Frequently I get asked about war and the people I meet in the course of my work in conflict or post conflict. My heart, my prayers and empathy goes out to those who are caught up in wars, such as the civilian population, and those who have no choice such as conscripted soldiers, child soldiers; but the others ?
"Men and women who venture to someone else’s war through choice do so in a variety of guises. UN general, BBC correspondent, aid worker, mercenary: in the final analysis they all want to do the same thing, a hit off the action, a walk on the dark side. It’s just a question of how slick a cover you give yourself, and how far you want to go.. If you find a cause later then hold on to it, but never blind yourself with your own disguise,” writes Anthony Lloyd.
Author on the war in Afghanistan, Jason Elliot, goes to Afghanistan as an 18 year old English school boy during the Soviet occupation.
Photo: Jason Elliot.
In the winter of 1996 when the Taliban were bombing the little life left in Kabul, (Jan-Feb) Anthony Lloyd stayed with me in my house. He and an English cameraman lived in the bunker in our house. We travelled to Khord Kabul where the British were routed in their retreat from Kabul in 1859. This was the front line and we were with Masoud’s troops and could see plainly, Talban soldiers moving about with RPGs. Over 300 British troops had been slaughtered in this valley in 1859.
A few years ago, Lloyd published a book called “ My War Gone By, I Miss It So, about the wars in former Yugoslavia. It's a remarkable book where a young misfit goes to war as a correspondent. He writes:
‘ Listen, said Peter, the Dutchman, ‘we don’t fight for the money, and we’re not in it for the killing. It’s about camaraderie and, sure it’s about excitement. Some are bullshitters, some are psychotics. We are neither. We are here because we want to be, and if there is a price to pay, then we are ready for that too.’
US Armed PCs during the Vietnam war. Photo: Bob McKerrow
"There was very little difference between them and anyone else who goes to war voluntarily. In their case they had taken a side and were ultimately prepared to kill. Though my reasoning for being there was still in flux, at its simplist I was there to watch, and that gave neither of us the higher moral ground. Men and women who venture to someone else’s war through choice do so in a variety of guises. UN general, BBC correspondent, aid worker, mercenary: in the final analysis they all want to do the same thing, a hit off the action, a walk on the dark side. It’s just a question of how slick a cover you give yourself, and far you want to go.. If you find a cause later then hold on to it, but never blind yourself with your own disguise.”
STOREHOUSES OF SORROW
Sometimes I wonder why I have spent so much time in conflict or post conflict regions and the answer comes to mind when I read Nicolas Bouvier, a Swiss writer and artist, He said, “ My belief is that one must have passed through fire oneself....to be able to sort out...the contents of those storehouses of sorrow, where fortunately we can also find, more often than we might have dared to expect...enough small miracles to motivate and encourage those in the field who are so often compelled, to quote a mediaeval Japanese poem, ‘to bear the unbearable and tolerate the intolerable.’