The Somme And The Global War On Terror | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: DENY X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

The Somme And The Global War On Terror

Imet him one night at a dining facility, or DFAC, at a base in Kabul in 2009. He was young, energetic, sharp, and eager to fight terrorists and the Taliban. The officer was impressive. Two days later, he was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing and medevacked out of the country.

I met him again, quite by chance, four years later back in the States. I recognized him immediately. I introduced myself, acknowledging he probably would not remember me, given what had happened to him shortly after we had met. In oddly slow, carefully formed words, he admitted that he didn’t recognize me. He told me about the shell fragments doctors had extracted from his skull. He didn’t say that he had brain damage, but I assumed as much.

For many people like myself, that was the war zone experience. You met many people who were both admirable and capable. But the impersonal forces of war cared little for one’s professional capabilities, personality, interests, or family history. Neither do 107mm rockets, the 7.62mm rounds fired by the ubiquitous AK-47, or IEDs. The brutal machinery of battle does not discriminate, as evidenced by the thousands of casualties in the global war on terrorism since 2001—not only war fighters, but contractors, aid workers, journalists, and civilians.

Storm of Steel—a mesmerizing memoir by German World War I veteran and author Ernst Jünger—describes the arbitrary, senseless, and terrible qualities of large-scale industrial warfare and offers a helpful, if disturbing, corollary to our consideration of the global war on terror. Like many young men raised on stories of valor and victory on the battlefield, Jünger was anxious to reach the melee when his unit arrived in the trenches of the Western Front in spring 1915. “Grown up in an age of security, we shared a yearning for danger, for the experience of the extraordinary. We were enraptured by war,” he writes. Americans felt that same pugnaciously defiant attitude—epitomized in Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”—following 9/11.