May 23, 2011

Good Mon. Pale here after some rain early this morning. Just a shower or two. Saturday was sunny and yesterday was variable, proof of global warming.

We watched Restrepo over the weekend. I learned a couple of new cuss words and was able to practice recognition skills on several more, though it was fairly monotonous cursing. I think maybe the Navy does this part of the mission better. If you haven’t seen Restrepo, I’m not sure I would recommend it. On the one hand, it reveals the idiocy of our Afghanistan policy. The post named Restrepo, maintained at considerable cost in treasure and several lives, was abandoned in 2010. The film records several firefights between unseen assailants and the US soldiers in this outpost. When they go out to patrol or inspect the damage of aerial bombardment, they invariably encounter angry locals who want to know why they bombed a house and wounded or killed someone. The soldiers appear to be operating on pure fear and macho much of the time, and the shura (meeting of elders held each week for interchange between US forces and the locals) features the sergeant or lieutenant in charge vocalizing a string of f-words on the assumption that the Afghan listeners don’t understand English. I would suggest that okay and f-word are likely the most understandable words in the English language vocabulary worldwide. Also, just because you don’t speak Pashtun doesn’t mean the locals don’t know any English. Why anyone would think this engenders respect and amicable dealing with the locals whose hearts and minds we hope to win is beyond me. Don’t they train the soldiers asked to do this in how to speak respectfully at a meeting? Geez. Anyway, the other hand is that the movie is pretty boring. It is no doubt an accurate rendition of what we are spending $1 million per man per year to sustain, but you are unlikely to learn much unless you never really considered how a few dozen young men from 18 to 28 act when on their own and under constant pressure in a land where they don’t speak the language or understand the customs. None of them knows any history or geography or cultural anthropology, making the culture gap between them and the country they are occupying enormous. One Afghan custom I didn’t understand is why the elders with the wispy beards like to dye them red. Looks kind of Goth. Maybe if USL had done that, he would still be alive. Some reviewers thought this was a terrific movie. Maybe it is, but despite the obvious skill (and bravery) of the camera guys who filmed it, the main one of whom just got killed in Libya) I wouldn’t particularly recommend this film, and certainly not for family viewing.

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