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Sebastian Junger

“I don’t leave the valley, I stay, and after a few days the war becomes normal again. We go on patrol and I focus on the fact that one foot goes in front of the other. We get ambushed and the only thing I’m interested in is what kind of cover we’ve got. It’s all very simple and straightforward, and it’s around this time that killing begins to make a kind of sense to me. It’s tempting to view killing as a political act because that’s where the repercussions play out, but that misses the point: a man behind a rock touched two wires to a battery and tried to kill me — to kill us. There are other ways to understand what he did, but none of them overrides the raw fact that this man wanted to negate everything I’d ever done in my life or might ever do. It felt malicious and personal in a way that combat didn’t. Combat theoretically gives you the chance to react well and survive; bombs don’t allow for anything. The pressure cooker was probably bought in Kandigal, the market town we passed through half an hour earlier. The bomber built a campfire in the draw to keep himself warm that night while waiting for us. We could see his footprints in the sand. The relationship between him and me couldn’t be clearer, and if I’d somehow had a chance to kill him before he touched the wires together I’m sure I would have. As a civilian, that’s not a pretty thought to have in your head. That’s not a thought that just sits there quietly and reassures you about things.

It was the ten feet that got me; I kept thinking about Murphee and then looking down at my legs. The idea that so much could be determined by so little was sort of intolerable. It made all of life look terrifying; it made the walk to the chow hall potentially as bad as a night patrol to Karingal. (The American contract worker who got shot at the KOP took a bullet to the leg instead of the head only because he happened to change directions on his cot that day.) The only way to calm your nerves in that environment was to marvel at the insane amount of firepower available to the Americans and hope that that changed the equation somehow. They have a huge shoulder-fired rocket called a Javelin, for example, that can be steered into the window of a speeding car half a mile away. Each Javelin round costs $80,000, and the idea that it’s fired by a guy who doesn’t make that in a year at a guy who doesn’t make that in a lifetime is somehow so outrageous it almost makes the war seem winnable. And the roar of a full-on firefight could be so reassuring that you wanted to run around hugging people afterward. That roar was what was keeping you alive, and it created an appreciation for firepower so profound that it bordered on the perverse.”

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From Sebastian Junger’s book on the conflict in Afghanistan WAR.

Below is a picture of American soldiers firing a Javelin missile.

Javelin Missile: The art of anti-armor warfare: 3/3 ‘Missile Marines’ prepare for enemy by shooting TOW, Javelin missiles