Requiem for The ‘Stan

Remembering Afghanistan: Reflections of a Soldier

Seeing Afghanistan in the news again has been surreal. I don’t think a week goes by where I don’t find myself replaying in my mind some moment from my unit’s time there. To see others post images or comments on it though confers a sense of sharing that I am unaccustomed to where that place is concerned. It’s as if, in this fleeting news-cycle instant, we have something in common again.

At times I’ll be grinding through my Normie job, or on my porch, or driving in my truck and I’ll remember how the sunrise felt there on patrol. How bright the stars were as we pulled security at night (I have never seen so many!). Then as we prepared for Stand-To, as the Army has done since back when it was fighting the French and the Indians, the darkness softened to gray, then yielded to sunrise, and you clung to the fading coolness as you watched the merciless sun take its sweet time getting into position to torment you and your buddies for the rest of the day.

As BOB (the “Bright Orange Ball”) cracked the horizon, a word would come down from somewhere on high, and the legion would rise to start the day’s march in pursuit of Haji. Though we owned little on our person and were cogs in a great machine lumbering along for nebulous political ends beyond our ken, there was something liberating about it as well. To be with other men, venturing outside The Wire with weapons in hand, on the hunt… it stirred up something. Some primal sense of rightness; that we were close to realizing some fundamental purpose in the quick of our being.

At the risk of romanticizing it though, I also remember the butcher’s bill. There were men I knew whose lives ended in Afghanistan. Good Lord, looking back, they were so young. One was a friend. “Speedo” was going to get married when he got home. There were children, too. I have never known silence like I found in the village where almost an entire generation of their young had been killed simply because a pilot had missed. At Walter Reed, I saw men mangled in ways I never imagined visited upon a human body, with wounds I hope never to see again.

It was all so long ago and far away that it seemed to have little bearing on the perpetual Current Year until now. Such doings in an obscure front in The Forever War do not mingle easily with meaningless office paperwork, CRT, “mostly peaceful protests,” The Wu-Tang Flu, “Fortified” elections, or the Transgender-Industrial Complex. Those moments in that place still carry so much weight for me that I can hardly take much of my stateside life since then seriously, let alone the pathetic senile farce that is the contemporary Globalist American Empire. One simply goes with the flow and waits for the next set; the next season in which you get to live again with the same ardor and purpose as you once did.

It would appear that time draws near.

Something is coming and we can all feel it. We could even back then. Someone once warned, “What an empire does abroad, follows it home.” Having served this machine on a couple of fronts, I see more and more evidence for the truth of that statement around me, and while it brings with it a measure of dread, it also brings a measure of hope.

Things an average grunt knew after only a few weeks In-Country have escaped the confines of The Brass and the curation of their partners in the media for all to see. The schemes of Ivy League Brainiacs and their delusions of ‘liberating’ the world and assimilating it into their post-national managerial Longhouse seem so shabby and absurd in the cold light of dawn. Twenty years’ worth of veterans have chewed the dust of faraway lands now reverting to their former masters, and we are left with the hard realization we have been in service to a country ran by people who not only don’t believe in countries anymore, but are shamelessly inept and corrupt, and that this has been the case since before we were born.

As Afghanistan falls before our eyes, we remember the blood-price from days gone by and wonder: what did we buy with it? Our battles belong to those of us who fought them, but they were ultimately in service to policies; policies created by those who are at best indifferent to our existence, or worse, have placed themselves in a state of war with us. Though it seems inflammatory to write such things even at this late hour, the court eunuchs have implied such things for years and now are increasingly explicit in their fever dreams of eliminating their political opposition. And it is a failure of what leaders we have on ‘our side’ that they have refused to take them at their word.

Already the talking heads have begun likening to the Taliban any here among us who would oppose them and the policies they promote. They must deflect. They must craft the story to fit their objectives. The failure of GloboHomo in the graveyard of empires? Shift fire back to the Proles. How dare the Kulaks dissent. How dare we challenge the authority of the credentialed classes and their masters. How dare we cling to such provincial loyalties as to God or family or country. They could permit such outdated notions so long as they served as leverage for goading us into hurling ourselves at distant strangers, but when it entails cultivating our interests within our own borders, it cannot be borne.

Every day, what has been my home feels more and more like an occupied country. Frustrated abroad and blinded by an almost demonic frenzy of resentment and utopian megalomania, the Leviathan turns with increased zeal upon its host. The mandates become continually more bizarre and shrill, with the stakes only getting higher. American citizens are being spied upon, imprisoned, fired, censored, lied to, manipulated, robbed, and killed, and those in the halls of power either incite it, enable it, or look away.

And yet, if Haji can endure the Leviathan and win, so can we.

By growing more severe and repressive in its methods, the regime hemorrhages legitimacy at home and around the world. As many have noted, it can no longer inspire or seduce, but must compel. There were many in my unit who enlisted after 9/11; who would join now? The regime’s occasional attempts to feign the old patriotism that galvanized generations prior seem so shallow and threadbare as to elicit sadness. People can no longer bring themselves to love and serve a country that has dispensed with the pretense of loving and serving them. It has become painfully apparent that we have crossed a threshold, and there is no going back.

I have heard it said that it is better for a man to lose a battle when he’s young if it keeps him from losing a war when he’s old. We have lost Afghanistan. We killed a great many of them, yes, but once again Ol’ Haj outlasted a foreign empire with delusions of grandeur, and the strong among them have retaken their clay. Haji is welcome to it. They got their last klick out of Sarge.

I suspect our struggle here though is just beginning. Formal institutions and avenues of influence are all but closed to those outside the managerial consensus. Most of America has been deemed “deplorable” as a citizenry whose wishes are no longer of any consequence to those in authority, and are not entitled to representation in any meaningful way. It is my hope this can be changed peacefully. Stranger things have happened.

However we do it, this enterprise before us will take a great deal of sacrifice and toil in the coming years, but also present us with opportunities to rediscover, explore, defend, and build anew. We don’t have to live this way; “tis not too late to seek a newer world.”

I like to think that some of what us ‘GWOT’ hands learned downrange in the war of our youth will help us achieve such ends. And I would find it somewhat fitting if the long road we took through Afghanistan wound up helping us find our way home.

Samuel Finlay is a writer from Oklahoma who served in Afghanistan. He enjoys reading, listening to old music, traveling, and sitting on porches. He’s the author of “Breakfast with the Dirt Cult“.

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