We Have Just Been Handed the Pentagon Papers of Our Generation

December 15, 2019 in News by RBN Staff

source: www.thenation.com
By Danny Sjursen

remember the day I broke. I was a young captain in command of an 82-man cavalry troop in the heart of Taliban country—in Kandahar, Afghanistan—and I was deep into one of my regular manic episodes. At that moment, I was in the midst of writing an angry—definitely hopeless—stream-of-consciousness screed, which topped out at some 8,000 words, to my sociopathic squadron commander. My verbose, yet well-argued, treatise expressed my opposition to his next planned assault (with my unit in the lead) into yet another remote, abandoned, booby-trap-riddled village. I was by then obsessed with protecting my troopers from needless death or maiming. Mid-sentence, one of my subordinate lieutenants rushed into the office to remind me: “Sir, you have to give a memorial address in like 30 minutes!” Shaken out of my trance, I remembered (had I really forgotten?) that it was almost time to give my obligatory speech in remembrance of one of my young soldiers, blown to pieces just days before.

I hid my surprise, assured the lieutenant I’d be ready soon, and pulled out a 5″ x 7″ index card to hastily jot down some bullet notes for my impending address. Normally, I thrive in public speaking, but suddenly I drew a frightful blank. I don’t know anything about this kid, I realized. He was young, new to the unit, and—though I’d heard glowing reports on his discipline and work ethic—I couldn’t conjure a single personal detail about, or one-on-one interaction with, him. Maybe a better officer would have. Still, I threw something together, gave a passable speech—which was, as always, filmed for the soldier’s family—then retreated to the designated “smoke pit” to share some cigarettes with his platoon mates. They were sort of numb, frightened for their own fates, yet alarmingly resigned to their personal hellscapes. None, not a one, had any particular affinity for the Afghan people, nor did they believe in the mission. I listened carefully as they swapped stories about their fallen friend. Then it struck me: I’d never be able to explain to this kid’s mother just what he’d died for on that dusty trail in rural Afghanistan.