look at me news bulletin pictures This week of Afghan desperate to escape Taliban, I have been repeatedly shocked by the feeling that the horror I am witnessing in real time is somewhat familiar.
I wrote in a newspaper article about why. In a report on Biden administration figures urging caution in withdrawing US forces, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III was quoted as telling the president, “We’ve seen this movie before.”
And in many ways, this is absolutely true. Reasonable people may disagree about the movie, but we’ve all seen it. The recently confirmed Secretary of Defense clearly meant the phrase in a figurative sense, but America’s military adventures have been dated widely enough that there is some truth in the assertion even that it is true.
The gaze haunted by children who knew nothing but war
Exposed documentaries from the black interrogation site taxi to the dark side, to me restrepo, Chronicling the tragic human cost of securing an Afghan valley that would have been abandoned a few months after American soldiers left, it provided glimpses of daily life in the country. The wary villagers, the haunted gaze of children who knew nothing but war, the buildings destroyed by battle – all so familiar that they seem almost unremarkable.
in a Zero Dark ThirtyAnd When Kathryn Bigelow recreated the mission that hit the Afghan border into Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden, her portrayal of the community in which Americans worked sounded as real as newsreels, quickly edited and recorded with a powerful soundtrack that, arguably, packed the most punch.
A place for warring tribes
This type of real simulation is a relatively recent development, but it reinforces an already widespread and unattractive picture of the area. For nearly half a century, Hollywood has used Afghans as background characters for fairy tales in which outsiders constantly underestimate their grit and determination. Afghanistan is “the place of warring tribes,” as swindler Michael Caine said The man who will be king, “What a land of opportunity for the likes of us.”
John Huston’s 1975 epic was based on a story written by Rudyard Kipling in 1888, between the failed Second and Third (!) Anglo-Afghan Wars. In telling the story of two rogue ex-soldiers (Kane and Sean Connery) hoping to exploit what they see as the ignorance of the local population, it mocks the racism, misjudgment, and false installations that gave the building of the British Empire in the region such a shaky foundation.
The frontiers that Caine and Connery played were not deterred even when Christopher Plummer Kipling (the film gives a name to the unidentified narrator) told her that no outsiders had survived there “since Alexander the Great, king of Greece about 300 years before Christ”. Their response refused. “If the Greek can do it, we can do it.” Their story did not end any better than it did for the British.
And the Soviet attempt at nation-building also ended badly — so badly that it became a Hollywood plot point even at a time when most of the world wasn’t paying attention.
James Bond, John Rambo and the Graveyard of Empires
In 1987 live day He spent most of his time flying Timothy Dalton’s 007 shuttle between Russia and Afghanistan to disrupt a deal between the Soviet Army, opium-growing mujahideen, and arms dealers.
A year later, Hollywood’s most famous mercenary reluctantly visited the country Rambo III. He was on a mission to rescue his friend, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna), who was being held in a Soviet camp high in the Afghan mountains so he could mostly talk about Afghanistan’s reputation as the “graveyard of empires”.
He told his Soviet captors, “Every day, your war machines lose their power to a group of poorly armed and poorly equipped freedom fighters. If you study your history, you will know that these people have never surrendered to anyone… They would rather die than be slaves to an invading army. No You can defeat a people like this. We tried. We already had Vietnam.”
Then Sylvester Stallone proceeded to direct a defeat of the Soviet army that required another eight years of fierce battles by the Mujahideen. Rambo IIIThe end of the march was called “the brave Afghan people”.
A decade and a half later, after the Taliban’s first seizure of power and the 9/11 attacks on al-Qaeda, filmmakers are finally taking Afghanistan more seriously, including Afghan director Siddiq Barmak. He used what was said to be the only 35mm camera in all of Afghanistan to tell the story of a 12-year-old girl who, under Taliban rule, must pretend to be a boy to support her widowed mother and family. The movie has been called Ossama, The name she took in her childhood, won the 2003 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
It took a few years after 9/11 before commercial American filmmakers felt comfortable dealing with the country on screen, and even then, they initially focused on the miscalculations that got us involved there during the Soviet era. Satire Mike Nichols 2007 Charlie Wilson’s war He enlisted Usher and recruited Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman to tell the story of how US intelligence agencies—operating on the faulty theory that the enemy of our enemy is our friend—made the decision to arm the nation’s so-called “freedom warriors.” Then a series of documentaries looked at the experience of troops on the ground, families back home, and the experience of Afghan culture that has been disrupted or compromised.
Panic, despair and the echo of other struggles
At some point, these tales seep into tales from other struggles. Persian Gulf War as depicted in American sniper or Pain locker; Somalia helicopter rescue failed The black hawk fell.
Looming over the chaotic scene from Vietnam that President Biden was so adamant not to repeat in Kabul: helicopters flying the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon as the US intervention drew to a close in April 1975 – a moment steeped in a generation’s memory through live news footage as anything can to be invented by Hollywood.
Snapshots of Kabul International Airport, from Afghans cling tightly to the fuselage of a US Air Force C-17 transport plane And it’s just that good on the runway, too.
Panic, sacrifice, despair – we’ve seen it before. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a movie.