We went to the movies last Saturday - there is always a great buzz in the IFI on Eustace Street - it's a good spot for a hot chocolate and a bit of people watching.
The movie was Restrepo, a documentary about an American platoon's tour of duty in a remote valley in Afghanistan. The title is the name of one of the soldiers who died in action, and who is very much missed by his friends. Most of the filming is onsite, while the soldiers are going about their business - building a new camp on top of a hill while being fired at, the boredom of it, the constant danger - they get fired at several times a day, the adrenaline pumping after a gun-fight ("better than crack" says one of them). And there are interviews with the survivors after they've left the valley, and how they're still struggling with the loss of their comrades. None of them seem to reflect much on the bigger picture - they're just there to do a job, they do it the best they can - they may feel bad when some of the locals get caught in the cross-fire, but they don't seem to dwell on it too long - as another day dawns, they have to deal with more fighting. During their time there, they build strong bonds with their fellow soldiers and that is the only thing that matters in the end.
What struck me the most is how young these guys are. One lad looked barely out of his teens - talking about how his mum is a hippie and didn't allow him toy guns when he was a kid, and now he fires the biggest gun of them all, and he loves it. And the captain mustn't have been older than 35 - and his language was more Pulp Fiction than I was comfortable with. It was almost funny seeing him "negotiating" with the local elders - they appeared to have so much dignity in their demeanour, while he couldn't seem to help himself using the f word in every sentence.
Korangal valley, which nobody seems to notice any more, and its supposed strategic importance (this is a great article by the way - well worth reading). But then, after years of fighting and many deaths, the Americans decided to close their Korangal outpost in April 2010 (see Wikipedia article). What was the point of it all? I wonder will it be the same with the rest of the country - after so many years of war and death, the Americans will one day decide that they have to go because it's just not getting anywhere?