Wednesday, 14 October 2009
I am simply not able to understand war. I understand conflict, and I acknowledge that conflict is the sapling that would eventually bloom into war. But why can we not resolve our conflicts in a peaceful manner? Why must we attempt to solve it with salvos of missiles? Why do we think that destruction can assuage anger? Every time I hear of death of yet another soldier, or groups of innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time, my faith in man wears thinner. It is further eroded when I see images of the destruction wreaked on innocent people - that ghostly presence of scars in abandoned structure left behind by ammunition; that atmosphere reeking of fear, terror and panic. Is this the price we pay for that “noble” mission? Did it appease the anger?
Afghanistan is unique, utterly unlike any other war-ravaged landscape. In Bosnia, Dresden or the Somme for example, the devastation appears to have taken place within one peiod, inflicted by a small gamut of weaponry. However, the sheer length of the war in Afghanistan, pushing on towards its 30th year, means that the ruins have a bizarre layering; different moments of destruction lying like sedimentary strata on top of each other. There are places near Bagram Air Base or Shomali Plain where the front line has passed back and forth eight or nine times - each leaving a deadly flotsam of destroyed homes and fields seeded with landmines.
The land has a different appearance where there was fighting in the early 90’s. In this instance the tidy, picked-clean skeletons of buildings are seperated by smooth, hard earth where de-mining teams have ’swept’ the area. In places destroyed in the recent US and British aerial bombardment, the buildings are twisted metal and charred roof timbers (the presence of unexploded bombs deters all but the most destitute scavenfers,) giving the place a war, chewed-up appearance… A building destroyed by the cataclysm of an American 15000lb bomb creates a different historical record to a structure gradually reduced to its concrete ‘bones’ by thousands and thousands of small Kalashnikov bullets.
Maybe one day we will learn to live together…