It’s been a crazy week over here in Afghanistan. Only a few days after I had taken a nice drive to downtown Kabul, feeling super safe and excited about seeing more of the city, a suicide bomber in a northern province killed 7 and injured 8 in an attack. It’s far away from here, but at the same time, the north is known as being relatively safe from this kind of violence. With the prospect of increased travel in the near future, I’ve been feeling a little nervous.
Sometimes I think I would feel differently if I was armed. I could qualify easily on all three weapons used here, maybe with some trouble on the 240, but for the most part, I think I could defend myself against somebody with a gun. But then I end up feeling a little helpless because the war these Taliban fighters are fighting is not a frontal assault, and having a pistol on your belt won’t help you against the roadside bomb or suicide bomber dressed in a burkha.
The media is really trying to help ISAF by spinning this last attack as completely unjustified given the fact that the meeting that was bombed was actually being held in an effort to help Afghanis and to help ISAF troops win over the hearts and minds of the people. But if I’ve learned something over here, it’s that noone is innocent. No one deserves to be killed, but even the most circumspect soldiers or police advisors I’ve met have lapses where prejudice leaks out like a thick oily discharge. I’ve felt that in myself and it’s distressing. How do you truly complete your mission of training and empowerment if you don’t believe in people enough to hope that they can become better than they are now? You teachers reading this – how you continually put yourself out there, knowing that a certain percentage of students are going to break your heart over and over? How do you keep believing in your job? But for a few cases, your students don’t try to kill you, right?
I’m not on the front lines. I’ve not been in the position to see a police trainee take months of training and turn it on the people that taught him. I’ve not stood in the breach of the wall of my camp that has just been destroyed by a truck bomb, dodging bullets from those I may have trained to shoot.
For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2001 movie called “Spy Game” with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. I think it’s because I’ve been looking into purchasing a Leica M3, and in one scene – probably the only one I remember – Brad Pitt is running through a fire fight in a war-torn country, working for the CIA, but posing as a war photographer. He has a few rangefinders around his neck, clicking pictures as he runs from cover to cover. Gun fights are so run of the mill to movie goers in the US. People with pistols, machine guns, and rifles are always shooting at each other. This film suddenly got very intense for me, because running through a war zone where 10-20 guys are shooting on each side fills me with absolute fear, especially when compared to my current aversion to danger which is a desire to never leave the compound. Could I get through something like that without curling into the fetal position? Hell yes. Would I take every measure possible to avoid getting into the situation? Absolutely.
But I guess it’s been a slightly uncomfortable couple of days as I’ve had to process through the fear, examine why I’m here, strengthen my resolve and continue to work. It’s a tough process, especially when other things are pressing.
I’ve also been expecting my new camera to arrive, and it hasn’t, and I feel like a kid who can’t wait for Christmas morning. I’m cranky. Over a camera. Geesh, I’m thinking that here in the next few years, I’m going to go ahead and grow up.
So don’t worry about me – things are super safe here in Kabul – but I’m hoping that there is something on the order of a miracle possible here in country. I’m hoping that the people will suddenly have a change of heart and turn on the Taliban and take their first steps on the glorious road to recovery – the end of which involves me being able to travel as a tourist here without fearing for my life.