The attack was the signal for a carefully laid Taliban ambush. Villagers scattered in all directions as the platoon came under withering fire from across the river, but amazingly there were no other casualties. Kevin called in for a dustoff chopper and ordered that smoke grenades be popped to mark our position but they landed too far away, so Kevin helped hustle my 200-pound carcass over a hundred metres to the chopper, where my Canadian stretcher had to be shoehorned into the American Black Hawk.
We lost the war in southern Afghanistan and it broke my heart. The insurgents were not defeated. We killed thousands of them, but their movement would not die. Far away from the air-conditioned headquarters where the foreigners made their plans, all of the good intentions collided with reality.
A woman asked me one day after an upbeat book talk I gave, "Do you ever get sad?" I said yes, "I cry about war. Then I dry my eyes and I do something about it." Most of my friends cry too when they watch anything to do with the Holocaust and other world atrocities past and present. The main thing is to then do something to reverse it. Apathy is also the enemy. What we need to do in order to ensure literacy is to have a cavalry of businesses coming to do trade with nations like Afghanistan. Buy their saffron, buy their essential oils, buy anything so that a farmer can buy books and shoes for his children and not have their children taken away by oppressors.
Western leaders have repeatedly justified military intervention as a means for providing security for community-building development efforts. Perhaps it's time we revisited that construct.