by Edith Cody-Rice
Now that Canada’s participation in Afghanistan is winding down, it is useful to reflect on the current intervention as well as those of the past. For the current intervention, a book that is thrilling and chilling at the same time is Sebastian Unger’s War
From 2007 to 2008, Junger visited Afghanistan five times usually with British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, embedded with the American soldiers of Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. The Second Platoon was assigned to the Korengal Valley, a desolate territory alive with Taliban fighters. Americans found themselves under fire every day.
The soldiers are young, too young and the members of Second Platoon are tasked to establish an outpost (OP) on what is essentially enemy territory, and dub it “OP Restrepo” in honor of a fallen “medic” comrade. Enemy fire pounded that outpost mercilessly and Junger relates the lives of these soldiers over 15 months.
Junger and Hetherington made the documentary “Restrepo,” from their video footage. It won the grand jury prize for documentary at 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar.
While we argue from afar about the widom, success or failure of the Afghan mission, most of us understand little about the reality on the ground for soldiers. To them it is not about the overall war, but about achieving specific physical objectives and staying alive. Junger skillfully reflects the life of individual soldiers and their solidarty, while putting his life on the line. He faces what they face and it is stark.
War is newly republished in paperback and is available at Mill Street Books in Mississippi Mills