not mean grovelling, or that honesty has to go out of the window. Too much is at stake.

On Sunday, November 1st, a British bomb expert was killed defusing his 65th bomb on his last mission. The truth is (that’s what we seek, isn’t it?) that we are paying a heavy price to support a corrupt cheat; many will soon start to say “too heavy a price”.

By Chris Snuggs

[PS. Interesting article in the Financial Times advocating that the US shouldn’t commit to a surge. PPS. Another 5 UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan brings this year’s total to 92.  Ed.]